Thunder is rolling around again and it is very dark and raining hard. We woke to a dramatic thunderstorm this morning and were so glad we hadn’t signed up for the day’s tour to the temple sites. Our original plans for the day included a walk on the Promenade, but with the hard rain pounding down, we returned to our room after breakfast for some reading and knitting.
At noon, we decided to brave the weather and go walking anyway and suited up in our coats and umbrellas for a walk toward the Grand Harbour and then back along the sea to St Julian. It was lovely in spite of the rain and maybe because of the rain since we had most of the streets to ourselves. The wild weather made for some huge waves along the sea wall that were fun to watch if you didn’t get too close.
One of the most delightful things about the towns of Malta are the limestone houses with their brightly colored doors and the traditional wooden Maltese balconies. The balconies are everywhere, at the front of every residence, and sometimes it’s a rather sobering thought to consider how many people are stacked and tucked into such a small space. According to the statistics, there are more than 1000 people per square kilometer on this island. The balconies are usually decorated nicely with Mediterranean plants and statuary, often religious.
The limestone is quarried on the island, and is the natural building material of choice since there is very little wood here. The only forest is a planted remnant that is held as a national treasure. As we flew in to Malta, the huge limestone quarries were visible from the air, with the multi-story buildings made from the same stone looking like a miniature bas relief inversion of the empty quarries. Most of the stone is a lovely pale golden color, but there are several shades reflected in the buildings. The island is really quite barren, and in the rural parts the stone is a big part of the landscape with natural rock outcrops, dry stone walls, and windswept cliffs along the sea. Malta is really just a big 9 mile by 17 mile rock of limestone with a civilization scratched into the golden surface. Here is a great website that has some good photos of these amazing quarries. http://www.maltavista.net/en/list/photo/2053.html
Grand Circle has a great program called “Dine-Around” where you can choose from several options for dinners out at local restaurants. On this evening we planned a dinner an Italian restaurant called LaVigne, but had to switch our choice to Argyll since LaVigne wasn’t even open. We wandered around the dark streets toward St Julian in the rain and found the Argyll restaurant which turned out to be the best meal we had in Malta by far. Lovely Mediterranean food, with really good wine and perfect service, in a small refined dining room with a view of the darkened wet streets. What a great meal!
After dinner we walked again down to the Promenade, but decided that a walk home through the city would be more fun than once more walking along the sea wall. We walked for some miles through narrow streets, seeing lovely churches, and thinking we were passing the same way we had come until we discovered that this church looked exactly like that church, and where exactly were we anyway??! Somehow we managed to wander to the opposite side of the peninsula and ended up at the Msida Yacht Club on the Strand. With all the streets at angles and all the buildings so tall and close it’s really hard to get a sense of where you are, especially in Sliema and St Julian, and while I usually have a fairly good sense of direction, the angles really threw me. Next time I’ll bring the GPS! All the wild wind and rain made the walk even more exciting and the wet streets reflected the city lights in ways that would never have been so brilliant on a less blustery night.
Back to our hotel, very wet, very happy, and very tired, we climbed the 4 flights of stairs for the last time for the day. So far we have managed to climb these stairs to the 4th floor at least twice a day; trying to be sure we get plenty of exercise, but maybe wandering around all day in the rain counts as well. Thank goodness for a good umbrella!