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Monday, 4 June 2012

Saturday 19th May

Today we woke up to find things a little unusual - it was cloudy and there was no sun!!  However, not to be put off by this, we headed to the bus station and took a local bus back to Marsaxlokk again to have another look around on what would hopefully be a quieter day.  I was feeling a bit cold so bought a heavier T-shirt at the market - by doing that of course, the sun then came out!!

Grey skies to start with

Blue sky started to appear

Beautiful lace umbrellas for sale
We were back in Valletta for lunch and tried out the 282 Coffee Shop for a change - it was very nice indeed.  After that we had another walk up to Upper Barrakka Gardens then decided to chill out at the hotel for a while.  I never tired of the views from the gardens, or from seeing the cats while there!!

I took a few photos at the hotel.  As it had cleared, I had been hoping for a nice sunset, but the cloud cover came back!!

There was still loads of time to relax prior to our pick-up time of 9 p.m.  We had decided not to eat prior to leaving as we reckoned there would be food on offer at the village.  We had also decided to book this tour rather than just hopping on a local bus as we discovered that the last bus going back to Valletta was 11.15 p.m. and we were unsure as to whether that would be too early.  As it happened, it would have been too early and we'd have missed everything, so it actually had been better to book - we had made the right decision!!  The bus was a little late in arriving, but it was quite a big coach and it was quite full, but we were soon off and on our way.

On our arrival about 15 minutes later, we got off the bus and our guide took us through the streets to the church in the village, the Parish Church of Tarxien.  He took us into the church and also explained that the statues and the elaborate bandstand in which the brass band were playing were actually made from wood and painted to look like marble and are only in place during the festa.  They looked marvellous and you'd never have guessed they were all wooden!!  The guide also said that there would be an aerial firework display and also the huge Catherine wheels that were set up in the square.  He also told us that these fireworks are all made by the men of the villages, and that there have been quite a few fatalities as a result, with one family suffering six fatalities a few years ago.  The fireworks are all made and displayed free - no extortionate costs for the displays such as there would be here in the UK.  We had been right in thinking that there would be food stands - there were - lots of them!!  Most of them were selling fast food such as burgers and kebabs, but what the heck, we were on holiday after all!!  The whole place was positively buzzing!!!

All made from wood!!
Then the bangs began - the aerial display was underway!!  But, where to stand?  In the square near the Catherine wheels that the guide had said would be like nothing we'd ever witnessed before, or go for a better view to see the aerial display??  We opted to stay in the square so that hopefully we'd a get a good view, hence the reason my photos of the aerial display aren't that good!!  I had to rely on a (not so) steady hand or by placing the camera on a large speaker we were standing next to!! We thought it prudent to move from there before our ear drums were blasted with music!!  So, although I had a fairly good spot for the first few photos, I didn't have such a good one for the later ones.

Now, a note about health and safety in case anyone is worried about that aspect.  Well, don't be worrying - there is none!!  People were just milling about everywhere, even where the big Catherine wheel displays were but, the Police were on hand and they eventually put everyone, including us, behind portable barriers, and I had a great view.  Well, that didn't last long.  Soon, people were milling around everywhere again, and the Police weren't bothered one little bit!! So, if you attend one of these festas, just be careful where you stand, use a bit of common sense and enjoy the experience!

These photos aren't that good, but here's the best selection from the aerial display:

After this finished, preparations began to light the Catherine wheels.  People moved out of the way from each one, but not very far, and in fact some of the young lads who had obviously been instrumental in their construction, were running about under them and must have been getting covered in the flying sparks.  In fact, I thought at one point that I'd be going back to the hotel with singed hair and holes in my clothes!!  What an experience!!  This is really not to be missed if you have the chance to go.

I have some (not so good) photos of the Catherine wheels and did take some video, but I'm not sure if the videos will upload or not as they may be in the wrong format.  I'll start with some photos and will try to upload a video or two later.  The last four photos here are of a contraption that opened up as the Catherine wheel span round, revealing a lovingly painted religious scene to the tune of Ave Maria.  As it opened, the young lads cheered and danced and whooped in excitement!!

Yes, this chap was close!!

The painting began to open up as the Catherine wheel span round

Opened more

Fully open to cheers and whooping from the young lads in the crowd

The detail is incredible
At the end of the display we headed back to our coach, leaving the local people to celebrate - probably long into the night!!  It's just as well we booked the tour to see this festa - remember me saying that the last bus back to Valletta was 11.15 p.m.?  Well, we didn't get back to the hotel until 1.30 a.m. and we were the first to be dropped off!!

This was another night where I think I was sleeping before my head hit the pillow!!

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