Thursday, April 28, 2016

MALTA: Qawar, Bugibba, and St. Paul's Bay


After the quick overview of our 10-night vacation in Malta last post, I've decided to take the first and last days to combine into what was our home base for the trip:  Bugibba, one of the 3 cities of St. Paul's Bay.

To give a point of reference, the red-circled area is where I'm concentrating today.
It's an hour's bus ride from Malta's capital city, Valletta.

Our hotel for the stay was the Sunseeker Hotel Complex, found by our travel agent.
It so happens the entire complex was completing a huge renovation while we were there.
But in spite of that, we had a lovely apartment across from the entrance.

Lucky for us, we were a block away from the beach and a couple of blocks from the Bugibba Square.
You can see our hotel (top-right) from the square.
It's where we bought home-made red wine 3 times from the truck vendor, made by his dad.
Lots of memories from that spot.

We also ate there once, at Victoria, enjoying every delicious bite...and drop of hard cider.

But where we ate 3 times, our favorite, was La Stalla up behind our hotel.
That's where we first ate the Maltese specialties:  rabbit stew and stuffed beef olives (bragioli).
O M G.  The bragioli became our favorite meal everywhere we went.

On our last/10th full day, we decided to see what was in our own neighborhood,
and took the 5 km walk from one end of the promenade to the other, hitting all 3 cities:
(left to right on the map) St. Paul's Bay, Bugibba, and Qawar (the 'q' is not pronounced).

We first headed east from Bugibba to Qawar, with the Mediterranean on our left.

Qawar is where Malta's National Aquarium is and as far as we went east on our walk.
(Don't you love the bear trash receptacle?) 

Across the street from the aquarium was where Astrid spotted the heron weathervane.
The Maltese do NOT have the heron bird, so we assume the owner is either English or Dutch.

Also near the aquarium was where we first spotted the planets along the promenade.
We found Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, (sans) Mercury, Sun, and Neptune, 
all to scale in size and distance from each other.
But who would steal Mercury (top-right), the ruler of Astrid (Virgo) and moi (Gemini)???

Walking back to Bugibba and St. Paul's Bay, the Mediterranean Sea in now on our right.
Sometimes we ventured off the promenade and followed the path nearer the water.

And because it was unseasonably warm that week, the bathers came out to enjoy the sun. 
Can you blame them?

As we neared St. Paul's Bay, I zeroed in on St. Paul's Island way off in the distance.
It's barely visible to the naked eye but this is where St. Paul was shipwrecked, as told in Acts 27-28.
(I was magically able to zoom in on his statue at 3123 mm.)

In that same area is the jetty, the farthest west we went on our walk.

I think the whole wide world was enjoying that gorgeous day.
And yet it wasn't at all crowded!

Walking back home along the store fronts...lots of impressions.

That's when you're reminded of Malta's history involving the knights.
I'll never forget the knights or the Maltese cross!

Appropriately, we watched the sun set several of our nights.
You could say it all was...magical!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Malta Facebook Overview


We're back!  And, boy, do I ever have a lot to share....!

But as a starter, for those of you who didn't see it on Facebook, I posted images of something we did each day while out-n-about.  Our Internet was terrible at our hotel...so much so that I couldn't even pull up my Pic-Monkey collage program.  So I ended up posting an album most days, which I have now made into collages, once back home.

As a refresher, here's a map of the Maltese Islands:  Malta, Gozo and Comino.
We spent all but one day on Malta and did NOT visit Comino (more on why later).
The numbers on this Wiki map relate to what days we were there, as listed below.

Day 1, Friday:  Arrival

There is one 3-hour flight per day to and from Amsterdam to Malta on Malta Air.
And because we arrived at our hotel in Bugibba late afternoon, we had time to get settled,
eat real Maltese food (rabbit stew and stuffed beef olives bragioli) at a nearby restaurant,
 AND have gelato (the difference between gelato and ice cream?) while walking the promenade.

Day 2, Saturday:  Valletta Grand Harbour Cruise

They always say it's good to get an overview of something first
before you hone in on the specifics, right?
So we took the 1-hour bus ride from Bugibba to Valletta, got off in Sliema 
and walked around the harbor to our tour boat for a 75-minute ride.
Valletta is the capital city of Malta and has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2018.

It was totally worth the overview!  (wiki map)

Day 3, Sunday:  Marsaxlokk Fishing Village

Every Sunday there is a market in this eastern coastal village on the island,
so it was a no-brainer to make a day of it.
The 'x' in Maltese is pronounced 'sh' so Marsaxlokk = MARsa-shlock.
It's known for its colorful boats.

Day 4, Monday:  Blue Grotto

We did another overview of the island via a hop-on-hop-off bus
and stopped at the Blue Grotto on the south coast of Malta.
Malta survives from its tourism business, of which this is one of its highlights.

Day 5, Tuesday:  Dingli Cliffs

We took a regular bus to get to this out-of-the-way part of the southern coast.
Some of the cliffs rise 253 meters from the Mediterranean Sea, the highest point on the island.

Day 6, Wednesday:  Gozo Island

We signed up for this full-day excursion because it's the only way to do it properly/easily in one day.
A coach took us to all the highlights, including the megalithic temples from 3600 BC (top).
Seeing the Azure Window was one of the best highlights for us both (right-center).

Day 7, Thursday:  Addoloratta Cemetery

We passed Malta's largest cemetery the first day from the airport to our hotel in Bugibba
and knew immediately that one day we would visit it.
You learn so much about a people and their culture from their cemeteries.
One thing we learned:  it's all about F A M I L Y.
But then, this is a Roman Catholic culture, so it made sense.

Day 8, Friday:  Rabat

Mdina used to be the capital city of Malta, a walled, citadel city.
Rabat is a suburb just outside Mdina's city walls, within walking distance.
It so happens Rabat was preparing for the St. Joseph festival on Sunday,
so we got the best of all worlds that day, seeing the red velvet and banners everywhere.

Day 9, Saturday:  The Three Cities

Remember the harbor cruise we took our second day around the Valletta capital city?
There are 3 "fingers" that jut into the same Grand Harbor on the right.
Those are the 3 cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa (Birgu) and Cospicua, all in walking distance.
We walked up and down only the first two, which are the ones most populated,
but not nearly as touristy as Valletta.

Day 10, Sunday:  St. Paul's Bay Promenade

We made the wise choice to stay put our last full day on the island,
and walked the promenade along the bay for 5 km, 2 hours, enjoying the gorgeous day.
Later in the afternoon, Astrid even lay out in the sun and took a swim in the Mediterranean.
Malta does NOT have herons, so the weathervane is probably from an English/Dutch owner.

Day 11, Monday:  Departure

We had to get up at 3:45 a.m. to make our 7:40 a.m. flight back to Amsterdam.  UGH.
But whenever I see Amsterdam's flight tower, I always tell Astrid, "We're home!"
Even after doing a week's grocery shopping on the way back, we still arrived home by 1:30 p.m.
Isn't it strange how we are always excited to leave but equally excited to come back home!
There's no place like home, of course.

And now I'll start the long process of honing in the the specifics of the trip.
I've decided Malta is one of the Europe's best-kept secrets!


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Watercolor Sunday and Saturday's Color: March 2016


As we March along....

These are my Facebook Watercolor Sundays:

March 6 (photo manipulation):
"I hate housework!  You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later
you have to start all over again." --Joan Rivers


March 13 (photo manipulation):
"One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world
is to stand up and show your soul." --Clarissa Pinkola Estés


March 20 (photo manipulation):
"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." --Hal Borland


March 27 (photo manipulation):
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
--Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

My Facebook coloring posts for March:

(finished on 31 December 2012, posted on FB 5 March 2016)
How about a centerfold (2-page spread) of a different color.  Try extricating yourself
from all the political hubbub, right?  (From my Book of Kells)


(finished on 23 December 2015, posted on FB 12 March 2016)
From my Color Me Happy book, this reminded me of lotus flowers, for some reason...
which made me very...happy.


(finished on 10 March 2016, posted on FB 19 March 2016)
This design, from my Vintage Patterns book, reminded me of Spring.
I didn't want any same-colored petal to lie against another, which is why I added the orange
to the red and turquoise.  Weird, I know.  :)


(finished on 12 August 2004, posted on FB 26 March 2016)
I didn't know if/when I'd ever post this Celtic ABC design but thought it'd be appropriate
for this Easter weekend.  In Christianity, Jesus is called the:

Alpha and Omega
Beginning and the End
Christ, Cruicified

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now this!  Tomorrow Astrid and I fly to Malta for an 11-day, 10-night vacation, staying in Bugibba in St. Paul's Bay. If you want a head start on what we'll be seeing, just Google the Maltese Islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) and check out the images.  O M G!

(map from European Pilot Academy)

The islands are directly south of Sicily and were ruled throughout history by just about everyone (except America, silly).  They became independent in 1964, after 150 years of British rule, and joined the European Union in 2004.  Lucky for us, they're in the same time zone as the Netherlands.

To be continued once we return on the 18th.....


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Paasbrunch (Easter Brunch) the Dutch Way


The first thing to say is....

More Dutch you cannot get!

And then, out of the 145 apartments where we live in our senior complex, with 200+ residents, there is always a core of us who get together for special holiday events...like Easter brunch.  For those of us who don't have relatives nearby...or a church service...we have something to make us feel festive.  

This time there were 23 of us.  We started at 11 a.m. and finished two hours later.  But pay attention because this all happens in a sequence and in separate courses, one at a time.  Just when you think there couldn't possibly be more, it goes on...and on.

The table was set, waiting for us with glasses of orange juice.
Look at all that yellow.  So perfect for Spring and Easter.
As we all gathered, champagne was served and we gave our toast:  "Proost!"

Then baskets of French bread were added to the tables,
with both plain and herbal butters nearby....

...to accompany the choice of soup next being served:  chicken or vegetable (with meatballs).
Many, like Astrid, had one bowl of each.  And why not!

It wouldn't be Easter (or Sunday!) without a hard-boiled egg, of course.

But for some reason, I always forget that a salad is coming.
It's a ground potato-ham mixture with accompanying cherry tomatoes and silver onions,
and another boiled egg on top.
Notice that by this point my champagne is gone.

Which made for the perfect timing of the coffee or tea making its rounds.

Of course, we hadn't had enough to eat by then, so...
bring out the feeststol...the Dutch bread served at Christmas and Easter!
It's the almond-paste center that makes it different from the German stollen.
Astrid calls it a sugar bomb, but at only two times a year, who cares, right?!

Oh, and as if we hadn't had enough eggs already, there were scrambled eggs with Dutch spek/bacon!
The deli plate was for the rolls, in case you weren't full enough.

And finally, there was the canned fruit cocktail (which I actually grew up on, interestingly).
And a surprise Belgian chocolate Easter bunny, one for everybody.

Are you still hungry????
Over the course of 2 hours, it all settles in.

As does the getting to know each other better.
This is why we love these times together.  Fellowship.  Koinonia.

Going around the table, one by one, yakkity-yak.
These are the people we have grown to love, some of whom are my Rummikub mates on Fridays.

Riet and Ria (top-center) were two, besides Ineke, who bought and organized all the food,
with heavy financial subsidizing by our Poort 6 management:
we paid €3 per person!

All the familiar suspects....with Ineke, top right and bottom.

The lady sitting next to me turns 91 in June, 3 days after I turn 71.
I told Astrid I may rethink not wanting to live that long...if I can look like that!

As they say, all good things come to an end,
but not without help.

The residents' committee had everything under control, of course.
Let's call it  Dutch Cleaning Clean-up.

The remains of the day, with email addresses handed out....
(they all knew I was taking pictures for something).
Yup.  This was our celebration for Easter, and....

More Dutch you cannot get!