Thursday, January 22, 2015

Malta in the summer of 2014

Our friends Nick and Yili visited Europe this past summer, so Laure and I decided to join them for part of their trip. Since they know how to have a good time on beach vacations, we joined them in Malta. Conveniently, it was place that Laure wanted to visit since her great-grandfather was Maltese.
We went under the boot!
We found an awesome AirBnB apartment in St. Julian's Bay.
With a great view.
Our favorite thing: enjoying the company of good friend and atmosphere over a glass of wine.

We read that it can be challenging to get around Malta by public transportation, so we rented a car and were able to see a lot more places. Thankfully my wife is an awesome driver and felt comfortable driving manual transmission on the left side of the road. Nick quickly filled the job as our navigation expert. Sadly, Google Maps was grossly wrong many times. I should probably go back more often to perform some ground truthing, as they say.
Our awesome driver.
Malta highlights.

Malta is undoubtedly most famous for its beautiful beaches, so we checked out a few of them. First up was the Blue Lagoon, which is reachable by boat from the main island. It is a beautiful beach, but due to its popularity, it can feel a bit crowded. On the other hand, it is fun to watch the crowds on speed boats going inner tubing with loud music and lots of booze.

On our way to the Blue Lagoon
Rug and Mochi joined us.
Juicy sweet watermelons.
Google+ made this Blue Lagoon photo look like a postcard.

We also visited another "beach" named St. Peter's Pool, which turned out to be very memorable in a unique way. It is hard to describe it as a beach because it is not sandy and its calm water is surrounded by a stony shore. So it is more appropriately named a "pool" instead of "beach". And since Laure hates dealing with the sand of normal beaches, this one worked perfectly for her.
A short walk to St Peter's Pool.
St Peter's Pool and its cliffy shore.
Someone gave Yili a sunblock mustache.
Who could it have been?
A popular activity at St Peter's Pool is to cliff jump into the water.
Nick decided to jump in a yoga pose.

Before visiting Malta, I did not know that it was once under Arab rule. You can see traces of this in their architecture especially in the older cities -- most prominently in their old capital, Mdina.
Mdina is charmingly old and very well preserved.
Maybe they cleaned it up to shoot Game of Thrones.
At times Mdina feels like a movie.

We also visited the current capital Valletta, which is relatively more modern but still has a lot of quaint streets and buildings. It also has a good number of people at least during the weekends (I have read that their weekdays are a little slower).

Valletta is nice for exploring by foot.
Valletta's old charming architecture.
The city felt like a mix of Spain, Morocco, and Egypt.
We found some quaint restaurants, bars, and gelatarias in Valletta.

We also visited a small fishing town named Marsaxlokk, which is famous for its seafood and their Sunday outdoor market along the harbor.
Fishing boats in Marsaxlokk.
Church in Marsaxlokk.
In honor of the World Cup, we performed the free kick crotch-block pose.
I'm sure you've seen it before.

Talking about the World Cup, we watched the finals in St Julian's. Although they had a huge public viewing outdoors, we decided to watch it at the bar downstairs from our apartment, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
World Cup finals at the bar downstairs from our apartment.
And also at a public viewing by the bay.

Before this trip, I had read about the lively night life in St Julian's. But when we checked it out, we felt awkwardly old for the scene. It seemed that the city constructed a designated party neighborhood full of big clubs with a very young crowd. In hindsight, we should have checked out the night life in Valletto, where the city seems to have a more interesting vibe and the restaurants and bars seem cozier and more unique. We'll keep this in mind for next time.

On a happier note, this has been the second year in a row that Laure and I met up with Nick and Yili in Europe over the summer. Last year we went in Tuscany and Florence). I hope that we keep this tradition alive year after year!
Until the next trip!

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