Texas Tomorrrow and the GDC

Ok, so it’s not technically a holiday, but tommorow we leave for texas to attend the Games Developers Conference in Austin.  If i get time i’ll try and put up a few posts- we’ll be gone for a week!

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Jelly Fish!

Just a quic k post today- Went to Ramla bay this morning which was unusually quiet.  We soon figured out why- there were loads of jelly fish right up to the shore line- we managed to get a picture.

Jelly fish at Ramla Bay

Jelly fish at Ramla Bay

They were only little- their bodies like tennis ball sized, but there were enoguh of them for us to see a few people get stung.

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The Hypogeum! ( and Tarxien temples.. and the Festa at Victoria)

Yesterday evening we went to another Festa, this time in the capital of Gozo, Victoria!  Muich the same deal as the one in San Lawrenz, but on a much bigger scale;

Festa at Victoria, Gozo

Festa at Victoria, Gozo

No Festa is complete without His & Hers candy floss

No Festa is complete without His & Hers candy floss

There was also a fireworks display running pretty much the entire night.

As well as that, we finally got Hypogeum tickets!!  So today we got back on the bus to Valletta -stopping in at the National Museum of Fine Art (good, but not a patch on the one in Lille) & The Valletta Museum of Archaeology.  The latter had a lot of the original artefacts from the temples we were about to visit, including this one- the famous 5,000 year old “sleeping lady” – recovered from the Hypogeum.

"The Sleeping Lady"

"The Sleeping Lady"

Then from there got the number 11 bus over to the Tarxien temples.  This site has three old ruined temples the oldest of which is 6,000 years old!  Not much remains compared with some of the historical stuff we’ve seen here- needless to say we have lots of photos which appear to just be piles of rock!

The Tarxien Temples!

The Tarxien Temples!

After this we walked to the hypogeum (about 10 mins away on foot).  This is the unlikely looking entrance to the site- just a door in what looks like another terrace of houses.

The Inconspicuous entrance to the hypogeum

The Inconspicuous entrance to the hypogeum

The hypogeum was found by builders (in 1902) while building houses to accommodate naval personnel.  It went unreported for three years after it’s discovery because no one deemed it important enough to stop the construction work!  Now, the whole site is enclosed in an enormous building (deceptively large, as it doesn’t look like anything big form the street!) which is suspended above the site.  The hypogeum was an underground burial site where they found the remains of 7,000 people, who were buried over 1,000 years.  The race who lived on malta at this time, who built the temple’s we’ve been visiting disappeared without trace long before the modern settlers arrived and historians know next to nothing about them, nor why they vanished.  This is a model of the Hypogeum we photographed in the archaeological museum.

Hypogeum Layout

Hypogeum Layout

Unfortunately, this was another site which didn’t let you take any pictures, but it was by far the best presented historical site we visited.  Everything was well preserved and nicely lit and very atmospheric.  Though it was a bit pricy at €25 a ticket, and as mentioned the tickets are quite hard to get hold of as only 10 people are allowed in at a time!

So another action packed, hot, nackering day.

Another day of walking around in the sun!

Another day of walking around in the sun!

Got a picture of another great example of the old skool buses in Malta;

Awesome Old School Malta Bus

Awesome Old School Malta Bus

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San Blas Bay, Victoria & Rain!

This morning it rained! August is Malta at its hottest, with only a 5% chance of rain for the whole month but it rained. Even if it was only lightly spitting on an off for a hour or so and after 6 minutes or so of it stopping, you would never know anything had happened, it was nice all the same.

Woo hoo - Rain!

Woo hoo - Rain!

Yesterday we went to San Blas bay, just around the corner from Ramla, at the bottom of a very steep, 10 minute shuffle down a “road”.

San Blas Bay-- Right down there!

San Blas Bay-- Right down there!

The whole beach can be pretty much seen in the distance in this photo- it’s surrounded by jaggedy rocks and cliffs so is very small, but thanks to it’s limited accessibility it was quite empty!

Today we finally went to the Capital of Gozo, Victoria (Rabat) to look around the Walled Citadel and try to get tickets for the Hypogeum (which we will sort tomorrow morning as they were sold out again!)

Victoria historical Citadel

Victoria historical Citadel

Looked round a few of the museums and then headed out to see the (5500 year old- built in 3500BC!) Ggantija temple- the oldest free standing monument in the world.

Ggantija Temple

Ggantija Temple

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Valletta Grand Harbour, Catacombs in Rabat & train ride around Mtarfa & Mdina!

Yet another action packed day today- we headed over to the mainland again and, like the bus pro’s we now are, got our selves over to Rabat (via Sleima > Velletta > then the number 80 bus to Mdina)

Malta Bus Pro's!

Malta Bus Pro's!

While in Valletta we wondered over to the east-side to have a look at the Grand Harbour which was quite scenic;

Valletta Grand Harbour

Valletta Grand Harbour

We originally wanted to see the Hypogeum which is a 5,000 year old underground temple but it turns out tickets are in very short supply (only 20 a day) and you can book them only 1 day in advance on a first come first serve basis (from The Museum of Fine Art in Valletta, which is a pain!) – so we will try out luck later in the week!

As a consolation we went over to Rabat to see two famous Catacombs they have there (we had our hearts set on some sort of underground attraction so figured this would suffice!)- St Paul’s & St Agatha’s- the two are within walking distance of each other.

Watch your head! The Ceilings are reeeally low!

Watch your head! The Ceilings are reeeally low!

Tash peeks cheekily through the window of a GRAVE!  Lovly Stuff.

Tash peeks cheekily through the window of a GRAVE! Lovly Stuff.

St Paul’s was first, and the size is quite staggering- it’s a real under ground lair, worthy of doctor evil- masses of tunnels which lead on to masses of other tunnels- there’s nothing by way of decoration or artefacts remaining past the architecture, but its worth a look just to have an explore.

St Agetha’s was smaller but in much better condition with original “frescoes” some dating back to the 12th and 15th centuries. Out of the two, St Agatha’s was much more interesting, and you get a guided tour by a real life archaeologist who’s been charged with looking after that site. Sadly you’ll have to take my word for it though as you’re not allowed to take pictures in St Agatha’s :(

Finally we went on a train ride (think, bognor sea front train– so a car which looks like a train and pulls around little “train cars” so it kind of looks like a train, but everyone on the train, knows it’s not a train…) which was actually quite good. Took us around all of Rabat and neighbouring Mdina and a tiny neighbouring village called Mtarfa. There was also a little talking guide which explained to you Malta’s action packed history (that’s not sarcasm, Malta has had quite an interesting and turbulent history)

Mdina, seen from the "Train" ride!

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Popeye Village & the Red Tower

Twenty Nine years ago (1980) a film was made in Malta- Popeye. On the North West tip of the malta mainland, by the Gozo Ferry, there is “Popeye village”- a small village constructed for the purpose of this film, and left on as a tourist attraction. This musical crime against cinema saw a young Robin Williams don his sailing whites as the star. I don’t know if anyone reading this has seen Popeye- I have.

I should have known.

€12 each it cost to get in and we were there for all of about 40 minutes.

Popeye Village

Popeye Village

Granted, on first entry it does look cool- and if we had kids/ were kids, it would have probably been great. They did also have quite a cool looking water trampoline, but we forgot to bring swimming stuff! D’oh!

Water trampolines at Popeye Village

Water trampolines at Popeye Village

The rest of the village is full of garish tourist shit, and crappy souvenirs for sale (not really sure what we were expecting!). So just enough time for a quick walk around, an ice cream and a novelty picture.

Tash!

Tash!

Our next stop was back to Mellieha bay and then off to see the “red tower” – a big red painted fort on the malta mainland- which you can actually see in the distance on the other pic i did a few posts back showing two of so forts on the horizon.

The Red Tower; Up-hill, of course!

The Red Tower; Up-hill, of course!

This was on top of big hill which we thought we would walk to, in the mid day heat. In hindsight this was a bad idea.

The hill didn't look quite so big from below.

The hill didn't look quite so big from below.

the top of the tower had some good views- we were so nackered when we got to the top of the hill we didn’t get a decent pic of the fort, but you can see the red colour in this pic.

Top of the red tower

Top of the red tower

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The Festival & Gozo Island Tour

So last night’s festival was interesting- it was in a tiny neighbouring village called San Lawrenz. We weren’t really sure what was going on to be honest but what seemed to be the entire village had turned up, all donning their swankiest apparel.

San Lawrenz Festival

San Lawrenz Festival

The village itself was spruced up with lights and decorations, and their was one of the loudest, and perhaps longest fire works displays i’ve ever experienced. The only thing i can liken it to is an hour and a half anti air flak barrage- it display consisted of these small blobs which were tossed into the air which went off like submarine depth charges- the explosions boomed around the town square with enough force for you to be able to feel the shock wave through your chest. And these went on at a regular interval for a good two to three hours. Towards the end they had actual fireworks. During all of this an effigy of one of their saints was paraded through the streets while a big band played. It was quite something.

Having recovered our hearing this morning we set off for a “Jeep Tour” of Gozo- this was an all day jobby which took us around, pretty much all the recommended tourist spots of the island. If you do ever come here, i would recommend the tour, though i was a little uncomfortable in the back of the jeep owing to my freakishly long legs, and general fidgety demeanour. This is where the Jeep took us;
View Gozo Jeep Tour in a larger map

We went through a few of the islands beaches which i won’t bore yo with a blow by blow account of! Gozo is quite strange in that there doesn’t seem to be any single large stretches of beach- 100′s of tiny little stretches dotted around all over the place (like Ramla which i wrote about the other day). Some of the villages which house these bays are tiny, and its quite something to see people living in such remote locations- i thought it was quite cool how many of them build into the surrounding cliffs;

Garage cut into the cliffs

Garage cut into the cliffs

They also took us past the Salt Fields- these shallow pools which they pump water into then allow to evaporate for 3 days, then harvest and store the salt!

Salt Fields

Salt Fields

We dropped in on a famous church in Gozo – In Malta in general they are all really heavily Roman Catholic and ladies arent allowed in the churches with their shoulders or knees exposed- they have “loaner” clothes for anyone who is over exposed- I only mention this because Tash had to cover up to enter and i thought the photo was funny!

Tash ready for church!

Tash ready for church!

After that the Calypso Caves which are quite famous- they weren’t all that impressive to see, and are quite small worth a look as they have a lot of history having been referenced in Greek mythology.

Tash in the Calypso Caves

Tash in the Calypso Caves

The Azure window was quite something– this is a huge rock formation on the coast- we got a boat ride while there to drive around it and get a better look- the caves in general all around this stretch of coast are quite epic.

The Azure Window

The Azure Window

We did a few more bays, then stopped in at one of the quarries which they get all the lime stone from to build everything on the island- the scale of these was quite impressive.

BIg Ol Lime Stone Quarry

BIg Ol Lime Stone Quarry

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Comino

Today we took a boat over to the third, and smallest of the three Islands, Comino.

Comino is well known for the “Blue Lagoon” bay, which was quite a contrast from Ramla Bay;

Blue Lagoon Bay, Comino, Malta

Blue Lagoon Bay, Comino, Malta

A long hot road, in Comino

A long hot road, in Comino

PACKED!! However neither Tash or myself are massively enthused at the idea of just sitting on one spot, so we went off to explore the island!  Comino is the smallest island with only 4 proper full time residents!  There is a single Hotel (with a shop), a Farm and a couple of historial sites- a fort (suprisingly) and a big gun battery.

a water boring station.. not just a clever name

a water boring station.. not just a clever name

It’s really strange how isolated everything is.  The only structures you see around, aside from the fort and the hotel are lots of little utility huts running unattended doing stuff like this one which brings water up from the ground!

We walked for about half hour round some really dusty empty roads until we eventually made it round to the islands only fort tower.

Comino Island Fort

Comino Island Fort

The fort is massive and tells you all about the other forts dotted around Malta- the reason there are so many is that when they were built the idea was each fort could see two others so they can communicate.

stairs into the fort

stairs into the fort

tiny stairs inside the fort!

tiny stairs inside the fort!

Just across from the fort is one of the other few structures- back in the day, due to the remoteness of the island, there was an isolation hospital for lepers.  Now it’s deserted aside from one of the islands native inhabitants (the others living in the farm)

view of the old leper hospital from the fort

view of the old leper hospital from the fort

the deserted isolation hospital on Comino

the deserted isolation hospital on Comino

You could also see the Blue Lagoon from the fort;

Blue Lagoon from the Fort

Blue Lagoon from the Fort

The last stop before we go back was an old gun battery… on the other side of the Island!

Gun Battery on the far side of Comino Island

Gun Battery on the far side of Comino Island

By this time, we were a bit tooo Hot!

By this time, we were a bit tooo Hot!

Later this evening we’re off to the St Lawrenz village fiesta, back on Gozo.

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The Biggest, Small Island’s

Malta is Tiny- we flew past the whole thing on our way in to land at the airport. Gozo is even smaller- not even warranting it’s own black dot on most old skool (paper based) atlases. Despite this, transport is a bit more of an issue than I had naively imagined. Because the islands are so small, the few touristy attractions that aren’t immediately in the city centres are scattered at polar opposite ends of the island. I wasn’t prepared to be quite so reliant on public transport. Everyone who knows me know’s i’m quite tight when it comes to spending money on things without buttons or a charger associated with them so splashing out cash for Taxi rides is a last resort.

The Fort on Comino, and the Red Fort on the Malta Mainland - view from Gozo

The Fort on Comino, and the Red Fort on the Malta Mainland - view from Gozo

Walking however is definitely out– the landscape of both malta and gozo is barren- the only colour is cacti, the rest of it littered with rocky debris and old square castle-esque forts which you will see all over the place. Every road snakes up and down like a roller coaster, and the heat is unforgiving (though thankfully lacking the same intoxicating humidity of Japan!)

teeny tiny leg room on the bus

teeny tiny leg room on the bus

So today we took to the Bus! From Gozo, we hopped on the ferry across to Malta (€4.65 return- Bargain!) and then hopped on the number 45 bus from the Ferry terminal, to Malta’s capital, Valletta. This proved to be a mistake, though we didn’t realise this until an hour and half later when we eventually arrived!! We didn’t think it would take quite so long!

Fort St Elmo

Fort St Elmo

Valletta itself was nice- we wondered down to the southern tip to Fort St Elmo and looked in the National War Museum which was actually quite interesting- Malta was actually a really important part of world war two, and the most heavily bombed country!

Tash showing off their Nazi wares!

Tash showing off their Nazi wares!

All the citizens of the whole island were awarded the Georges Cross collectively for their efforts during the war!

We also stopped in the “Palace of the Grand Masters” (awesome name) which had the standard batch of fancy old paintings and suits of armour- i didn’t think this was good compared to the stuff we’ve seen in Rome, or Lille.

Thanks to a lay in this morning we had a bit of a late start so thought we would head back after a bit of a wander, trying to find a quicker way home.

Turns out the best way to get to Valletta from the Gozo Ferry port once you’ve arrived to Malta from the ferry (Cirkewwa) is to jump on the number 645 bus to Sliema (€1.16 and a good 45 mins quicker than the number 45)

Republic Street, Valletta Malta

Republic Street, Valletta Malta

then from the final stop in Sliema get off the bus and jump straight on the ferry to Valletta (€1.80). This route is a lot more scenic, quicker, but a smudge more expensive. But at a total cost of €2.96, it still won’t break the bank!!

Oooh- ALSO!  We tried their popular local drink– “Kinnie” which is some kind of orange juice with “herbs”- it was a horrible, horrible  experience that I want to save anyone else from enduring!

Kinnie, It's chemical-tastic (tm)

Kinnie, It's chemical-tastic (tm)

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The Beach!

Ramla Bay, Malta

Ramla Bay, Malta

Today we went to the beach- Ramla.  This is one of Gozo’s few sandy beaches, up on the north east coast- most of the coast consists of sheer cliff’s!

The beach it self was awesome- sand all the way along, and not even that busy- apparently Malta and Gozo have suffered this year due to the recessions killing off lots of their tourism (which was great for us :P )

Spent most of the day here doing.. well… nothing!

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