A much later start today than yesterday (when we went to Sicily) but still up relatively early to say farewell to Lilian aka Mum who was flying home today. Miriam went with her to the airport so while Roly relaxed with the paper we had a slow start to the day. Decided after a chat to Roly to head over to Mdina & Rabat which was where the ancient capital once was before being moved to Valletta to take advantage of the port.
Another €1.50 day saver each and we were on the number 203 bus over towards the central part of the island. On arrival it was lunchtime and I was already peckish so Anthony sourced us a couple of Pastizzi each. We then entered through the walls to this ancient city and began our clockwise navigation through its streets. At one point we had an excellent view from the tops of the walls and out across the island since this city had been built on a hill. Walking past the cathedral in St Paul’s Square and then to the tourist information office where we got a map and details about the catacombs that Lilian had mentioned earlier that day.
Outside the office there were some stocks advertising the Mdina dungeons which led to yet more photo opportunities! Then we were soon leaving the walled city of Mdina to cross over to the adjacent town of Rabat. In Rabat we located the catacombs which were combined with a number of other tourist attractions including a museum, St Paul’s Grotto and some World War Two shelters. Only €5 each and we got an audio guide between us for an extra euro.
We began by visiting St Paul’s Grotto which was a location where they kept St Paul after he had been shipwrecked off the coast of Malta. The reason he had been on a ship in the first place was because he was one of the disciples of Jesus and was being taken to Rome to be tried in front of the emperor Nero. It is because of the preaching of St Paul whilst being kept in this cave that Christianity was spread to Malta.
Next we visited the World War Two shelters. These had been dug out by pick axe during the beginning of the war to ensure that there was an entrance within 50 yards of each house. People would shelter in the tunnels often bringing mattresses down to hide from bombs being dropped on the surface. Families would have their own rooms and some even personalised them with tiles or paint, adding doors for privacy. On the one hand it was hard to imagine what it would have been like and yet as Anthony pointed out you could see what it would have been like.
At the end of the tunnels were steps linking to the catacombs. These were a maze of very thin passage ways with burial chambers lining every wall. Some even contained the odd bone, everything else had been removed in previous looting that had occurred.
Leaving the tunnels and catacombs behind we stopped for a quick Pepsi Max and sat in the sun having what I call a ‘lizard moment’ – basically just soaking up the rays. Once warmed we headed back to Sliema on the same bus route as we had come out. Decided to get off for another ice cream – same flavours as last time – and then, inspired by the swimmers in the sea, went down to the rocky beach below.
After what Anthony called, the slow torture, of trying to edge our way deeper and deeper into the water which felt pretty cold as it was we opted for an extreme tactic. Following suit from the Italians we jumped off the rocks and straight into the sea – wow, was it cold!?! I thought it would be but was not prepared at all! The natural pool that had formed aside from the sea felt much warmer afterwards but even so I was happy to get out, sit in the sea & have yet another lizard moment!
After returning, showering and getting dressed up we then headed out to Surfside for a meal with Miriam and Roly. Anthony went for pizza and chips while I had what was called: the David Beckham Burger – consisting of cheese, bacon, onions and BBQ sauce! As Miriam and Roly frequented this place often we were given a free desert by the owner Justin. Anthony went for Apple pie, but it was the classic chocolate cake for me.
Claire & Anthony