Just after Christmas, I had the good fortune to fly to Malta for a week and bring in 2019 in style. My friend and I stayed at a hotel not far from St George’s Bay, certainly fancier accommodation than I am used to. Lucky for me my friend is a regular patron of the hotel and got a good rate on a room there. We picked up a rental car when we arrived at the airport, which I now know is a big advantage if you wish to explore. Public transport consists of buses, which are improving, but routes and times are still limited.
Being such a small island, the distance to anywhere is relatively short, however, the traffic can be a little frantic. We were lucky and we did not get stuck much but I have read and heard that it can be a nightmare. Apparently, the number of registered cars on the island is almost as many as its residents. The island is the 8th most densely populated country in the world! Traffic jams and parking are becoming increasingly tricky.
A visit to the capital, Valletta, was top of my list of things to do. It didn’t disappoint. It’s beautiful old buildings, distinctive wooden window boxes, the variety of ornate doors and narrow winding streets captured my sketching imagination immediately. I did not get much time to sketch unfortunately (such is the way when you are travelling with other non-sketchy folks) but I did capture the green door you can see to the right.
Mdina, the old capital of Malta, is definitely worth a visit. The medieval hilltop city is steeped in history, particularly to do with The Knights of the order of St John / Knights of Malta – the birth of what we know as St Johns Ambulance today, and the origin of the Maltese Cross.
To the right is a sketch of an eye-catching building situated in the town square and in the shadow of St Pauls Cathedral.
After a quick photo stop we continued on our way to the ferry port. We drove our little Hyundai i20 on to the ferry and scooted across to the island of Gozo. It’s roughly a 25 minute crossing each way and cost approximately 20 Euros (round trip) for a car and 2 people. Gozo is a bit more chilled out and spacious than Malta but the churches remain numerous! There are a whopping 365 churches gracing the Maltese Islands, I was therefore in my architectural element – love a good church.
Tarxien & Paola
After Valletta, we drove on just a little further and visited a place called Tarxien, home to the Tarxien Temples, 4 megalithic structures built between 3600 and 2500 BC and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We also visited the neighbouring area of Paola. To the left is a quick sketch of one of the bell towers of the parish church.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay
Driving to the most northern tip of Malta we got lost on the way to the ferry port and stumbled across Ghajn Tuffieha Tower overlooking the bay of the same name, home to the best beach in Malta and just around the coast a little from Golden Bay (another lovely sandy beach). The tower is one of many towers dotted along the coast and built in the 17th Century.