Marsaxlokk : A Seaside village

As small as the island of Malta is, there is a lot to see and experience and one week is not enough to do it. If you want a slice of nightlife, I’m told that St Julian’s bay is the place to be. There are also lots of of pretty places for snorkelling and other water sports in the Summertime. I was sorry that we weren’t able to do the Three Harbour boat tour we had booked, due to very windy seas, but I’m happy with what we did experience in our 7 day stay.

An impromptu visit to the seaside village of Marsaxlokk was one of those. With a few hours to spare we took a taxify to the picturesque village on Christmas day before lunch  while the village was still waking up.

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On an ordinary day, expect to find a hive of activity as fishermen mend their boats and set out to sea to catch the fresh fish that is served at the surrounding restaurants and as part of the flea market stalls which attract visitors here on Sundays.

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Most buildings are not taller than two stories and on a morning such as this, it was heaven to watch the sun glisten on the gentle bobbing water, sit on a bench, watching the seagulls and- just be.

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I remain in awe of these old buildings and how households seem to stamp their identity through their brightly coloured doors. I have respect for these old buildings. In my young country, we are more inclined to knock down old buildings and with it some of the history and heritage they hold. Then again, wars and painful histories have not always good to us to hang on to reminders.

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I love these two pictures because they speak of promise and optimism  even when the world has so much to distract you with its problems

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Christmas was a serious affair in Malta. Christmas decorations abounded  in the capital city streets, on window decorations and Christmas nativity scenes. We had attended a Christmas Buffet dinner on Christmas Eve and following the instructions to dress smart casual, we were surprised to see Maltese turn up in the Christmas finest – men in suits, women in strappy evening wear and fur coats, children tantalised by the range of lovely things to eat.

Back at our hotel Christmas day was a gorgeously warm day – far from a White Christmas but still cool enough for us to combine our gluwein with a magical sunset.

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This song caught my attention this week. A beautiful song which  takes me to a special place. I’ve chosen two great versions of the song. Maysa jazzes up the original version by Luther Vandross. I would love to hear which version you’d pick. Have a gorgeous day/night and enjoy your week ahead.

And this is what it sounds like in a saxophone performance

The horse and carriage is one way to move through  the beautiful former capital of Malta which has been reduced considerably from its former size and is surrounded by the suburb of Rabat.

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We waited outside the gates of this walled city for our private tour guide to walk and talk us through this very picturesque city which is said to be over 4000 years old. According to tradition it was here that in 60 A.D. the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands. It is now home to lines of noble and wealthy people with a total population of 300 people. Apart from cars belonging to residents, no cars are allowed into Mdina.IMG_0582

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Below is the entrance to Vilhena Palace. I’m always interested to hear the stories of what informed the building of palaces and castles. There always seems to be an element of vanity, envy and greed which in modern times would translate to competing with the Jones’s. On the other hand perhaps we have to also express gratitude for envy and pride that led to the creativity behind some of the beautiful architectural heritage we now appreciate. The palace is now home to the administration of the city with the Mayor living there.

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Over the period of its existence, Mdina has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Carthagnians and Romans and suffered significant destruction during the 17th century earthquake. The architecture here combines medieval, baroque, Venetian and English influences. IMG_0610

As a city which was frequently under seige, it is built defensively with narrow, winding roads that were built to deceive pirates and allow for hiding places or escape for the inhabitants of Mdina.IMG_0666

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The courtyard below was part of a set for the filming of one of the Game of Thrones episodes.IMG_0624

The hotel below was once home to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip for three years and has also hosted other famous people, including Brad Pitt.IMG_0632

St Paul’s Cathedral below is part of a square which  in days gone by, would have served as a venue for town gatherings. IMG_0601

Once again, I am fascinated by the intricate architecture and how beautiful the limestone buildings appear with interesting accents of colour. IMG_0599

Note how striking the Bougainvillea shows up against these walls.IMG_0664

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An orange tree in one of the courtyards provides a lovely touch of vegetation in a very stony landscape.IMG_0630

Apart from the beautiful architecture, I was once again enamoured by the beautiful colourful doors and window boxes.

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An important feature of this Winter holiday was drinking lots of hot chocolate. We stopped at this restaurant to indulge in decadent hot chocolate and the most divine slices of cake.

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Sitting on the upper deck of the restaurant, we had splendid views of Malta and the Mediterranean sea.

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Thank you for joining me this week and join me again for a visit to the picturesque little fishing village of Marsaxlokk.

Today I’d like to introduce my song of the week which may include eclectic genres of music that I enjoy. Mostly though, it is likely to pick out songs which have been covered by various musicians and you can decide which one you like best.

I’ve recently returned from a wonderful Winter holiday in Malta and Venice with a quick introduction of my children to Paris. When our Taxify driver picked us up to take us to Charles de Gaulle Airport, this song by Nadia, was playing on the Jazz radio station our driver was listening to. Though I know the song, I hadn’t heard this version before. Our driver was so exuberant about me expressing my liking for this song that he could hardly contain himself. He lavished us with sweets, took us on a special detour to see the Christmas lights at the Champs Elycees and this experience was just the cherry on the cake to the romance of Paris. Here is Bèsame Mucho – Kiss me alot. This became our family theme song for the remainder of our holiday. I’d love to hear which one was your favorite version. Have a fantastic week ahead!

 

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Photo Credit: Alex G

You were always waiting

On the other side

As we heaved and trawled

Our mounting burdens

 

Sometimes the darkness

Blindfolded us, losing us!

The noise became too loud

The road much too long

 

Then through the tunnel

Light trickled in

There you were… waiting

On the other side

 

Firmly rooted

Filling the space

With your curved branches

Filtering light, promising shade

 

The waiting must surely be over

On the rebirth of this day

That so many died for

That we might live again!

 

 

Firstly, I’d like to wish all my readers a brilliant year ahead. If you’re a dreamer like me – beware, dreams can come true. This is the case in our decision to spend Christmas in Malta. Some of you may recall that a year before, I hardly knew where Malta was situated. Read this post to find out more about how we chose Malta:  https://chevvy8.com/2016/12/19/tell-me-about-malta/

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Malta’s key resource is limestone so it is no wonder that this 350 kilometre square island is filled with limestone structures. These pictures overlook the Grand Harbour.  Malta has a population of about 450 000 people which is quite dense for an island this size – a third of the city I live in. Despite this density, the Island is growing particularly in the town of Silema where people from all over Europe and other countries have been buying up property. Cranes and construction sites are everywhere. Locals say that the economy has burgeoned over the past 10 years due to this investment but it has had a knock on effect on the cost of living particularly as salaries have not risen commensurately and housing prices are particularly expensive for new families.

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Though I’m told that the public transport system is good in terms of buses, we found Taxify the most convenient way for us to get around as a family. Besides, we thought most of our drivers very delightful in how readily they told us about their country and how they reflected the pot pourri of cultures and a wonderful sense of humour and welcome. Though the Maltese are a nation with a language of their own, there is a strong Italian influence on language, and culture and our drivers also included representation from Romania, Hungary, New Zealand and Arab descent.

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With its many harbours, Malta was clearly built to fortify itself against marauders and has been plundered and beseiged over time.

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Though we spent Winter here, I was pleasantly surprised by the temperate climate. Our first few days were a bit cloudy with maximum temperatures of 11 degrees celsius. We also enjoyed some beautifully bright days peaking at 16 degrees celsius. Valletta, pictured above, is the capital city of Malta and I loved it. I also loved that we were surrounded by the beautiful Meditteranean Sea whichever direction we took with waves flushing up against the rocks and pavements.

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The beautiful spots of colour from the windows and doors give Malta its own special character and gave me endless delight.

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Given the density of the city, only cars belonging to residents enter the city. Buses and taxis have a special drop-off zone at the entrance of the city. Streets are very narrow, so you do have to mind the traffic on many of the streets.

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One of the souvenirs I bought was a coffee mug depicting these beautiful doors with their vibrant colours, each depicting a character of their own and  providing an excellent adornment to the limestone buildings. You’ll be seeing more of these intriguing doors in later posts.

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This pretty little Roman Catholic church  (Saint Catherine of Italy Church) was built by the Italian knights of St John’s in 1576 and was refurbished in 2000-2001. We were told by locals that Malta is 98% Roman Catholic in terms of its religion. As we walked through the city, it was interesting to observe various orchestrations of  nativity scenes and window Christmas decorations.

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In the days leading up to Christmas, streets were filled with people of all ages and Michael Buble’s Christmas songs were a favourite in many stores. Of course the street Christmas decorations added to the merriment of Christmas and a Christmas train ride through the main streets of the city and its borders was great fun.

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The Auberge de Castille, originally built to house the knights of St John in the 1570s,  was completely rebuilt in 1740 and now houses the prime minister. It overlooks the grand harbour depicted in pictures above and its austerity is softened by how it lights up at night.

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We stayed at a holiday resort to the North of Matla and what a pleasure it was to wake up to beautiful views of the ocean with its gentle waves and changing shades of light.

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I hope you have enjoyed this escapade with me and look out for further instalments on Christmas in Malta and our New Year stay in Venice. I leave you with this quote from Walt Disney – “If you can dream it, you can do it” ❤️❤️❤️

Whatever the weather or time of day, I hope you will enjoy some of the music I’ve selected for today. It’s also amazing how the year has raced on and besides Diwali and Thanksgiving and Black Friday, we have Christmas at the door. Hopefully, many of you will look back and find some joys to relish for 2017. I’ve no doubt that across the world, it’s been a challenging year. Still, I am grateful for the good things that have come my way and even on dim days, there is always the music. This is my last Soulful Sunday post for the year. I look forward to meeting you here at the same time and same place next year. Happy holidays to my fellow music fan!!❤️ ❤️ ❤️

forest

Just to have loved you

for a lingering while–

That is more than enough.

Just that fleeting sojourn

we shared on a forest path

gave life new meaning–

what I needed from you.

 

Do you remember,

the day that we first met?

The sun steadily drizzling

through fluttering leaves,

the riotous orchestra

of harmonious birdsong

as we fell into step.

 

By your side, nothing to hide

in sheer naked splendour,

our true selves laid bare.

Your voice was so gentle

as you took my hand in yours,

guided and sheltered me

from a jungle of thorns.

 

You gazed deep into my eyes,

took me back to a place

where we’d been together

in a distant time and space.

 

When we reached the river

and your lips touched mine–

I heard the rush and the trickle

of ages gone by, where

this precious moment

was reminiscent of travels

to Oblivion’s  past.

 

This was no dress rehearsal

but the real opening act

of a mysterious drama

based on historical fact.

 

So in this moment

of perilous ecstasy–

Tranquility found me

and I know for certain

that no other love

could ever leave me

feeling quite like this!

In today’s post, I thought I’d start off with a tribute to a group who are one of our cultural institutions, the Soweto String Quartet. The original Quartet hail from the historical Soweto where four guys got together to blend western classical music with their own African sounds. Last weekend we enjoyed a fundraiser concert of a youthful version of the original quartet who had us enthralled with a medley of James Bond theme songs and a combo of the African sounds that  get your feet tapping. Today’s collection starts off with one of my all time favorite songs “Summertime” played in Zulu by the original band who were famous for dressing in their Zebra jackets – representing the diversity of our country. Hope you enjoy this and the rest of today’s collection. Have yourselves an awesome week ahead! ❤️ ❤️  ❤️