When in Malta...send a report!
Trip Start May 23, 2008
9Trip End Jun 20, 2008
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We flew out of London Luton airport which is a bit north of London. At Luton every flight requires you to go out onto the tarmac and go up the stairs. I'm used to that at Burbank, so it was fine. I met Dawn and her husband Tony at the Luton airport. Tony grew up in Malta until his early 20s, when he moved to England to become a doctor.
When we arrived at the airport, Tony's brother and sister-in-law, Mario and Grace, picked us up and we went to visit their mother at her house. As mothers do, she had prepared a meal for us, which was really sweet. I had a lot of cheese with pineapple and some Maltese dip made of beans with crackers. Her house had beautiful tile floors with designs on them. I should have taken a photo.
Dawn and Tony's 2-bedroom flat (aka apartment) in the town of Sliema ("slee-ma") is lovely. As with many places in Malta, there are archways leading to the kitchen and living room, because it keeps the house cooler. The tile floor makes it cooler too.
Yesterday, our first full day here, we drove all around Malta in a car we borrowed from Grace. I don't even remember everything we saw. For breakfast, we had pastitizi, made of a flaky, crumbly pastry, either filled with ricotta cheese or a mixture of peas and onions and spices. I had one of each...they were both good!
We started in Mdina (also written Medina), the silent city, but it wasn't very silent because there were loads of tour groups wandering around. There is a big port in Valletta, the capital, where cruise ships dock. It's an old walled city.
After Mdina, we went to a place overlooking the Blue Grotto, which was so quiet and lovely. There are a few Blue Grottos in Europe and this is one of them.
We also went to Anchor Bay, and Popeye's Village, where they filmed the Robin Williams film "Popeye"! They built a village for the film and left it there for the Maltese people. It has since been repainted into bright colours and they charge admission. I don't remember the film but now I want to see it. We didn't go in, we just went to a place overlooking it.
We also drove up to an amazing place where you could see 3 ends of the island. In doing so, we passed the Red Tower, where they filmed "Troy" (apparently Jennifer Aniston stayed in Malta with Brad Pitt while he was filming) and "The Count of Monte Cristo". We went to one of the beach resorts and had some lovely gelato - I had one scoop of peach and one scoop of hazelnut. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think gelato tastes the same in America as it does in Europe.
Dawn just reminded me that we went to Ar-Lapsi as well yesterday - it has lovely little lagoons. There were some scuba divers going down there. Scuba diving is really popular here and there are many schools teaching it. I know there are at least 3 scuba divers on this email chain! There was a really cute dog who kept jumping into the water after a water bottle, then he would bring it up to his person, and the person would throw it back.
After our long day of sightseeing, we went to dinner at a restaurant called Paparazzi. Their portions are huge. I had a mushroom pizza, which was very good; Dawn and Tony had swordfish. Fish is very popular in Malta. The desserts at Paparazzi are amazing too - I had an "I'm Gorgeous" with a waffle on the bottom, a scoop of baci (hazelnut) ice cream, a scoop of mint ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Dawn and Tony had some sort of ice cream cake with amaretto. We walked the long way back home and it took ages. We walked past a former castle which had been turned into a TGI Friday's and two other restaurants. So sad. Don't you love commercialism?
Today we took the bus to the capital city of Valletta. The buses are interesting. All of them are painted bright yellow and red. Some of them are really old - I would estimate from the 50s. The bus we rode from Valletta and back didn't have a door, just an open hole! Not that the bus was missing the door - it seemed to be normal! Valletta is a gorgeous city. There's a HUGE harbor which is the 3rd largest natural harbor in the world. Sydney harbor is a man-made harbor. I didn't think Valletta's harbor was so big, and then we went around the corner and it kept going!
We also went to a media presentation called "The Malta Experience", which told us about 7000 years of Malta's history in 45 minutes. Mario's friend works there, so we got in for free, and then he let us into another attraction called the Knights Hospitaller for free as well!
Today is a public holiday in Malta - the 7th of June is Maltese National Day, when 4 people were killed due to rioting after British authorities raised the price of bread. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) We found a ceremony to commemorate it this morning while wandering around. There was a band, and we saw the Maltese Prime Minister, and someone gave a speech (in Maltese, of course)! Someone handed out leaflets, so now I have a speech in Maltese as a souvenir. Tony joked that the name of the Prime Minister's band is "My Band." (Only a handful of you will get that joke.) Just before we saw the ceremony we popped into their favorite cake shop, Cafe Cordina, which has cakes rivalling Porto's in Glendale. I had a chocolate cannoli and a piece of Tony's pea cake pastry thing.
We wandered around some lovely gardens and I had Tony's favourite drink growing up - Kinnie. It says that it's made from bitter oranges and aromatic herbs. It tasted familiar, but unfortunately was a little too bitter for me.
The weather has been warm, especially compared to England. It's humid here and very sunny - I've had quite a bit of sun and keep putting on sunscreen. Hopefully I won't get sunburnt too much.
Tonight we're going out for dinner with Mario and Grace and Tony and Mario's mother at a restaurant called Piccolo Padre. I should get going...have a good day!
P.S. I seem to be feeling OK after the car accident - no major problems yet. We'll see next week, fingers crossed. Karen (I give up calling her "K") has some bruises but I don't think she has any other major problems either.