Category Archives: Malta

Leaving Gozo

Heavy slate clouds rolled in last night, veiling the perfect skies I was blessed with during my time on Gozo, and easing the terrible fact that I had to leave this near perfect island, with its abundant hiking trails, kindly locals, warm October, and busy marine traffic.

As I flew onward to Lisboa, I saw Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica from the sky, and later the lights of the European continent, the towns and cities scattered in valleys between mountains.

I love Europe, where fast food is rare, trails are rough, and I hear languages I can’t discern. Portugal will be fun – I know only one Portuguese word: obrigado.

Fun fact: the Frankfurt Airport has a piano in the waiting area, and people stop to play between their flights. How cool is that?

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Camino and salt pans

I left early this morning to catch a small boat to the nearby island of Camino for a circle island hike. When the boat arrived there, I was the only visitor, and it was spectacularly calm and beautiful. I walked for about five hours and saw only two other humans on land – scientists banding migratory birds – for the first four. Definitely my kind of place! When I returned to catch the boat back to Gozo, ten billion tourists has descended upon the bay and were swimming, sunbathing, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, eating, drinking, etc. I’m so stoked to have seen the place at its basic best.

Back on Gozo, I traveled to its northern coast with its vast array of saltpans and small villages.

It was yet another lovely, perfect-weather, Maltese day.

I fly out tomorrow.

Boo hoo.

Here are some photos:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Gozo, better

This new hotel I’m staying in is super cool: it’s a grand old hotel, a little bit faded, but huge and interesting, with excellent mattresses and a lanai with a view east to the harbor. Funny how things turn out; I booked it in desperation after deciding to skedaddle from the original place I’d reserved, and this is way better.

After rising early to catch the sunrise, I took one of the many hikes described in the booklets created by the generous Malta tourism agency. This one is called Hondoq Ir-Rummien, L-Imgarr to L-Imgarr. It took me through villages, along the coastline, through farms; a lovely way to spend five hours.

Here are some photos, sunrise to sunset:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Gozo

I arrived yesterday to Gozo, after a short ferry from Ic-Cirkewwa, Malta. Unfortunately, my fantasy dream of a pastoral paradise was shattered by roads clogged with noisy vehicles – all praise, though, to the bus drivers who navigate the tiny, snaky roads. But worse was my arrival to a rather unsatisfactory accommodation, which I ditched as early as possible this morning. I’m now sitting by a pool on a very hot October day, fully dressed, waiting to check into my new room, and fuming because the although the owner reluctantly agreed to charge me for only one night, I see that he fudged the charge by entering the amount five separate times. I thought the nightmare was over, but now I gotta deal with that.

FYI, they have ingenious ferries here.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Malta, south side

This morning I took more public buses to reach the south side of Malta, and yes, all of the bus drivers are speed demons; this explains the many ‘Speed Kills’ signs along the byways. That said, I have not seen one crash nor heard one siren since I’ve been here, and only the rare honk.

The bus lines, of course, travel through residential neighborhoods with all their charms and peculiarities; it was a feast for the eyes. Here’s a sign I don’t see every day in Hawaii: “Graduation togas for hire.”

I went to the south to walk the coast line, reputed to be spectacular, and proven so today. In some places I could see two sides of the island. The 11 km walk, however, illustrates perfectly the ‘1000 joys, 1000 sorrows’ of life: the walk began and progressed along paths and little-used farm roads, passing Bronze Age settlements and pastoral lands; then, it took me along a main road past a quarry and its hundreds of gargantuan trucks charging along and generating clouds of rock dust. I, foolishly, tried to capture the chaos in photos, and suddenly saw a man in a small car gesturing angrily and yelling at me, I assumed, for blocking his passage, but no, in truth he was telling me to get in his car so he could whisk me to safety! He was kind and took me safely to Hagar Qui and Mnajdra, ancient temple sites, and gave me good advice about the visit. Afterwards, as I left the area, suddenly my rescuer appeared again and offered another ride. Coincidence or not, I don’t know, but he showed me some lovely spots for photos, including a stop where a falconer stationed his birds for photo opts. I recently read and loved Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, so I was completely thrilled to hold one of his birds!

Afterwards I returned to Birgu, where a festival is ongoing (the band is currently covering ‘Sweet Home Alabama’!) On the way to the same restaurant I ate at last night, I heard the church bells going off at the 3/4 hour as they are wont to do around here, and I passed a door where a man was actually pulling the ropes to ring the bells! He saw the look of joyful discovery on my face, and invited me in to pull the ropes and ring the church bells for the entire parish!! This officially turned this into a stellar day. I arrived at the restaurant moments later still high, and gushing, told the staff of my experience, earning the nickname ‘Bell Woman’ from them, which I will cherish. The meal, porcini ravioli, was utterly dreamy, as was the dessert of lovely Maltese sweets. The host also brought me a complimentary glass of cactus pear liqueur to round out the meal.

Heaven.

I need to have more days like this.

Here are some photos, including Malta’s Finest:

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Malta

I clearly got stuck in my fantasy version of Malta when planning this part of my trip. I had imagined small, quiet, quaint . . . Yeah, no, it is large, loud, and quaint-ish. And so Arabic. Somewhere I read that English is widely spoken here, and it is-ish. The native language is Maltese, which is 70% Arabic-based, with Italian, French, and more mixed in for good measure, and it, not English, is the main language spoken. (Here is one direction I was given: turn left on Fuq San L-Inkuruanzzjoni.) The English spoken is highly accented to me, and spoken very quickly. Also done quickly is the driving of large public buses, whose drivers I suspect are imagining they are driving sports cars; I was tossed around like a wet noodle on one ride, causing the driver to say, “I think you have never ridden a bus before”! Well, not his bus, anyway.

Most of the buildings are made of a blond sandstone, and gorgeous, but hard to photograph in the bright morning light. Also, it is hard to photograph anything when one leaves one’s camera battery in one’s room, note to self.

Fun fact: the limousine of some fancy pants person was escorted through the main street of Valletta by a mounted guard, and the horses had Maltese Cross tattoos on their left rumps – look closely.

Valletta is very boaty. As the plane was landing yesterday, there were a kagillion huge ships hanging outside the harbor, waiting to enter. I sat for hours watching them come and go in the port.

I spent the rest of the day, after returning to retrieve said battery, cruising Birgu/Vittoriosa and taking photos, and had dinner at a posh restaurant, my one fancy dinner for the trip. The local wine was fantabulous. The dinner good. The host/waiter kind and sexy. Not a bad evening.

Here are some photos. FYI, Maltese are into fancy doors/door knockers. (And apparently so am I.)

P.S. I have a crush on tug boats. And one of these tugboats was working backwards. Be still my beating heart.

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Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.