I don’t know a lot of people who specifically come to Malta for vacation (okay my girlfriend recently lived in Switzerland but now back in the US saw an insta photo and mentioned she has visited here…totally threw off my point…). Malta doesn’t just roll off people’s tongues as a tourist destination. I mean, come on, how many Americans do you know that have traveled to Malta? Okay, well maybe Americans visit while on their Mediterranean cruise? In fact, while in Malta, most people I conversed with, were visiting on their way elsewhere using low cost European airlines.
Often I get asked how I select travel destinations? Regarding Malta, I will confess I was reminded of the island while watching last year’s episode on the TV series Queen of the South. I remember thinking, hey, I have been to nearly every European country except for Malta. So, I chose Malta or Malta chose me. I buckled in for the flight, ready for my vacation.
If you follow my blog, you are aware that this is a big birthday year for me, so every travel location this year needs to be extra special. To that statement, I always get raised eyebrow arches from friends asking how this year’s travel destination choices are any different from previous years? I can’t explain the difference except to say that each are chosen to remain close to my heart. Okay so that made no sense right? They want me to just admit the dart at a map throwing technique.
Dart throwing didn’t happen. Okay, so far counting down, I’ve spent a luxurious weekend skiing in Aspen (testing out my ACL knee), traveled to absolutely the most difficult yet stunning destination I have yet traveled to – Raja Ampat Indonesia, (a new destination favorite), enjoyed a most decadent Paris stay at the infamous Ritz Hotel (AND George V), and now I am here in tiny Malta for a week. All destinations so far have been close to my heart. Malta, what say you?
Ya’ll know I like to get the most bang for my buck and see as much of a county as possible instead of just staying in one city for an entire week, so game on! Did you know that Malta is actually comprised of 3 different islands? I’m off to show you two. First up, Malta’s main island and some views of Valletta.
Since I arrived late at night, I had no opportunity to get my bearings. However as I opened my hotel door, turned to head to the harbour two blocks south, there it was just ahead, the quick sliver view of Aquamarine waters.
The skies were blue and the weather beautiful, so I bought a ticket, stepped up onto the public ferry and enjoyed the 6 minute ride across the bay. The views from the ferry were pretty indeed.
Valletta has small narrow streets typical of many Italian/European small towns.
Don’t be off put by the next photo. Valletta is not overly hilly or steep. I just just happened to like the photo perspective. It was actually the tallest staircase I encountered in town and trust me, I declined to walk up it.
The grid layout of the town enhances the cool sea breezes while tall buildings provide shade. In this manner I can only imagine hot summer days are more comfortable than many other cities. Thinking of the disgusting heat of Dubrovnik!
I found Valletta smaller than I imagined which made it an even better location to wander the city streets. Really, you simply can’t get lost in this colorful place and I was happy to take it all in. I smiled watching local school girls in uniform walk past me laughing and joking with one another.
Looking at the buildings, you can notice the colorful wood balconies buttressing out. The Maltese balconies are a uniquely distinctive architectural feature.
The wooden balconies are believed to have received their influence from Islamic culture during which women were not allowed to socialize outside yet could look privately out of their balconies without being seen.
Luckily now, Malta is preserving the balconies as part of the Maltese cultural heritage.
The Barrakka gardens are reputed to have the most spectacular views to the “three cities” and when you arrive and peek over the rail, the view certainly does not disappoint! From the gardens you can look out to the three cities of Birgu, Senglea, and Cospicua across the bay. These older three cities are where the Knights of St John lived while they were building the city of Valletta.The three cities are located a mere five minute ferry from Valleta if you care to visit.
The oldest city of the three, Birgu, was established in the Middle Ages. The other two were founded by the Order of St John in the 16th and 17th centuries. Here are some of those views you can enjoy, just don’t ask me to identify which city is which…lol
While in Malta, DO go inside St John’s cathedral, simply because I didn’t. The inside supposedly has sparkly gold on every surface and is stunning. Let me be honest, I wasn’t feeling ponying up 10 euros for entry simply to take photos for this blog post, so the outside of the cathedral will have to do.
Anyhoo, I can give you background that it is a Roman Catholic Church once again built for the Knights of St John. Since I didn’t go inside I throwing up a couple photos of other churches I saw in Malta, clearly no equivalent but beautiful.
Yup, the Order of St John. See a pattern here yet? Okay, when I get back to Valletta I will go inside. I love Caravaggio’s work and the cathedral happens to house a painting or two of his. And who knew? Carravagio was a Knight of St John! That dude was a serious troublemaker and later expelled from Malta. But as always, Carravagio came back to Malta, I think via Papal pardon? (Not PayPal)
Before more walking about, I settled for a quick non Michelin star lunch. Apparently arrived just in time before a line formed at The Submarine. This hole in the wall spot was recommended for great sandwiches. As I sat in the sunshine and delighted on my simple yet fantastic mortadella sandwhich, a line quickly formed by this spot. Cliche or not, spotting a police officer in line is usually a good indicator of a inexpensive yet great spot for a bite.
Headed back to Sliema, tomorrow I am off to the island of Gozo. Enjoy these last views of the harbour from the departing ferry.