Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Malta: Discovering "The Three Cities"

Travel Period: November 2018
Destination: The Three Cities, Valletta, Malta

The Three Cities of Malta gave me a melancholic short trip back to the Phoenician times. Apart from the impressive architecture, it was a gloomy and wet day, something better spent indoors actually but when you are travelling for pleasure, you have no time to be cooped up inside your hotel. 

We have no choice but to take it as it is and make the most of it. That also explains the somewhat downcast feel of the pictures here.

In the Three Cities, my friend Delphi and I had a delightful lunch and we spent the afternoon wandering the ancient streets of Birgu, Senglea, and Cospicua. It was a pleasant day even with the drizzle every now and then. It is an enchanting place that has managed to preserve the old world glory of Malta and gave us a glimpse of how life was back then.

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We took the ferry to the Three Cities located below the Upper Barrakka Gardens. From the gardens, there is a lift that goes down to the main street, and then you just cross over to the dock area. There are 2 boats that go back and forth the whole time non-stop so the waiting time is not that long. 

We bought the Valletta Card which includes all kinds of transportation in the city so we just had to show this to the sailing conductor. A very handy card!

The sailing took just a few minutes and before we knew it, we were skimming through the impressive Grand Harbour. The experience of sailing into the old harbour between Birgu and Senglea was so remarkable. Perhaps it had something to do with the drab dreamy weather. I went out to the deck of the boat to experience my arrival in The Three Cities more personally.

I truly felt in awe of the old world surroundings, the buildings, and fortified walls, it was as if my hairs stood on its ends, and as we sailed further deeper in The Three Cities, I was slowly and completely transported back through time. I wouldn't have batted an eyelid if I saw people dressed in medieval clothes on the pavement! That's how real I felt it.

Now I understood why Game of Thrones has chosen Valletta as one of its major movie locations. I so get it. I have yet to watch an episode of Game of Thrones though!

As November is almost winter, there were no droves of visitors, so it's a relaxing month to visit and explore, if you do not mind the weather.

Sailing here between Birgu and Sanglea.

So the Three Cities are:

(1) Birgu, also known as Citta Vittoriosa or Vittoriosa (Victorious City) and is the oldest of the 3.

(2) Sanglea, also known as Citta Invicta or Isla.

(3) Cospicua, also known as Bormla.

We docked at the Vittoriosa yacht marina which I think is part of Cospicua and borders Birgu. During the Order of St. John's times, Birgu was the capital of Malta. We decided to explore this are first. I can already feel the whole place oozing with history and sentimental old architecture. We couldn't wait to wander around. 

But first things first. We have to find our bearings and then make a plan for our walking route. Then we have to take lunch in Birgu, somewhere nice. Then proceed with the walking tour exploration to the other areas. We have the whole afternoon until early evening to enjoy The Three Cities.

We are entering the Vittoriosa yacht marina here from the Grand Harbour:

Delphi posing on the marina boulevard:

Birgu or Vittoriosa was our first on the agenda. As we walk around, I took mental notes on nice restaurants for lunch. The good thing is that Delphi and I love food and we also love to dine in nice places. I always look forward to these moments of my travels.  

As it was a drizzly day, we loaned an umbrella from the hotel and because we were not used to bringing an umbrella, well that's me in particular, we managed to lose the thing. I felt bad about it because firstly, it's a loaned item and not mine, and secondly, the umbrella was quite an elegant item. Such a shame really.

Strolling the streets of Birgu:

This is a small square with colourful balcony windows. These kinds of windows are everywhere in Malta, especially in Valletta. They do remind me of the windows and balconies in Sevilla, Spain.

We had lunch at the marina waterfront, at a restaurant called Sottovento. 

This area is perhaps one of the lovely places to eat and hang out, especially during warm days and when the sun is out. The view of the boats bobbing on the water, and the old architecture scenery allow a very inviting setting for lunch, dinner, or drinks.

It was raining when we were lunching and the restaurant has this thick plastic see-through protective covering outside the outdoor balcony terrace to protect diners from the wind and rain. We both love seafood, so we ordered seafood risotto and a plate of local charcuterie, cheeses, and more to share. 

This was a slow, relaxing, and delicious lunch. Our praises go to the seafood risotto dish. I personally liked it a lot and I paired this with a local Maltese white wine.

After lunch, we walked our way to Sanglea, also known as Isla.

Here are more pictures we took on the yacht marina of Birgu before crossing over to Sanglea on a footbridge connecting both peninsulas. The Three Cities can be explored on foot but there are other options such as segways or mini scooters. 

For some reason, this place reminds me of Rome a bit.

On the waterfront of Sanglea near the footbridge crossing to Birgu, we became friends with this friendly stray white cat with yellow sharp eyes who came directly to us. The cat is a but unkempt and needs bathing. 

I really want to have a cat at home. 

We loved the imperial view of Birgu from Sanglea. The bastioned Fort St. Angelo stands so grand you can just imagine the history it has accomplished through the centuries.

I think that The Three Cities are so underrated. It receives fewer visitors than the old city center of Valletta which is a shame really. This ancient and beautiful place is truly a gem and worth exploring on foot.

More colourful windows and balconies in Sanglea (Isla):

On the Sanglea tip is the La Guardiola, or the Safe Haven Gardens and this is facing the Grand Harbour and Vallettaold city center. The panoramic views from here to Valletta and to Birgu are simply spectacular especially in the early evening when daylight transitions to nighttime and the lights are flickering from the distance. It is so enchating.

It looks like I may have lost the hotel's umbrella somewhere here in the gardens, or perhaps when I was entertaining the feline cat. We tried searching for it and even trailed back to where we petted the cat. The search was futile. I was worried the concierge would ask for it, but it seems like no one remembered the umbrella.

Then it was time to go back to Valletta. We had a ferry to catch and we arrived just on time before it was due to leave. It was a very pleasant and well-spent afternoon in the Three Cities, even with the drab weather.

The rain has stopped and the sailing back went quick and smoothly. Delphi and I were looking forward to going back to the hotel and relax for a bit before going out to dinner.

Back in Valletta....

We passed by the main street which is the main happening area. Valletta is small so there's not a lot of (cool) places to hang out and I am guessing, you would need to know where these places are. 

Well, what would you know? We bumped into a little bar nightlife scene and couldn't resist watching, rather staring I guess. The ladies were dressed nicely in black ensembles, however, what makes them extraordinary are the leather shoes they wore. Spiky high heels. High leather boots, some were tight. They seem to be all wearing designer/signature shoes. Truly eyecatchers!

We decided to hang around a bit and took a seat at a nearby cafe terrace and ordered some drinks. I had some cocktail thing while Delphi I think went for a hot choco with whipped cream. It's a nice evening for people watching.

We also realized that we were not that hungry. The seafood risotto and mix of local delicacies did their job very well that we lost the appetite to have dinner. Perhaps a little dessert? Or a sweet pastry? 

Across the cafe is this bakery with delectable patisseries. We picked 2 pastries and took them back to our hotel for an evening tea time. This is a perfect way to end a lovely day.

More of Valletta soon...

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