Due to the miscalculations I’d made with the timing of the Ferry from Sicily, we’d be left with only one-and-a-half days in Malta. It’s a tiny country, but not quite tiny enough to be seen in that short an amount of time. We’d spent yesterday doing our best to cover as much of Gozo Island as we could, with the plan to see Valetta and surroundings today.
Our run of sunshine and beautiful skies had finally come to an end, and with the sporadic showers, and general lack of colour, we decided not to get wet while trying to cram in as many natural vistas as we could, and instead opted to cruise around the city in Valetta, and across the harbour in L-Isla and Birgu.
It was surprising to use how similar the buildings were here in Malta – yet very different to what we’d just seen in Sicily. They all small wooden enclosed balconies that jutted out from the nearly uniform sandstone. Some were painted contrasting colours, most were in a shade of yellow matching the bricks. We were surprised at how wide and easy to use the main roads were, but here in the centre of Valetta, roads were narrow and understandably one-way.
Travelling around the coastline and viewing the defences of the city, it’s quite difficult to see where the forts and walls end, and the cliffs and land begins. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere quite so uniform in colour before (except for maybe Cappadocia – but there the houses and churches were built into the rocks).
Even though Malta has its own language, which you will frequently hear the locals speaking, almost all of the signage that we saw was in English, and everyone we spoke to spoke English as though it was their native language, which is likely a remnant of the past occupation by Britain. One exception to this is the almost unpronounceable place names.
We wandered around the capital for a while longer, stopping for a snack from the famous and beautiful Café Cordina, and watching a water show in St. George’s Square (and giggling at the guards in front of the old Parliament).
We popped into a few more churches, and found that like the ones we saw yesterday in Gozo, the plain exterior showed no indication of just how intricate and lavish the interior was. It was also incredible just how many of these churches were around.
With a little free time (but not enough to leave to explore the coastline), we had a quick explore in L-Isla and Birgu on the other side of the harbour to Valetta. It wasn’t far at all, but navigating on the scooter was challenging – especially with my grasp of the district names sounding alike.
Valetta was interesting, but arriving in L-Isla was like finding a real town. There was none of the advertising and shopfronts like in Valetta, just old apartments, narrow alleys, and people going about their lives.
It also gave a great view back across the harbour to the waterfront of Valetta.
We had been told by a friend that we had to visit a small (but quite famous) restaurant called Ta’Kris that served up local cuisine. We’d tried to go last night, but it was fully booked until 10PM. We made time for a quick lunch here before rushing off to the airport for our flight back to London. The first challenge was finding the place, which was hidden down a narrow alley, far from the main tourist through fare on the main street. It wasn’t the friendliest service of our trip (though, not the worst), so at least the food and settings were fantastic. As usual, we overestimate how much food we can eat (or need to eat), ordering far too much in an attempt to experience as much as possible, including a traditional local food – rabbit. I do wonder how many rabbits are still in Malta though.
And that was it. A little more than 40 hours after arriving in the country, we were leaving. It was a little disappointing to not be able to see more of the island, but it was enough to get a taste. I’d love to say that we’d be back again to see more of the country, but chances are we won’t, as there are just too many other places on the list to visit.
I can only say that your photos are great, as usual.
Shame about the service at Ta’Kris. We had a few people wait our table. One was a grumpy middle-aged woman. The other was a very charming and charismatic, portly balding man. He recognized that we were tourists and explained what all the foods were and was very accommodating and just plain lovely about everything.
I’m guessing he wasn’t working while you were there. Still, the food was great though, right!
Was that middle-aged woman Irish?