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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.






Destination Wedding, North America

Destination Wedding: Nantucket

February 10, 2016 • By

There are fantastic movies to adequately describe my plight in life such as 27 Dresses, the Wedding Date, My Best Friends Wedding but somehow those features end with the beautiful bride scooping up the handsome groom and I’ve either ended up with a hangover, or a dress I am totally never going to wear again. That’s why I am featuring a series on Destination Weddings over the coming weeks and I hope my stories will inspire couples to plan their dream wedding with pleasure.

Suffice it to say I participate in my fair share of weddings and I store a baggie full of bobby pins to prove it. I’ve experienced the highs and lows of each celebration and I’ve silently whispered to myself and maybe others around me which couples I deem worthy of staying power and those likely headed for divorce court.

This is why I am single.

The Bride and her sidekicks

The Bride and her sidekicks

Weddings are exciting. They are symbolic of something greater than the love between two people. They represent goodness and hope in the world and it’s an honor to be an attendee and a privilege to serve as an attendant. It’s also a time when friends and families come together for a joyous occasion. A wedding guest list tells the tale and the history of the couple. When I spend time talking with neighbors, old boyfriends, best friends from grade school or college, former work colleagues, new friends old friends, cousins I begin to piece together a narrative of the couple’s life I may not have known.

The stories warm my heart and make me laugh but they also explain the person standing before me today.

The Whaling Museum, Nantucket, Massachusetts

Emily and Joel met in 2012 at a birthday party of a mutual friend in New York City and they married atop the Whaling Museum on Saturday, September 26, 2016 with the sun setting, wind gusting and a rooftop of guests applauding their love. Their decision to marry on the Island of Nantucket was an easy one. Emily considered Nantucket a second home. Her sister married on Nantucket and her parents discovered the allure of the once sleepy island early in their marriage eventually buying a home and spending summers on Nantucket as a family. I most enjoyed an enthusiastic reading by friends providing an overview of the couple’s ancestry.

Fantasy Aisle

Bride and Groom at the Whaling Museum Rooftop

Tips: Spend at least four days visiting Nantucket. It’s easy to stay short term or long term but be careful, you may never want to leave. You can rent a home for a month, find a special bed and breakfast within walking distance of the town or rest your head at one the hotels scattered around the island. It’s a great place for families or for those searching for solitude. I spent my days eating fudge at Aunt Leah’s Fudge, getting my licks in at the Juice Bar (Don’t miss the Green Monster) and tasting lobster roles every opportunity I found. I rented a bike at Young’s and each morning I peddled with purpose but without direction admiring the ocean views, vast areas of natural reserve and beautiful homes with pitches roofs, weathered gray shingles and blue and pink hydrangeas fading for the season.

Fantasy Aisle

The alluring dock at the Wharf

When you arrive, you will be on island time, buy some cashmere sweaters for the ladies or Nantucket “reds” for the men, walk the cobblestone streets in the town, shop for antiques, admire the boats in the harbor and the clouds ushering in changing weather.  Slow your pace, decompress, smell the saltwater, feel the warmth of the sun on your back and the wind on your face.

Fantasy Aisle

Pink hydrangeas fading for the fall

Nantucket is a great place for a destination wedding because it’s a vacation spot. You can fly from Boston, New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Providence or take the ferry from Cape Cod, Harwichport or Martha’s Vineyard.

After the wedding, I crawled to Black-Eyed Susan’s for some eggs and grits. I would say that was a sign of a good time and a fantastic wedding.

Fantasy Aisle

Ice Cream at the Juice Bar tasting the Green Monster

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