Browsing Tag


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

A Junior Prom Adventure turns into a Lifetime of Love: NYC Wedding

April 5, 2016 • By

It’s a beautiful spring afternoon; the beauty salons are bustling with anxious young women and excited mothers. Friends advise, “wear your hair up or I like it down.” The salon reeks of fragrant flowers with a hint of alcohol, aerosol bottles of hairspray empty quickly and bobby pins fall to the floor. The prom is many hours later but the limo arrives at 4:00 PM for pictures.  There isn’t a moment to waste.

For Marla and Paul, it’s 1989. Marla is dressed in a powdered blue, calf length, strapless stunner and Paul is donning a stylish, black Italian custom cut (rented) tux with matching powder blue bowtie and cummerbund. She is radiant and confident; he is handsome in a sheepish kind of way. Think Debbie Gibson meets Jon Bon Jovi.

Fantasy Aisle

Marla and Paul, Jonathan Dayton HS, New Jersey – Junior Prom

The charming couple connected in a high school class at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, New Jersey. Marla being the temptress invited her older classmate Paul to the Junior Prom. He left for college months later and as Marla stated, “He implied, see you later.”

Since life reminds us to be present and look forward, Marla and Paul simply parted their respective ways attending college, studying abroad, moving from apartment to apartment, city to city until the evolution of Facebook. This time Paul took the bold initiative and requested Marla as his Facebook friend.

It would be almost a year before they would meet in person in Florida, where Paul lived.  He nearly missed his chance ditching Marla on their first attempted date due to being exhausted from work.  An excuse Marla accepted thankfully.  A day later on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, the couple reunited.  Moments before a pigeon expelled itself on Marla, which she took as a positive sign because Paul and Marla have been laughing for the last six years.

Fantasy Aisle

Under the Chuppah at City Winery. No nerves for these love birds

Marla and Paul married on a magical fall evening in New York City. The day delivered overcast skies, drizzle and blustering winds but the electricity inside City Winery suited Marla, Paul and their 140 guests just fine.

A wedding in New York City made the ideal location for Marla and Paul. They gathered family, friends and colleagues from as nearby as Greenwich Village and as far away as Indonesia.

Why choose City Winery? Marla said, “It optimized who we are and encapsulated our love of music, food and wine downtown in the city.”

Fantasy Aisle

City Winery before the wedding ceremony

Being of Jewish faith, Marla and Paul celebrated their marriage ceremony with their parents at their side under the Chuppah (canopy) and a very cool modern, female rabbi served as the celebrant.   The Ketubah (marriage contract) perfectly placed next to the happy couple symbolized their commitment to each other. Paul smashed the glass and guests shouted Mazel Tov!

Fantasy Aisle

This prom dress 27 years later. Impressed it fits!

City Winery transformed into an elegant setting for Paul and Marla’s wedding. Guests devoured incredible cheeses and Mediterranean spreads, sipped and later slurped wine in the Barrel Room and enjoyed a seated dinner with pumpkin ravioli and fish entrees. The Greg Buford Band busted jams and people piled on the dance floor partying like it was 1989.

From young love and a special spring dance to a fabulous night on October 4, 2015, Marla traded her corsage for the bouquet.  Jonathan Dayton High School had it right all along, “It was meant to be” and Marla still has the baby blue prom dress to prove it (and it fits)!


Fantasy Aisle

The bride and ME at City Winery, NYC

Marla and Paul traveled to Italy on their honeymoon visiting the Puglia Region and Rome.  Italy holds a very special place in Marla’s heart since she studied abroad in Florence and later lived there for a year.  She wanted Paul to experience the allure of sweet tomatoes, tart lemons, flavorful olive oil, freshly caught fish and beautiful, welcoming countryside.  They drank wine, lots of it, dined on local favorites and tracked the mileage of their new life together exploring Italy with happy hearts and eternal smiles.

Fantasy Aisle

Now the fun part, the honeymoon! Paul and Marla in Italy

Fantasy Aisle

An Italian Panini is the best but a Honeymoon in Italy is better