Thursday, December 5, 2013

Valletta, Malta

So, Thanksgiving happened and life got crazy. But, that's only part of my reason for taking so long to get to this post. In reality, I'm scared. We took a gazillion pictures on this trip and when I look back at how many pictures we took each day, the largest number was our day in Malta. I'm just a little overwhelmed and I'm not sure where to begin. But, I've got to get this trip blogged, so begin I must.

Like Montenegro, I didn't know a lot about Malta before we went there. I knew that it was a strategic location during World War II and played a large role in it. And I knew that it was where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked as told in the Book of Acts. Other than that, I really didn't know what to expect from this tiny island nation. I certainly did not expect Malta's awesomeness to jump up and slap me in the face. But it did. We very quickly realized that Malta was super cool. As I mentioned, our Malta stop yielded the most pics taken in a single day for us, so prepare for a lengthy post. Here's what I saw when I stepped out onto our balcony that morning:

This is Valletta's Grand Harbour and, unfortunately, these pictures don't do it justice. It was, as its name suggests, quite grand. We had a very full tour booked for Malta and it was Stella's birthday, so we got ready and headed out for a fun day. First item of business was meeting up with our tour guide. Her name was Flora and she had on a dress and high heels. She seemed like a super cool lady and turned out to be a great tour guide.

Our first stop was Gardjola Gardens. It's a nice little garden that overlooks the Grand Harbour.

Just outside the garden was a station where you could get a carriage to take you around Valletta. The little birthday princess used it for a photo op.

After checking out the gardens we enjoyed a walk through Valletta to St. John's Co-Cathedral. The hills and narrow streets with tall buildings reminded me just a little of San Francisco.

When we got to the cathedral, Flora did some explaining. She explained the clock on the clock tower and how it not only displays the time, but also the date. We thought that was pretty cool since it happened to be Stella's birthday.

Then we went inside the cathedral and it was quite spectacular. It is the home of the Knights of Malta and has a lot of history. Flora took us through and explained different things throughout.

After a little while, Stella started to get restless. And, to be quite honest, I did too. Cathedrals are nice, but it doesn't take me long to see what I need to see. So, I headed out with Stella and waited for everyone else to finish up. She had a great time running up and down the wheelchair ramp outside, so it worked out. We then enjoyed some things of interest nearby while waiting for our driver to pick us up.

After seeing the cathedral and enjoying our walk through Valletta, it was off to Marsaxlokk fishing village. This was a fun little stop. The bay is filled with brightly colored fishing boats and there's a little open-air market along the waterfront where they have oodles of cool souvenirs. When we arrived in Marsaxlokk, Flora gave us a little info and then we figured out a time to be back on the bus for our next stop. Stella had fallen asleep on the drive and Mr. Frisby had a headache, so he chose to sit on the bus and relax while Stella got a nap. I grabbed the camera and my money and headed out for fun.

I got some good pictures and some great souvenirs, so it was a very worthwhile stop. Next up on our tour itinerary was Hagar Qim, an ancient temple that dates from more than 3000 BC. On our way to the temple, Flora and our driver decided we were a cool enough tour group to stop and see the Blue Grotto. It wasn't really part of our tour and we didn't have time to see it up close and personal, but they stopped quickly so we could hop out and see it from the highway. It was beautiful and reminded me of a spot on the southern coast of Portugal that I had been to while serving my mission there.

After our quick stop it was off to Hagar Qim. This was something that I didn't think would interest me very much as I'm not really big on ancient history. But, in keeping with the rest of Malta, it was actually really cool and I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Here we are outside the temple with Flora giving us lots of information about it. That's her in the dress and gold high heels (and the big white canopy isn't part of the temple - it's just a covering to protect it).

While Flora was explaining the temple, Stella found some rocks and was as happy as a lark.

Here we are getting ready to go into the temple with lots of photobombers in the background.

Mr. Frisby and Stella just inside the temple. I think Stella was in heaven seeing all those giant rocks. She couldn't figure out why we wouldn't let her get down and play in them.

The temple was also in the middle of the Maltese countryside, so it was fun driving there and seeing how Malta looked outside the cities.

After Hagar Qim, we drove to Mdina, the old medieval capital of Malta. We tried to grab a quick lunch at a restaurant just outside the city walls, but the service was very slow, so it wasn't quick at all and cut into our sightseeing time. Grrr! After lunch we headed into the city. It's a walled city and closed off to cars except for a few emergency vehicles and residents' cars. And it was - can you guess? - super cool! Flora took us through the city, stopping here and there to give us some history and background. They have a large cathedral, St. Paul's Cathedral (because this was where Paul was supposed to have lived after his shipwreck), but we were too busy exploring the town to stop and go in. Also, we were running short on time.

We learned from Flora that these plants growing on the wall are capers. They're all over Malta, apparently.

We ended our tour of Mdina at the other side of the city which overlooks most of the island.

We did some quick shopping in Mdina and then it was back to Valletta where we would have just a little more time for poking around and shopping before we had to be back on the ship. Our stop in Malta was definitely an action-packed day, but I felt we had only scratched the surface. I had no idea there would be so much to see and do on this little island. I would go back in a heartbeat. As we sailed out of Valletta, we enjoyed the great views of the harbor and sea as the sun set that evening.

1 comment:

Ashlee said...

As my good friend, Liz Lemon, would say, "I want to go to there."