Friday, October 16, 2015

Malta & Some Blooming Trees in Toronto

It was a bright and early start to the day in Valletta, Malta. We started our day in the main dining room for breakfast. I was still hoping that SOMEWHERE on the boat would have eggs benedict. Sigh, no luck. Apparently one of the ways they have cut costs is by not providing this dish almost everyday. I'm still not sure why, it's not like they aren't already using tons of eggs and butter everyday... but anyway...

We were seating at a table fit for ten with 2 other couples. Between the 6 of us, we spoke 3 different languages, so not even awkward small talk was happening there.

We headed off shore pretty early and made our way to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. I didn't realize just how high up everything was compared to the port, so we were pretty pleased when we found an elevator. Before you laugh, remember, our day was going to be filled with walking and the prospect of not having to walk the equivalent of 10-16 stories was pretty nice, The ride up cost 1 Euro each. Totally worth it (so much so that we did it again later in the day, ha!)

We explored the gardens,which were a lovely splash of green in an otherwise very white/cream landscape.

I took this photo because of the heart of the right. It had "I love David with all my heart" written in it. Awww.

After the gardens we started to explore the streets. It was quite early so the streets were especially quiet. I loved the buildings. Several had these screen-room style balconies. Someone (I think Shauna) mentioned that they were designed so that ladies could sit and enjoy the outdoors without their legs being seen. It sounded like it started off as a royal house sort of thing and then it became a trend because of that.

I just love how the buildings are mostly beige and then there's just these fabulous splashes of colour, either in the balconies or the signs.

We wandered around the Grandmaster's Palace exterior. I kind of wanted to check out the interior, but David didn't (plus it cost money and this was nearing the end of the vacation), so we carried on.

We wandered several streets until we made our to the Lower Barrakka Gardens, which were interesting but not quite as decorated as the Upper ones, and then went back to the Upper ones around 11:30. 

We ordered a cold drink each and sat in the shade for a bit. At 12:00 there was a cannon firing, so we got a prime spot to watch that. It was cool to see. It's weird though, they load two, but only set off one.

We rode the elevator down (that part is free) and I saw the first of several Maltese cats.

We went back to the boat for  bit of a rest and a meal. Once we felt revitalized we headed back out, further into the city for some good old fashioned self led tours.

The first part of this journey was walking up the equivalent of those 16 stories from earlier. There isn't a lift on both sides, so this time we had to walk up. When you start up the hill, it doesn't seem so bad, and then suddenly the sun feels hotter and you are out of breath. And just when you think you're done, you see 2 options, continue up this gradual but awful slope OR take a right and go up 50 stairs. We were feeling "crazy" so we took the stairs. Ultimately it seemed to be a shortcut. We made our way towards the bus terminal because there was a major fountain there. The fountain wasn't even running, so really, not that impressive. 

However, we found a cool plaza of sorts with all sorts of sculptures and statues,

We also passed by the Bros Bar. We really should have seen if they were open. I'm curious what it would have looked like inside. One of things that didn't really cross my mind while there, but that I regret a bit was not checking out any of the local stores or restaurants. I think we would've enjoyed that a bit. We were more oriented on exploring the outdoor areas of the city.

We found a pretty cool botanical garden. One thing we learned about Malta is there are a lot of cats. There are several shelter/water/food stations set up all of the place for them. However, what do cats like... shady green areas- like the botanical garden. You'd think it was a cat sanctuary and not a garden with how many we spotted there! 

After the garden, we made our back to the boat. The good news is that it was downhill! It had turned into another hot day so we were pretty spent!

Dinner was a formal night, and after the 10 miles of walking we had done, we both definitely needed to freshen up before dinner. For dinner, I had seafood and prime rib. David has soup and chicken. I accidentally ordered my prime rib medium rare... Oops, it came out and was basically blue. I had to send it back. The one I got back wasn't much better so I only ate a bit of it. Oh well, I mean, medium rare should be more cooked then a thawed piece of meat, but also, I should have asked for medium well. The croquettes that came with it were basically deep fried piped out mashed potatoes. I can definitely say that the food was a much more impressive experience on my 2012 Royal Caribbean cruise. I think we were also kind of getting tired of the specific flavours available.

Anyway, the next day was an at sea day. It was mostly spent getting ready to head home. We enjoyed some time in the solarium and also played in the casino some. We checked out the dinner menu and just weren't feeling it. I checked out our balance and saw we still had a credit so we decided to splurge on Izumi, the a la carte sushi place on board. It was worth it and definitely a welcome change of flavours.

Our last sunset of the cruise.

And an out of focus shot of the glistening water.

A few other kind of irritating ends to the trip- we couldn't check into our Al Italia flights until the airport. Which was frustrating, especially after our amazing trip to Europe with KLM. It all got worked out and we weren't the only ones impacted. Thankfully the original seats I had selected were somehow retained and David and I were seated together for our long flight in a pair of two. These seats weren't too roomy, but at least it was only each other imposing on the other's personal space. 

The flight was about 10 hours and there was no personal tv screens. It was long and boring, and daytime so even sleep wasn't easy to come by. However, we survived!

By the time we got to Toronto we were grateful that we were staying there for the night. We were both overtired and very frustrated with the day not being over. However, we got it all worked out, stored our luggage in the correct terminal (finally) and then made it to the hotel and found some dinner.

The next day we checked out and got picked up by my brother for a lovely day of visiting in Toronto. It was a bit of a cloudy day, but we still enjoyed a walk in the park. It was pretty awesome to see the cherry blossoms and magnolias in bloom. We also enjoyed an excellent lunch at a Cuban restaurant 

After a nice visit with family and feeling so much better we made our way home on a late night flight. We finally got home around 1:30AM or so and wow, did that feel good!

David had a brutally early start the next day- he had to go straight into training. I had the day off and spent most of the day at my parents visiting with the kitties who were so happy to see me!

So there it all is, months later, but I wanted to document it!