After a nice English breakfast at the harbor, I joined the open-air double-decker tourist bus tour. The first stop was at the main terminal in Valletta. If you want to catch one of the tourist buses that round the island on the north or south tour, if you come to the Valletta bus terminal (pictured above and below), you can catch either island tour as well as the city buses that go to and from the airport. The centerpiece of the bus terminal parking lot was a lovely fountain that the tourists surrounded on sunny days and posed for photos. Unfortunately, my first tour day on Malta was going to be full of rain clouds.
… despite the rain, I remained on the top deck of the bus all day…
As we headed to our first destinations, I began snapping photos of Malta; I wanted to be able to show my friends and family what it looked like. The city was much more urban than the coastal area; the streets are wider, the buildings bigger, and everyone seemed to be busy and going somewhere. I really enjoyed the “look” of Malta with its beautiful buildings and green trees and lawns.
The beautiful archway at Valletta was originally single arch. Later, a second archway was added and matched so well that it is difficult to tell them apart.
One of the things that impressed me the most about Malta was that no matter where you looked, you were surrounded by history. As we drove along the road from Valletta to the old airplane hangers, I was quite surprised to see this Roman aqueduct. The locals have just built their homes and businesses right around it and it has become an ad hoc parking lot and car covers.
An old World War II era airfield has become a market with vendors using the old quonset huts as shops. They had all sorts of tourist items for sale as well as some other trade goods. Part of the airfield now serves as an air museum and there were many airplanes on display for the tourists.
Just outside of the airfield, on the central plane near the center of the island, I was finally able to see the “middle” of Malta. Farmland and vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see. When I shot the photo of this vineyard, it started raining again. The few tourists that were on the top deck with me scrambled down below to the safety of cover.
As there were only a few tourists as this was “low” season I could enjoy the place to myself. It was nice that I could roam about free of the crowds. It was a bit cold but for some reason, I decided to stay up on top. I did get wet, I did get cold, but I really had a good time. For the rest of the morning, despite the “no standing” rule, I stood on top of the bus, towards the front – right over the driver – and “surfed” my way across Malta somewhat akin to DeCaprio and Winslette in the Titanic. I probably looked like a big kid standing in the rain as the bus drove around, but the Island was so beautiful, the air so clean, I just wanted to really soak it in. I remember having a feeling of overwhelming happiness. The kind of happiness that comes from the freedom and excitement of travel. I can’t say that this day was the best day of my life, but it was a great day and one that I’ll always remember.
I spotted a rainbow and captured many (better) shots of it but decided to post this one as it has a marble shop in it. Marble is quarried in Malta and, from what the tour guide said, an important industry for the country.
As I drove through some of the villages I noticed that the style of the “suburban” homes. The houses were stacked together with shared walls and the people had an interesting habit of “naming” their homes. Rather than posting the family name, the house was given a pet name and it was posted next to the number above the door. I saw names like “Rainbow house,” and some that clearly appeared to be owned by (British) expats: “Big Ben.”
I realized I had a photo of our great big tour bus driving through some Malta suburbs. I included this in the hopes that it will give you a better feel for what it looks like. I can’t believe that huge bus could fit down these little streets…
Catholicism is strong on the island and I saw many churches and altars everywhere. Even at intersections space was made for this saint or that. I tried to catch a photo of one and always had my camera out too late (I had to keep it in my jacket to keep the rain off of it). At one intersection, I was able to get my camera out just in time to catch this altar of Mary as we sped away. This altar was located, as many are, up high into the side of a building. I also saw altars embedded into walls, buildings, aqueducts, fountains, pretty much anywhere and everywhere.
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