Today we visited one of the 3 Cities on the other side of Malta Harbour - Vittoriosa (or Birgu as the locals call it)
As we awoke, we heard bells. Lots of bells. Then the sound of canons. What could it be we thought. Maltese Independence Day.
We got ourselves ready, not knowing if the public holiday would quieter things down, or liven them up. Well, it wasn’t a hectic day by any means.
We walked the few metres to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, and took the Barrakka Lift down to the Harbourside. It’s quick(25 seconds) and cheap - in fact zilch as they charge nothing if you have a return ferry ticket. We walked across to the harbour and found a tiny jetty. Another couple stopped a minute, then walked on. The returned in a minute to tell us that the ferry terminal was around the corner. It was there, and so was a reasonable crowd.
As we waited, a large modern cargo vessel departed for Sicily.
When the ferry arrived, J asked for 2 return seniors tickets - no ID - cost was 1.8 euro!
The trip took about 15 minutes, and we got good views as we entered the harbour, passing Fort St Angelo on our left.
We alighted at a temporary berth - reverse in and drop the gang plank. We walked along the wharf and came to a huge repurposed wharf building labelled AUM ( later we discovered this was the American University of Malta). At the end of the harbour is a pedestrian bridge, and on the other side a rectangular narrow dock (Dock No. 1) which provides an attractive foreground to the buildings on all sides. We walked across towards some cafes and there was some sort of celebratory function in a small square. We walked along a bit and found a small cafe, Aghmilli Kafe, where we stopped for a well earned cappuccino.
We then made our way along the road which rose up a ramp giving great views of the harbour and thousands of yachts and motor yachts. Based on some For Sale notices J saw in a window, some of the big ones would be +- $50M or more. The lives of the rich and famous! To our right we could see part of the fortifications built to protect the city. Maltese flags were flying all over the place. So it was quite colourful. We walked further along and came to St Lawrence’s Church which was closed. Looking for interesting things, we went up some steps and around the side. J pushed the door and it was open. So he turned around to tell C and the wind blew the door shut and it was now locked. Expletive deleted.
Just along the Harbourside past some huge motor yachts, we came upon the Maritime Museum. A hastily written notice stuck near the door “Free entry today”. As it happens we have a Malta Heritage pass; in any case, we went for a look around. Quite nicely laid out, and easy to move through. Plus they had many fans, so J and C stopped frequently for some aeration! Some of the models of old sails vessels were extremely intricate and would have taken thousands of hours of effort. J and C could think of at least one friend who probably has been here, and if not, wishes he had been!
Along a bit further we came to a quaint little dock, tucked in behind the fort, and nearly going right through to the Kallkara harbour.
As they walked back they noticed a narrow stairway so they struggled up to some narrow streets behind the main waterfront buildings. We walked along here, and took a left which led us up to the Birgu town centre. Victory Square. It was fairly quiet, with on,y a few cafes open, but no other shops. We snooped around and counted the flies in the food display cabinets. Finally selecting Cafe du Brazil as the pick ( ie less flies) here we had a nice snack - salad wrap, cheese and onion toastie, and cold drinks. C tossed back another Aperol Spritz!. It was quite warm, but in the shade with a breeze it was nice.
We had figured out that the streets behind the square were a must see - very old buildings, some 1500s. Some Auberge’s (originally Inns). The residents are quite house proud, so attractive doors and windows, potted plants etc. and the roadways ( lanes really) paved with stone which has been polished smooth by years of wear. Lots of photo ops here for J (unfortunately for C!). Some houses had washing lines outside windows, and clothes fluttered gently in the breeze (you can see where this is heading, can’t you “my friend”!). Other sites included the Armoury of the Knights of Malta, and the the Cottonera Lines which are a line of fortifications in Cospicua and Birgu, built in the 17th and 18th centuries to form the outer defences of the Three Cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua. (Thank you Mr Wikipedia)
Turning back down the hill towards the water, we came to the Inquisitors Place. Again this was free today. We spent some time here - lots of stone stairs, dungeons, cells, torture chambers, and inquisition room. But some other interesting displays including some about Maltese Christmas traditions. Some reviewers think this museum whitewashes history (“ the torture didn’t really hurt and was only used on guilty people!”) but it was still worth visiting.
Time for home (nearly), so back down to a cafe for a coffee and milkshake, then back to the ferry wharf. J and C barged their way to the front of the “queue” and got seats on the top deck. As the sun was lower, and there were clouds about, there were some great views of the city as we chugged out of the harbour. It was very restful, apart from the occasional “boom!” as another cannon was fired from the fort. Minutes later we back in Valetta, and a quick trip up in the lift saved tired legs from more torture! Then home for a siesta!
At 7:30 we walked around to Merchant Street and sat down at the Anglo - Maltese restaurant. C had Beef Olives, and J had roast veal. Not brilliant but ok in a counter meal sort of way. Perhaps Stewed Rabbit might have been a bit more “local”. c had another Aperol Spritz - seems like Moscow Mules all over again! We had some ice cream as a refresher. J asked the waiter for the check; he wrote some hieroglyphics on a piece of paper. J asked if they took cards and he said “yes, there is a surcharge - double”. J suspected this might be a form of humour!
Then a walk around the locale. A Symphony concert was underway in the Opera House, but as it is open, the music can be heard streets away. And dozens of people stand outside and crane their necks to see in. Even applauding with the paying audience! J and C anticipated fireworks, so we went to the Upper Barrakka gardens and looked at the floodlit cities opposite, waiting patiently. Seems perfectly safe - lots of families with small children, couples, tourist groups, etc. it’s all well lit. No fireworks.
Back down St Paul’s St, and a poor rendition of Don’t Dream it’s over wafted up from the cafe below.
Health Summary - climbing legs are getting better. No fluid retention issues. No dehydration - we are drinking a lot (water!). Backs still giving some niggles - especially first thing. Getting plenty of sleep (except when the $%@! bells wake us up!)
Not sure what we will do tomorrow - let’s wait and see.....