Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip to Malta & Sicily - Part 3

Oh, what a nice sleep it was after the VERY full day in Sicily!

Our last full day in Malta was a Monday, so Lexie had to go to work & couldn't hang out with us. But, she dropped James off early, so we were able to head out early, and get a start on exploring the main island of Malta!

One thing - I forgot to turn the water heater on when I took a shower this morning. So, after about 5 minutes - ZERO hot water. Although, to be honest, it wasn't that bad. I was tired of being hot & sweaty, and this definitely cured me of that (at least for a few minutes)!

As this was the Trip of Food, our first stop was breakfast. We walked for awhile first, though, just to explore a little bit.

After breakfast (more sandwiches for the Aycocks! we're not much for breakfast foods), we explored a little more, before going to the bus station.

It really is a pretty place!

The plan for the day was to take a bus to Mdina (pronounced Em-dee-na), a walled city a little more towards the interior of the island.

We had a little time to kill before the next bus. So, what’d we do? Meal #2!! :/ Ok, it was about 11am or so, and it had been about an hour since breakfast. Josh and I didn’t eat (we DID have a beer), but James did. Apparently he goes to this sausage place quite often. The owner was an Italian who was raised in Germany, I guess? Or lived in Germany? I don’t know - he know all about the Ramstein/KMC area though, so he was fun to talk to.

After Elevensies (ha! hobbits), time for the bus! Ohhhhh, sweet air conditioning! :) First stop was to this craft area (Ta' Qali) outside of Mdina. It was in a very....strange area. It looked like an abandoned military camp from WWII, and maybe about one in four buildings were occupied by a different crafter - glass blowing, filigree, metal work, jewelers, potters, stuff like that.
Weird location, eh? Felt like zombies were about to pop out.

We loved the glassblowers. The stuff was awesome! But, it always makes me really nervous to walk around places like that. I’m a serial klutz, so expensive glass pieces and I don’t really get a long. :/

An awesome thing about the glass places were that they had whole rooms of “damaged” items that were WAY cheap. But, for the most part, you couldn’t tell what the problem was (maybe a teeny tiny chip on the bottom of a vase, or something). Josh was itching to buy big huge pieces to take home, but we ended up just getting ourselves some small items. I really didn’t want to worry about how to bring a huge glass platter back with us. :/

We walked thru some kind of abandoned arboretum/park kind of place. Well, I don't think it was abandoned, just not really used much. It was still kept up fairly well. However, I swear if you didn't know any better, you'd think you were walking around in Mexico - brown, palm trees, beige, hot, sun.

Up on the hill is the walled city of Mdina

After our little shopping time, it was back to catch the bus to take us to the city. Mdina was the old capital of Malta. The Phoenicians lived there in 700BC, so....yeah, kind of a lot of history. It's walled in, and while cars are allowed inside, they have to be a certain size (duh). Buses, ambulances, stuff like that can't really get in. But, it was SO COOL to walk around! This was my favorite city in Malta.

That’s my “I’m tired of you taking pictures of me, Josh. Leave me alone!” face. :)

This was not a huge city by any means. But, I could probably have gotten really lost (thankfully James has been there several times). All the streets were tiny, twisty, and there were all these nooks and crannies I’m sure you could get lost in.

I think it was maybe 1 or 2 at this point? Maybe a little later...guess what that meant? Yup - lunchtime!!!

Are you sensing, yet, WHY I called this the “Trip of Food”?

Actually, I’m really glad we went to this restaurant (Fontanella). The view was AWESOME!!!

See that large, rounded building? That's the Rotunda church - the one the WWII bomb was dropped on.

The food was pretty good. Josh just had cheesecake, and I had a very very thin pizza. We stayed there for awhile, drinking in the view.

Afterwards, we continued walking around the city.

Apparently door knockers are a big thing in Mdina - all the doors had very ornate brass door knockers, in all different shapes and sizes. We’ve found that many cities in Europe have some kind of “signature” look that you can recognize throughout that city.

It was getting to be late in the afternoon. There was a big soccer game on that night so we all wanted to go out and watch the game. It was England vs. France, so we knew it was going to be playing on all the Maltese televisions (remember - Malta was British until 1964, and there are TONS of British tourists around).

It took us a lot longer to get back to James’ apartment than it did to get to Mdina. We had to stop in Valletta at a big bus depot to get the bus to take us on to Il-Gzira - and of course that was the most crowded route. :/ And of COURSE I had to be sat next to by Mr. Smellypits. But, eh, I was Ms. Sweatyface, so I guess we made a good pair.

BTW, I may have forgotten to mention - all day bus tickets were SUPER CHEAP! I think it was €2.60 for non-residents (James' was something like €1.40). We really need to take advantage of public transportation more often!

So, got back to James' apartment, dropped off our stuff, then headed out to the nearest bar to watch the game. We went to a Tex-Mex bar. Oh my good lord, what a sorry excuse for Tex-Mex. But then, any Tex-Mex establishment outside of Texas pretty much fails on the count of authenticity.

But, they did have 2 for 1 margaritas (which weren't good...but they weren't undrinkable, either). And, the guys ate AGAIN!! (that's restaurant #4, if you're counting). Some kind of beef chipotle quesadillas...I dunno, all I know is that the salsa was mainly some sort of tabasco hybrid. BUT, watching the soccer game was a lot of fun! I'm glad Josh is starting to get into soccer, because I like watching it, also. I don't give a crap about football, but I do like soccer (and basketball).
It's just fun to get into it with the locals, and other tourists who are REALLY into it!

Lexie met up with us after awhile, and we all had a good time. :)

I think it was about 9:30pm or so? James had been talking about this falafel place the entire trip, so guess where we went to next? Yup, restaurant #5.

I'm a sucker for falafel, so I had to have some! Plus, I didn't eat at the Tex-Mex place, so I don't feel TOO bad for eating again. We all sat outside on shared tables. The restaurant (like most businesses) was on the bottom floor, and all of the top floors were apartments. All of a sudden, we feel what we think is rain. BUT, that's impossible, because it just doesn't rain in Malta (at least not during this time period - it does in the winter). We look up, and some dude is cleaning his window at 10pm, and raining dirty nasty window water/cleaner down on everybody, and everybody's food. James starts to yell at the guy, but the guy just won't stop.

Then came the Wrath of Mr. Aycock.

Oh, that husband of mine. He was quite angry. James yelled at the guy, but Josh YELLED at the guy.

Also scared the shit out of several people on the surrounding block, I'm sure. But, he definitely stopped cleaning after that.

(afterwards, I may have voiced my displeasure at the scene my husband caused, but we don't need to talk about that here) ;)

It's getting late now, so we went back to James' place, and went to bed. And as I'm writing this blog, I just realized that TONIGHT was the night that Josh & I fell asleep before James & Lexie even left the apartment, not the night before (like I said in my previous blog). Oops, my bad.

Our flight the next day wasn't until 3:30pm, so we had time in the morning to explore a last little bit. We went to Valletta, the capital city of Malta. We at first had planned to take the ferry across, but the bus stop was RIGHT there, and SO convenient. Plus, it was hotter and more humid, so we just took the bus instead. I'm fine with that choice. :)

First up, breakfast (duh). This time, salad for me, and ice cream for Josh. I told you - the Aycocks aren’t much for breakfast foods! Well, unless it’s brinner (breakfast for dinner). That’s the only time we eat breakfast food (except eggs....Aycocks don’t eat eggs).

Valletta is where James’ school is located. It was such a cool building - there were tons of old statues, and artwork all throughout the old building. It’d be such an experience to be able to go to school there, and James is definitely a lucky guy!

After exploring his college, we went to check out one of the forts. I am pretty sure it was Fort St. Elmo.

Valletta also had a lot of building “scars” from WWII bombings. It was pretty crazy to walk along, and see “pock marks” in the sides of buildings from old bombs.
See those marks up top, the big "holes"? Bomb marks.

After sightseeing in Valletta, it was time to head back to the apartment, and then on to the airport.

Before we caught the bus back, I had to first try Kinnie!

Kinnie is a local Maltese soda. It’s advertised everywhere, and it was even served on the plane. It seemed as popular in Malta as coke & sprite were. I was really excited to finally try it - a bitter orange herbal soda.

I took one sip. First statement, a couple seconds after swallowing, “Why won’t that taste go away!?” NOT a pleasant experience!!!

But, I had to try it!

James was nice enough to ride the bus with us to the airport. Thankfully we got there when we did - there was one other person in line in front of us (who took FOREVER, jeez) but it seemed like everyone in Malta ended up behind us in the same line.

We then said our goodbyes to James (sad face).

The Malta airport really does deserve all the awards it has received. It was so nice! Very very stylish, and the shops were all really nice as well. We're SO thankful that we had the 3:30pm flight back to Frankfurt, because the 12:30pm flight back to Frankfurt had been delayed until 7:30pm!!

It was funny - there was another lady that was on our first flight (NOT the same lady that we sat next to, that we also saw on Gozo). The reason we remember her from the first flight is because she was balding, with spiky hair, and had on the shortest, tightest dress I've ever seen. Well, we saw her (in the same dress, just different color) at the airport on our way back.

That's the funny thing about Malta. It's its own country, but so small! We were recognizing people all the time! One of James' teachers was at the glassblowing place. I saw one of the Tex-Mex waiters in Valletta the next day. The American girls that were on our van with us to take us to the ferry for Sicily - I saw them while we were touring James' school. Such a small world!

The flight back to Frankfurt was just as uneventful as the flight there (although this time they gave out free wine - score!). AND, no curry AGAIN! :D

As soon as we got back to Frankfurt, and exited the building - OH MY GOD, HOLY CRAP THAT FEELS SO MUCH BETTER!!!!!! Low 60s, cloudy, threatening rain. It was such a relief!!! I gotta tell you, we had a ton of fun in Malta, but after all the sun & heat & burnt skin - I was READY for the relief of cold, rainy Germany!!

So, here's my Malta/Sicily rundown:

Courtney's favorite city: Mdina
Josh's favorite city: Mdina
Courtney's favorite meal: the ftira pizza thingy from the Gozo bakery
Josh's favorite meal: the sandwich from Jubilee Foods on the first day
Definitely check out: Gozo & Mdina

Courtney's favorite city: Modica
Josh's favorite city: Syracuse
Favorite meal: duh, the lunch

Really, we don't need to go back to Malta again. It was nice & we had a ton of fun, but I don't know if it's a "Must See" necessarily. Sicily is DEFINITELY a "Must See". We could go back and spend a week on Sicily if we could.

We're so happy we took this trip, though!! The main reason was to see and hang out with an old friend, it was just a major plus that he was where he was. :)

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