So I landed in Malta just after noon, and decided to take the shared shuttle to the hotel. All in all not a bad deal – had to wait about 15 minutes for it, and it was 8 euros as opposed to the 22 euros I paid for a taxi back the next day. Only made a couple stops, so unless you have lots of baggage I’d recommend it as a good option. Got to the hotel around 2, and had enough time for a short walk around, dinner, and then another half day or so of exploring before a late afternoon flight the next day. My plan was to get a quick sense of the place the first afternoon, so I had a better idea what I wanted to see the next day. Warning, this is going to be a very picture-intensive post!
Upgraded to a junior suite at the Le Meridian, and a couple great views of Balluta Bay from the balcony of my room:
First plan was to walk to the Sliema ferry and take that over the bay to Valletta, the capital. It was a cheap ride of around a euro, and a chance to see the city from the water. It looked like a 10 minute walk to the ferry from the Sheraton, which was more or less accurate. Maybe 15 max. Here comes the ferry:
View approaching Valetta from the ferry. It was approximately a 10 minute ride.
Walking up from the ferry dock, was a good chance to see some of the very narrow and steep streets of Valletta:
My first stop was St John’s Co-Cathedral. Inside, I found it to be one of the coolest and most unique cathedrals I’d ever seen. Along the side were “langues” which were small chapels of the Knights of Malta from different countries. The floor was tiled in small marble tombstones for all of the nights who’d been buried under the cathedral floors. It was remarkably ornate. A few shots of the inside of the cathedral:
…and a couple photos of a few of the impressive marble tombstones which formed the entire floor of the cathedral. Note in the second pic how they’re all lined next to each other forming an awesome floor:
It was nearing dusk as I left the cathedral, and I decided to have a glass of wine and people watch in the square as the sun set and just get a bit of a fee for the place. Walking back to the ferry as the sun set, I had an awesome view of the city at sunset:
Took the ferry back to the Sheraton for a bit, and arrived at my room to find some local pies had been delivered, along with a bottle of wine. Way to go Sheraton, another major score from a customer service point of view! The pies contained some sort of spiced and candied fruits, and were strangely addictive. Stopped in the executive lounge before dinner, and there was a decent little buffet spread, along with local wine…the same one that had been delivered to my room. Entirely drinkable.
One last thought on the hotel: service was over the top helpful, and it was very clear they were trying very hard from a service point of view. Rooms were average quality for a Sheraton, and the upgrade to the junior suite (without having to ask for it) was very nice. The carpet was fun too – with the Maltese cross on it:
Grabbed dinner at the Ir Rokna Restaurant and Pizzeria (in the Hotel Rokna) which I chose mainly because it was a short walk away and Tripadvisor had overall positive reviews….which includes the suggestion that the pizzas, and also of all things…the bbq ribs…were fantastic. Started out with some bruschetta which was tasty:
I also couldn’t resist the curiosity of the bbq ribs. They obviously weren’t too bad (although a bit tough compared to some of the best I’ve had in the U.S.) because I made very short work of them!
The next morning, I got up very early to go to mass at the Cathedral. I had no idea what to expect…but figured best chances were the services would be in English or maybe Latin, and I would be ok. Nope, bzzt, the entire thing was in Maltese. Was still amazing to see, and a typically rushed weekday mass of 30 minutes. Still a very cool experience to see such a cool Cathedral still functioning, and very glad I got up early to see it.
Afterwards, just walked around the city a bit, strolling by Fort St Elmo at the edge of the peninsula:
Continued my stroll past the Presidential Palace, where the changing of the guard was going on:
Inside was the Palace of the Grandmasters. The grandmasters ruled Malta for decades before it became a democracy, and the staterooms are open to visitors. The state dining room:
…and a corridor leading to the President’s office:
I still had quite a bit of time until my flight, so decided to try out the local busses and head to the small town of Mdina in the centre of the island. It was advertised as a quaint little tradition walled city, and I guess it would have been it it wasn’t swarming and overrun with tourists. Was still neat to see, and had a good view out to the other side of the island.
Headed back to town, and had time for a quick lunch on the bay near my hotel. A funky little restaurant called Paparazzi which I had to try because it was on the water, it was a nice day, and it looked very popular. Oh, and it had a really odd menu:
The waitress insisted I had to try the Scarface pizza, with tuna, prawns, lemon, and marscapone cheese. It was definitely…interesting. That’s the only way to describe it lol.
…and the fantastic view from the restaurant:
After lunch it was back to the hotel, and taxi to the airport to head to Libya!