Despite the setbacks mentioned on the previous post, our time in Malta was amazing. Especially for an American living abroad, being in a country where all of the signage is in English does wonders to refresh your mind.
I have been told there are beach people and then there are non-beach people, or rather, the people who like to sit and read vs. the people who actually like to do stuff on their vacations. We are a hybrid of the two, and I lean more towards liking to do stuff. I can only enjoy the feeling of my skin baking for so long. Fortunately, Malta offers options for both crowds of people, and we were able to mix up our time enough so that we enjoyed everyday.
We got to the apartment by 11am, so that meant we had most of the day to enjoy. Since we had the rental car, we decided to get our use out of it, and drove up the coast to one of the bigger beaches at Mellieha Bay. We got a quick lunch and then camped out on the sand for a few hours using our new Turkish towels. After that, we drove up and around the coast to scope out other beaches for future days. We also stopped at the ferry site to look into taking a ferry to one of the other islands for a day.
After getting some groceries and doing some laundry, we packed lunches and went to a Pretty Bay Beach where the cargo ships were coming in. We relaxed there for a couple of hours, and then we went to the ancient walled city of Mdina. It was beautiful and quaint, is built up on a hill which gives it panoramic views of the island, and best of all, it was free. They just asked for a donation for parking. We also wandered in the neighborhood surrounding Mdina and found several beautiful churches and other sights, some of which commemorated Paul. The Bible, in Acts 27:39-28:10, records an account of Paul being shipwrecked on the island of Malta. “After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all…”(Acts 28:1-2). The island was marked by his arrival and visit there, and everywhere he is remembered.
After our walking tour, we drove to the Blue Grotto where my adventurous husband decided we should climb down the cliff to get a closer look. I was wearing my Havaiana flip flops that I’ve had since 2008 and a cotton dress. Needless to say, I was no where near prepared for this excursion, but it ended up being a highlight for us. We climbed down, Benjamin jumped off the ledges in the ice cold water, and after that, drove to another beach where we waited to see the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.
Gateway to Mdina
View from Mdina
The results of our long climb
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The third day took us back to the first beach we went to, but this time we rented chairs and an umbrella for the entire day, and it was worth it (especially considering I got seriously burned from our first two days).
PSA: Use the bus if you go to Malta. For 21 Euro, you can get a 7-day unlimited usage bus pass. Without it, each single trip will cost you 2.50 Euro. We only used it for 3 days, and it was easily paid for itself.
Most of day 4, we spent touring Valetta.This city has tons of things to see, and again has beautiful views. Malta has incredible old seaside fort, two or three cathedrals, museums and more. We were able to go into the Church of St. Paul’s shipwreck, and see the purported relics of Paul’s right wrist bone and a portion of the stone on which he was beheaded. Each enclave was unique and beautiful, and the art in there is centuries old. Because it is a place of worship, they ask that you be quiet and dress modestly. I was given a shawl to wrap around my bare shoulders. All told, Valetta is a must visit part of the island.
Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
View from WWII Memorial
Maltese fishing boats
Days 5 & 6
We had another couple of beach days enjoying the sea and comfortable beach chairs. They made the time so much more relaxing and enjoyable.
We left! There were plenty of things we did and plenty more we didn’t get to do. They have an aquarium, several really ancient sites (think Stonehenge), ferry trips, snorkeling, scuba diving, Popeye’s village (an entire little town that was built into the hillside for the set of the movie “Popeye” starring Robin Williams), and an estimated 365 churches.
The nation is made up of many smaller islands. Outside of the main island, the next biggest are Gozo and Comino. We had heard from another tourist the Island of Gozo is much more appealing than the main island, so if we ever make it back to Malta, we will definitely find our way there.
Lesson Learned: Vacationing in an English speaking country really is more relaxing.