22.05.2015 - 26.05.2015 24 °C
Having started our trip by walking the city, we continued it in much the same way. The public bus system in Malta is wonderful, particulary for us staying in Floriana where we had a 5 min walk past numerous churches and the grainary (now a paved square with numerous small domes which capped grain silos used hundreds of years ago) to the Bus interchange.
We explored our local area and found lots of little shops, but no logic to their opening times! At one stage we were looking everywhere for a post office or a stamp agency (determined to send postcards to the kids!) And only found somewhere when we checked the internet. We arrived at the building about 4.30 to a sign that said it was open till 7pm, but it was all locked up! Not to be deterred we rang the bell and someone came down, turned on the lights and sold us stamps - as if this was quite normal! We got some lovely juicy mandarins at a local fruit truck, and saw some different fruit and veg which we couldn't identify, and we found a number of little grocery stores which seemed to specialize in different things. We were directed from one where we bought milk and water to another for tissues and washing powder.
At the far end of Valletta is the War Bell which was given to Malta to commemorate the George Cross awarded to the Maltese for their service during WW2. That sort of sets the scene for many of Valletta's highlights and is something I'll remember.
On a non war note, we visited and were impressed by St Johns Co-Cathedral (apparently many years ago it was decided that this Church was as important as the Cathedral in Rabat, so it was decided it should be a Cathedral also - hence the "co"). St Johns is an extremely ornate Baroque church full of amazing art work of the likes of Caravaggio, Mazzuoli, Bernini and Mattia Preti all courtesy of the old Knights who were determined to protect the Catholic church from the infidel Ottomans.
We took a torturous route through the Upper Barraka gardens (that part was lovely) via the Saluting Battery with its wonderful view across the harbour, down a miriad of stone steps, through underground passages, between derelict or working buildings to the Lascaris War Rooms. When we got there we were told that in t be War the place was top secret so no-one was meant to find it! When we finally caught our breath we were shown through the network of tunnels and chambers which originally housed Britain's War HQ in Malta. The defence of the island and all offensive operations by the Allies in the Mediterranean were waged from here. We heard of the many impressive feats achieved during WW2 and some of the obstacles they faced, we also heard that the HQ was continued to be used throughout the Cold War and the Battle for Suez Canal. For a s7amall p kace Malta certainly has played an important part in world wars!
We dragged ourselves away from historic Valletta and saw some other aspects of the island.
We took a boat trip to Gozo and Comino. Trev swam in the Blue Lagoon (reminiscent of when we were on a boat in Greece, I was happy to sit on board with a G&T while Trev jumped into the freezing Meditteranean!) and we had a quick look at the Inland sea, the Arch, and Fungus rock, then climbed to the Citadel which was being refurbished, so largely out of action!
we took the bus to the Blue Grotto where the sea really was bluer than anywhere else, and we had intended to go on from there to Hagar Qim then to Rabat, but this time we were let down by the bus system - the bus never arrived! There was some talk that it had broken down, so we went to plan B and came back to Valletta and headed for Rabat and Mdina.
The Mdina was Malta's capital about 500 years ago and is now a beautifully restored walled city. Although it was quite crowded it was amazingly peaceful. Again it had many churches and art was in abundance, with glass blowing and shaping taking center stage.
We went to Marsaxlokk on Sunday and settled into the throngs wandering the fish and "craft" market, before having a lovely seafood lunch.
All in all Malta was a wonderful place - highly recommended!!