Monday, May 4, 2015

Malta's Finest

I just spent the last four days in Malta. Malta? Yep, Malta... To be honest when this locale was suggested as a meeting spot for some SF/Dublin friends I had to search for it on Google Maps before I could respond with an affirmative. Where on this lovely earth is Malta and why do I want to go there?? We determined that it would be warmer than somewhere like Dubrovnik at this time of year and the goal was a sun holiday. So to Malta six of us went. 

If you're like me and haven't a clue about Malta it's a Mediterranean island nation just south of Sicily and north of Africa. It's one of the smallest countries and has various histories, occupants, and cultures over the years. To say though that I know much more about the country after leaving than when I arrived might be stretching it. From arrival to departure I found myself confused about Malta. 

The sea is absolutely stunning and crystal clear, there are small harbors, islands, and rocky beaches asking to be used for jumping in. However, the land itself is a mix of old and new buildings (and a lot of newer trying to look old which makes it all confusing) and the middle parts of the country look like the middle east or Africa. It's no wonder that we ran (well I should say swam) into the cast of a new movie being filmed called 13 Hours about the attack of the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi when the US ambassador was killed. From where we were staying Malta not a place where you look up and down the coastline and think how stunning it is. I think there are spots where the cliffs and coast are interesting but perhaps my French Riviera obsession is now ruining me. I will not complain though about being on the water and having a fabulous apartment on the 10th floor looking straight out. In terms of inland activities and sights we didn't see too many of them - mostly because you have to drive or take a bus. Also, so many things we were thinking about doing weren't open. Everything was closed at like 430 in the afternoon. Really?!? So Malta does have more to offer than I experienced, but I think we all got what we wanted - sun, drink, and fun. 

All of the pics are here.

Our group did make a reasonable determination that we're boat people, and boat people are way better than bus people. When you're on a boat you wave at everyone you pass by but on an open top bus apparently not. We did two boat trips and a questionable bus tour around the island to get our Malta experiences down. 

Looking for something to do other than sit around all day and drink and not see anything on Friday we hopped on a 90 minute harbor cruise. They told us we could bring drinks onboard so we did. Likely annoying everyone else but hey, we enjoyed ourselves and got to see the multiple arms of the harbor, yachts, cruise ship docks, and buildings. A fair number of good pictures from this jaunt. There are loads of watchtowers along the harbors so those were interesting to see. 

View of the capital city - Valletta

On Saturday we chartered a boat for just the six of us and were taken all around by our new best friend and captain George. George showed us parts of the three different islands of Malta, took us into caves cut out by the sea, and docked us in little bays where we could swim, drink, blast the music, and happen upon famous people (the previously mentioned crew of movie stars including John Krasinski from The Office). Swimming in the Blue Lagoon at Camino Island was like being in a pool the water was so clear. I don't usually find myself opening my eyes when I'm not in a pool but I was and it was crazy. 

We started our boat trip at 1030AM and didn't get off til 7PM - not a bad deal when it was EUR400 plus a hefty tip since George was so awesome. We kept saying after that we should have just booked him again for Sunday. Being able to be out on the water, jump off the boat whenever we wanted to, and feel like we had the whole of the sea to ourselves was awesome. 

Sunday we had loads of attempted plans but none of them really worked out too well. Matt and I were dying to find somewhere to rent paddle boards and just head out for a while and that turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated given that we were surrounded by water! The small water sports didn't seem to be so much a thing. So we decided that we needed to see more of the island and we'd take one of the bus tours. Then we could get off a few spots, check them out, and say we'd seen it. 

Walled city of Mdina

The bus started out ok but we quickly realized that one, the audio that you're supposed to be able to listen to with headsets wasn't working. Or at least none of us could figure out how to get it in English. And two, it was really fricken hot sitting on the top of a bus. So we rode around on the bus, saw things that were closed so it was just a fly by and we had no audio so it was just a guess of what we were looking at based on the map and short descriptions we had. We did get off at a walled city (not as good as the ones I saw in France, sorry Malta), stopped at a crowded beach (one of the few sandy ones on the island) to have a drink, and then wanted to make one more stop but realized we were on the very last bus of the day because like everything else touristy it stopped running at like 5 on Sundays. It was certainly a way to spend the day and it was good to see some of the other areas but fairly comical. 

View from Mdina

One thing we did learn is that the drinks are cheep! The service in most places was absolutely horrific but the drinks were cheap so we made do. There was a lot of Cisk (the local Malta beer), wine (usually white which comes in at about EUR3 per bottle at the store and we dubbed Malta's finest), and daiquiris consumed across the group. We found a band playing all sorts of classic rock one night with a lead singer who looked like a cross between Jack Black and Weird Al Yankovich - they were quite entertaining and the crowd at this bar was bizarre. A fair number of older men who looked a bit like washed up 70s porn stars.  

Despite some failures on likely major sightseeing items the group was very successful in the things that we do and enjoy best - laughing, drinking, dancing, and enjoying the warm weather. A successful trip and for me a holiday within my holiday. It was great to be in one place just hanging out and not buzzing from one sight to the next. And of course, to have all clean clothes is amazing. That was the first thing I did when I got to the apartment on Thursday and then again this morning before leaving :) Had to take advantage. 

With one final bottle of wine with Dan in the sun overlooking a pool and the harbor Malta was a rap and now it's time to see Italy. As the rest of the gang headed back to Dublin and London and their respective realities my plane today was headed to Rome. But first... sleep! 

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