Thursday, July 30, 2020

Our First Day and Evening in Valletta, Malta

Travel Period: November 2018
Destination: Malta

Malta is one of the small countries in the world, I believe it ranks the 10th! 

I have been wanting to visit Malta for some time and finally took the flight to Valletta and met with a very good friend there from Las Vegas, who I would like to call in the blog, Delphi. Delphi is an old friend from school. We have managed to be in touch after all these years and I have even visited her in Nevada many years ago. We now have become travel buddies and are eyeing some countries to visit together, hopefully after this Covid-19 crisis.

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Delphi arranged our hotel and she made a great choice with The Phoenicia Malta. The location could not have been better, just right across the entrance to the Old City Gate. There is parking available as well which is one of the reasons why we chose this as we were going to rent a car for a few days.

We were just a few hour's flights from each other's arrival in Valletta on a Thursday afternoon. I flew Air Malta by the way because they are the only ones with direct flights from Amsterdam. After reuniting at the airport, we took a cab to the hotel and within minutes we were shown to our room.

It is a lovely room with 2 twin beds. We have a view of the old city from our window. It's so beautiful to gaze outside in the early morning sunrise when the lights from the buildings can still be seen and the sky is slowly changing its colours. They remind me of the sunsets in the Philippines. 

These are zoomed-in photos of Valletta, the old city from our hotel room window.

The hotel gave us some fresh ripe pears and I checked out the minibar and found a local beer called Cisk. Must try of course!

It is a gorgeous and elegant hotel. This is the lobby where we had some tea on our last day. I love the play on the colours and geometrical design of the marble flooring against the blue furniture and off white walls and ceilings. Oh, did you notice those vaulted ceilings by the way?

This is the dining salon. The high ceilings are such a wonderful delight to see, as well as the grand and traditional mini-lamp style chandeliers.

We didn't stay long in the hotel. We were eager to check out and explore Valletta! 

It was a sunny blue skies day so we made ourselves ready to hit the streets right away on our first day in town. We still have a few hours to enjoy before it gets fully dark, so we have to make the most of the little time left.

This is the Triton's Fountain that greets every visitor of Valletta from the main gate. It is stunningly lighted in different colours in the evening. It is indeed a statement fountain.

This is a rampart of the fortified walls in the southwestern part near Valletta City Gate and Triton's Fountain. 

The main street (Republic Street) from the Valletta City Gate's vantage point. This is where the happening is with always lots of people walking around, day and night. The old city is a pedestrian-only zone area. 

Pjazza Teatru Rjal, the ruins of the Royal Opera House. It's now a popular cafe restaurant. It's a great place to sit here and people watch.

The first church we checked out...

This is the Republic Square, always full of cafe terraces. Always busy here. Another great place to sit and watch the goings-on of life in Valletta.

Street in Maltese is Triq... and there are so many of these side alley triqs with outdoor cafe terraces on them. It's a very pretty and welcoming sight.

This is the famous window of Valletta. They are quite similar to the balcony windows in Spain. This particular window balcony in the photo is somewhat derelict and although I can relate to the 'artistic' on the advertising board, I am not quite sure what the 'up-to-date' meant. Well, considering the crumbling state of this window and building.

Many buildings in Valletta though have been renovated and brought back to their former glory. I must admit there is some charm in the old ruins.

We visited the Is-Suq tal-Belt, the newly renovated covered food market of Valletta. I am thrilled to check it out! You know, I am crazy about markets.

Ah, so many delicious local foods on display. I am in heaven. We must try them one by one!

We quickly noticed the seafood stalls with fresh catches of the day. When I am on holiday, I indulge in seafood because there is not a good variety in the Netherlands available and they are also far too expensive here. 

I found some fresh oysters and this will be my first taste of Malta's food treasures.

This Italian guy is doing the favour of opening an oyster for me. So fresh and delicious. I'd love more but I am reserving space in my stomach for tonight's dinner. So far, a great foodie start!

We went back to the streets of Valletta exploring further. The old city is small and within an hour of walking around, we kind of found our bearings.

An interesting street fixture to see around Valletta are bakeries such as below. They sell bread with fillings, Maltese-style pizzas, and other warm pastries. We will be tasting them in the next days so quite excited to buy some of these grub soon.

Twilight has come upon us and we are still exploring! One triq and church after the other.

Delphi and moi outside of one of the churches we visited. I am seeing a church-fetish pattern going on here. We can't really blame the Catholic Church for building exquisite places of worship, don't we? Apart from them being historical, these buildings have treasures of admirable art.

This particular church is open and has a service going on. We softly sneaked inside curious to follow the service but couldn't understand a thing at all. 

The interior is madly decorated in red and it just speaks of grandeur, old glory, and excess. I can't tell you enough how stunning and impressive the colour red is. The church felt more like the residence of a noble than a place of worship.

We wandered back to Republic Square. I love how the trees are positioned on the sidelines. They are just so chic, giving the square its needed ambiance and perhaps a bit of drama too. Especially beautiful in the evening with the lights.

Across the Republic Square, on one of the side alleys, I believe this is the Old Theatre Street, we found this dining on the street scene. The whole street, from end-to-end, is an open-air restaurant. We just loved the vibe going on here and strongly considered the area for our dinner destination that night. Little did we know we came back =)

The open-air dining street on Old Theatre Street just off Republic Square.

We continued to stroll around, roaming from triq to triq, and lo and behold, we found another church. Should the question be, "How many churches does Valleta have?" Or, "How many churches can we tuck in our belt for this trip?" 

Well, frankly, it is quite too funny to actually see a sign prohibiting stilettos inside the church. Yeah, it's about time. These stilettos are troublemakers and this church knows it very well.

This is the Auberge de Castille, which houses the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. Yup, I knew it was an important building! This sits on the highest point of Valletta near the Barrakka Gardens, overlooking Floriana.

Then we walked to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. It's a beautiful place to hang out and watch the Three Cities across which we will visit the next day. In fact, boats leaving for the Three Cities are located below the gardens. 

Uh-huh. We already know our way for tomorrow.

After checking out the Upper Barraka Gardens and the way to the boats for tomorrow's trip to the Three Cities, we went back to the main street, now seriously looking for a restaurant for our dinner.

The Nativity scene on Vjal Nelson across the Triton Fountain. It was November and the city is preparing for Christmas.

In Valletta, we saw many bars and cafes with tables and seating on the steps. They are literally everywhere and I found it to be really charming, edgy and cool. 

We bumped into some interesting street art. Sorry, I couldn't help myself!

Our stomachs were already complaining and we haven't made a decision yet about which restaurant to dine at. What a luxurious predicament I must say! We have in fact visited a number of restaurants but argued about the wrong menu, the wrong table and where is the view. Eventually, we agreed to go back to the cosy street dining scene near Republic Square. The Old Theatre Street.

And voila, we found this restaurant called Tap Room.

We had a shared starter of raw fish similar to a ceviche. This was lovely for opening up our palates.

And we both ordered the same main, pasta with seafood. This was also nice but not as good as the starter I think.

Well, a very nice dinner for our first day/evening in Valletta, Malta. A promising start of the holiday and end to a lovely day. We can't wait to explore Valletta more.

On our way back to the hotel after dinner, we spotted this snack hanging from one of the street food vendors. I remember eating this in the airplane (hello Air Malta). So I bought a big size bag for us to snack on this trip. I tell you, these Twisties are delicious!

Back at the hotel....

See you in my next installment of the Valletta diaries.

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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