Il-Belt Valletta - Ċittà Umilissima

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April 14th 2012
Published: April 16th 2012
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Day two started off on the later side, with a housekeeper knocking on my door and waking me up around 11:30am – oopsie! I wasn’t feeling too hot, but Malta’s most impressive church, St. John’s co-cathedral, was only open until 12:30 so I had to book it if I wanted to be able to see that. Luckily it was only a couple blocks from my hotel. Built between 1573 and 1578, the church has equal status to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, hence the term “co-cathedral”. It was constructed as the conventual church of the Knights of St. John, and despite its rather plain façade the interior is spectacular. The blue walls studded with Maltese crosses were for some reason the most beautiful part to me, but opulence was everywhere. The floor was a patchwork of marble tomb slabs of what seemed to be knights. Apart from the nave with its altar and marble status of Christ’s baptism, the church is surrounded by 6 bays. Each is dedicated to one of the “langues” of the Order of St. John, which is how the knights were divided – Provence, Aragon, Castille & Portugal, etc. The attached museum, which I also went through, was filled with collections of vestments, illuminated choral books, tapestries, etc. While nice enough, I’ve been to enough church museums so it all kind of blended together.

After the cathedral I sat down at a café outside the cathedral to enjoy a coffee. It was extremely windy (this seems to be always the case) so I literally had hold on to my cup. Once caffeinated I headed southwest toward the city gate so I could do the walking tour suggested by my Lonely Planet book – how bad could that be? First I needed to eat, though, so I grabbed a 40 cent pastizz, the name of a typicaly flaky Maltese savory pastry filled with either ricotta cheese or peas. I went with the cheese one, which had a nice cumin-y taste making it seem Middle Eastern or something.

Moving on along I walked the northwest corner of the city, passing St. John’s Cavalier, where the Embassy of the order of St. John is located, and popped into the Hastings Gardens, which offered beautiful views of Marsamxett Harbor. A steep decline on Triq (Street) San Andrija took me down toward St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. As I continued along the edge of the city walls I saw St. Elmo’s Fort up in the distance. This bore the brunt of the Ottoman attacks during the infamous Siege of Malta in the late 1600s. I had been reading a book called “Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World”, so I was well-prepared historically and it was awesome to see where this all played out in real life.

At this point the sky suddenly became dark and it rained for a few minutes. I sought refuge outside the National War Museum, but as this museum seemed to only details WWII (when Malta was also bombarded), I chose not to enter. Instead I headed back toward the hotel to rest up a bit, check e-mail, etc. before meeting up with EC colleagues for Happy Hour at 5:30.

We were meeting in Sliema, which is across Marsamxett Harbor. Buses are boring, so I decided it would be fun to take the 5-minute ferry across. The ferry was apparently out of service, but water taxis were running and luckily there

My 40 euro-cent snack
was one at 5:15 in just a few minutes. Soon a tiny boat arrived, and some 10 of us climbed aboard for a bumpy ride across the water. I definitely got wet, but it was a nice trip and once on the other side the views of Valletta were spectacular.

The place we were meeting for drinks was called Tex Mex – sounded pretty horrifying, but 2 for 1 drinks specials would certainly be tolerable. John and Lykai, along with Stef from EC Toronto, came a bit late after having walked from St. Julian’s. While I had met a few people from our Central offices before, I did not know what the people we were meeting looked like, and sure enough they were already sitting there – Jackie and Shelley from European Admissions.

Service was abysmal but we got a good bang for our buck and over the next several hours decided that karaoke was in order. 6 of us crammed into Shelley’s car (I lay across everyone in back) and went to St. Julian’s where a taxi was waiting. We ended up at a bar called “Memories”, but not before popping into a place called “The Fish Lounge”. This is not a lounge, it’s a place where you can dip your feet into tanks and get the dead skin on your feet nibbled away at by tiny fish. I am super pumped for this, and Stef and I made plans to come back and have a go at it.

The rest of the night was another whirlwind of bars and clubs after I gave a Backstreet Boys karaoke performance for my colleagues. It’s insane how easy it is just to bar and club hop, and everywhere is constantly having “specials” – free shots, two for one pitchers, etc. Recipe for disaster. Around 3:30am I finally called it a night and headed back over to Valletta via cab. This time it was only 18 euro, a nice change from the 35 requested of me the previous night. Malta may kill me, but at least this blog will serve as a nice memory for everyone J

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16th April 2012

I'm Tagging Along
Thanks, Jeff, for writing a blog about this trip. Through your blogs I get to see the world! Have fun inbetween the conference. Miss you.
16th April 2012

Hey - I have heard abouit those tiny nibbling fish treatments! Go for it but make sure they are not tiny piranhas! Would have loved to hear your Backstreet Boys number. Have fun!

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