I received an email from Patrick Cooke, journalist and travel editor for the Sunday Times of Malta, inviting me to participate in his weekly travel feature. It’s a fun type of feature, included in the travel section, where someone is asked a series of questions about their travel experiences. I would also need to include six or seven photos of my travels in the past (I’m thinking of photos from Italy, Turkey, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand). It sounds like fun and it would be some good exposure that just might help with book sales. Below is my first, quick draft:
Name: Rupert Grech
Age: Never too old to travel
Occupation: Past school headmaster. Now published author of “Stories My Parents Told Me- Tales of Growing Up in Wartime Malta”. Occasional singer/guitarist playing bars and restaurants.
My earliest travel memory…traveling by car in a Maltese convoy of relatives on our way to an annual camping holiday on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. Invariably someone would get lost or be late, much to the panic of everyone. Coming from tiny Malta, my aunts and uncles were not accustomed to long distance road trips.
My best holiday ever… doing the Australian young person’s , obligatory, backpacking tour of Europe. I think I matured a lot during that six months. I also visited Malta for the first time, met my Nuna Lucia who features strongly in my book, and stayed at the same three roomed apartment where my mother and her nine siblings were raised.
I would never return to…Sophia airport. I was stuck there for two days during communist times, while an official tried to embezzle me out of $50 US for a transfer that I had already booked. The airport cafeteria didn’t have any milk for coffee! But the airport is probably fine these days.
The most dangerous place I’ve visited…I stay away from dangerous places; not a risk taker
My favourite city…Sienna. Ah Sienna…..
My most treasured holiday souvenir…An avshar rug from Malataya, in western Turkey; beautiful workmanship, with lots of embroidered fishes of different colours on it which made it unique, coming from a desert people in Iraq. I got it for a bargain price from the absent owner’s assistant who was well and truly yelled at on his return.
My biggest gaffe abroad…Walking into the wrong toilet in Spain. Hasn’t everyone done that?
The friendliest people… (where did you feel most welcome?) I think Maltese people are among the friendliest in the world, but the title goes to Turkey. I could not believe how hospitable and friendly they were towards me, even inviting me to stay in their houses and share their food.
I never travel without…A calculator for currency conversions. I’m mathematically challenged.
My all-time favourite holiday photo…
An unforgettable hotel… (for good or bad reasons) A cheap hotel in Athens without a lock on the room’s door. I kept noticing men wandering the corridor and my neighbours’ very frequent showers. I had accidentally booked into a bordello!
I return most often to…haven’t found that place yet
My ideal travel companion…a wealthy, native speaker with transport.
My next holiday plans…I must visit Ireland one day, with my guitar; maybe during my next six months in Malta.
My dream trip…Is never ending
My travel tip…be careful to pack only what you absolutely need, then halve it.
I travel because…”Life is like a book and those who do not travel read but one page”, St. Augustine of Hippo.