Malta

Mdina – The Silent City and Blue Grotto

We were looking forward to our yummy breakfast at the vendor stand at the bus station but our favorite stand was closed oh no! We went to another one and got a sandwich since they did not have the steak pie 🙁 The sandwich was not as good of course but indeed decent. We took the bus to Mdina, also known as the Silent City (used to be Malta’s capital) and only the limited residents have the right to drive into the fortified “city”. It took half an hour to get there by bus and we got off near the main gate. As we walked closer, I smelled horse poops sigh every Medieval city must have horse carriages for tourists.

The bridge into the city.

Mdina is also known for its Mdina Glass! There is a Mdina Glass shop just right behind the main gate. We went in to check it out, it has like three stories filled with colorful Mdina glasses. I saw a pink cup that is very beautiful cost €19 so I was thinking to check out the stores in Valletta to compare…..you know the tactic of do not buy at first sight…go around to compare prices first? Well, that does not apply in Malta! It was my biggest regret….keep reading my trip reports, you’ll know why!

We continued our walk to explore the Silent City; Mdina is very small!

We reached St. Paul’s Cathedral but it was blocked to enter due to some VIPs inside; there were all those luxury cars and security/police outside the entrance. And on the back were those news broadcast vans parked there!

We turned back to explore other streets first and will come back later.

Narrow Medieval streets inside the fortified city.

All the way back of the gate offers good views surrounding the city….completely flat!

Love this tree growing on the corner of the building; it also added color to the “plain” unified yellow colored houses.

Silent City….it was very silent!

We walked back to the church and by the time, it was open! Woah the interior is grand and beautiful!

Hum…that lamp looked like Murano Glass but since Mdina has its Mdina Glass….what do you think?

Street sign in both Maltese and English.

National Museum of Natural History:

We are not museum people so we didn’t check it out. Now more tourists arrived so glad we went first thing in the morning!

Out of the Mdina Gate, we walked to Rabat.

Those flowers were hanging down like vines, love the shades of pink!

Those balcony houses; Malta does a great job in preserving its unique architectures! I read somewhere that the government subsidizes residents on repairing and maintaining those balconies.

Decorated with plants, I like it!

We came across a supermarket, yay finally a supermarket not a convenient store! We went in to look for my favorite German chocolate – Ritter Sports and found them at €1.50 a bar. I checked the expiration date (good till mid-2017) so I grabbed at least 10 bars to bring home. The credit card machine was broken at the cash register grrrr so used my limited supply of Euros 🙁

Then, without knowing, we reached St. Paul’s Catacombs, which was totally unplanned. Jason wanted to check-it-out but I am scared to go in. We went into the church and an old lady was there to collect donations; the entrance to the catacombs is free. I told her I am scared so I’ll just wait here while Jason walked down the narrow staircase. The old lady encouraged me to go to see it, it’s not scary at all…..alright….

It was dark down there but some LED lights here and there…..the walkway became narrower and narrower! I felt like I walked into those Halloween haunted houses! I had no idea what to expect or will see!

Phew, I made it, it wasn’t that bad, hum…did I see any real bones? I don’t think so? When we walked back up, the lady said not bad right? We had a little chat with her and found out that she is a volunteer; she said they take turns to volunteer because of the European refugee crisis in Malta. I told her that I plan to visit the Mosta Dome next and she looked at her watch, she said she afraid it’ll be closed by the time we get there! Urg…Mosta Dome is a big tourist attraction so I was hoping that it will be open. We hurried to walk to the bus station to catch the next bus…..

 

She was totally right, it was closed 🙁 I was disappointed so we only get to take photos outside….hopefully, we’ll have a chance to come back in the next day or two!

It was already 1 pm and we were starving so I used Jason’s phone to search at TripAdvisor…..right on the square is Olympic Cafe. It is a popular cafe filled with locals!

The menu prices were so inexpensive! I ordered a beef rice stew, it tasted homemade but I am not liking the big peas in there!

Jason ordered a spaghetti with squid I think? It tasted better than the one I had in that fancy restaurant in Valletta. The lunch with two sodas cost €15.00 included a few euros tips so cheap!

Since our plan to Mosta Dome failed, where should we go? I checked the bus app to see how to get to the Blue Grotto. The app worked great to connect bus stops to get to wherever you want to but the bus is not always on-time…so if one bus is late, you’ll miss the connection which resulted in another 30 minutes of wait or more for the next bus! So please check the connection time, do not pick ones that only have 2-3 minute of connection; you’ll likely to miss it! Also, another tip is to select the routing with the connection in large/main bus stops because likely there are more than one bus routes to get to your destination. We had a connection in the middle of nowhere literally!

At the end, we reached the “panorama” bus stop for the view of the Blue Grotto from up here! Look at that gigantic arch!

We saw boats down there so we decided to take a walk down, also the bus going back to Valletta is located down at the Blue Grotto bus stop. It was burning hot and being an experienced traveler, I carried a bottle of sunscreen with me 🙂

Once we reached the bus stop down at the hill, we followed the sign to purchase tickets for the boat tour; it was €8. After we purchased the ticket from the booth, the guy told us the boat is leaving so we run down to the little dock where people are swimming there and got on the small boat. We put on the life jacket and off we go!

Unfortunately, we were the last ones to board so we didn’t get the front row for better photos.

Into the cave, the rocks have a purple layer!

The “captain” was skilled at maneuvering the little-powered boat into those small cave openings!

Wow we were all the way at the top of that cliff looking down!

There are more than one caves!

Wondered why it has the name “Blue Grotto”? Look at the color of the water 🙂

Another boat going out….

The boat tour only lasted I would say 30 minutes in total? And the ride could be bumpy so hold on and protect your camera!

The walk up the hill was tough in the hot heat! We saw the bus and started to run……made it! We got on the bus headed back to Valletta where we took a rest in our lovely apartment!

And enjoyed the fruits we purchased hehe. After the break, we headed out for more photos of Valletta around sunset for the golden colors especially when all their houses are yellow!

See how steep Valletta is?

Good exercise walking up and down those stairs haha!

 

Back to the Upper Barrakka Gardens to wait for the sunset. Malta’s Grand Harbor is stunning, don’t you agree?

And all suddenly, we heard a loud “boom”. It came from that ship over there firing again! Those are not fireworks, wondered what was the purpose or occassion?

We walked back in search for a place to have our dinner. Since we had a long time taking buses, we decided to eat inside Valletta.

I read that there are a lot of good restaurants on Old Bakery Street so we walked back to it. First one…Rubino…it was closed (while TripAdvisor said it’s open)!!! Next one Papannis…closed as well OMG! I just couldn’t understand why restaurants closed without notice and it was a Thursday?? Lastly, we walked to Aaron’s Kitchen and it is open yay! The restaurant has a very relaxing decors and mood……

But we waited forever for our food OMG…we were starving..can you please at least give us some bread? We waited over 30 minutes for our soup to come! The fish soup was good but not filling to last another 30 minutes of wait!

Seriously, we waited over another 45 minutes for our main dish…..my duck, which was good but I don’t think it was worth the wait!

I don’t think a seafood platter would take long to make?

The total was €52.00 and the slow service was a big let down so I rounded up to €55.00 instead of a 10% tips.

It was like over 9 pm when we finished dinner and walked back to our apartment. It was very quiet in Valletta and they had some concerts going on to give more night life to the capital I guess? We peeked into the concert theater from the “windows” (Pjazza Teatru Rjal) and it looked like student performance rather than some big production but some music better than absolute silence (except for the constant firing boom noise through the night)! Good night Malta!

 

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