Gozo & Malta - Facts and Information
Day by Day 3: Malta
Xaghra & Ramla
Xlendi & Kercem
Mdina & Rabat
|Saturday May 19th
We had arranged a transfer at 0800 from the hotel and just made the 0815 ferry (we'd been after the next one) so had dropped bags at hotel in Valletta by about 1000. Into Valletta to explore, quite busy as two cruise ships in. Into St John's Co-Cathedral (charge), immense, lavishly decorated building heaving with tourists although as you spend so much time looking up you don't really notice the people that much. Cathedral museum not that interesting. Palace of the Grand Masters had big queue which our monthly tickets let us bypass. Corridors very impressive but rooms a bit disappointing. Down to the Armoury which has good displays. Wandered streets to end of peninsula, bit disappointing as quite tatty in places. Our Lady of Carmel Church open (small charge), modern building in Baroque style, bit understated but with marvellous sanctuary floor. Found entrance to St Paul Shipwreck Church on side, huge and impressive church. Got food (and wine) at Wembley Store and returned to hotel to shower, unwind, dine and imbibe.
Sunday May 20th
Good breakfast then very busy bus to Paolo. Friendly driver gave us wrong directions and we got lost. Fortunately found local whose grandfather had actually been one of the builders who discovered the Hypogeum and kindly took us there. Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time so still had time to look at displays before our guided tour. Hypogeum immensely impressive, multi-level underground temples. Walked to Tarxien Temples, not impressed, confusing site. Got fed up and headed for bus, bus didn't come, walked to Paolo main square, still long wait (service was supposed to be very frequent even on Sunday). To Archæology Museum in Valletta, worthwhile visit with fascinating exhibits. Shop had good range of books.
Monday May 21st
Bus to Mdina, long slow run through urban sprawl then pleasant countryside. Into Mdina, pleasant streets with old palaces and some upmarket touristy establishments. Into Cathedral (charge), large and impressive with interesting memorials on floor. Walked to north end of Mdina for good views. Getting busy with tourists so left by Greeks' Gate and headed into Rabat. Wanted to get to Dominican monastery before midday closing but got lost. Headed back to square, found friendly bakery stall and got various things to eat in sun watching world go by. St Paul's Church shut but saw someone at side door and went to ask about access. Not quite sure what happened next but ended up inside in group getting fairly comprehensive tour of impressive buildings and tombs (others we asked didn't seem to know what the group was but had just tagged along too). Next to St Paul's Catacombs, first one smallish and disappointing, main one immense and impressive. Then to Domus Romana, reasonable museum built around site of Roman town house with some remains in open air. Found St Mary of Jesus Church was now open, lovely church with beautiful oratory dedicated to St Joseph. Rabat pleasant with nice streets and little traffic. Bus back to hotel.
Tuesday May 22nd
Early bus to Mdina to be sure of connection with hourly service to Hagar Qim, pleasant ride through coastal scenery and fields. Walked down to disappointing museum and ticket office. Down paved path to Hagar Qim then another path to Mnajdra. Both sites very interesting although (necessary) awnings do detract somewhat. Set in very pleasant coastal area with various waymarked trails. We walked along headland to tower. Back to road in good time for bus on which we got last two seats for rather uncomfortable journey back to Mdina. Into Rabat to bakery stall for third time then into Mdina to Carmelite Priory Museum for interesting guided tour, church very fine. Long wait for bus back to Valletta (frequent service wasn't).
Wednesday May 23rd
Arranged late check-out at hotel. Walked into Floriana to gardens by walls but rather unloved and scruffy. Hit St Publius Church at end of mass, last of the Knights' churches to be built and very grand. Then into Valletta busy with cruise groups wandering round with vacant expressions and not really seeing anything of the town. Found lovely small church of St Catherine of Italy open. Then to St Francis of Assisi Church between services, very grand inside. Jesuit Church interesting but fairly plain. Finally to St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, bit of a culture shock after Gozo and Malta churches - large, plain but stylish Georgian building with two ex-pat English ladies on the door. Back to hotel for shower, lunch and check-out. Taxi to airport is fixed rate of €20 (steep). Good flight back, picked up car to head for Premier Inn at Hayes for the night.
Thursday May 24th
On road about 0430, home about 0900.
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