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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Malta

I had no particular expectations on arriving in Malta. I'd never heard anything about it, bad or good. We didn't plan a shore excursion as its a small island and the major city, Valetta, is near the port. We disembarked and set out across town. Erik opted for us to tour the St. John's co-cathedral. It was swelteringly warm and decorated within an inch of its existence. The church officials over the ages seemed quite full of themselves, giving themselves titles like "Grand Master" and "Knights" and so on. After a while, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the apparent total lack of women in the setting, save for passing references to the Virgin Mary. Erik said I got to pick what next, so we made for the thing that looked like a Greek temple on the hill. It turns out we found the Lower Baracca Gardens, a truly lovely spot and perhaps my favorite place on Malta. The temple was a monument to an Englishman, but the gardens were just lovely with lots of seating where you could sit beneath the shade of a tree and watch the sea.

We trekked back across town to see the Upper Baracca Gardens and the Hastings Gardens (both lovely, but not quite so much as the charming Lower Gardens). Then we made our way down to the Fountain of Neptune, which also serves as the bus depot. The busses of Malta are famous it turns out and many of the souvenirs feature the red and mustard yellow busses. For E1.16, we took the 135 express bus out to the Blue Grotto where we walked down a long winding path to the seaside. There we paid for a tour of the grottos and waited for others to show up. Within 10 minutes, another seven folks turned up and we were off in our little boat with an outboard motor. Being in a small boat like that on the open sea was a bit disconcerting, but the views of the caves were lovely. The winds and seas surged on our way back and we had to rebalance the boat a bit, but we didn't flip over. On the boat, we'd chatted about making it back to Valetta and I told Erik I was fantacising about paying a taxi to take us to the top of the hill. He chatted with a chap a bit of the way up the hill, and he said he'd drive us to the next town where we'd have a shorter wait for a bus for 7 Euro. Sold!

We hopped in the back of a black Mercedes and were off, twisting around traffic in a car with a broken speedometer. Arriving in Zurrieq, we wandered around a bit waiting for the 4:15 bus back to Valetta. The town was being decorated with statues for a religious festival the following weekend. An older gent with a little black dog suggested we could see the church while we waited, but it was closed with only the statuary coming out of the storage out back.

Our bus 34 pulled out and our bus driver made a wild trip through three small towns before arriving back in Valetta ten minutes ahead of schedule. For .47cents it was a crazy trip of sharing lanes and squeaking past parked cars. We walked back down to the boat and reboarded with time to change for dinner.

We had scheduled our special dinner at Palo for 6:45. Generally, all dining on the ship was free, but Palo was $15 for whatever we chose for dinner. We sat watching the sun set as the ship pulled away from Malta while we enjoyed calamari, antipasti, and a quattro frommagio pizzetta. In my day-to-day life, I frequently pick out several things that sound good on a menu, then select the less expensive one to have for dinner. Here, it was $15 no matter what, so I treated myself to the seared ahi tuna. For dessert, the chocolate souffle came highly recommended and was definitely a treat, made more so by a plate that was decorated with chocolate syrup, raspberry and mango to say Happy Honeymoon.

1 Comments:

  • If that was the main Knights of Malta Cathedral, I can imagine that it would have been huge and filled with stuff even compared to other Cathedrals. They stretch back to the Crusades and thus were loaded with money.

    I would love to visit a market in Tunis one day.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 8:40 PM  

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