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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Malta: Day 4 - Comino Island; Floriana

I was so looking forward to going to the island of Comino today. It was to be the highlight of this part of my trip. I saw lovely pictures and write ups that used words like tranquil, peaceful and quiet. The Blue Lagoon is the most beautiful place according to the write ups. 
We took a bus ride for 90 minutes then a very crowded ferry and when we arrived at Comino, it was 31C, and not a not a tree in sight. There were low shrubs with hoards of people trying to shade a piece of their foot. I have not seen such a crowd in ages. I'm at the point in my life when I hate crowds for any reason. The beach was wall to wall people, some laying on bare rocks like lizards warming themselves, except that it was 32 degrees Celsius with the sun beating down. 


We made it up the path from the ferry only to encounter a long line of kiosks with vendors under their little plastic shelters selling cheap food and souvenirs. It was crowded, noisy and suffocatingly hot and not even remotely like the pictures I saw on the internet. In fact, it was as far removed from the pictures as the equator is to Antartica. Not at all what I expected and not what the tranquil pictures portrayed. 



Even the bay was crowded with small boats. Not pleasant to look at because they were a distraction to the colour of the water in the bay. 



We spent 15 minutes walking in the blazing to the Comino Hotel which was less crowded but quite noisy. I was thankful that we each had an umbrella which offered a small reprieve from the sun. The hotel was quite lovely but again, it was so unbearably hot, that the energy expended just to get here needed at least an hour to replenish. We sat on the veranda and watched some people swimming. That was all I could manage. 








The actual highlight of the day was the ferry ride back to Malta. The boat captain played loud party music (not the best part) but he was forgiven because he passed by some cliffs so we could take pictures. Couldn't really take many because the water was choppy but it was nice to see anyway.










We went to the Grannaries Restaurant in Floriana which is literally a 3 minute walk across the Mall (a green space that runs from Valletta to Floriana) from our apartment for a nice dinner. Didn't have lunch (too hot to eat) dinner was the highlight. The tasty food put me in a good mood to end the evening. 


Latte

Grilled duck breast

Cheesy pizza - just the way I like it

Friday, August 19, 2016

Malta: Day 3 - Dingli Cliffs, Mdina, Valletta

This was by far my most favourite part of the entire trip to Malta so far but it's only been two days. Subhadra was not feeling well so she didn't come with us; I wish she did. Mdina was spectacular. 

Malta has a history dating back to the start of civilization but certainly over the last 7,000 years (older than the Pyramids of Egypt), it has been stunning. It really is like living in a historical time. Some of the buildings are so old and well preserved, that one could easily imagine how people would have lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago. 

We left just after breakfast and got a bus to see the Dingli Cliffs. I'd seen some pictures of th cliffs but only afterwards did I realize they were all taken from the sea looking towards Malta (we were standing on the cliffs looking out over the water). 

We boarded the bus and it passed through Mdina and Rabat on the way to the Dingli Cliffs. We planned to do some sightseeing in Mdina on the way back from the cliffs. The view from the bus was amazing so I was excited to return. 

We made it out to the cliffs and thought we'd eat lunch out there at a cafe. The bus drive dropped us off (along with about 6 others on the bus). We headed toward the cliff and could not see much so we walked another half kilometre away from the bus. I snapped a couple of pictures feeling disappointed that I could not find a good vantage point to see the cliffs. 



It was stiflingly hot at noon and I'd had enough of the heat. I wanted a cold drink but the only restaurant was boarded up tight so we headed back to the bus and that was a very good thing. Buses run only once per hour and we'd have to wait a full hour or more in the heat (no shade anywhere around) if we did not return on that bus. I had some snacks and water so we had that. The bus driver welcomed us back into the bus and departed soon after - only to head into the actual town of Dingli to wait for half an hour before departing for Mdina. 

So now for Mdina. We made it back to Rabat which was the adjacent village to Mdina but we didin't get off the bus, expecting it to pass through Mdina on the way back to Valletta. That was not to be. The bus departed and took a route out to the highway, bypassing Mdina all together. There we were, sitting on the bus as it drove farther and farther away. With limited time on the island, it was either today or miss the town completely. 



Robin and I hopped off at the next stop, crossed the highway, and waited for the next bus heading back to Mdina. It was at least a 30 minute wait but we had water and two umbrellas which was a blessing as we'd be out in the scorching sun. Mdina was worth every bit of time in the blistering sun. It is called the silent city for a reason. It is so quiet that you can feel the reverence. The narrow streets are immaculate and everyone gains a sense of deference to the stillness. There is no vehicular traffic so walking is the mode of transportation. The architecture is amazing. 





The streets are narrow and one could easily visualize Jesus' disciple Paul walking here. 
Narrow street of Mdina
We walked along several of the streets where the wealthy families live and admired the variety of intricate door knockers on each family's home. 


Door knocker

Door knocker

Door knocker


Door knocker
We happened upon the lovely and quaint Don Mesquita restaurant and stopped for a traditional Maltese lunch. The food looked much like the stuff we had at the HQ and Tia Marija. That seems to be the selling point of most restaurants - which made me think that Maltese people are quite proud of their history and culture and food which all seem to be a fusion of cultural influences of from Greece, Italy and, the Middle East and Africa. Whatever it is, I call it delicious.   



Artwork in the restaurant

Artwork in the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

A steaming latte

And a cold beer

Traditional Maltese plate

Tomatoes and Maltese cheese

Stairway to restaurant cellar


Cellar
Mesquita Square is now used for the wealthy families to congregate in the evenings for a chat. It is so very quiet, that you can hear your voice echo off the stone walls. 






We headed to a more travelled area with traffic just outside the walled area to admire the old architecture. 


Had a little photo opp in front of St Paul's Cathedral. This country has a LOT of churches! 
St Paul's Cathedral




And of course, the Maltese Falcon! And the famous, eight-pointed Maltese Cross. 



We visited the Carmelite Priory where a service was just starting so we respectfully took a few pictures and departed quietly .  





Then it was off the one of the walled areas to take some pictures of the valley below. It was bone dry but still beautiful. I was glad we came back or we would have missed all of this. 




Many towns have festivals throughout the year and each one is decorated with huge banners from the entrance to the exit and everywhere in between. This is just one of them. 


We headed back to our apartment for a shower and to freshen up and then it was off to Valletta for dinner and a long walk along the waterfront. 



Valletta


Valletta


Valletta

Valletta
We walked for about an hour before settling on a Turkish restaurant for dinner and it did not disappoint. The portions were gigantic - one meal was enough to feed two people and then some. One kebab must have weighed a pound - at least - and two were served with dinner, plus 5 generous sides. Robin is a big eater and he could not finish his meal.  









Another good day. Mdina was wonderful. I loved the quietness of the city.