Our second excursion from Siracusa was inspired when we met a couple at a seaside cafe in Ortigia over an evening aperitivo. They couldn't say enough about their home, Malta: "the safest country in the world...lots of beautiful architecture...great food that blends the best of the Mediterranean cuisines...everyone speaks English!". When we found round-trip Ryan Air flights for less than $45 each, the decision was easy! We booked two nights at the Point de Vue Hotel - recommended by a NY Times article - and we packed our backpacks for a short "vacation" from our chilly Siracusa apartment.
"Adventure Day" was Tuesday; the regional train to Catania was nearly empty, the sun was trying to break through the gray clouds, and the gentle hum of the train was relaxing. Nancy was catching up on emails while Richard battled his fierce adversaries in Massachusetts, Maine, and Virginia on "Words with Friends". We again took advantage of our VIP Lounge privileges for an hour or so at the Catania airport before the 35 minute flight to Malta. Our first trip on Ryan Air - Europe's premier budget airline based in Ireland - was a snap. We learned that both backpacks fit under the seat and we won't need to pay extra for overhead space the next time we travel this light. At the Malta airport we found a Yamaha grand piano with a sign inviting players - so of course Richard sat down for a tune.
Nothing beats a city bus ride to give you a real feel for a new place. Malta is really clean, without any litter or graffiti to speak of. We notice lots of cranes - a sign of lively new construction activity. The buildings all sport large enclosed balconies with a Moorish-influenced style. All the signs are in English, and we are driving on the left, British-style. Our hotel is small and the room is really nice. We have another fabulous view outside our window.
It's no surprise that the walled city of Mdina - just a few steps from our hotel - is a popular film location, including "Game of Thrones". The limestone buildings are quite tall and are all whitewashed a very pleasant and uniform beige color. The "streets" are super-narrow and reverberate with footsteps, horse hooves, and chirping birds. We had dinner at "Bacchus", where Richard had Malta's signature rabbit stew and Nancy enjoyed a deliciously stuffed chicken breast. The fried cheese appetizer was especially good.
Nancy noticed the beautiful variety of door knockers and couldn't resist photographing them.
Even though the streets of Mdina were interesting enough, we did venture inside the Palazzo Falson and the Carmelite Priory. The Palazzo is a Medieval building that houses a collection of art and antiquities wonderfully curated and tastefully explained by an audio guide that automatically senses which room you are in. The Priory was built in the 1600s and is just one of the several ornate churches in the city.
While Nancy did some coaching, Richard toured the ruins of an ancient Roman villa and the Catacombs of St. Peter. On our final night in Malta we dined in our hotel restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal. Our short stay in this tiny island country had us convinced that we'd be back some day to visit Valetta, Malta's other historic city with other interesting sites to see.
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Nancy McCabe &