This morning we wakened to fresh cool somewhat humid air. The sea was crashing against the sea wall and was a dark Prussian blue with that dark dark line between the sea and the sky. Sailboats are out in the morning in waves so high the big boats would disappear into the swells.
We ate a buffet breakfast at the Four Seasons here in the hotel before we left for our morning orientation meeting with Stephan, our tour guide. Breakfast was certainly not memorable, and as we were to discover, Maltese food in general wasn’t that great. The English influence here is very strong, with very little spice and things like broiled tomatoes, some rather tasteless sausages, and mushy dry potatoes. After breakfast, we went to the Hong Kong bank across the street to try to change money but I only managed to change ‘3’ $20 bills because the window ran out of money, and Mo had to use the cash machine. Exchange is $2.86 so we are estimating about 3 bucks US per Maltese LIRA as an average for our stay.
After the group orientation meeting we walked down to the “strand” for a light lunch of bruschetta and cappuccino at Cafe Tigne at a sidewalk table. The Strand was the main way to see the busy Maltese city life up close, with many people walking and talking and shopping. Most noticeable were the women’s shoes. Everyone seems to have taken on the Italian way of dressing, with Italian television shows now available in Malta, and very high very pointy stilettos are the shoe of choice for most women. Mo and I still wonder what in the world they did with their toes in these shoes! The cappuccino was good and the energy of the strand was high as usual, with lots of conversation and happy people all in a rush.
In the afternoon we joined an included tour for our group of the Three Cities, and to see a video movie called the “Malta Experience” in Valetta. The history of the heroism and trials of the Maltese people during world war 2 was enlightening. The history of the Grand Harbour and how it affected so many challengers to Malta was a theme that was repeated throughout our stay here, and began with this informative show.
Later, the bus toured around the Grand Harbor to Vittoriosa and we walked through old limestone buildings where people lived underground during WWII. Then more town walking and a visit o the Maritime Museum. For me, since this was my first trip to Europe, it was an incredible thrill to be walking these narrow winding streets, with uneven stone pavings, a thrill to be somewhere so completely new to me.
After the horrendous destruction of the bombings in WWII the local people left the old town, and eventually public housing replaced the grand houses that used to be here. Only recently have people started to return and fix the town up a bit as young families establish the old neighborhoods into something workable for this time.
As the day drew to a close, the sunset was truly breathtaking with domes and steeples silhouetted against the sky. In the dark we returned to the hotel to regroup and go back down to the Strand for dinner at Newman’s Place and conversation with the owner and John Rossi, a fellow traveler from Grand Circle. Stopped in at an Internet Café on the way home to check email and we were very happy to be in our own room by 9pm. The hotel room is completely comfortable, with an amazing view of the ocean looking north west, and the setting sun in the early evening. The hotel is even surrounded by a moat, now how European is that!