But wanted you to see some watercolor artwork I enjoyed at an exhibit in Malta. Wish I could find the titles but check out the captions for some things I do remember. I like temporary art exhibits a lot. This Friday, I will go to one featuring paintings of musicians and soon, I will go to the submarine base for this year’s street art panoply.
After liking Valletta the first day and not seeing and doing everything, I returned for a second, slightly more laid back, day of wandering and taking photos. Enjoyed the best hot chocolate of my life in a little café off the main street and later, for a very late lunch, ordered bragjoli, a beef filet wrapped around olives and herbs and smothered in garlicky tomato sauce. The harbor tour boats were not operating because of the heavy swells but I did manage a short ferry ride from one side to the other.
Three places captured my fancy on this day… The Royal Opera House was bombed in 1942 and never rebuilt-today it is an open air theater… The interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral seemed more ornate than anything I saw in Russia but photos weren’t allowed so I took a picture of a postcard!… The across harbor city of Vittoriosa was quaint (but still fortified), quiet (with many more locals out enjoying the day), and quite stunning in the afternoon sun. The yacht harbor was impressive too!
It’s practically impossible not to. France will play Croatia in the final match of the World Cup in Moscow on Sunday. I watched the entire semi-final game (thinking it could be the last) and got to know the players’ names and some of the rules. But mostly, I just enjoyed the spectacle and if I had a car, I might have been out with hundreds of others driving around town and honking my horn til the wee hours! Allez les Bleus!
(I know this is an amazing post considering my dislike for all sports except baseball!)
Valletta has been the capital of Malta since the late 1500s, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1980, and the European capital of culture for 2018. It is a day stop for huge cruise ships disgorging thousands of tourists who explore its fortified charms. Whole streets are devoted to shops, restaurants, and bars, and even then it can be difficult to get a table, let alone in the shade.
But as a wanderer, Valletta is charming. The gallarijas, overhanging wooden balconies providing 18th century lace sheers modesty for women watching daily life pass by, are plentiful and colorful. Stone fortifications completely enclose you and time ticks backward to WWII and even further to the era of the Knights of St.John. On my first day trip, I visited the 16th century Casa Rocca Piccola, a private residence masquerading as an art and antiquities museum. The upper and lower Barrakka gardens provided some shady respite and as previously blogged, the Operation Husky war rooms tour recounted an amazing military feat.
If all you ever saw was the interior of Valletta, you’d probably say you liked Malta.
Not Bozo or Gonzo or Ouzo but definitely so-so. Malta is an archipelago of six islands and Gozo is the second largest. Accessible via a 25 minute ferry ride, it is Malta’s breadbasket…greener, more rural, more relaxed. My intention was to enjoy the sites via a hoho bus and I began my itinerary at 8:30 am. Unbelievably, I didn’t even reach the ferry terminal until 11:30, a significant dent in my plans. Boarded the ferry, then boarded the hoho bus, but wasn’t able to get off to see anything until the end because it was 45 minutes between buses.
Along the way, there were about 10 stops including an agricultural factory, Ramla Bay (where you can walk to Calypso’s Cave where Ulysses was held captive in Homer’s epic), Ta’ Pinu (a large church where people go to seek miracles), and the city on the hill, Victoria. I visited the Citadel there, which was built in the 9th century, and still has a couple Kodak moments. One is the dome of St. Mary’s Cathedral, which doesn’t exist except for the trompe l’oeil painting which makes you think it exists.
Arrived home at 8:30 at night with little to show for such a long day out.
Pronounced Mar-sash-lock. The largest bay with the largest fishing fleet prompted a number of seaside restaurants to serve the catch of the day. The little traditional boats are called luzzu and all were tethered during my stay. Most have an eye painted on each side of their hull for good luck. I bought a lace dresser scarf at the daily market and enjoyed a lovely lunch indoors as the rain swept in through the cracks in the door. What was meant to be the first stop on a full day of adventure also became the last stop because the bus reliability is so poor. My frustration with rain and buses and traffic jams grew by leaps and bounds.
Malta is jam-packed with historical significance. One event is the shipwreck of St. Paul and St. Luke off the Malta coast in AD60. Before continuing on to Rome for trial, Paul spent the winter living simply in a Rabat cave, preaching Christianity and converting local islanders. Today, the Maltese population is heavily Catholic. Each parish saint has their own holiday and potlucks, fireworks, parades, and spectacles celebrate the event in towns around the island practically every week of the year.
Under St. Paul’s grotto is a labyrinth of underground passages and catacombs used as early as the 2nd century. During WWII, these shelters were also used during the seemingly endless bombardment of Malta…the statistics are hard to imagine (see image).
Mdina, the old walled city capital until the 1500s, is just next to Rabat. This was my first day outing and I was full of enthusiasm for the ochre colored alleys, a 13th century palazzo museum visit, shops selling Malta’s trades for handmade lace and silver jewelry, finding authentic Maltese food, and starting to absorb the island’s long story of sieges, conquests, and ownership. To that end, there are at least five 3D/4D/5D panoramic “shows” on the island which are annoyingly promoted to the tourist crowds and you can’t help but feel it would be a total rip-off. In hindsight, I’m sorry I didn’t go to at least one, but the “fakeness” could not be overcome compared to the living reality of the city itself.
Both to and from Mdina and Rabat, our bus passed Mosta’s Church of Santa Maria Assunta, an architectural marvel and the victim of an unexploded German WWII bomb that came crashing through the 4th largest dome in Europe. By this time, my apprehension of the bus system had already begun so I did not disembark to see the replica bomb located in the sacristy. Another opportunity passed up in favor of getting home before dark.
The most southern country of Europe lies in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Africa. Approximately 17 miles long and 9 miles wide, the island supports over 450,000 people, primarily in and around the capital city of Valletta. Additionally, 2.5 million tourists arrive every year and I was one of them last May. It was a trip of contrasts… mostly between good and get me the hell off this island.
My home base was in Naxxar (Nash-ar), a small city with a beautiful neighborhood church. I stayed at a boutique b&b, located down one of the quaint walking alleys in the city center. The whole island is like subterranean swiss cheese from water seeping through lime/sandstone, and if I climbed onto a tall stone step by my bed, the view from my lovely window was the asphalt of the alley and a stray cat now and then. (I had a dehumidifier running whenever I was home, which kept the stone walls from weeping but might have been the culprit which caused my day of departure strep throat.)
Naxxar has several Band Clubs… neighborhood joints, a little like bars, that serve mediocre food, bright lights, and loud dance music. They are left over from the war days and previous British colonialization and are no longer THE place to be with your family on any given night. Naxxar also has several bus stops…imperative information after you’ve waited for WAY TOO LONG for a bus to Valletta.
In Naxxar, I ate the traditional snack pastizzi – phyllo dough enclosing ricotta cheese or mushy peas. You can probably guess my favorite. They are sold at small open air fry stands all over the island. If I had a stand I would call it Easy Peasy. For several days, I also sipped away at a bottle of local white wine made with Girgentina grapes…a new varietal to me and very delicious.
doorknocker at a Band Club
my alley (but not from my window)
don’t Maltese cross me!
the church of Naxxar
I’ve uploaded Malta photos and edited the whole batch. Now I can begin sharing my May trip (sometimes from hell) with you. For today, just a couple of my favorites for no specific reason…
…how to get my photos from camera to computer…
A different story thread begins. IF you read the 50 Shades books and/or IF you’ve grown up watching actresses Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen-then watching The Book Club is a hoot. Contrived-yes. Silly-yes. Laugh out loud funny-several times! The depth of friendship runs deep and there’s always a chance for love. By comparison, The Shape of Water is a weird, mostly poorly acted love story, Darkest Hour was so slow I multi-tasked, and A Kid Like Jake was well played and thought provoking. Next up? Phantom Thread and Eye in the Sky.
I have enjoyed 17 sessions of kiné for my knees-3 more to go. We have discovered I walk funny, have no balance, possess limited quad strength, and no ankle stability. Will probably ask for another set of x-rays to determine if the osteoarthritis is holding steady. Then, possibly a podologue for determining if custom orthotics might help. My lifestyle requires walking and stair climbing at a minimum and traveling requires a LOT of both of those! Flipping the coin, more and more I am leaving my apartment without my glasses and not noticing a huge difference. I’ve even taken my glasses OFF to see the movie screen better and I never wear them indoors. Thinking my opthamology appointment is going to be a piece of cake and wondering if I can finally choose cool sunglasses! Would love to have them now when we’re closing in on 100° many days in a row and the sun doesn’t set until almost 10 pm.