Being tasked with travelling to Malta in early summer to photograph a school sports tour is perhaps, on the face of it, not the most arduous of tasks. However, a 2am start on Monday morning for a drive up from Derby to Leeds airport is not my favourite way to start a week. I’m all packed and with ten kilos of camera equipment strapped to my back, I’m set to go. Ken, our transport manager here at Rayburn, appears at my door precisely on time and thankfully he “loves driving”, so the early start hasn’t seemed to phase him in the slightest. I, on the other hand, am still in a bit of a daze. But knowing that Laura, who had organised the school’s itineraries and would be joining us to courier the trip for the week is already in the car, means that I can grab the back seat to spread out and resume the sleep I had been enjoying only half an hour earlier. Or so I thought. Instead, Laura has claimed it and is flat out and snoring, so it’s the front seat and a bit of Smooth Radio for me.
We arrive at the airport and join the queue for check-in moments before 54 excitable school kids from Farnley Academy burst though the door. Thankfully, Laura at this point has re-joined us and with a refreshed zest for the day, springs into action to guide the group through the airport and onto the plane with the kind of efficiency I could only have dreamed of. Her experience as a courier was now coming to the fore whilst I try to hide behind my camera bag and bat off frequent demands for a McDonald’s breakfast from dozens of teenage boys.
Three and a half hours later we touch down on the tarmac at Malta International Airport, and the cabin breaks into the kind of ironic applause reserved only for Ryanair pilots. It’s a short transfer (there’s no such thing as a long transfer on an island measuring just 16 miles accross) to our hotel in the centre of Qawra and immediately upon arrival, the hotel’s roof-top swimming pool is put to good use.
After a couple of hours relaxing around the pool and a buffet lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, we’re off again for the week’s first excursion. A coach picks us up from the hotel to take us to Malta’s historic capital, and UNESCO world heritage site, Valletta for a guided walking tour. Our local guide, Marisa, gives us an insightful education about Malta’s past whilst showing us some of the city’s sights. We start at the Upper Barrakka Gardens for a spectacular panoramic view over the Grand Harbour before winding our way through the 16th century streets towards the Siege Bell War Memorial and Lower Barrakka Gardens. Valletta really is a beautiful city and we have some time to stop and explore in small groups. Most of us, including myself, take this opportunity to enjoy a drink and a locally produced ice cream at one of the many cafes. It’s extremely good value too, considering we are in a European capital and central tourist zone.
We arrive back at the hotel for our evening meal and I’m exhausted after a very long day, so I’m going to catch up with my sleep before tomorrow when the first of our sporting fixtures starts!