A weekend in Malta: Southern Sunday

We had SO much fun on the north tour Saturday that we decided to spend Sunday on the south tour.  Again, we began at Balluta Bay in the morning.  After seeing how quickly the time passed yesterday, we tried to be a bit more strategic, deciding ahead of time which stops would be our priorities, and we settled on the Hypogeum, Marsaxlokk Fishing Village, and the Blue Grotto.  This meant taking in the view for the first 12 stops, including the entry to Valletta, the Auberge de Castille and the office of Malta’s Prime Minister, Valletta Harbour (a surviving inhabited walled city), and Fort St. Elmo.

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Our first stop was beyond words: the Hypogeum.  T had found tickets online for an audio tour, and we were pretty stoked about that because the site has VERY limited entry for the sake of its preservation, which has been greatly compromised in the past.  Conservators have worked incredibly hard to restore the site, and now carefully control the humidity, temperature, and movement within the space.  For the same reason, the site has also undergone lengthy closures in recent years.  So, imagine our delight when it turned out there were a couple of last minute tickets at the door reserved for walk-ins!!  We had about 40 minutes until our tour, so we walked around the local town for a bit.  The Hypogeum is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is an underground Neolithic temple complex from 2500 BC. Yes, BC!  It features niches, oracle altars, and wall paintings.   Part of preserving the site means you cannot take in ANYTHING, including phones or cameras, because of the risk of dropping them or bumping into something.  I actually think this is brilliant as it also helps you to stay present in the midst of this rare opportunity to walk in a space that is more than 4500 years old.  Happily, their website includes photos if you’d like to get a sense of what it’s like, but as T and I so enjoyed the surprise of having no idea what to expect, I won’t share them here (spoilers!).  You’re welcome to click this link if you’d like to see.

We left feeling almost euphoric.  It really is a special site.  From there, we stayed on the bus for a while again, passing the beautifully conserved Vittoriosa Waterfront, the triumphal gate at Bieb Is-Sultan, and the Zejtun churches: the Parish church and St. Gregory’s.

Our next stop was Marsaxlokk, a colourful seaside village known for it’s fresh fish.  We were a bit disappointed to find that the markets weren’t in full swing, but as we had time before another bus anyway, we decided to take the opportunity to relax, take in the scenery, and sit down at one of the outdoor dining areas.  It’s quite neat: the restaurants are all across the street, and there is an incredibly wide boulevard along the water where each restaurant has a dining area set up.

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We ended up taking a seat at La Reggia.

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We got to choose our fresh fish off of a platter and have it custom cooked for us which was a new experience!  To start, we were brought fresh baked miniature buns, paired with another fantastic local oil and vinegar.  Once we had ordered, an amuse bouche was brought out and successfully whetted our appetites!

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The fish was as fresh and delicate as you might expect, topped with a light basil sauce and cherry tomatoes.  We also ordered a seafood pasta to share, and even split in half (which they kindly did for us for both mains, without us even having to ask!) it was a generous portion.  Alongside, we enjoyed roasted au gratin style potatoes and what I think was a type of homemade sauerkraut but I can’t remember.  I do remember that everything was made to a high standard and that I could’ve easily eaten the entire meal twice.

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Our final stop of the day was the Blue Grotto, a natural cave with almost surreal blue water.  We sat on the rocks for a long time, mesmerized as we watched the waves crash upon the rocks, and the pale sky blue that even showed in the spray.  We followed a walkway toward the cave, carefully avoiding the waves that sometimes crashed up and onto the path.  If not for having to catch the final bus of the day, I’m sure we would’ve stayed hours longer.  Let’s just enjoy the view together, shall we?

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Returning to the apartment, we were chased by the sunset which cast burning oranges and pinks across the sky.  We decided to treat ourselves once more to the amazing pizza from Fresco’s, and got our things organized for the morning.  Another weekend getaway was coming too quickly to its close.

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