If That's The Worst Thing that Can Happen.... (very belated trip report)

coriander

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Day 0
“Good morning, Dr coriander, how are you today?” the voice on the phone said.

“This is Selima from Latitude Financial Services speaking.”
Why do I suddenly think this phone call is not going to end well?

“Are you in Canada at the moment?”
Yep, I knew I wouldn't like this question – not good.

“Aah, no I’m in Melbourne, but about to head for the airport for my flight to Europe…… why do you ask?”
(As if I don’t know what’s coming next).

“Your 28 Degrees MasterCard has been detected in a fraudulent transaction in Canada and has been CANCELLED.”

“B#gg#r!”

“No problem sir, we can reissue a new card and have it posted out in the next 4-5 business days.”

“But but but……. I’m leaving today – and all my CC accommodation guarantees are with that card, my DB train tickets.

“That is no problem, sir. You may take the card with you and show it at reception at check-in and use an alternate card to pay for your accommodation.”

You get the drift. After some toing and froing, Latitude is promising to courier a new card to me in Malta by the end of the week: yeah, right….. well we’ll see if they deliver that on time. The saving grace is that they’ve not cancelled Mrs C’s card, so international fee-free purchases and accommodation fees can still be put on her card. Still, not the way I would have liked to start our Malta and Switzerland trip.

What a great start to the trip. Oh well, at least all my technology is working (unlike my last couple of trips where laptops, cameras and backup hard drives all conspired against me)…. touch wood, he said, tapping his forehead thoughtfully.

If that’s the worst thing that can happen……..

Our trip at the end of this month is to attend a conference in Malta, followed by a reunion with some long-lost relatives in Munich and then a “rundfahrt” (round trip /excursion) of some mountains in Switzerland. Being a bit of a tram/train gunzel (read “tragic”) I’ve made sure we’ll be spending lots of time on trains in Switzerland.

Planning for this trip commenced a good 12 months out. Conference in Malta and Hilton booked way out in advance, taking advantage of some rates that were about 50 Euro per night below the conference rate. In addition, we locked in all our accommodation in Germany and Switzerland many months in advance.

Of the very special things I wanted to do was to ride the regular train from St Moritz to Tirano and back (windows can be opened and much much cheaper than the Bernina Express) and in contrast the full-deal Glacier Express from St Moritz to Zermatt.

According to the Glacier Express site, bookings start 90 days out. Idly one evening, at about 96 days before our required date, I started a booking and, lo and behold, the booking went through: at seat selection, I had the choice of wagon 22 seats 53 and 54…… and that was it: all other available seats were part of a table of four. I punched in my credit card details, pressed “Submit”, the website said “waiting….” and after an hour fell over. I checked my credit card online and payment had gone through. I had thought to take screenshots along the way so I emailed MGB, and again after a bit of back and forth, they acknowledged their system had crashed, and sent me a confirmatory email which they said would suffice as my ticket and booking confirmation.

If that’s the worst thing that can happen…..

We’re flying J all the way, but as Quickstatus once said, our flight is a sardine can so there is no hope my points will secure us an upgrade downstairs to F. Still, all in all, QF came through with an unexpected but welcome move from 16A/B right up the front to 11J/K at the pointy end in “Emerald City”. MEL-SYD then QF1 SYD-DXB-LHR. We put up with the SYD excursion from domestic to International because that sardine-can ride will earn us an extra 80 SC which will push us over the line into WP. You don’t get 80 SCs riding the 109.
 
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coriander

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Important Note: This TR covers a trip in 2016, it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve been able to clean it up for publication. This TR was written in bits and pieces before, during and after our trip. Then PC issues, a missing SD card and finally some serious health issues which actually made a mockery of this original TR title intervened. There’s probably some useful info here so I thought I might as well post it here anyway.

A trip down memory lane and a journal of our travels.

Many thanks to Admin and Support for their superb assistance in getting this TR up in one piece.

Let’s get this show on the road.
 
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coriander

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Day #1
And so it was our limo picked us up on a cold bleak Monday morning and swiftly conveyed us to Tullamarine.

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Check-in was efficient and soon we spent a short time in the Business Lounge watching the constant stream of landings (even a touch and go by a Virgin 737 that touched down WAY too far down the runway on his first attempt).

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Boarding our domestic leg to SYD our seats 3A/B ensured that the Greek salad for lunch ran out just as the trolley got to our row. Sigh. Choice of toasted sandwich or tomato soup for me as MrsC had snaffled the last salad. I have to say the soup was excellent, spicy and tasty and I loved the New York rye.

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The 737’s leg room was adequate in J.

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Once through security in SYD, it was time for a quick visit to the TRS office to claim back GST on some purchases (the black and white sign in the background pointing the way to the TRS office – photo here for any first-time travellers looking for their TRS refund).

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Then it was up the stairs to the QF lounges, pausing momentarily at those frosted doors…. Sigh…. (MrsC admonishing me- “stop licking the lolly shop window”) and down the hall to the QF Business Lounge, which looks just like every other business lounge I’ve been fortunate enough to visit – not that that’s a long list – just MEL & LAX. Barely enough time to sip a glass of Seppelts sparkling before our flight was called and it was time to hurry up and wait as the plane wasn’t ready for boarding for another 15 minutes.

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Sheesh, there’s a lot of people with status in the priority queue, the whY people are loading first – whY indeed? Oh, it’s only those with little ferals in tow. Whew! Onto the plane through door C, consoling myself with the thought that we turn left once inside. Our seats are 11 J/K and whilst it’s bulkhead in front, it has no through traffic apart from staff trotting up and down the stairs in front and they seem to use the left-hand aisle more than the right.

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I used to be reasonably tall, but even at full stretch I can’t reach the bulkhead with my feet, so plenty of room. The power point at right is a “medical power supply” which is useful if you need reliable power or items such as a CPAP machine. On a separate circuit to the entertainment, it’s immune from interruptions when crew have to reboot the entertainment system.

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Pushback at 1604h, only 4 late and in the air by 1622h we were eventually offered some Duval-Leroy before dinner - only 45 minutes after take-off (do other airlines take as long to serve J passengers?)
 
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coriander

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Dinner was cauliflower soup for entrée; mains were Venison for me and ling in green curry for MrsC. Venison was tasty even though the accompanying broccoli had had the taste steamed out of it. But mmmmmm oh boy! Did the Ling in curry smell good. Fortunately MrsC and I both have bird-like appetites (his/vulture hers/sparrow) and I was able to taste a small portion: wow I made the wrong call there.

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We stayed with the Leroy-Duval through dinner, it seemed to taste better with every glass. Dessert was a baked chocolate and almond tart with date cream, quite delicious and finished with a sticky white – name escapes me.

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After dinner, I caught a movie – Deadpool – forgettable except for the rather luscious Morena Baccarin – and then slept well for six hours. Supper was then served, a quite tasty prawn pasta topped with cherry tomatoes.

Our flight tracked northwards across southern Asia and India before landing at Dubai.

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We landed at Dubai and even though the aerobridges were air-conditioned we could feel the oppressive heat leaking in past the seal against the aircraft.

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The terminal was huge and after a long walk and through a security checkpoint, it was up a couple of flights of stairs to the Business Lounge.

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Everything is BIG in Dubai, the check-in desk and the lounge size no exceptions:

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Restrooms were spacious and spotless with an attendant present all the time (who gave me a strange look when I took this photo!)

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Of interest was the food bar in the background; a selection of hot and cold foods, Scottish smoked salmon and even sushi on request from the fridge at the back of the serving area.

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A wide selection of spirits, reds, whites and some Moet as well.

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I contented myself with some smoked salmon, seared tuna slices and some Voss water to maintain hydration (and some Moet, of course).

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coriander

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Departing Dubai, our flight tracked north then west passing over Shiraz in Iran and into Turkey and over Romania through Europe.

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Once airborne, supper was served – a “mezze plate inspired by Emirates” for me and a smoked duck breast salad for MrsC.

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Prior to arrival in LHR, breakfast was served – a totally forgettable rubber eggs serving:

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coriander

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Day #2

Descending into LHR, we caught our first glimpse of the Thames, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast floating museum, London Bridge station and London Bridge.

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We landed on time and in spite of having heard horror stories about the border security, we found ourselves walking towards the train to Terminal 6 in under 20 minutes.

Security in T6 on the other hand was chaotic – leave shoes and belts on, but all makeup into small clear bags and only one bag per passenger – fortunately I don’t use makeup so MrsC’s makeup was easily accommodated across our two bags. A large multi-generational Indian family in front of us with poor understanding of border security requirements, plus security only allowing one person at a time with hand luggage and screening meant it took over an hour to clear security with comparatively few people in the queue (I’ll never complain about US’ TSA again!).

Finally ensconced in T6 awaiting our flight to Malta, I snapped a few shots of the passing parade of nothing but A380s:

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The inevitable change of gates (from 16 to 2 to 24) ensured we got our fair share of brisk walking, but we finally found our Air Malta A320: departure about 90 minutes late.

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All-economy 3-3 seating with “cosy” amounts of leg-room:

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In-flight service consisted of a tuna roll (actually fresh and quite adequate) and bottled water.

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Maltese immigration formalities were minimal, the scrum for taxi vouchers chaotic. Into our taxi and off to St Julians – the shop signs somehow familiar – Azzopardi, Spiteri, Caruana! I’ve worked in the western suburbs of Melbourne for over 48 years and have had hundreds of clients with these names.

Our taxi driver, Paul, asked where we were from.
“Melbourne”, I replied.
”Aaah, my mother-in-law lives in a town near Melbourne – would have you heard of North Sunshine?”
I laughed. “Does she have a dog?” I asked.
“Of course – why?”, he said.
“Then I’m probably her vet!” I countered.
Perhaps not the wisest thing to say to a taxi driver in crazy Maltese traffic as he grabbed his phone and started texting away frantically.
A short time later, his phone pinged.
“Are you Dr coriander?” he said.
“Yes”.
“THEN YOU ARE HER VET!”

Well, with all that excitement, he was all over the road as he messaged his MIL to tell her the news. On arrival at our hotel, he unloaded the bags and gave us his card – “anywhere you need to go, call me, any time” - we took his card out of politeness thinking" we’ll never need to use it". Paul went off to the other assembled taxi drivers and our last (we thought) view of him was him excitedly pointing to us and obviously telling them of his Melbourne passengers’ connection.
 
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coriander

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Our hotel in Malta was the Hilton in St Julians. We’d booked sea view, 7th floor or higher.

Large room, king-size bed, spacious bathroom, air-conditioned (brrr, very cool!):

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Our room also had a balcony with large sliding doors.

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Stepping out, this was our view:

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(TripAdvisor comments had said to request 7th floor or higher for the view – the line of palm trees confirmed the accuracy of that advice).

After unpacking (why oh why did I forget to pack any shorts?) we wandered around the marina beside the hotel.

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By now it was early evening and we were fading, so we wandered around the corner and found a great little pasta place – Impasta. Some bruchetta, then plates of freshly made pasta, one with a vegetarian sauce, the other a hot arrabiatta sauce. Delicious and highly recommended.

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A bit of a walk round and we were ready to crash for the evening. Restaurants abound in St Julians as there are many hotels as well as the island’s only casino:

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coriander

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Day #3
Already 25°C + at 6.00 in the morning, the sunrise from the balcony was awesome.

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The breakfast area was a large space downstairs with the usual extended length buffet with fruits, cereals, cheeses and a bewildering array of breads, croissants and rolls. Two chefs were on hand to prepare omelettes to order.

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We returned to our room after breakfast to find a DHL envelope on the bed - amazingly, my new 28 degrees Mastercard had arrived only 16 hours after we did. Excellent service by Latitude.
 
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coriander

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Our excursion for the morning was to visit the Malta Falconry Centre.

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A great view across the prickly pear to the “Chapel of St John the Baptist”, a 1730-built church and one of 365 churches in Malta according to our taxi driver. Just about every house has solar panels and/or heating (I don’t understand these Maltese – haven’t they heard of coal-fired power stations?)

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The owner / operator has a wide variety of raptors she’s rescued from various European private zoos and collections that were being closed down. Of course there were several Maltese Falcons (actually just Peregrine Falcons found all over the world except New Zealand), along with a cranky African Fish Eagle and a variety of owls. Falconry was a very popular sport from medieval times.

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Many of the birds are trained and the owner put on a display of their hunting prowess.
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After the display, she brought out a tiny adult owl (that’s the index finger of her gloved hand it’s sitting on) and its tiny week-old chicks – just little fluff balls!

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Day #4

Cleaning staff set up a bit of “towel art”.

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Conference started today.
In the evening a welcome reception was held on the seaside beside the Hilton hotel. Very attractive location in the early evening. The casino is the tall building in the background.

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Looking towards Valetta from St Julians – hotel Art Cavalieri in background right.

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More evening shots of the Hilton.

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Day #6
An early start to lectures to ensure an early finish. The afternoon was set aside for a visit to Valletta. The buses dropped us off at the Valletta City Gate and we made our way into the old town, massive walls protecting the city currently under restoration.

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The old town is perfect for walking, cars are banned from all but a few streets. Buildings lined the narrow streets with a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour with the bay windows on the upper floors allowing householders to safely peruse any visiting guests before admitting them to their home.

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Our first destination was the St John the Baptist’s Co-Cathedral (so named as it shares the bishop’s seat with another co-cathedral (St Paul’s) located in Mdina). Built in the 1570s, it has a striking interior of paintings and gold.

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The façade was covered in scaffolding, but once into the co-cathedral, the first view was amazing. I don't think I've ever seen so much gold.

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The oratory off to the side contains the massive work of art -“The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” (1608) by Caravaggio.

Absolutely spectacular: no photos by request of the cathedral, but the attendants were kept busy admonishing the large number of visitors that seemed to think the signs didn’t refer to them. The image below linked from Caravaggio: 100 Famous Paintings Analysis and Biography.

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Once we left the cathedral, it took a minute to readjust our eyes to the blue sky after all the gold!

Then we walked uphill towards to the Barrakka Gardens.

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At the top of the hill at the entrance to the plaza is St Catherine's of Italy church.

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At the plaza at the entrance to the Upper Barrakka Gardens is the former presidential palace (Castille Palace), the Castille Hotel (formerly a private residence) and the Malta Stock Exchange.

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The view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens overlooked the harbour, spectacular in the bright sunshine. The battlements have been there since the time of the Crusades. A row of ceremonial cannons – the “Saluting Battery” – underscored the centuries-old strategic military significance of Malta.

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Our guides had brought us to the Barrakka Gardens timing our arrival for about 3.45pm. They advised us to take our p[aces along the elevated fence, the lower gardens being closed and prepared for a wedding reception. We noted a soldier standing beside the cannons, anxiously looking at his watch.

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At 4.00pm on the dot!

BOOM!

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…. as the cannon fired out over the harbour. This cannon fire occurs every day at 12 noon and 4.00pm. Great stuff!

After all that excitement it was time to walk back through Valletta’s narrow streets. to the bus to take us back to the hotel.

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On the way we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

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I don’t really see that confessions would be private here.

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It’s a Saturday evening and the streets are full of people taking advantage of the many pedestrian-only streets.

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Narrow laneways and architecture give a Hollywood-set-like feel as if something out of "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"

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Here’s a trademark I haven’t seen for many years:

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And stores with names so familiar to me from Melbourne:

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It seemed that every laneway offered a small restaurant.

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Once back at the hotel, we freshened up and wandered out.

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In a laneway nearby, we found a lovely little restaurant, Lulu’s.

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A local chardonnay, local balsamic and olive oil for dipping our bread rolls:

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Entrées were a tasty pasta with prawn and mussels and a risotto:

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Our choice of mains: MrsC opted for a tender, melt-in-the-mouth sea bream….

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…. Whilst I chose their stuffed calamari:

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Generous servings of vegetables accompanied the mains:

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St Julians harbour with their yachts and cruisers looked magnificent by night:

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And we walked back to the hotel after a wonderful day.
 
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Day #7
Final sessions on the Sunday morning finishing up around 1.00pm. Said our farewells to all the Europeans rushing for the airport to be home and ready for work Monday morning. By afternoon, the conference finally over, I was quite tired and after Skyping the kids at home, MrsC headed for the pool and I followed an hour later after a nap. It was a typical Maltese summer afternoon, humid and hot and I looked forward to cooling off in the Hilton pool.

I’d been in the pool only a matter of minutes when I suddenly developed what I thought was a stitch in my side. It got worse and worse and I emerged from the pool almost doubled over with pain. I was puzzled – I hadn’t exercised enough to develop such a stitch. A couple of Panadols and a lie down and I was back to normal. We went for dinner at a local restaurant - massive plate of antipasto, some pizza - and returned to the hotel.

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By about 10pm, the “stitch” returned and I found it hard to get comfortable. By 2am I couldn’t lie down. I had earlier taken another couple of Panadols but the pain became much worse, taking each breath resulted in an acute stabbing pain in my side. My wife was now very concerned and called front desk. The Night Manager arrived promptly, looked at me and called an ambulance. Paramedics arrived promptly – ambling in, their initial casual attitude suggested that I was obviously suffering from a bad case of “man flu”, but when I collapsed on the floor in respiratory distress they promptly revised their opinion. Into the ambulance – my only memory was reaching up to grab the oxygen mask as I was so short of breath I thought I was going to pass out (permanrntly).

Mater Dei hospital were magnificent – after a bit of a delay, I was triaged and blissful IV morphine and IV paracetamol eased the pain……. That is until the paramedics chatting away beside me decided a differential diagnosis was “pancreatic sarcoma”. Well, that brightened me up no end, didn’t it.

I was wheeled off for xrays and a CT scan and enough blood was taken from me to satisfy Dracula and his family. The ER doctor then announced I had acute pneumonia and pleuritis: I would be admitted to hospital, a likely stay for 7-10 days. Meanwhile, MrsC had gone off to the office, clutching my passport and a handful of credit cards. I lay there thinking “hmmm, paramedics, 3am ambulance ride, xrays, CT scan, lab tests, intensive care, oxygen, IV antibiotics… now I’ve got a Visa card, Mastercard, two Amexes, Mrs C has the same, so that should cover the costs ok.”

MrsC returned: “ok what’s the bad news?” I asked.

“Nothing” she replied. “Nothing, no charge: you’re an Australian citizen so all medical and diagnostic treatment in-hospital would be at no charge”.

Wow. I could say that made me feel better but that would be lying. I still felt terrible. The oxygen mask was currently my best friend.

Ok, so this WAS the worst thing that can happen…..
 
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Day #8
By now it was late morning and MrsC returned to the hotel.

I have to say that the Malta Hilton staff was absolutely awesome: the night manager had stayed back to hear what had happened and said “whatever you need, just ask.” Breakfast had finished, but the manager took Mrs C downstairs and the chef prepared a breakfast just for her. After breakfast and returning to the room for freshening up, MrsC returned to the foyer.

The manager and concierge had prepared a large basket containing fresh fruit and croissants and other items from their bakery (“because we know what hospital food can be like”). We had booked a day trip to Gozo for that day – the concierge cancelled our (non-cancellable) bookings and refunded the full amount back to my credit card (something we didn’t realise till I looked at my credit card statement after we returned home).

Paul’s business card turned out to be very handy and he took it upon himself to be our personal taxi for the week, ferrying MrsC back and forth between the hospital and the Hilton.

The first 36 hours were a bit of a blur thanks to my good friends and bed companions Morphine, Codeine and Paracetamol, but then I started to recover quite quickly. It seemed I was an interesting clinical specimen as twice daily groups of students under the watchful eye of the resident doctor all came to examine me and ask me questions (Mater Dei is a teaching hospital and the students there were on exchange from the UK, US, Denmark, India and South Africa). One of the less reassuring conversations I overheard was the high rate of in-hospital infections they were having.

Day #10
I was really starting to improve and got out of bed and started walking the corridors to get fit again in the hope that I could soon be discharged and resume our trip. “Not so fast” the doctor in charge said. You’re staying in Malta for at least 2 weeks. And NO flying. An “animated” discussion then ensued.
"You will not be given an "Authority to Travel" until we judge you are better.
"The government agency will check on this.
"You will not be allowed to board a plane!"

It turned out that the doctor initially thought I had possibly picked up MERS (then discounted that because not only was I still alive, but was recovering too quickly) or alternatively TB (because of possible exposure account my profession) and was therefore a risk of being patient zero (yes I’ve seen “Contagion”). He would not issue an authority to travel. Finally, it was decided I’d have a bronchoscopy and lavage and if the results came back as negative, I’d be allowed to leave.

Back at the Hilton, MrsC contacted the travel insurance company on their 24/7 emergency assist line.
Their first question “Which hospital is he in”. MrsC replied “Mater Dei”. “Oh good, that’s a public hospital, it won’t cost us anything!”
Emergency assistance advice then basically consisted of “download and read the PDF on our website” and “be sure to keep all reports and receipts and make a claim when you get back to Australia”. “What if he needs repatriation to Australia?” “Oh that’s nothing to do with us, you organise it in accordance with the T&Cs on the PDF you’re downloading”.
“By the way, what hotel are you staying in?” “The Hilton in St Julians”. “Oh no, that’s completely unsatisfactory: you must check out of that hotel and find something much cheaper.”

So while I’m debating with the doctors on an early discharge, MrsC is spending the day trying to find (non-existent) accommodation in Malta during the peak holiday season for British and European tourists. The Hilton has moved Mrs C from one room to another as our previous room was booked for another guest and even they said she’ll have to check out by Saturday as they are completely full.

Still all in all, a very nice room, with a large protected balcony overlooking the marina:

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Meanwhile, I’ve hotspotted my laptop to my phone and am busily exploring flight options from Malta to Munich or Zurich, hoping for a “quick getaway”.

Finally after all day on the net and phone, our taxi driver Paul suggested a nearby hotel - MrsC found two nights at the Hotel Art Cavalieri nearby.
 
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coriander

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Day #11
It’s Thursday so I was wheeled off for bronchoscopy. Quite eerie to watch the insides of your own bronchial tree! Another round of Xrays followed after which they pronounced me better. The samples from my bronchoscopy were sent off to the lab and I was told I could be discharged the next day and spend the next two weeks recuperating in Malta (yeah, right, like that was going to happen!).

Day #12
On the Friday, the doctors looking after me examined me, expressed satisfaction with my health and progress, shook hands with me, wished me well on my travels and farewelled me, all of us expecting a negative TB report to be issued by 10.00am which would then be followed by that elusive “authority to travel” and discharge. (We were hoping to be able to make a Zurich-bound Air Malta or Swiss Air flight on the afternoon or evening.) All my IV lines and catheters were removed and no medications were administered to me in-hospital after my morning meds. I was given a script to be filled at any private pharmac_ in Malta.

I dressed and packed, and waited…… and waited…..

Paul had meanwhile moved MrsC and our luggage from the Hilton to the Art Cavalieri.

Somewhere in the move my Bose QCs went missing…….

Hah, that’s no way the worst thing that could happen……..

By 4pm, the TB test results had not come through and hospital staff were unable to contact the lab. I elected to self-discharge from hospital as I was completely better and understandably didn’t want to stay in hospital. Because I self-discharged, they made a note on my clinical records "against medical advice" and "no authority to travel". So if I were to relapse, I knew there'd be no insurance because the medical records would state I acted against medical advice. The staff said I could return for the results on the following morning (Saturday). I really didn’t need that stress.
Oh wow, that sun is bright..... and it's so warm (after multiple days in the air-conditioned (=freezing cold) hospital.

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On top of everything else, hospital staff assumed my CPAP machine mask was a disposable item and threw it out, rendering my machine useless.

Hah, that’s no way the worst thing thing that could happen……..

And so off to the Art Cavalieri. Perhaps a 3-star hotel, but because I’m the vet for the taxi driver’s mother-in-law (Paul is MrsC's “personal” driver for the week ferrying MrsC back and forth to the hospital) AND his cousin was day manager at the hotel, we were treated to the upper floor end room with balcony. The room itself was basic, but was air-moving equipped: the device claimed It was air-conditioned but the air coming out of the device was as warm and humid as the air outside with the added benefit of sounding like an army tank on tracks.

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Nevertheless the view was superb: absolutely five-star -possibly the best view in St Julians.

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The early evening saw fisherman leaving the bay.

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The onset of twilight did nothing to diminish the superb view.

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The Maltese have an interesting relationship with their cat population. None seemed owned, but all looked well fed and there were (mostly empty) bowls of food strategically placed in various locations around St Julians. The local vets told us that they performed the basics on the strays (desexing, vaccinations, etc.). At the end of the street near the hotel there was even a “cat village” where the local feline population hung out, complete with food, toys, housing and an abandoned car to sleep on/in:

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We headed back to Impasta for dinner, – not really feeling adventurous, not far to walk, I felt like a spicy dinner, then back to the hotel – I was exhausted. On the way I visited a pharmac_ for my meds – no PBS so a €130 fee for antibiotics and anticoagulants. Ouch.
 
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coriander

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Day #13

Another beautiful start to the day – this was my “view from the loo” as I quietly sang ChumbaWamba’s song to myself “I get knocked, I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down……”.

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That Saturday in Malta in MrsC's opinion was a combination of "Catch 22” and "Amazing Race" but without a Phil Keoghan offering us an "Express Pass" to the next pitstop (ZRH).

We spent that whole day from 10.00am at the hospital awaiting the TB test results. By incredible fortune I found a CPAP supplier open on a Saturday, so went there, bought a new mask (€200, ouch, only AUD 100 in Aus). Walked back to the hospital, took me over an hour in the 30° humid heat ... but still no results. MrsC collared one of the doctors walking past the cafeteria expressing "a degree of concern" about the results (you have to know MrsC to know that wasn’t going to end well – she’s always polite and quiet voiced but leaves you in no doubt about her displeasure). They promised results at 12.30pm, then 1.30pm, then 2.30pm. Even mild mannered me was getting a little "testy" by this time. At 3.15pm they rocked up with the negative results. Great - in Amazing Race terms, we had received the next red/yellow clue!

Ok, I said, now you can give me the "authority to travel" and/or make an addendum to my medical record. The doctors replied, no we can't, we can only do that if you’re a patient, but you're not a patient of this hospital any more because you self-discharged!. Aaaaargh!

They rang three doctors who could give me an authority to travel, but none were available till Monday. Finally, they suggested I go to a nearby private hospital, St Johns, in Sliema, who might be able to give me this piece of paper but warned me it would be "VERY VERY expensive". Into our taxi (it's now 4.30pm - I can hear that countdown clock ticking) and off to St Johns (see, it's just like Amazing Race, isn't it?).

Lots of renovator’s opportunities here in Sliema:

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On the other hand, some had been resored to their former glory.

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A 30 minute wait (during which I took lots of deep breaths to the point of feeling light-headed to push my spO2 up to 99%), a clinical examination (oh you have recovered very well!) and I had my piece of paper.

The cost? Sorry, it's a lot because it's weekend - € 25!

Ok, back into the taxi, now race back to the Art Cavalieri Hotel and onto the web and airline websites.

We had abandoned any thought of going to Germany as planned but decided we’d fly to Zurich and thence by train to St Moritz. No planned day trip from St Moritz to Tirano either but at least we would be in place for the Glacier Express the following day. Initial shock as we discovered that all Air Malta flights for the next day were booked out….. but whew! last two tickets available on the SwissAir flight Sunday morning, but where the fare had been €79 each on Thursday, it was now €240 each. Oh well, it is what it is!

Whew…… after all that stress and excitement, it was great to get out in the evening sun and simply wander down along Spinola Bay to the restaurant and tourist section of St Julians. The passing parade of cruise ships off the coast.

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From the boardwalk, we could look up at our balcony on the top floor.

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This famous sculpture of the fisherman with his cat is by the bay.

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The bay is lined with apartments both new & ultra-swish and slightly older and tired versions. The boathouses in the background were the Maltese version of their "man caves" as we walked past.

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Spinola Bay is truly a lovely location.

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coriander

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As most of the restaurants there are open air dining, one could check out the servings and offerings on the various diners’ plates before making a decision. Being a warm Saturday night, the place was packed with people enjoyed the very warm evening.

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We found a little restaurant run by a Croatian family serving fresh, simply prepared seafood. No wine for me, just bottled water.

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After dinner we walked further around Spinola Bay:

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Somehow the "putt putt" of the motor didn't really convery the romantic gondola trip.

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Our hotel on the very end at right.

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All very picturesque.

WE slowly made our way back to the hotel for an early night as my stamina levels were still very low.

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