We're about to run out of clean clothes so we decide that we need to get some laundry done. I look at the price list. It seems that the hotel is suggesting that we should pay it 3.50 Euro to wash one of our handkerchiefs and 2.95 Euro for a pair of underpants. At those prices I think that maybe most of the laundry can wait.
Louis and Lilly pick us up again, and we head towards Valletta. First stop is Upper Barrakka which has a attractive garden and stunning views across the harbour from its six storey high ramparts. Louis tells us that the ramparts were built after the Great Siege under the direction of Jean Parisot de la Vallette after whom the city is named, and were intended to keep out invaders. The siege involved the Knights of St John defending the city from attack by the Ottoman Turks against overwhelming odds. I suspect that the ramparts might have come in a bit more handy during the siege than after it, but better late than never I suppose.
We tell Louis that he should become a tour guide. He seems to be a walking encyclopaedia of Maltese
history, and I now realise that this is a subject about which I know virtually nothing.
We pass an open air theatre. It's been built amongst columns that we're told were part of the Opera House before it was destroyed in the World War II bombing. Louis points out the very recently opened new Parliament building, which looks very modern and a bit out of place. He agrees with this assessment, and tells us that so too does most of the local population. He says it was designed by a famous architect from Italy, so everyone assumed it would be good, and that if someone from Malta had produced the same design it wouldn't have been built.
We move on to the stunning and apparently very famous St John's Co-Cathedral. Most of its floor consists of marble slabs with intricate coloured inlays, under which lie the tombs of Knights and other Maltese notables. The walls are adorned with paintings by famous artists. We move onto the adjacent museum which houses the famous Caravaggio painting "The Beheading of St John the Baptist". Issy's been telling me about this for a while now. I’m glad at least one of us
knows something about art. Apart from anything else the painting is huge - at least life size and maybe even bigger. Apparently it's the only painting that Caravaggio ever signed, and as if to make a point he hid his signature in the blood dripping from St John's neck. It sounds like Caravaggio was an interesting character. He had to leave Rome because he allegedly killed someone, and was eventually booted out of Malta as well after some run-ins with the law. If this is the Co-Cathedral, I wonder what the main cathedral must be like. Louis says the other one is actually not as spectacular, and the only reason for the name is that the other one happened to be built first.
Next stop is the Presidential Palace. Issy says she has vivid memories of the suits of armour that line the Palace's corridors, and she thinks that she must have come here as a little girl. She says that she found the armour very frightening, and had recurrent childhood nightmares of being chased by armour clad figures. We move onto the Palace's armoury which is well stocked with weapons and more suits of armour. Signs tell us
that the head armour weighed up to ten kilograms. At that weight I think the Knights must have all walked around with their heads tilted to one side. I wonder how they would have gone fighting like that.
We drive past the port where Issy and her family left from when they came to Australia. I don't think it had ever occurred to me before how hard it would have been for them to decide to leave everyone and everything they knew to move to the other side of the world, to a place they knew very little about and where they knew no one.
The hotel has sent back our small amount of essential laundry wrapped up like a baby in a crib. The price we paid suggests that maybe it's been looked after by a team of babysitters for the day.
I wake from my siesta to find Issy watching Maltese TV. She says that she can understand most of it. I can understand some of it too, but only because every now and again they use an English phrase, presumably because there's no Maltese equivalent. One of the most common of these is "breaking
and entering", which leads me to believe that the local crime rate must be very low. Issy's started to speak Maltese to Louis and Lilly. I think they might be talking about me. This is a bit concerning.
Again we stand on the road outside the hotel and wait for Louis and Lilly to pick us up. I point out a taxi to Issy, as it‘s the first one we've seen since we arrived here. It thinks we're hailing it and stops to pick us up. We wave it on, and driver looks very annoyed. I think we're starting to see a pattern here.
We have an excellent seafood meal sitting by the waterfront at the village of Marsaxlokk. The harbour is filled with fishing boats, and the scene is idyllic - the temperature's perfect, and there‘s not a breath of wind. We meet Louis and Lilly's extended family. Their house has a rooftop patio, which is apparently very common here. If I lived here I think I'd be spending a lot of time sitting on the patio.
Issy tells me that she needs to approve anything I write before I publish it. I think she's worried
that her relatives might find out that I don't know anything about Malta, or worse still that I'll make a mistake about something that she's supposed to know about. I write this paragraph after she's approved the rest of today's entry. I think I'll be in trouble after she reads this. I hope she'll let me keep blogging.
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