Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Malta: Day 1 - Floriana & Mosta

The day has finally arrived when I set foot in Malta for the first time. The view from the plane was spectacular. The sea was blue as ever and by the time we stepped off the plane, I was grinning.

We rented a place on airbnb. Sometimes the pictures are lovely when doing an internet rental, but it's always a guessing game as to what the place will really be like. In this case, it was exactly as described. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one in the cellar), a nice dining room and living room and a small kitchen to do some light cooking. It was the perfect size for the three of us and it was inexpensive! Claudette the owner was also very accommodating as was her friend Tess who greeted us. SHe even arranged for a private taxi to pick us up.

We wandered outside of our apartment into the narrow streets of Floriana where we were staying and only a 5 minute walk into Valletta, the capital city. The streets looked just like the pictures I studied for years.

We tried looking for a grocery store but there was only a very tiny one and it was more of a limited convenience store. And by limited, I mean really, really limited. And oh, they close from about 1-4 pm every day, although we had to discover that the hard way - by pounding on the door for a few minutes only to have to walk away.

We found a little cafe called HQ Snack Bar that served really, really delicious and gigantic sandwiches. Why HQ? Well, they are located across the street from the police headquarters. Pretty ingenious name for a cafe where police officers hang out for breakfast and lunch. We ended up buying a loaf of bread from them because the grocery store had none.

We stopped at another tiny cafe where I watched to owner making what looked like a roti / pita. He gave me one hot off the griddle to try. As plain as it was, it was very tasty.

Prior to leaving Canada, I read some reviews of various restaurants and made a reservation at Ta Marija Restaurant  in Mosta for a traditional Maltese dinner and folk dancing which is a specialty on Wednesday evenings. We arrived for our 6:00 pm reservation which was confirmed by email but was told by the host that the restaurant does not open till 7:00pm. We had already arrived early in the town to visit the their famous Rotunda  before going for dinner so we wandered around town for a bit until it was time for the restaurant to open.

For the first hour, we were the only three people in the restaurant. We ordered rabbit stew, (traditional), bream (fish) and pasta. The meal came with Maltese bread (thick crust with a soft inside), bruschetta, a variety of olives and bean dips, and ravioli in marinara sauce. We also ordered desserts that we shared.

Now for the commentary about the meals which we shared: marinated olives and bruschetta were good; bean dip not so tasty (may be an acquired taste); ravioli in marinara was excellent; rabbit stew was tough but apparently, that's how rabbit meat is. This was the first time for me eating rabbit so no more complaints. Pasta was excellent; fish was excellent; desserts were okay (again, maybe acquired taste).

During the meal, more people started to come in but by the time we were done there were only about 20 people in the restaurant that looked like it could accommodate 200. The owner Maria was very friendly and came over to our table to visit. She told us that we'd enjoy the folk dancing but we told her we were not staying because it was already late at 9:00pm and they wouldn't start the dancing till 11:00pm. After an overnight sleep on the plane two nights prior, a missed flight and today as a travel day (when we scheduled it as a rest day), we just wanted our beds.

A bus ride back into town ended our night at 11:00 pm anyway.

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