While I had wanted to go on a tour today, I made the decision to explore Valletta more, rather than see the rest of the Island. It’s hard to leave this beautiful city.
10 am: Today I began by visiting the St. James Cavalier Center for Creativity. I saw an advertisement for the Malta Arts Festival during July and decided to check out an art gallery. The featured gallery at St. James focuses on images of the self, raising questions of identity and self-portrayal. While the feature gallery was quite small, there were a number of admirable pieces that got me back to thinking about drawing and painting. At the moment, I’m inspired to do my own self portrait when I get back home in a month, as I’m curious to how I would portray myself. Now I just have to follow through with it in August…
11 a.m: After I finished walking through the museum, I ordered a bottle of water from the bar. Although I HATE bottled water, the locals say the tap water is no good to drink, because it is desalinated from ocean water. As a result, I’ve been obligingly buying bottled water. I forget how fortunate I am to live in two states with perfectly drinkable tap water, and arguably, for Minneapolis at least, very tasty tap water.
Anyways, the bartender gave me some suggestions of places to see and visit, and was very friendly. I decided to head to the Upper Barrakka Gardens across the street. It had beautiful flowers and a great view of the water.
11:30 a.m: After strolling through the gardens I headed for the Valletta waterfront, where all the cruise ships dock. The shops and restaurants there looked underwhelming and overpriced, so I passed on them. I was in a walking kind of mood and took the first right turn I could to go up a hill to higher ground, but that turn was about two miles past the waterfront. Once on high ground, I realized I was quite a ways out and no longer in tourist country. However, I continued to walk on the narrow sidewalks, awkwardly saying excuse me, when stationary people would not move. I must not know something about sidewalk rules or etiquette here. However, I saw Jeff’s Pastizzeria in the distance. I had been looking for a place to get a pastizzi, and a good one at that. Since I had walked two towns over to Marsa, I figured it was a good place to try one. Pastizzi are bread turnovers stuffed with meats, cheeses and vegetables. They are street food and Malta is known for them. Jeff recommended a chicken and mushroom, as that is his favorite. As I walked back, pastizzi in hand, I could not help to think the whole endeavor was worth it. People on the sidewalk seemed to notice me less as I walked back a different route, munching on the chicken and mushroom turnover.
1:15 p.m: While schlepping myself back to Valletta, I decided to stop at a café and get a cool drink. After a nice chat with the two waitresses, who pointed out the American embassy around the corner and a commemorative plaque from Bon Appetit in their restaurant, I ordered a cool Cisk and sat outside to do a little sketching. As I sketched, many bystanders stopped to look at my sketching and comment or just stare for a bit. Most notably, a group of children, probably ranging ages 8-11 stopped to talk to me, in Maltese. After opening my mouth and saying I speak English, they switched over to English and began asking me questions of what I was drawing and why. It was quite entertaining and a fun conservation at that.
2 p.m: After I finished my beer, I headed on back to Valletta. Passing by those same kids, one yelled “Paint me, paint me, paint me” as I walked by, till I broke out laughing. Once I had weaved my way back into Valletta, I realized it was almost 2:30 p.m. and places were beginning to close, bar a couple restaurants. I headed over to a small shop and ordered a milkshake before heading to my deli of choice, La Pira. Paul, his son and new waitress were present when I walked in the open doors. Luckily La Pira does not close till seven, but most restaurants and shops are locked up by 4 p.m. I ordered a salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, feta, corn, olives and balsamic. While the food seems to take longer than you would expect to make, I’ve noticed it is because of the amount of time put into each salad and each sandwich. The salad was excellent, much better than the caprese salad I paid twice as much for last night. After finishing my late lunch, I asked if I could take a picture of the place and I was emphatically given permission.
I’ll be sad when I cannot eat their every day, when on Gozo, starting Sunday.
3 p.m: Back in my room, I head to the shower immediately as it has been a humid 80-degree day. After a nice little siesta, I headed downstairs to write this post. While typing I started up a conversation with an kind Argentinean man, who has been traveling Europe since May 14th and is a tennis teacher back home in a small town 300 miles from Buenos Aires. With my broken Spanish and his broken English, we were able to carry on a conversation. Our conversation brought me to a point I’d been thinking about earlier. He has been traveling alone for the past two months, and says it is quite crappy at this point, but he still has more places to go. While I’ve been here a couple days, it can get quite lonely planning activities for one person, as there is no other voice to object or ok the plans.
Although I’ve really enjoyed my time in Valletta and wish I could spend more time on the main island of Malta, I’ll be happy to start my program with the group of university on Sunday. The people I meet here today may not be here tomorrow, and it’s here where you start to value the consistency of traveling with people, even though it can be a pain from time to time.
Tomorrow, I don’t know what I will do. Maybe I’ll tour the rest of the island or maybe I’ll enjoy my last day in Valletta. Only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to head to the hotel restaurant as it is really the only place open after seven.