I was there through an invitation to join the Blog Island project, run by the blogger group iambassador and the Malta Tourism Authority. Personally I’ve long thought Malta would be ripe for an organised blogger campaign so was delighted to learn of this one being put together.
Kate and I stayed in the excellent Palazzo Prince D’Orange in Valletta, a beautiful and enormous building restored to a very nice standard. It captures much of the charm that traditional Maltese houses have, while being a fancy place to stay at the same time. Here’s the flag outside the building.
The top image shows part of the view that you get from the roof of the palazzo, and this meant that we got a grandstand view for the firework show put on to mark the 10th anniversary of Malta entering the European Union.
I used my MeFoto tripod for this (I have a sponsored Backpacker model – it’s light and robust – and am genuinely very happy with it) and have never photographed fireworks before. I got some decent results but was using a 2.5 second shutter speed, but think I would have done better with 2 seconds. Still, here’s a couple of examples.
As you can see, the Maltese do fireworks very well, often winning awards for their pyrotechnics. I must confess that during some local festas, which happen every year, the health and safety standards are sometimes lacking, but the ones shown here were fired safely from barges floating in Valletta’s Grand Harbour.
Speaking of Valletta’s streets, I chose one of them as the location for my very own SOTM. I have never done one, and as SOTM will probably end in the autumn, I needed to have my image ready to use because it’s going to be the last ever new one that I post.
Thereafter, all the images, roughly all seven years’ worth, will then rotate forever, turning over every day like they currently do, just in a giant circle instead of having a new photo and story each day.
So here’s a sneak peek at mine. I had always intended upon another Maltese location for my SOTM, but the night before the picture was to be taken, I changed my mind. I chose a certain place in Valletta instead – Upper Barrakka Gardens – but when Kate and I went there it was clear that wouldn’t work either.
St Ursula’s Street is parallel to the palazzo, and I love Valletta’s streets, so it suddenly became clear that it should be my place.
And here I am in my happy place – a cracking little cafe in Valletta called Gambrinus. It serves super coffee and pastizzi, which are a ricotta-filled baked Maltese savoury delicacy that you simply must try if ever you go (but make sure they’re oval, like the ones you see here, as any round/triangular ones are poor imitations).
Kate and I were on our way to the Chop House, a superb steak house which I thoroughly recommend. We were guests of the owner and the food was really delicious, including Scottona beef which I’d never heard of before but was lovely. It comes from young virgin cows and is a meat eater’s treat.
The Chop House in a glass-fronted building so you keep that same view of Valletta as you eat. Go there one evening and watch the dying light change quite dramatically on those famous, aged stones.
Speaking of food, as part of Blog Island we visited the Tal-Petut restaurant in one of the Three Cities, Birgu. When we arrived it turned out, in typical Malta-is-so-tiny-you-know-everyone fashion, that I knew the owner, Donald.
This excellent chap is hugely charismatic, idiosyncratic and unforgettable. I met him once 14 years ago and he could still remember that I’m originally from Gzira in Malta.
We all helped out in the kitchen, just a little bit of gentle preparation as Donald has most things stewing or marinading or whatever, and when we put it all together it looked like this. Near the middle you’ll see a basket of Maltese bread which I cut, despite Donald telling me: “Mario, you’re murdering that bread.”
Festi are always worth visiting, and this one was very charming, with St Publius’ statue begin carried slowly through this tiny town’s narrow streets.
The lighting wasn’t great for capturing street shots, and I forgot my flash – although I don’t think I wanted to be running around throwing a flash in people’s faces. Most of those in attendance were local or certainly Maltese, and I wanted to let the magic of their festa unravel without any brash intrusion.
So I pushed up the ISO to quite dizzy levels – this one was taken at 5000 – but it still worked well enough for shots to go on a blog post.
In Malta it’s very common to have bars, shops, businesses, cars and houses named after things you’ll find in other parts of the world. You can be sure the owner of that bar has either been to Oklahoma, has possibly lived there, or just really likes the musical.
While at the festa Kate and I got talking to this sweet couple, whose daughter was playing in the band. They weren’t from Floriana but said they travel around to watch their daughter play, presumably in small towns that don’t have enough of a population to have their own band.
I don’t know what their names are, but the dog was called George. He had a party trick where he licked the lady’s lips full on. It was endearing and horrifying at the same time.
At one point we hired a car, a bright yellow Peugeot with a missing T that Kate christened as “The Buttercup”. It was certainly easy to spot in car parks, at least. We took it to Gozo one day, the second smallest island in the Maltese archipelago, and had a good old tootle around.
This shot shows Malta in the distance with the tiny Comino, which I was told now has three permanent residents, in the middle.
One of Gozo’s best beaches is the lovely Ramla Bay, blessed with reddish sand. Having dug our tootsies in it, we then drove up to a lofty viewpoint to take a look around from there. The resulting vista doesn’t disappoint.
We also had a tip off from a Gozitan, the charming TV celebrity chef and cookbook author George Borg who cooked us a tasty local meal at the palazzo one night.
He told us how there was another Azure Window-style natural site to be seen in Gozo, at Wied il-Mielah. We went to check it out and it was a quite stunning view.
It was quite difficult to photograph because of the proximity of the surrounding coastline, but by twisting and pressing myself into the adjacent rock face, I managed to capture this.
Must be a rather aged sign as that format of phone numbers don’t exist any more, so I wonder if the lion’s still alive. I didn’t want to find out, though.
Thank you so much for reading my posts. I hope you enjoyed hearing of my adventures and looking at my photography as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you all.
Going around the world was a lifelong ambition for me, from the time when, as a boy growing up in Malta, I used to pin up maps on my bedroom walls and wonder what those places were really like. And almost right from the start of SOTM’s conception back in September 2006, I wanted to take it around the world at some point.
Now I’ve done both.
Much love to you all – and remember. If you have an ambition, just like I did, make it happen. It’ll be all right. You’ll do it, and will be better for it.
What are you waiting for?
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