Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bugibba, Qawra, St Julian's & Paceville

We recently explored the "tourist areas" of Malta that we hadn't actually seen before - Bugibba and Qawra. Bugibba and Qawra (pronounced Buj-eeb-bah and ow-rah) are located in the north of Malta on the coast. They are tourist resort areas that hug the rocky coast and expansive salt pans of two bays. There is a great coastal walk way along both bays but the area is very touristy and therefore quite sleepy in late October.

Monument in St Julians, the marble globe rotates as the water moves under it
Later the same day we went to St Julians and Paceville (pronounced pa-chay-ville). St Julians is the adjacent town to Sliema and Paceville is the next town north of St Julians. Sliema, St Julians and Paceville form an urban and "young" tourist area that has great shops, restaurants, coastal access and nightlife. Paceville is best known as the bar district, as the entire town is dedicated to all things entertainment with a large mall and arcade (the only place in Malta open seven days a week and until 10 pm!), cinema and bowling complex, a small sandy beach, and countless bars and restaurants that spill out onto the streets.

View of Balluta Bay in St Julian's including the Neo-Gothic Our Lady of Carmel Church and the Art Deco Balluta Buildings. M loves the big Lido (pool and leisure club) also pictured, built on top of the water in the Bay
The LOVE mounment at Spinola Bay in St Julian's
 
Don't be fooled by the coat, it was 8 pm and a balmy 20 degrees on October 30th

Monday, October 25, 2010

Flash Floods

Another impressive thunderstorm woke us last night every other hour. And if the thunder and lightening wasn't waking us up a very annoying alarm noise was. We assumed it was a car alarm. For hours it wailed and we cursed the stupid driver who was soundly asleep while the rest of the neighbourhood was evidently not.

This morning we woke up and read the newspaper. It wasn't a car alarm, it was a flood alarm. We live on one of the biggest hills in Malta, and on the sixth floor, so we were never in any danger. In the areas that had very bad flash floods there haven't been any reports of injuries either. But it is quite impressive. We left a bucket outside last night and we easily had almost half a foot of rain.

Have you ever heard a flood alarm? We will be purchasing ear plugs. And this morning? Sunny and hot.


video from timesofmalta.com
Flooding on the Valley Road, Msida, about 5 minutes down the hill from our flat.
There were no fatalities or injuries.

Msida creek (Valley Road) flooding last night, photo from timesofmalta.com
Flooding in Qormi this morning, photo from timesofmalta.com
A coffin shop flooded in Qormi (don't worry, they're empty), photo from timesofmalta.com

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weirder Weather

The weather in Malta is largely predictable for about 8 months of the year – sunny, hot, and dry. The weather is so predictable in the summer that, in fact, the Malta International Airport actually turns off their Doppler radar. Which is why when we flew over Malta in September it looked like a little brown rock in the middle of the ocean. And now that’s changed. For the past couple of weeks we have entered the rainy season. And you thought the weather in Halifax was weird? 
Lightening over St Paul's Bay last Sunday, photo from timesofmalta.com
We have had some great thunder and lightning storms since we’ve been here, the most spectacular of which woke us up at 4 am with terrific lightening strikes every 2-3 seconds. As a lifelong resident of the East Coast where thunderstorms are a rare event I am far more impressed by these storms than M (he has seen some good ones in Ontario, or so I’m told, but I don’t believe that they are wilder than the ones here in Malta). These storms blow in quick and fierce and are over in a couple of hours. And plain old rain storms are the same – no continuous grey-day rain here like you would have in Halifax that leaves everything damp and chilly and sad looking. Here it pours and then it stops. Then it clears up and gets sunny and another storm cloud blows in and drenches you again. Last weekend there was even hail reported in Mellieha, slightly north of where we live. That's a big deal for a country that's never seen snow before.
Hail storm in Mellieha on October 17-2010, photo from timesofmalta.com
Besides sharing a love for fireworks, M & I also share a love for great big storms. So we have come to an agreement that we even like the "bad" weather here and prefer its extreme highs and lows to the constant greyness of a Canadian Fall. However, the dogs have decided they don't like Maltese rain any better than Canadian rain.

Another upside to all this wet weather is that Malta, still mostly brown and rocky looking, is getting greener. You can practically watch the plants grow they seem to be springing up so quickly. And the air is crisp and cool, a nice change from the heavy, hot air that normally “smells” like Malta. (I cannot describe this smell to you – it’s neutral, neither good or bad, it’s just very Malta)

Storm clouds over Valletta from our terrace last night
The strangest part of the rainy season in Malta is that is also marks the beginning of Malta’s “second Spring”. Summer crops have been harvested, and people actually plant vegetables all over again in September (presumably the heartier variety). And by December – fresh local produce all over again! It’s the strangest thing. There is no time of the year it seems when you can’t grow something here. How bizarre for us Canadians!

Huge fireworks display over Valletta on Tuesday night. Not sure what for...
  Rain, thunder, lightening, hail... the Maltese don't let bad weather deter their fireworks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"That thing definitely isn't light"

We went to the San Pawl Festa in Valletta on Sunday night. It was one big party with fireworks and cheering and confetti falling like snow for hours. The city looked beautiful decorated for the festa with lights and banners. The Maltese have the coolest cultural traditions. We hope some of you get to see a festa while you're here visiting, because (religious ceremony aside) we couldn't wipe the smiles off of our faces all night. Confetti is just as fun as snow and much less cold!

In front of St Paul's Church, Valletta




The beginning of the procession


During the festa a procession of religious figures marches through Valletta

As the procession goes through Valletta the church rings it's bells. One of several bell ringers.

Another bell ringer (notice the lack of ear protection?)


The "relic of St Paul" ("a part of his wrist bone") enters the procession

The star of the show finally arrives. The statue of San Pawl leaves the church (everyone cheers wildly)




St Paul is made of solid wood and is carried by those men through the city for about 4 hours.

"That thing definitely isn't light" - M

The procession continues from St Paul's Church through back streets to the Lower Baraka Gardens

A "Band Club" (La Vallette) follows the statue throughout the streets playing upbeat British band songs




That is a yacht (This ones for you dad!) View from Valletta to the Three Cities from Upper Barraka Gardens

Valletta from the Lower Barraka Gardens at dusk

Those aren't rocks, or dog feces, they are olives (cool!) from trees in Lower Barraka Gardens

Near the end of the procession it started snowing confetti


I was very excited about the confetti
The kids were excited about the confetti too.





The procession stopped for confetti and fireworks, again. (Those guys are still under there)

Really, really loving the confetti






Did we mention the Maltese are a little fireworks crazy? Fireworks and fire crackers smoking out spectators in Lower Barraka Gardens




The end of the procession at the Grand Siege Monument (the bell is tolling in the background)


View from Upper Baraka Gardens onto a small portion of the crowd

Heading home. Great night!