Night Location - Valetta, Malta
A Muse of the Day: One of the group who shall remain unnamed declared at lunch, "I could quite easily go about naked!" in response to the intense hot and humid conditions today.
After a hurried breakfast we were transferred down the hill to the ferry terminal (making the downward journey was a lot nicer than the upward journey) and boarded the boat from Gozo back to mainland Malta. The wind was up in Malta today, so the normally calm sea was rough and the boat heaved its way across the channel.
David had arranged for a transfer from the ferry terminal to our penthouse apartment in Valletta but on our arrival the driver quite rudely told us that he had no idea where our accommodation was and that we would have to walk from a drop off point regardless of our attempting to show him on a map.
As stated, the driver dropped us off at one of the coach stops and so out we stumbled complete with luggage into a wave of cruise boat day-trippers following numbered paddles. Undeterred we located our street that was an impressive stairway to the bottom on one side and a ramp on the other. Fortunately it was after 9:30 in the morning as we made quite the racket pulling four wheelie bags down the 154 shallow steps.
The penthouse apartment was incredible with views over the city walls and the harbour as well as a plunge pool. After a quick skype call with David's parents and Lily the retriever, we started the climb back up to the main pedestrian streets of Valletta.
Our first stop was to the famed St John's Co-Cathedral founded by the Knights of St John in the Sixteenth Century. The cathedral interior was decorated in decadent baroque styling. Every surface is gilded, marbled or painted in a both intricate and elaborate fashion. The altar piece is stunning, inlaid with lapis-lazuli depicting the apostles. The lamp that hangs above is made of solid silver and is held by two angels. Everywhere you look you see the Maltese cross and the floor is covered with decorated marble tomb slabs.
Needing refreshments after the humid and crowded conditions of the cathedral, we stopped at the famous Cafe Cordina for world famous pastizzi and coffee. The pastizzi were incredible; flaky pastry morsels filled with the local ricotta.
Revived we wound our way through more little streets and narrow stairways to the tunnels that make up the Lascaris War Rooms under the city. These tunnels, while initially started by the Knights, were extended during WWIand WWII to be used as a communication and planning hub for the Allied Forces. The rooms are in remarkable condition complete with a massive oil-painted wall map of Sicily and Malta. In another room was another flat raised map with wooden pieces and long handled mallets to move the pieces around on, just like out of a James Bond film.
Climbing out of the tunnels and in serious need of more refreshment we stumbled on yet another cafe in another lane way where we immediately ordered water and more water. Salads were ordered, along with more beverages. David calculated that 20% of the bill was water. Totally worth it!
After lunch we walked to the other end of the city to the Malta at War Museum, home of the George Cross that was famously awarded collectively to the people of Malta in 1942 for their bravery in facing the aerial onslaught. We learned that 16 tonnes of explosives were dropped on the country over a period of two months, more than the entire Blitz of London.
Following some shopping and gelato we returned to our penthouse for a plunge in the pool. Perfect!