Browsing Tag

seafood

Africa, Europe, Uncategorized

Everywhere is near in Malta

December 18, 2017 • By

Where is Malta?  Is Malta a country?  Why are you going to Malta?

These are a few questions I filtered from friends and family when I announced my “Chasing Christmas” trip to Europe.  It seemed liked a great place to relax and absorb streaming rays of sunshine before heading to the Christmas Markets on the mainland.

Fantasy Aisle, The rocky formations of Malta's shoreline

The rocky formations of Malta’s shoreline

Everything is close in Malta because it’s only 316 square kilometers (122 square miles) that means it’s easy to travel everywhere by car, bus or boat but traffic is horrendous at times. Malta enjoys hot, dry summers (40°C / 100°F) and mild winters (20°C / 68°F) appealing to beach goers and history seekers year-round.  It’s home to approximately 400,000 people with another 30,000 workers, foreign retirees and transient people.  More Maltese people live in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States than in Malta today.

Locals are quick to describe Malta as a “small country with a long history” and that’s a modest description for this impressive and strategic archipelago located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy and Libya.  Unlike many other islands, Malta’s formation is not attributed to volcanic activity but rather rising sea levels that likely engulfed a connecting land bridge between Europe and Africa during the last ice age.  The mighty Mediterranean giveth and taketh.

Fantasy Aisle, Colorful boats at the Marsaxlokk fishing village

Colorful boats at the Marsaxlokk fishing village

The Maltese people are a mix of Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, English and Portuguese as evidence of their language and diverse culture and more Europeans and Africans are coming all the time.  It’s a Christian country with about 85-95 percent of the population identifying as Catholic (or lapsed Catholic).  There is one mosque located on Malta for those practicing Islam, a representation of the changing demographics in the country. My guide joked, “there are 365 churches in Malta, one for every day of the year.”  To say there is a church on every corner is one thing; but to try and count them would be quite impossible.  There are churches on every block and religious statues ensconced in glass or carved into buildings reach high above many street corners. Often at the intersection of Christianity and Islam, Malta served as home to the Order of the Knights of St. John (of Jerusalem) for roughly 250 years. The Knights converted the population to Catholicism and prevented the Ottoman Empire from expanding to Malta.  They are most known for establishing Valletta as the Capital City and creating schools, hospitals and reinforcing Malta’s military might and essential presence in the Mediterranean.

Fantasy Aisle, Malta landscape and the Mediterranean Sea

Malta landscape and the Mediterranean Sea

Malta is a place to go for relaxation.  Nothing moves fast except maybe the tide crashing against the jagged shoreline.  When I asked my guide Joe if he ever wanted to leave or travel somewhere else he said, “Life is very short.  You can choose to make it happy or ugly.  We live a nice life here.”  He served on the police force for 27 years before retiring with a stable pension.  He now works part time as a driver /guide until he convinces his wife to retire and his son finishes university.

There is so much to see and do in Malta that it’s overwhelming.  The rich history of Malta can best be described as ancient, ingenious, strong and adaptive.  Visiting the megaliths on the southern part of the island discovered in the last 200 years, indicate an advanced native culture dating back to 3200 – 3600 BC.  Archeologists found “free standing” rock structures believed to be older than Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids in Egypt.  Most of Malta’s past is captured in the limestone buildings scattered across the island and researchers and archeologists suggest these megaliths now UNESCO World Heritage Sites served as religious places including living quarters and areas of mass burials.  Walking through the what remains of these structures is like stepping into a time warp.

Fantasy Aisle, Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, Malta

Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, Malta

Aqua and baby blue colored peaceful seawater gives way to mysterious and deep dark deceptive waters as the Mediterranean Sea protects yet holds the islands hostage.  Malta is small but fierce.  The sea is in control and delivers towering scenic cliffs, wind carved beaches and diverse cultures.  It’s a place where people feel both claustrophobic and free and where history is layered in its pale golden vanilla buildings. The landscape is a patchwork of fields interspersed with scattered rocks.  Land is limited and nothing can be wasted.  Farmers grow potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, olives, capers and grapes for wine and fisherman catch seabass, seabream, grouper and snapper.  Each village produces something different but it’s not enough food to support the population making imports vital. Restaurants deliver “Mediterranean diets” with enormous influence from Italian dishes. There is an abundance of culture in Malta and locals make art, music and dance a part of their everyday life.

Fantasy Aisle, UNESCO World Heritage site, large megaliths believed to be built 3600BC-3200BC

UNESCO World Heritage site, large megaliths believed to be built 3600BC-3200BC

Explore Malta’s temple history through excavated sites, learn about the significance of its location, the power struggle between Christianity and Islam, bask in the sunshine, eat and drink but mostly be inspired by this country’s diversity and its persistence to exist and survive against behemoths.  Malta is ocean waves beating away at the islands surface, wind sweeping the streets and whooshing through the air, horns piercing ears and the stillness and silence of hidden coves.

My guide Joe summed it up, “Malta is a mine of gold and people don’t appreciate it.”

I do.

I hope the Maltese people can hold onto their identity for a little longer.  It’s a special place.

 

 

 

 

 


General travel, North America, Travel Tips

A Sample Alaskan Itinerary

August 28, 2017 • By

Alaska Travel Recommendations

These are my Alaska travel recommendations if you plan on visiting the state. This sample itinerary will give you an idea of where to stay, where to eat, who to consult for tour info, what to see, and where to go in this rugged paradise.

Alaskan Guide Extraordinaire:  Brooke Edwards, Wild World Wanderings

Girwood/Mt.Alyeska

Distance from Anchorage: 45 minutes by car

StayMt. Alyeska Resort

Eat: Seven Glaciers Restaurant, Jack Sprat

Do: Summer – Hike Mt. Alyeska (In Winter – Downhill ski, cross country, snowmobile), Kayak or Surf Turnagain Arm

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Sea Lion Sightseeing with Kenai Fjord Tours

Sea Lion Sightseeing with Kenai Fjord Tours

Seward

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours 40 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb

Eat: Cookery, Chinooks, Safeway (yes, the grocery store)

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, The Halibut did not disappoint the Cookery in Seward

The Halibut did not disappoint the Cookery in Seward

Do: Kenai Fjord Tour, Hike nearby Exit Glacier/(Harding Icefield), Fish, Kayak, Sealife CenterAlaska Railroad

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Rafting on the Kenai River at Cooper Landing

Rafting on the Kenai River at Cooper Landing

Cooper Landing

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours

Eat & Stay: Kingfisher Roadhouse

Do: Hike Russian River Falls, Rafting & Fishing

Soldotna

Distance from Anchorage: 3 hours by car – Good half way between Anchorage and Seward. A good spot to buy groceries and supplies.

Stay: Sterling Needle Bed & Breakfast

Eat: Mykels,  Buckets Sports Grill

Do: Kenai River Salmon Fishing

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Sockeye Salmon, a specialty at Little Mermaid in Homer

Sockeye Salmon, a specialty at Little Mermaid in Homer

Homer

Distance from Anchorage: 4 hour 30 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb

Eat (give up the diet): Fat Olives, Little MermaidTwo Sisters Bakery, La Baleine Café, Wasabi’s Restaurant, Captain Pattie’s,  Saltry at Halibut Cove

Bar: Salty Dawg Saloon – Buy a beer and T-shirt to prove you were there

Do: Hike surrounding trails – Grewingk GlacierSaldovia, Halibut Cove, Kayak, Fish – Book a year in advance

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, My favorite restaurant in Alaska, The Wildflower Cafe

My favorite restaurant in Alaska, The Wildflower Cafe

Talkeetna

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours 15 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb, Roadhouse

EatWildflower Cafe – my favorite spot in Alaska, Roadhouse – breakfast & cinnamon buns

Do: Flightsee/Fly over Mt. Denali/Glacier Hike, River rafting

Fantasy Aisle, Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Denali Visitor's Bus only way to see Denali National Park

Denali Visitor’s Bus only way to see Denali National Park

Denali

Distance from Anchorage: 4 hours by car

Stay:  RV, Camping, Tonglen Lake Lodge – Luxury spot, Grand Denali Lodge – great location, shuttle bus, rooms need renovations but are clean

Eat: 229 Parks, Prospectors Pizza

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Prospector's Pizza at Denali National Park

Prospector’s Pizza at Denali National Park

Do: Hike park trails, take tourist bus to view wildlife and glimpse park offerings, Dog Kennels, Eilson Visitor Center, Rafting Nenana

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Wild Scoops in Anchorage, Alaska fun flavors like cardamon

Wild Scoops in Anchorage, Alaska fun flavors like cardamon

Anchorage

(Kelly’s note: Please do not waste any of your valuable time in Alaska in Anchorage)

Stay: Clarion Suites, Sheraton, Hilton, Captain Cook

Eat: Simon & Seaforts, Bridge Seafood – only open for dinner, Wild Scoops Ice Cream

Do:  Walk or bike Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Anchorage, Cook Inlet from the Coastal Walk

Anchorage, Cook Inlet from the Coastal Walk

Did you enjoy my Alaska travel recommendations? Would you consider visiting the state? Or, if you have, do you have any recommendations of your own? I would love to know. Comment and leave some of your favorite places to visit or things to do in the 49th State.