17th June 2013
What an incredible weekend! Jess arrived on Friday afternoon and we packed as much of the Malta highlights as possible into the weekend so we could both experience it all. It was so lovely to have Jess here and to enjoy it together. Within about half an hour of Jess arriving we were sitting in the apartment chatting and it felt as if I had just seen her last week – I honestly can’t believe it had been a year!
On Friday evening we set off for Mdina, the old walled city in the centre of Malta. Unfortunately the catacombs and churches had closed for the day, but we wandered around Rabat checking out the sights before walking down into the walls of Mdina. Jess, who has been in Europe a year and seen many old castles and walled cities, wasn’t quite as excited as I was – I thought being within a citadel’s walls was pretty awesome! We wandered up through the narrow streets to Fontanella’s Tea Garden on the wall of the city, and had dinner with a view right over Malta back towards Sliema and Valletta. We did a lot of catching up over pasta, salad and chocolate cake, had numerous laughing fits and ended getting back home to Sliema very late!
On Saturday morning we got up, got ready and headed out to Marsaxlokk on the bus. Buses here are notoriously for being late and the traffic is pretty terrible, so it took us quite a while to get out to the south coast. Marsaxlokk is beautiful, however, with hundreds of gorgeous traditional fishing boats floating in the clear blue harbour. We walked around and checked out some of the market stalls before heading out to St Peter’s Pool. The pool is a bit out of the way, with a hot dry trek over the hill from Marsaxlokk. It is well worth the hike in the sun though – check out the photos! We had a few lovely swims in the pool, and (spurred by an amazing French boy diving from the top of the rocks) took a few jumps from the overhang before walking back.
After heading back to Marsaxlokk we caught the bus to Valletta, the capital city of Malta. We were pretty hot and feeling the effects of the sun by this stage, so took refuge in the shade and had lunch in one of the squares. Valletta is a beautiful fortified walled city on the coast, and is home to lots of shops and restaurants as well as churches and old administrative buildings. We found a beautiful garden overlooking the cannons (used in a salute each day at noon) and out to Fort St Michael and Fort St Angelo. The view was stunning, and you can see how it would have been intimidating to sail into the Valletta Harbour in the 1500s!
Malta, being central Mediterranean and a good vantage point, has had a pretty mixed up history. I will give it a very brief summary just to give you an idea. Malta was first settled in 4500BC by people who crossed the channel from Sicily. There are megalithic temples and structures dating from 3500BC (before Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt) scattered around the island. The Phoenicians came along around 1200BC, and Malta eventually fell under the Roman Empire around 200BC. It was invaded by the vandals in AD 395, who ruled over the island until it fell to the Byzantines in AD 535, and then the Arabs ruled for around 200 years from AD 870 until the Normans took over, though the Arab influence lasted much longer. Malta came under German rule in 1244, and then came under various European kingdoms until the islands were given to the Knights of the Order of St John in 1522. The French, following the French revolution, took Malta and expelled the Knights in 1798 but this was short lived, and British occupation of Malta was formalised by the Treaty of Paris in 1815. The islands were important strategically in the Crimean and World Wars, and they remained under British rule until they eventually became independent in 1964. Phew!
On Sunday, after a skype call home, we opted for a tour of Gozo and Comino as we only had a day in which to see them both. The islands are to the north of Malta, and a just little mini Maltas really – dry rocks in the Mediterranean! We caught a boat from Sliema to Gozo first, and hopped on a sightseeing bus. Having got a bit of sun the day before, we were very sun conscious on the open-air bus and must have looked ridiculous wrapped in our hats, sunnies and towels. The tour of Gozo was a bit of a fail really, with it being quite time pressured and really just driving past most of the sights but we did get a good look at the Azure Window, a natural rock arch on the coast of Gozo. We has lunch in Victoria, the capital of the island, before heading back down to the harbour to catch the boat to Comino.
Our boat to Comino was a speedboat and we had great fun playing loud music and zooming across the waves to the island. We parked up at the Blue Lagoon, an amazing shallow lagoon with clear light blue water and white sand. It was packed with tourists of course, but it all added to the fun atmosphere. We took the opportunity to snorkel around the lagoon and spend some time lolling in the shallows before heading back to the boat for the trip home.
Our weekend finished up with a walk around the promenade to St Julien’s and dinner on the waterfront there before finally crashing exhausted into bed. All in all it was a beautiful weekend with some incredible scenery, great swimming and the best company I could have asked for. It was great having someone to do everything with and have a good laugh with, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thanks so much for coming over Jess!!
Jess and I in Mdina
Jess and I with Nina the owl
The fishing boats at Marsaxlokk
St Peter’s Pool
Jess swimming in the Mediterranean Sea
The cannons at Valletta looking out to Fort St Angelo (left) and Fort St Michael (right)
Looking back to Valletta from the ferry to Sliema
The top of our Gozo bus
Ta’ Pinu church on Gozo
At the Azure Window, Gozo
The Blue Lagoon at Comino