Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Malta


Fortress walls from harbour cruise
Coming into the Grand Harbour at Malta was a wonderful sight on the big catamaran (built in W. Australia!). It is a beautiful protected harbour lined with ancient buildings, castles & fortress walls. We were really excited about coming to Malta because Leigh’s family name is Maltese & while we didn’t see everyone walking around with ‘Gatt’ tattooed on their forehead, we did see a sign for Joseph Gatt – Jeweller (related...who knows!!).

Air con & Wifi!
We were eager to arrive at our accommodation, which was advertised as a cute old apartment in Senglea, one of the 3 old towns in Malta, and overlooking the Grand Harbour. Unfortunately, the apartment did not live up to its advertisement & was not only old, but very tired & extremely dirty! Yuck! We can do old, cute, rustic etc but not dirt & we decided that we could not stay there. Luckily we could get wifi & so started searching for new accommodation, which we found in a hotel in Sliema; a more touristy area but with very good access to buses, ferries, etc. A short time later, & after a very stressful time, we had clean and air conditioned accommodation to rest our weary bodies. We have been in communication with the landlord (in Norway) since, & he is going to refund our money - yay - as life was looking a little expensive!

View of harbour & Valletta
Malta has an amazing heritage, attracts lots and lots of British tourists & everything is British and tourist focussed (e.g. tourist menus, discos, etc – a veritable “Brighton”!). It is very hot & humid at this time of the year and we gathered that most people were there for the heat - we saw lots of bodies toasted, basted, grilled, baked and over-baked from the sun. It was entertaining to people-watch the pool area from our balcony - what a battle to make sure one gets outside to claim the right sun lounge early in the morning & then get it facing the just the right way - great entertainment! We found it just too hot to do that & do not enjoy being crowded together in a lido-like situation, so our focus was on getting around and seeing the place.

Leigh & friend
We took a harbour cruise which was a fantastic way to see all the wonderful buildings around the water & learn about their history. We caught the water taxi to Valletta, the capital city & saw a great audio visual show about the long & varied history of Malta which we really enjoyed. We wandered around the narrow streets (of which many do not allow cars because of steps & narrow little ways), crowded with old, old buildings (some are done up nicely & others are a bit old & rugged).

Leigh by fountain
One night we ventured onto the local bus to take us to a wine festival held in a lovely garden with a wonderful view of Valletta and the Grand Harbour. We got a glass for our entry fee of 10 Euros, sampled some really delicious local wines, made a couple of purchases, listened to the latest in Maltese pop music, and watched the sunset over the Grand Harbour as the city lit up for the evening. Lots & lots of people, some with their young families with them, and all having a great time.

Gate to Mdina
The next day we got on the Hop-on hop-off bus to do a tiki tour of the island as we felt it would give us a good overview of the place. We stopped off at Mdina, the old capital of Malta which dates back to 1500BC. It is a very beautiful old walled city and we enjoyed walking around its fortifications and narrow streets, visiting some of the many churches and admiring the fantastic medieval and baroque architecture - despite the intense heat. We also visited a lot of smaller towns’ en-route – all which were unique to Malta in some way.


Marg & friends
We found Malta to be a very dry place but certain areas had a lot of intensive agriculture, including olives & grapes. While it has a wonderful heritage that can be seen in the diverse architecture, it is also the most tourist and British-oriented place that we have been to outside England! The coast seems to be entirely devoted to the tourist dollar & the further we went around it, the more we saw lidos full of baking bodies, tourist shops selling ghastly stuff, & lots of food places (often fast food, greasy looking & not attractive). All rather disappointing as we had not expected this level of tourism. We did have a lovely genuine Maltese meal at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that we found up a side street. However, when trying to recapture the experience a few nights later, had quite a different experience, as the seafood had been frozen and was not cooked well, yuck!

Fishing boats
An exception was Marsaxlokk which is a very small fishing port rather than a beach, and tourist interests were minimal compared to the main beaches in Malta. Despite it all, we loved the Maltese architecture and the local people who are very friendly & speak both English & their own language of Maltese. However, we were happy to catch our ferry back to Vanni then return to Italy.

1 comment:

  1. All sounds just terrible guys! How are you coping with the continuous holiday and great times?

    Love your coffee buddies Mum - they look like they are having a grand old time. Awesome photos too xx

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