Thursday, April 14, 2016

Valletta you are a beauty!

Well it's been a busy couple of here days in Malta but time for a bit of a catch up.  On Tuesday morning it was time to go to the main island of Malta.  But I had to say good bye to this view...

 As I left the house I saw the bus heading to Marsalforn so that was a "whew" moment.  While waiting for the bus I saw this...

I guess this fellow goes by most days but I heard the horse before I saw it..."clop, clop, clop" and thought "that sounds like a horse, ha ha" (I've seen women walking down the street at home that sound like horses but it's their shoes)  and there it was. 

The bus pulled up and I was on my way.  I was very lucky as the bus went to the ferry terminal - it took about 45 minutes but I was in no rush and I got to see more of the countryside.  I got there just in time to get the noon ferry - I was probably almost the last one on!   Here's our twin going to Gozo..

Once on Malta I caught a bus to Valletta bus station - it took 90 minutes. I was sure happy I used the loo on the ferry! :).

 I enjoyed the ride even though I kept thinking every town we went through had to be the beginning of Valletta until I took out my map and realized "okay, it IS a long trip".  I finally got there (utter chaos!)  and then transferred onto another bus to bring me to Gzira where I am staying.  I was meeting my airbnb host Alexander after 4 pm at Book Bites.  I arrived there at 2:30 absolutely starving so settled in with my luggage and had a sandwich, a cold drink and then a coffee.  They were patient with the fact that I was there quite a long time.  I just did not feel like walking around with my luggage.  That is the only disadvantage of airbnb - you are on the host's time schedule and even if they are home it is not as easy to find as a hotel but that inconvenience is worth it to live in a local's home.  My room here is big and comfortable and because there is no guest in the other room right now I have a toilet and bathroom to myself.  Bonus!  Alexander fixes me a substantial and great breakfast of sandwiches with cheese and tomatoes on the side as well as yogurt and juice.  Not your typical breakfast but I love it and it sets me up for the day.  I also can use his nespresso machine.  The beauty of it is he goes to work and leaves everything on a tray for me in the fridge.  No alarm clock!  In Gozo it was a formal B & B so breakfast had a set time.

I went for a walk along the water front - the apartment is two steps away from Sliema which is tourist central with all kinds of restaurants, bars, shops and tours.  Seeing Valletta across the water got me excited to start exploring! 

The next morning I got the small ferry over to Valletta which took less than ten minutes and was very pleasant.   It was a steep climb into the city and there was a van that charged one euro for the trip - sold!  I wanted to save my knees for the "good stuff". 

So off we go exploring...first stop was the Co-Cathedral of St John.  It was constructed between 1573 and 1577 for the Knights of St John.   The marble designs on the floor are actually Knights' tombs - they are absolutely beautiful.

The ceiling was fantastic.

I don't think I want to know what the skull means.  I then walked over to the Upper Barrakka Gardens where there were stunning views over the Grand Harbour.  The noon gun went off while I was there.

Time to head off and here's the Grand Master of Malta himself....Jean Parisot de la Valette.  He was a key force in the defeat of the Turks in the Great Siege of 1565. 

The fountains are absolutely beautiful and they are all over.

Queen Vickie.

By now I was ready for a sit down and decided to go and see Malta 5D which was the history of Malta complete with special effects.  It was great fun and I may or may not have uttered something between a scream and a yelp when there was a hiss under my seat when a snake slithered under something on screen.  The seats were constantly moving and so my faithful backpack sitting on the seat next to me got in on the fun as well.  I had seem something similar in Texas when I was there  - what can I say I am a big kid at heart.  I wandered on.  Valletta was heaving with tourists due to two cruise ships in town - one was absolutely huge.  It looked like a building.  Not my cup of tea but to each their own.  I decided to stop and have a refreshment of some kind but couldn't make up my mind so went to an outdoor cafe and had a bowl of chocolate ice cream and a coffee! 

Next up:  the Grand Masters Palace state rooms.  Below is one of the guards outside the Palace which is now the seat of the government. It is currently being renovated so there wasn't much to see and things were not marked as to what they were. 

The Armoury was included in the price so I went to check out some knights in shining armour...hmmm...not too hard on the eyeballs.  He will do. 

I can never get enough of this...well looking at it that is.  Walking it...a little goes a long way...the balconies are unique to Malta and are so beautiful.  They are intended to cool the homes down.  I can't get enough of them either! 

By this time I was absolutely shattered between the heat and the crowds and staggered down to the ferry.  Next up was trying to find a place to eat in Sliema.  I wanted something relatively quiet which is hard to find in this area as there are so many bars.  I finally found an Italian place and ordered a pizza.  I inhaled that thing so quickly - I am not going to put a picture as then you will know how big it was.  Cringe.  But I hadn't really eaten since 8:30 and it was now 6 p.m.  Way too long...I ordered wine AND water.  The wine hit me like a sledgehammer once again due to heat and exhaustion but I can tell you that I haven't seen any dogs driving cars here yet! 

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