Saturday, April 20, 2013

Valletta, Malta

When we scheduled these back-to-back itineraries, we knew there would be some overlap between them that would have us visiting the same ports twice.  The last port for both itineraries is Valletta, Malta, and is a new port for us.  For our first stop, we have engaged a private driver and tour guide to show us around the island of Malta and to hopefully be able to have some ideas for what we might like to see and do when we are back in 12 days for our last port day.

As always, we want to learn about where we'll be and come up with some things we might like to consider.  In this case, we can present our guide and driver with a list of what we've identified as being of interest and then use their expertise to sort out the things that are further away and / or are better seen with a knowledgeable guide versus those that are suitable for a DIY visit.

We started our research at Cruise Critic, of course, which provides information about where the ship will dock, how to get into town, what currency is (or isn't) accepted (no US dollars), and even what souvenirs to look for.  But for more information about the area itself, we found the Visit Malta site to be easy to navigate as you would hope the tourist information site for an area would be. 

There is a relatively new lift that takes passengers from the pier where the ships dock up to where they can more easily go into town. For one Euro, you can take a 25-second ride to the Upper Barrakka Gardens and the city centre.  From there, you can take a taxi, a bus, or just walk.

One advantage we have is that a fellow passenger and DISBoards member has been to Malta many times and, when I asked her what she would recommend, here is her reply:

The Palace of the Grandmaster is interesting. St. John's Cathedral is breathtaking. The Grand Harbour is beautiful too, but you should be able to get a good view of it when the ship docks.

You'll want to ask the driver to take you to Mdina & Rabat. Mdina is a medieval walled city that's quite interesting to walk through. People still live there today. Slema and St. Julian's are beautiful too.

In terms of food. Definitely try a "pastizzi". These are filo wrapped pastries that you'll be able to find just about anywhere. I prefer the ricotta (tal joobon) ones to the mushy pea (tal pizzelli) variety myself. They make a great snack or quick breakfast or lunch. Ask your driver, he'll take you to his favourite spot.

You'll find the cuisine similar to Italian. Lots of seafood, rabbit stew, stuffed eggplant and zucchini, pizza etc. The baked goods are primarily almond based - so be careful if you have a nut allergy.

So you can see that we have a great opportunity ahead of us to explore a new place, and we can't wait!

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