More churches than pubs, but Malta is still lively

Eoghan Corry

THURSDAY Flight FR7242 to Malta is packed. The talk is of weddings. A wedding in Malta will set you back €4,500, compared with the average of €23,000 at home.

One group is of 60 wedding goers all engaged in the Ryanair sport of elbow wrestling on the plane.

The flight is three-and-a-half hours and Malta is balmy as we head off for a scout of the signature attractions, starting with Mdina and the west-facing cliffs at Dingli.

The evening ends with some five-star luxury at the Radisson Blu hotel on a headland with three pools strategically positioned to catch each ray of the evening sun.

FRIDAY Churches. There are nearly 400 in Malta, one at every turn of the road. More churches than pubs.

SATURDAY The ads for Malta depict its nice beaches: Ghajan-Tuffieha with its famous reddish sand or Ramla Il-Hamra in Gozo. Malta is a city break. There are 420,000 people living on an island half the size of Co Louth. It means that the 54 villages and 14 on Gozo are within a few fields of joining up with each other.

It also means traffic. Cars drive on the left as in most former English colonies. "Rather than the left or the right, Maltese people drive in the shade" our charming guide Maria Buckle says.

SUNDAY A little culture. Caravaggio's Beheading of John the Baptist in the Blessed Host chapel in St John the Baptist's has been restored.

MONDAY Rain brings St Julian's to a halt. There hasn't been any since March.

TUESDAY As old as Newgrange, Ggantija Temples are some of the most spectacular prehistoric sites anywhere. Gozo is quieter than Malta, and Joseph Spiteri shows us around the Ta Mena Estate.

His agricultural workers are Somalian refugees, with the dead expression of the stateless. One of them is due to return to Mogadishu for the funeral of his sister and father, killed in a massacre.

WEDNESDAY Club 22 for a drink with a view and a trip along the strip in Paceville, where the raucous ribaldry would leave Ayia Napa behind. Malta of the 400 churches now has seven gentlemen's clubs. Some people call it progress.