Total Pageviews

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Tuesday 15th May

Up a little earlier this morning and all ready waiting for the coach to pick us up at 9 a.m. However, the driver was a little late in arriving so when we got to the ferry terminal at Cirkewwa, we were ushered quickly on board and just made it before it sailed!!

Here is a copy of the HOHO bus route for Gozo courtesy of the Malta Sightseeing brochure:

Now, remember when I spoke before about our honeymoon and the fact that our first choice had been for a hotel in Malta?  Well, we spotted the hotel - Paradise Bay I think it's called.  We're now quite glad that we hadn't been able to book this hotel as there's absolutely nothing around it at all, apart from a newish looking hotel quite a distance from it.  Even after 32 years, there's nothing here apart from the hotel.  I really don't think we'd have enjoyed being so isolated even if it was our honeymoon!!

Here's a photo of the hotel taken from the ferry:

When we disembarked from the ferry the HOHO buses were waiting and we climbed on board, with the first stop we wanted to make being the Ggantija Temples, which is another prehistoric site.

After this visit, it was back  the HOHO bus and on to Victoria (Rabat) where we had lunch.  This is when we realised that we would not have time to walk to the Citadel to see that, walk back to the bus stops then go to Dwejra Bay to see the Azure Window, so it may actually have been best if we had chosen the earlier pick-up!!  However, we had a nice lunch and jumped back on the bus to our next destination, which was really quite spectacular.

After a relatively short visit here, it was time to board the bus again so that we'd be back in time to catch the 17.15 ferry back to Cirkewwa where our connecting coach would be waiting for us.  We had a coffee at the ferry terminal before boarding the ferry but, to our surprise when we got off again, it was an open-top bus that was waiting to take us back to Valletta, and not an ordinary coach.

On reaching Valletta we were very windswept indeed - our fault as we did have the choice of sitting inside and not on the top deck!!  After a welcome coffee and a shower at the hotel it was back out into town for dinner after a long day of travelling about.  However, it was very enjoyable and there were no real regrets apart from the fact that we didn't get to see the Citadel.  Perhaps that will just have to wait for a return journey back to Malta and Gozo in the future, but maybe before another 32 years have passed by!!

Monday 14th May

After breakfast we trudged up those 88 steps of the hotel, which were still not getting any easier, and made our way to catch the HOHO bus that would take the north/blue tour.  We planned to stop at the Mdina Glass Factory, Mosta to see the Mosta Dome then Mdina itself to have a look around there.

Here is a copy of the HOHO bus route for the north/blue tour courtesy of the Malta Sightseeing brochure:

The Mdina glass factory was quite fascinating as you get to see the glass blowers at work, and of course the chance to buy the many various pieces of glass that are made here.  It's a great chance to stock up on souvenirs and presents for taking home.

This is a very hot place to work!!

Beautiful lamps

Just some of the many wonderful things for sale
Our next stop was Mosta.  Unfortunately, when we got there around noon, we found that the Mosta Dome had closed at 11.45 a.m.  However, we still had plenty of time left for exploring and decided to re-visit Mosta by local bus at a later date.

We hopped back onto the HOHO bus ready for our next visit to Mdina.  We were not disappointed this time!  Mdina was just beautiful with its narrow winding streets and olde world charm. We had lunch here and a good old wander about until it was time to hop on the bus again to go back to Valletta.

Some photos of the narrow winding streets:

You need to pay for a ticket (5EU I think it was) to visit the church and the museum (one ticket does both).  I visited the church only, which was just stunning.  Wonderful stained glass windows and paintings, plus the most beautiful marble floors consisting of memorials - some photos:

After our visit here, it was time to hop on the bus again and then hop back off in Valletta.

This photo was taken from the bus as we were leaving Mdina - the horizon was sloping badly, so I have tried to fix it so that it looks a little better!!

As we we generally quite pleased with the service from Malta Sightseeing, we booked a trip to Gozo for the next day rather than taking the local bus.  This would consist of a coach to take us to the ferry at Cirkewwa and the services of the HOHO bus in Gozo (ferry was extra which was paid at the time of travel) then we would have the services of a coach back to Valletta.  There were three times given for the ferry that visitors had to take back from Gozo to Cirkewwa (15.45, 16.30 or 17.15).  The cost of this trip was 23EU per person, and we were given two pick-up times to choose from - we chose the later one of 9 a.m. but, with hindsight, we should have perhaps chosen the earlier one.  More on this trip in the next post.

We arrived back in Valletta in time to have coffee and cake in the Cafe Royale, which was very nice indeed.  After dinner that night it was back to the hotel and an earlier night to make sure we had an earlier breakfast to be ready for pick-up at 9 a.m.

Sunday 13th May

After breakfast I had time to nip down to the pool area to take some pictures:

This was Mothers Day in Malta, and everywhere seemed to be very busy, especially the bus station where we had gone to pick up a local bus heading for Marsaxlokk, the pretty fishing village we had passed through the day before.  We were disappointed not to get a space on the scheduled bus but, as if by magic, an extra bus appeared and we boarded with no problem and headed off.  I can't imagine that sort of thing happening in the UK, that's for sure!!

On a Sunday in Marsaxlokk there's a larger street market than usual, and boy was it busy!  All the restaurants were also busy and many had prior bookings because of the fact that it was Mothers Day.  However, we still managed to have a good look around and did manage to find some spaces to sit down to have some refreshing drinks prior to heading back to Valletta.

After spending a bit of time here, we caught the bus back to Valletta and explored some streets that we hadn't been in and we stumbled across another part with some stunning views over to Sliema. I think I'm right in saying that this was near Hastings Gardens.

It was a little disappointing that all the forts appeared to be closed as I'd have loved to explore these, but we did discover that there was to be a historical re-enactment at Fort St. Elmo on Sunday 20th May (we had missed one this Sunday), so we decided to go to see this in a week's time.

Being a Sunday, we found that quite a few restaurants that had been open on a weekday were closed on a Sunday, so we ended up back at Margo's for pizza and lasagne!!  However, I really liked the sound of the Caesar Salad, and I wasn't disappointed!!

After dinner it was back to the hotel for our usual nightcap on the balcony and to talk about our plans for the next day, which was to do the other HOHO bus tour (blue route).

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Saturday 12th May

We decided to do the HOHO (hop-on-hop-off) south (red) bus tour today.  This was booked through Malta Sightseeing whose buses run every 30 minutes.  There's another company called City Sightseeing who run a similar service, but their buses are not so frequent and you cannot use Malta Sightseeing tickets on these other buses (and vice-versa).  The routes however remain (I think) much the same. 

Here is a copy of the HOHO bus route for the south/red tour courtesy of the Malta Sightseeing brochure:

On boarding the bus you are supplied with earphones that you can plug into sockets on the seats which gives you a running commentary in various languages, so you get a history lesson as you drink in the scenery.  We passed through the pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk but we didn't get off here as we intended visiting here via the local bus service.  Our first stop was the Blue Grotto and we made our way to the little boats that take you through the caves and sparkling blue water (I think it cost 7EU per person).

You can use these steps or walk down the hill


Inside the caves

Calm blue water

Stunning blue

The boats that ferry you to and fro
After the trip we stopped for a while for a juice at the cafe then hopped back on the bus to go to our next stop, the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples.  These are just superb and well worth a visit. They are older than Stonehenge in the UK and the Egyptian Pyramids. The visitor centre and cafe here are just excellent.  Now, you need to be prepared for a long walk!  The first temple (Hagar Qim) is around 100 metres away from the visitor centre and you produce your ticket at the booth to gain entry.  The temples are now protected and covered by large sail type structures and are just fascinating.  You can then walk down a slope for around 600 metres towards the coast to visit the second temple (Mnajdra).  Remember to keep your tickets with you as you need your other ticket to produce at the security booth.  Our friends didn't walk with us to the second temple and it was fortunate that we had our own tickets with us as, if we had walked all the way down to the temple to find that our friends still had all the tickets in their possession would have been just awful!!  It's a gentle downward slope on the way there, but it's an uphill climb on the way back to the visitor centre, gentle or not!!  Thankfully, there's a lovely cafe where you can quench your thirst.

Some photos of Hagar Qim Temple:

On the way towards the Mnajdra there are also some nature walks marked out that you can take.  Some of the flowers that I spotted were recognisable as some that also grow in the UK.  At one part, there were some thistle type flowers that I decided to take a photo of so, I put the camera on macro mode, held it down near the flowerhead, focused and took the photo.  I didn't have my glasses on at this point so had no idea if the photo was even clear never mind anything else!!  It's only since I got home that I have discovered a little 'extra' in the picture - a flying wasp-like creature to the left of the flowerhead!!  Now, had I known that was there, I would have run a mile and the following picture would not exist!!

Some photos of Mnajdra Temple:

After a very welcome refreshing juice at the visitor centre we all hopped back on the bus to Valletta.  There was a Fair Trade Fair taking place in the Upper Barakka Gardens, so we had a look round that and a refreshment at the cafe before taking in the breathtaking views once more.

There were still crowds in the streets celebrating the football, and we actually saw the team on the open topped bus with their cup - more of that in a later post!!  It was soon time for dinner then back to the hotel to prepare for another busy day of sightseeing.