Sunday March 24th
Ourense – Porto – Malta
At 6:00 a.m., I left my apartment, walking a few blocks from my apartment with my carry-on suitcase in tow. I slid my suitcase under the charter bus parked in front of IES As Lagoas and climbed onto a bus of my 3ES0 (freshmen) students singing Reggaeton. How lucky am I?? For the next five days, Malta would be our classroom.
The bus ride was 2 hours from Ourense to Porto (Portugal), and then we boarded a 3 hour flight from Porto to Malta. A bus picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our hotel in Silema Harbor.
Once settled in our rooms (I had a room with a balcony facing the harbor all to myself!!), our group began exploring Silema. Silema is directly across the harbor from Valletta making it an awesome location to stay!
Once settled, we went to the mall and had free time to explore and find dinner. My students found themselves at McDonald’s despite all of the pizza, pasta, and kebab lining the street in front of the hotel. I explored the harbor too, but snuck away to the open sea on the other side of the peninsula. The sun set less than an hour later, making the whole harbor glow. Once the sun set, I joined the other chaperones, Manuel and Alfonzo, and a father who had accompanied us on the trip for some Italian food near the hotel.
Monday March 25th
The first morning in Malta, I woke up to the sun brilliantly shining over the harbor. My students and I ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to Valletta, the capital of Malta, by bus at 9:00 a.m. with a tour guide. All programming was in English because the trip was organized through a bilingual music class.
Malta was selected as the EU City of Culture last year, and because of this, the entrance of Valletta had recently been refurbished. The stones in the wall and fountain at the city’s entrance were shipped to Italy, where experts refurbished each block before sending them back to Malta to be reassembled. Because of this, parts of the city that were in ruins only a year ago look brand new.
After walking through the city gates, we were led to a look out point. Across the bay, we were able to see Fort St. Elmo, which was used for filming Gladiator, Troy, and Game of Thrones!
As we left the lookout point known as Barrakka Gardens, the guide lead our group past many government buildings and churches in the city. Malta has 365 churches, allowing you to go to a different church every single day of the year!
Next, we stopped at a tourist attraction, The Malta Experience, to watch a 45 minute video about the history of Malta. The students (and I, oops!) could barely keep our eyes open in the pitch black theatre and were very happy to return to the sunshine post film.
We continued exploring the tiny capital that is Valletta until lunch time, when I found some Indonesian stir-fry at a new, trendy food court in the center of Valletta. Post lunch, I grabbed some ice cream to enjoy while walking around in the intense sunshine, looking into little shops and at the capital’s beautiful architecture.
Following exploring Valletta, we headed back across the Silema Harbor via ferry. We had free time in the afternoon to explore the shops and harbor. For dinner, I found a Korean restaurant near the hotel. After a very satisfying beef bibimbap, I retired to my hotel room to catch up on my gmail inbox before calling it an early night.
Tuesday March 26th
Once again, I was woken up by the blinding sun reflecting off the harbor straight into my hotel room (even with the curtains closed). I grabbed breakfast with the students before we set off on our second day of touring Malta.
We began in Mosta, a town with a Basilica famous for having a bomb drop through the dome during WWII. The bomb never went off (because it was filled with sand) and the dome did not collapse causing for great celebration of Mary to whom the church is dedicated and who protected those praying during the attack.
Trying my best to make the MOSTA MALTA, I had to stop in front of this gorgeous door for a quick pic. Because my students have thousands more followers on instagram than I do, they ended up being fantastic photographers all week long!! Shout out to Nacho and Beñat for taking most of the photos of me.
The next stop was to the Dingli Cliffs. We experienced a wildly beautiful view looking out toward Tunisia. Cayetana, Beñat, Maria, Carmen, and I tried our best for a great photo, but the wind was not cooperating.
A ten minute drive from the cliffs brought us to Rabat where we saw more beautiful doorways and ate delicious pizza before visiting an archeological sight.
St. Paul’s Catacombs are some of the most prominent features of Malta’s early Christianity archaeology. The archaeological clearing of the site has revealed an extensive system of underground galleries and tombs dating from the third to the eighth centuries CE (from wikipedia).
Mdina is a fortified city which served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. The city is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just under 300. Mdina remained the centre of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities, but it never regained its pre-1530 importance, giving rise to the popular nickname the “Silent City” by both locals and visitors (also from wikipedia).
+ Scenes from the Red Keep from Game of Thrones were filmed in Mdina!!
On the corner of one of the churches in the tiny city of Mdina, there is a statue with a plaque saying that anyone who prays here will receive 40 days of indulgences. My students LOVED that, and they stopped to say a quick prayer.
The tour guide gave us an hour to explore Mdina and grab a quick snack at the only restaurant in the city. I ordered a latte and a disappointing slice of strawberry meringue cake.
The final stop in Mdina was to a courtyard used in Game of Thrones for Catelyn and Ned Stark’s Farewell, Ned and Jamie Lannister’s Fight, and Littlefinger’s Pleasure House.
Post Mdina, we returned to the hotel for a break and grabbed dinner in Silema. After dinner, we went to Valletta to see the capital at night.
Valletta at Night
In Valletta, most shops close in the evening, so there was not much to do except roam the empty city streets. I grabbed some fancy gelato, shared some fries at McDonald’s with my students, and watched them climb trees while wondering at what moment a teacher must intervene!
Wednesday March 27th
On Wednesday, I woke up to an overcast day and pouring rain over Silema Harbor. The streets filled with water and the rain continued nearly all day. Even walking down sidewalks and crossing streets was difficult with the terrible drainage system in the city.
The students had a full day of English lessons at an international school, so I headed to the mall, did a little shopping and came back with a few new books in English (which are very tricky to find in Ourense). I spent the afternoon catching up on my to-do-list, eating falafel, and reading. In the evening, I returned to the same Korean restaurant from two nights before for one more bibimbap before heading back to Galicia.
Thursday March 28th
Malta – Porto – Ourense
On the final morning, I sat by the harbor in the sun reading Sing, Unburied, Sing. A couple hours later, it was time to head to the airport and begin the journey back to Ourense.
Malta was beautiful. The few days on the island were a wonderful opportunity to relax and unwind after so much traveling during the month of March. I am so grateful for my amazing students for helping me to have so much fun and to my school for allowing me such incredible experiences to travel!
As always, thank you for reading along with me on my many journeys this year. Until next time, ciao!