We have been looking forward to our Christmas trip in Malta for months. Things got off to a good start, everything considered. Tony and I were both so ready for a vacation that while we were waiting in line to check-in (yes, when you bring your dog on vacation, you have to check in at the airport rather than online), he confided to me that if there were a problem, he would just turn around and go home, because he didn't have any energy to resolve problems.
Of course there was a problem. They couldn't find our dog's reservation (yes, when you bring your dog on vacation she needs not only a passport, but a plane ticket, complete with its own ticket number, which was missing). Things eventually got straightened out (Tony didn't go home), and we proceeded through security, which went fairly smoothly (other than a suspicious game of Bananagrams, which caused my suitcase to be flagged and searched, and left me wondering what in the world Bananagrams resembles in an X-ray).
We walked up to the gate just a few minutes before boarding opened. Who knew that at least on AirMalta, passengers with dogs get boarded first, along with first class and passengers with babies. The flight was uneventful, we picked up our car without a hitch, Google maps led us directly to our AirBnB, which was exactly as described, with a lovely view off the balcony, and the sea just around the corner.
The weather was unimpeachable. Glitchy travel problems make for good blogging, but lack of them makes for relaxing vacationing.
There was a Carrefour just up the road, so after settling the kids in, Tony and I popped in for some supplies, and got rather giddy at the wide range of all the best sorts of foods from Italy and Britain, as well as some local delights. Grocery shopping when abroad is one of my geeky pleasures. It's always interesting for me to see what sorts of things people find essential. For example, in Italy (as here), one finds whole aisles dedicated to every conceivable sort of pasta. But salad dressing as such does not exist. We collected an assortment of everything from Irish cheddar to artichoke ravioli, and staggered out of the grocery store, glad we had a car to put it all in, and two entire weeks in which to consume it.
In the morning we decided to spend our first full day in Malta hiking along the coast. First stop was a gift shop, where those people in our family who don't pack multiple hats for every trip picked up some snazzy new headgear.
One of the three guidebooks we brought on our trip was Walking on Malta, and conveniently enough, one of the walks began just a block away from our front door. We set off along Malta's beautiful, rocky coastline.
Is there anything more gorgeously blue than the Mediterranean on a sunny day? Homer's expression, “the wine-dark sea,” runs through my mind incessantly on days like these, because it feels like a singularly appropriate way to describe the intensity of the colour, if a little odd to describe the hue. I investigated this yesterday, in fact. Among many theories was one that the Greeks diluted their wine with so much water that it appeared blue. The idea of blue wine is, of course, irresistible if one has read immortal fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay's early novel Tigana. The concept of real blue wine was recently (and controversially) debuted by an audacious Spanish winemaker. But I digress.
After taking a great number of impossibly idyllic photos like these, Tony was feeling the effects of hiking while battling a cold, and decided to turn back. The Bobbles and I (as well as Lyra, who would prove to be the most indefatigable of us all) pressed on in the direction of the place where St. Paul was shipwrecked. We took a detour off the path and up toward some cliffs, where I was eventually forced to balance my free range parenting philosophy with my desire for my children to not plunge to their deaths while climbing rocks.
We made it within sight of the small island where Paul is meant to have landed, and decided we'd had enough and were ready to turn back. But just as I was texting Tony to tell him we would hike inland to a road and then text him our location, my phone died. Axa had her phone, but it doesn't have data outside the Netherlands. So we wandered through some picturesque Maltese farmland, subsisting only on wild fennel and prickly pears.
We eventually made it back to civilisation and found an unsecured wireless network, transmitted our location to Tony, and waited for him to arrive with the car. Which eventually he did. We came home muddy, tired, and somewhat mauled by the prickles on the prickly pears. But it was a great day, and the stuff of which family memories are made.
Today we rested and recovered, and then went to the Malta National Aquarium in the afternoon. It's a dramatically designed building, constructed in the shape of a star fish, and with the atmospheric feel of an underwater grotto.
The kids loved it, especially Axa, who goes crazy for anything to do with natural history.
The aquarium is included in the Heritage Malta pass, which also grants admission to most of Malta's historical and archaeological sites. I'm excited to start using it some more in the days to come. It's been nice to do a little relaxing, but tomorrow we are off to the capital, Valletta, for some serious sightseeing!