#2 In Series – If You Go To Malta Make Sure To Visit Sunny Guest House In Sliema

At one time, Sliema, the largest city in Malta, had many very affordable guesthouses. This was before the “discovery” of Malta as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, the guest houses have disappeared; the tourism department does not believe that they contribute to a positive image of the island. I make. Not only are they considerably less expensive than most hotels, but they are a lot more fun.

We stumbled upon the Sunny Guest House on Ghar-id-Dud Street on our first trip to the island in 1994. The whole trip was something of an accident because we booked a $200 round-trip fare to London with a to Malta for a similar price. We didn’t have much time to make sleeping accommodations and we booked a hotel in Qowra, on the northeastern tip of the island, via the internet. It was nice, but too remote, and really not our kind of place. Read: too expensive.

We found another hotel on The Strand in Sliema and booked it for one night. That night we went out to see the town and walked through the Snuggy Pub (yes, that was the name) that was part of the Sunny Guest House. It was loud and friendly and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The walls were covered with photos of the bartender/hotel manager, Joey Bugeja, with guests. As we sat with our beers, a matronly, white-haired English lady came up to our table and asked if we wanted some tea. She would do it for us. Who could resist?

He disappeared and came back from the hotel kitchen with a tray with a teapot and three cups and sat down with us. We discovered that she was from York and a guest at the hotel. She introduced us to a Scottish couple. The three suggest that we stay there.

The next night we moved. We were thankful for our good health because the reluctant elevator thing that night groaned a bit and then stopped. Joey had a full house, so we got “a room with a path” to the community bathroom. He promised us a better room for the next night. The first night’s accommodations were a minimalist’s dream: a bed, a tiny nightstand, a few drawers, and a wooden wardrobe. But the bed was comfortable and we were satisfied with our choice. True to his word, the next night we had a room with a private bathroom. We stayed there the rest of the trip.

The next day we had breakfast with the other guests. Together with our three new friends we met people from Great Britain, Australia, Germany and France. They filled us in on their favorite places to see. Many had made annual pilgrimages to stay at the guest house, visit the island, and renew friendships with Joey. We invited Dora, our British friend, to join us for a day of sightseeing and she turned out to be a lovely companion; We exchanged Christmas cards for several years. Would that have happened in a four star? I had my first experience with Maltese bread. Fantastic. (I later learned that the original starter for San Francisco sourdough bread came from Malta.)

I have stayed at the Soleado on my eight trips since then. The guest house became the setting for my novel, Cellini’s Masterpiece. Her name changed to Bellestrado and Joey became Josefina, but if you read it, you’ll find the bar and meet some guests a bit like real life. I would recommend the Soleado to anyone who plans to visit the island and prefers adventure to luxury.


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