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Published: October 13th 2012
It was a good idea to book a window seat for my afternoon flight here- flying over the Alps and then down the coast of Italy I could see Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples with Capri and then over Sicily – there was Mount Etna. And in the arrivals hall massive hugs from my lovely Richard and Catherine – just what I have been waiting for these past 7 months.
Their apartment in Sliema is a penthouse on 6th
floor with 2 terraces at the front and back – so great views over the rooftops to the harbour and across to Valletta. They live on a main street in Sliema and you can walk in a few minutes to the end of the Point to a nice new shopping mall or walk to the harbour or on the other side to the sea and rocky shoreline.
Once you are here you can understand why hundreds of years ago the Knights of St John decided on this as a fortress… magnificent harbour with several bays surrounded by hilltops on which they built huge fortifications and also churches and palaces of course. And
of course more recently the British saved the Maltese from Napoleon and then held it during WW2 as a most important base in the Med.
So there is lots to see here- and even though it is a bit run-down in places … there is a sort of faded magnificence and of course many sites are undergoing renovation and reconstruction …which is a massive job given the size of the city walls and the bombing of Malta which went on during WW2. They are still recovering.
So I soon got down to sightseeing – boat trips across the harbour to Valletta to wander around the steep old streets. I have bought a Heritage Sites ticket and of course have to visit everything possible to get my money’s worth – Fine Arts, Archeology, Natural History Museums as well as several churches have been on the agenda. A Hop on Off bus trip round the North of the Island was a bit of a disaster after hordes of Cruise ship people got on and so when I tried to hop on after a visit to M’dina there was no way I could get on!!! Well the
first bus came and went and it looked like that might be happening when the next bus came but there is some advantage to being a little ‘un and I wormed my way through the crowds and pushed my way on- PHEW!!! Not doing that again – have now got a bus ticket for the week on the normal busses ( only 12 euros) and will make up my own tours.
It’s hot – 27 deg and quite humid – I have to remind myself that its half way through October and there we are sitting outside at a café in the evening drinking the local beer – Cisk. ( Oh - yes and I have tried the local dish of rabbit casserole and also pastizze - which are like little puff pastry pasties filled with ricotta or peas - I like the pea ones best) It has been lovely and sunny this past week but clouds began gathering today and as I write a storm is battering us – wind, rain, thunder and lightning….very dramatic.
I have been in the sea almost every day – along the coast just here there are rocky
shelves and they have kindly put ladders there for those of us who are getting on a bit to get into and out of the sea – let the young ones dive and jump in!!! The sea is so clear and mostly a lovely turquoise blue. Sea temperature is perfect – very refreshing and not cold at all. I found a sandy beach on the western coast – Golden Bay – some good surf there and beautiful rock formations.
There are some magnificent churches – fantastic domes and the interiors which make you gasp at their opulence – walls all carved limestone and then gilded with gold and floors paved with huge slabs adorned with pictures of skeletons ( 400 knights bureid under themin St Johns.) In the St John Cathedral there are 2 fabulous Caravaggio’s – St Jerome and The Beheading of John the Baptist – a very good audio guide tells you all you need to know….then there was the Palace and the Armoury – how did those knights wear that stuff?? And I didn’t know until I came here that some of the most ancient sites in the world are here on the Island
– temples built 1000 years before the Pyramids. There are some finds of fantastic female figures along with phalluses and carved stonework in the Archaeology Museum in Valletta – and next week I intend to visit some of the ancient sites.
So that’s enough for now from me – I will be spending 3 days on the smaller island of Gozo next week – one of my cheapo good deals – an apartment in Xlendi Bay ( good reviews) for £18 a night including brekki- couldn’t miss that one – good for Booking.com.
Love to all. xx
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