Today we went to the island of Gozo. The drive to the northwest tip of Malta island took a little over an hour. As the crow flies it is only about 10 miles, but we were following the coastal road that winds in and out of the numerous inlets that grace the island and make it so picturesque.
Outside Valletta, the buildings are scattered in and amongst farmland and raw land. The raw land looks much the same as Sicily, except with more agave plants. We wonder if they make tequila here. We are told that Sicily produces blue tequila, but we didn’t try it. And yes, we saw agave plants in Turkey and Greece, too, but they were few and far between. Other than grapes and olives, we couldn’t tell what the farmers produce locally. We like this shot because it gives you a good idea of what some of the vegetation looks like, not just in Malta, but Sicily, Crete, and Bodrum, although the assorted plants aren’t normally quite so close together. It is arid, so the plants need space between them. The cactus in the foreground of this shot is dominant in Sicily and Malta.
Anyway, between the nice landscape, the stunning ocean views, and the occasional adorable little town, it was a beautiful drive. The ferry runs every 45 minutes. We found out that motorcycles Continue reading Welcome to Gozo, Malta
Today we took the scooter back to Valletta. We had lunch in a small cafÃ© in what seemed to be the heart of downtown. The cafÃ© had a food menu and a separate multi-page hot chocolate menu featuring flavors such as meringue, caramel, strawberry, banana, peach, whisky, hazelnut, white chocolate, pistachio, and more. We couldn’t resist, we had to try one of these gourmet hot chocolates, so Christi ordered one. What came out was not flavored milk, this was truly hot chocolate. It was thick and rich, the same texture as hot fudge sauce. We are guessing it probably is made just like hot fudge except using milk instead of butter. Eric got another beverage off the specialty drink menu, vanilla Italian crÃ¨me. It was also a very thick, hot liquid, and tasted similar to crÃ¨me brulee.
After lunch, we headed over to The Barrakka Upper Gardens. As far as the garden part goes, it was nice, but not impressive. There are more concrete walkways than garden, so while the plants are beautiful, there simply aren’t a lot of them. What is impressive, though, is the fabulous views of Grand Harbor. It is the best viewpoint we have seen yet in Malta, and there are fabulous views everywhere. In the first shot, you can barely see the marina in the left finger. The second shot is of the harbor entrance.
From there we went to the Grand Master’s palace, the residence of the head of the knights back in the day. Now it is Continue reading More Exploring Valletta
Continued from yesterday”¦ Once we finished at the archeological museum, we went to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the official house of worship for the Knights, and adjoining Cathedral Museum. The cathedral was completed in 1577, and as you can see, the exterior “has the character of a fortress reflecting the sober mood of the Order”¦”
When the cathedral was first built, the inside was just as plain as the outside. The layout is simple — the center is the main church area and altar, devoted to St. John the Baptist, and on each side are four little nooks, called chapels. Each chapel was devoted to a specific language group and their patron saint. But, later the baroque era began, and ornately decorated churches were the rage. The inside was updated to reflect the style of the times.
We walked in and were immediately overwhelmed. True baroque churches are covered with elaborate dÃ©cor, and this is a true baroque church. The floors are made of marble, and are loaded with colorful tombs with pictures of crests and angels made from assorted colors of marble. Here is one of the many, and every tomb is different.
Some sections of the walls have paintings, scenes from the life of John the Baptist using fairly bright colors. Every single inch of space not devoted to paintings is Continue reading Exploring Valletta – Part 2
Today we rented a scooter and headed into Valletta. Via a dinghy, it is probably only a 10 minute ride straight across the water, but via scooter it was a long drive all the way around the large harbor. The road system is confusing with unclear signs, and we made several wrong turns along the way. The fact that they drive on the left didn’t help, either. The drivers are pretty good here, though, which is a welcome relief from Italy.
Our first stop was The Malta Experience, which is a 45 minute movie about the history of Malta. We navigated our way through town to a small building on Valletta’s waterfront. We assumed this would be the entrance. Not even close. We followed a series of signs that directed us down a staircase along the face of the cliff to an opening in the retaining wall. Then through a long, gently sloping tunnel to a fairly large underground room that serves as a gift shop/ticket booth. The room lets into a hallway where we lined up. When the doors opened, we were ushered into a large underground theater. Wow, it was really cool to be in one of the secret tunnels and rooms that you always read about in fairy tales. They really do exist!
We found out that during World War II, Continue reading Exploring Valletta
By 0830, we were approaching Valletta. We had been told Valletta is spectacular looking, and it really is. It is a giant fortress, and much like Rhodes, as you enter into the old city, you feel like you are stepping back into time. Except that in Rhodes, you had to actually walk through the walls to get the strong sense of history. Here in Valletta, it was apparent from the water.
Malta’s main town of Valletta is located on Continue reading Welcome to Vittoriosa, Malta