Malta

Spring Break 2019.

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For spring break Eli and Jake wanted to “fly somewhere,” so we picked Malta, a country of two small islands in the Mediterranean off the coast of Sicily.  The moon was full that evening, and the golden glow of the kasbah welcomed us off the ferry.

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We stayed at the Taljola B&B on the island of Gozo, in a simple neighborhood of dusty streets and aging cars, softened by fields of wildflowers and cliffs looming over the sea.

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Homes were Mediterranean-style, with walls on the outside and family life within.  There are no trees on Malta so the sun shines bright over the warm brick walls, and there is nothing stopping the wind.  Or the roosters crowing in the morning like crazy!

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The owner made us Hungarian poppy seed cake for breakfast and gave us plates of local cheese, but I’ve stopped being embarrassed when Jake and Eli bypass all the lovingly homemade things to decimate the croissant basket.  They are pretty good at trying things, but they’re eleven after all, and don’t really want cheese and poppy seeds.

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They’re super enthralled with the fresh squeezed orange juice though, and sitting in the rental car!

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This little guy was bringing home a flower.

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Malta has a modern ferry system to transport cars between islands, which the boys considered about as cool as a ride at Disneyland (or in a rental car).  I found it oddly fascinating that the ferries were so similar to the ones in Seattle, as if the people who design Ferry Boats are the same for the whole world?  The bathrooms, cafes, upper decks and stairwells were all the same, but this giant car door was an exception.

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The entire end of the boat swung upward.  Jake and Eli loved watching as it gobbled up cars boarding the boat.  Ferry Shark!

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I liked this sink in the bathroom.  I guess this makes me that Weird Woman Taking Pictures In The Bathroom.

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Maltese life revolves around cafes, work, soccer, and a ruggedness of people existing in spite of isolation and hardship.  This island has spent millennia fighting invaders from every direction, and still seems to be fighting to reclaim itself from the weeds, the water, and the wind.

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Phoenicians settled in the city of Mdina in the 8th century BC, where a fortress from the 11th century still stands.  We wandered through its squares and monasteries, and took a subterranean dip into the catacombs.

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We contemplated the meaning of life, and wondered what these guys were thinking about as they lowered the Easter cross of Jesus into the back of a pick-up truck?

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Malta has a windswept, wild energy that probably would drive me crazy if I lived there, but maybe this is the source of its resilience.  The wind would explain why people were driven to live in catacombs underground.

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It also made me realize the practical role of churches to provide sanctuary from the weather, and not just the stress of the world outside.

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Traditions and rituals run strong, and here there is no escaping history.

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One morning I went out for an early walk and had to turn around at the sound of gunshots.  Hunters out catching dinner!  I didn’t want to be dinner.  Fried rabbit is a Maltese classic, so Mike ordered it one night, and  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mike stunned into silence before over food.  An entire rabbit arrived on the plate, complete with entrails and a side of fries.  We will not be ordering that again!  Better to stick to calamari and pizza.

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These little street food pastries were good too. Like a cross between a croissant and a samosa, filled with peas and chicken.

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This treacle ring was also okay, as a sort of a fruitcake-inspired spice cookie wrapped in crumbly shortcrust dough.   Malta at one point was colonized by the British and still harbors vestiges of its legacies.

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At dinner time we wandered to nearby restaurants for Maltese versions of Italian food, seafood, and game.  The cuisine on Gozo is a real mash-up of Mediterranean Meets Britain, which makes it good but still British.  Although the rabbit was a miss and the pizza was fine, the buttery lumps of fresh buffalo mozzarella were near perfect, and Eli loved the meat pies.

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We also found the best ice cream ever, shaped into perfect little flowers.

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One day we rode bikes over salt pans and sand dunes.

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The water was startlingly blue.

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Another day, we went to the beach to chase the waves and bury ourselves in the sand.

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And made a trek to the “Duck Village,” where somebody built a whole city just for ducks.

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Malta also has garbage trucks,

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Window shopping,

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And excellent squares to sit and sip cocktails for Happy Hour.

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The boys also tried scuba diving for the first time!

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I couldn’t handle the freezing water, so took some pictures instead.

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It was a perfect vacation week, of sleeping a little longer and counting blessings, and being excited for life as it is, in this moment.

“Mom, this is so sick.  And I didn’t even notice that there was no TV.”

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It’s time to get home to our Gussy Cat!

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