Falling in Love with Malta

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Victor Calleja

I arranged to meet Richard and Patricia Hollands at their apartment in Portomaso. Having no sense of direction and also being number-deficient I was rather worried that I’d find it hard to get to them but it was amazingly easy. Portomaso seems to have been designed with more thought than anything I’ve ever used or visited. And, getting to the apartment block through the public areas, it was a joy to see the well-looked-after roads, pathways and greenery.

So, getting to the Hollands’ apartment was the easy thing. Trying to explain the beauty of the apartment I visited and the view from it is another thing. Words hardly fail me and descriptive words come gushing out of my head—but none will do justice to the place. I’ve known for a long time that the Portomaso development is one of a kind, a superior kind—seeing it however makes you more than believe it.

The Hollands are a most charming, welcoming couple who immediately made me feel at home in their home away from home with a wonderful view.

Besides being courtesy itself, the Hollands seem to speak individually but in unison. They both say things which come out as one and the first thing they both told me is that Portomaso is definitely the best place they have ever been to.

Widely-travelled and urbane the Hollands, who have now been regular visitors to Malta for 7 years, had great words not just for Portomaso but for Malta and the Maltese. Both of them think Malta is a real gem which is hardly known and which has unbelievable charm and heritage. And they think the Maltese are ever so kind and welcoming.

As often happens in our life, the Hollands’ connection to Malta was just pot luck. The island had never been much on their radar of buying property in, let alone retiring here. But when one of their three children had just sat her GCSEs, she was given the privilege of choosing a holiday place for the summer. The daughter, Florence, chose Malta and the Hollands came over and never looked back. They fell in love with the islands, the daughter loved the place and the rest is the story of an apartment at Portomaso.

The Hollands love most aspects of Malta—the culture, the theatre, the food, the weather, Portomaso. But they also loved, and love it, because of its security and safety. Portomaso and the people behind it were people they felt comfortable with at the very first meeting. The first time they came to Malta they felt immediately safe and didn’t worry about their daughter going off to Paceville with friends. Nothing has changed since they came the first time. Florence, the daughter who started it all, comes regularly. But so do her brothers, Richard and Thomas. All manage to get a number of friends to stay at the apartment and they all love the Portomaso life, the views and surroundings.

We have everything within easy reach here,” Patricia tells me in a whisper. “If you don’t want to wander far all is available, from top restaurants to a top hotel and top-quality shops and supermarket with a very good delicatessen. And although the weather is so good here it does sometimes rain, so when it does and we need anything we can go around all the area underground, so remaining very dry. Our daughter calls us the moles when we tell her about moving from one place to the other through the car park.” Richard adds that “the place is just great. It was the perfect place to come to after our hectic work life.”

The Hollands were previously involved in a very successful and fulfilling business which gave them plenty of satisfaction even though it was not the easiest of tasks. For 15 years they ran a residential home for autistic adults and, although today there are a number of these homes in the UK, at the time it was very new and totally uncharted. They both worked hard at developing a structure and an organisation which was beyond caring.

It all started when the Hollands bought a hotel with lovely views and land which they planned to convert into a residential home. One of the first guests was autistic and he it was who suggested to Richard and Patricia that they should encourage more autistic people to stay. The idea struck a chord with the Hollands who then set about making sure they were well-trained and only employed people with the right background and skills. The home became a sought-after place which families of autistic adults knew they could trust implicitly. The people who stayed at the Hollands’ home felt they belonged just like a family.

The home flourished but having a plethora of specialised staff, and accommodating such gifted individuals but not the easiest to look after, while giving the Hollands a more than fulfilling life, was also very tiring. They made sure the home was sold to the right people who would also make their guests just as comfortable as when the Hollands used to run it.

Now the Hollands have more free time and love every minute they spend in Malta, getting deeply involved in the local fabric. They have friends here, they love entertaining and dining out and they have even been invited to a local wedding in Mdina.

The Hollands have found a great place in Portomaso and Malta has found a special couple to adopt as one of its own.

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