Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Interview on Expats Blog

We're interviewing over today about our experiences living in Malta the past two years. If you have a minute, have a look!

(I think you might be surprised by some of our answers)

- Jess

p.s. like what you see around here?
would so appreciate if you'd put in a good word for us for an Expat Award (by leaving a review here)

The Chest X-Ray for Student Residence Permits in Malta

malta chest x-ray
hey, that's my heart!

For Non-EU nationals to obtain a student residence permit in Malta they must first undergo a chest x-ray to prove they are in good health and do not have Tuberculosis (I have no idea why). This is sometimes also referred to as a 'health screening', but all it entails is a chest x-ray. You can find legislation regarding this requirement, as well as details updated on a yearly basis, at:

Malta Student Residence Permit Legislation (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malta)

Health Care & Screening Information (University of Malta)

Many students studying abroad in Malta do so through the University of Malta, who have made the chest x-ray process as quick and painless as possible. I should know, I've done it all twice now: when I studied history of art as an undergraduate student at the University of Malta in 2010, and this autumn when I began my postgraduate studies in marketing at UM.

This year, as in previous years, the University of Malta has partnered with The Radiology Clinic in Ta X'biex to offer students chest x-rays for €30. 'Officially' you should call and make an appointment within two weeks of arriving in Malta. However ('unofficially' and based on my experiences) since many non-EU nationals can visit Malta on 90-day tourist visas and therefore arrive in Malta weeks or months in advance of the commencement of their studies, making an appointment for a chest x-ray within a week or two of the commencement of classes is just fine.

You can contact The Radiology Clinic by phone at 2133 6267. They are open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 7:30 pm and Saturdays 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. 

The Radiology Clinic is located in Ta X'biex, on Giuseppe Cali Street, which runs parallel to Tesstaferrata (a main street on public bus routes). You can spot the Radiology Clinic by looking for the building with the blue awning on Giuseppe Cali Street. As you can see from the image below, it's easily accessible by public transport. 

A is the approximate location (give or take a few feet) of the Radiology Clinic in Ta X'biex
You must bring your acceptance letter and a piece of ID with you to your appointment. This is very important: no letter, no x-ray. You should also bring €30 (x-ray fee) in cash.

When you arrive at the Radiology Clinic you check in with the receptionist. He/she will ask you to present your acceptance letter and fill out a form with your contact details. Give the form back to the receptionist and have a seat in the waiting room. From here you will be called in to an examination room.

Ladies - here comes the fun part - you'll need to get naked, from at least the waist up. Don't worry, a hospital gown is provided so you don't catch a chill. I've had this procedure done twice now, and both times I had a female x-ray technician, and was never made to feel uncomfortable. If you'd rather not strip down to your knickers, you might want to wear anything else besides a dress (speaking from personal experience). And if you are wearing any jewelry or have any body piercings, those have to come off/out too.

And ladies, at some point during this experience you will probably be asked if you are pregnant, or if there is any chance you might be pregnant. You will also be asked to sign a waiver or form indicating that you are not, for obvious legal purposes.

Once you've reached an appropriate state of undress and you've reassured everyone that you don't have a bun in the oven, the x-ray technician comes in, positions you against the machine, and snaps away. It's all over in a second. You can then get dressed and return to the waiting room. The x-ray is developed on site, and you will be asked to stay to review your x-ray results with a radiologist in his/her office. The entire process takes 30 minutes to an hour, start to finish. 

The whole point of this exercise is to receive a letter from The Radiology Clinic indicating to the University of Malta and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that you are in good health and do not have Tuberculosis. Hang on to this letter, as you will be required to present it to both of these authorities while applying for your student residence permit. The x-rays are yours to do with what you want.

I'm thinking of having mine framed, side by side. Ha.

- Jess

p.s. Non-EU students registered with the University of Malta are entitled to free treatment at Malta’s state-funded hospitals and health centres only in cases of emergency.
However, proof of other health insurance is a requirement for obtaining a student residence permit in Malta.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roman Zaragoza

zaragoza roman walls
zaragoza's roman walls

zaragoza roman theatre

zaragoza roman theatre

zaragoza roman theatre
zaragoza's roman amphitheatre
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Zaragoza, for us, was its rich Roman past. After we arrived in the city and ducked into the city's two main churches, we grabbed some tourist brochures and made a plan of action to see all of the Roman sites in Zaragoza.

The great thing about travelling in Spain is that, even though during siesta (late afternoon) everything shuts down, this means that everything is open later into the evening. Including the museums. This worked out great for us, since we didn't arrive in Zaragoza until 3 pm and had only a few hours to see the city before nightfall.

The city's 'Roman Route' includes remains of ancient walls, a forum, a Roman port museum, baths, and a spectacular amphitheatre. We made it to the Roman wall, amphitheatre, and baths before closing time. And they were spectacular! Travelling throughout western Europe makes it very apparently just how pervasive the Roman Empire was. But who knew that Zaragoza was a Roman city? Augustus built a city here and named it Caesaraugusta sometime around 25 and 12 BCE. Seriously, very cool.

I was disappointed we ran out of time and didn't get to the forum (isn't the museum built above it so cool?) but I'm using it as my excuse to go back to Zaragoza someday soon. That and all of the other amazing sites we missed: the 2008 Zaragoza World Fair site, the Aljaferia Moorish castle, La Lonja, the Ibercaja Camón Aznar Museum, the Primo de Rivera Park...

15 hours in this city was (not surprisingly) not enough.

- Jess

admission to all Roman sites: €7 per person (but you can see the amphitheatre from the street for free, too)
there is also a Renaissance route, Goya route, and Mudejar route (next time!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Goodbye, Summer.


fall via instagram @jessinmalta

Goodbye pool. Goodbye air conditioning. Goodbye bikini. Goodbye hot dogs and little pink panting tongues. Goodbye sunset swims in the sea. Goodbye sunscreen routine. Goodbye lizards. (Good riddance sweat.)

Hello thunderstorms. Hello hot tea. Hello cold tiled floors. Hello cool evening breezes. Hello sweaters. Hello hikes and bikes and rollerblades. Hello mid-day walks. Hello humidity. Hello mosquitos and snails and creepy crawly things. Hello birthdays, anniversaries, and Halloween.

Goodbye summer. Hello Fall.

ps. happy birthday mike!
i am the luckiest girl
watching you grow old.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Zaragoza's Central Market

For 700 years there has been a market on the site of Zaragoza's central market, although this building only dates to the 1900s. As with any market, wandering through this sunny space offered a real slice of life of this city. Lindsay recently interviewed Marjorie Williams, author of Markets of Paris, for her Franco File Friday series and it got me thinking about markets. Our relationships with them (routine vs. luxurious splurge) our perceptions of them (local food source vs. yuppie hang out) and our memories of them (my first 'market date', my first 'market crepe').

I find so many markets to be stuffed to the rafters with tourists and those who go to market to see and be seen with that bunch of organic rainbow carrots. And there's nothing wrong with that, per say. I love me some organic rainbow carrots. But Zaragoza's market was a good reminder of what a market, in essence, is. It was clearly all about the locals here - local buyers and local producers. You could tell the vendors knew their customers, and no one got dressed up specifically to stop in here. First and foremost this market was obviously all about simple food, and simple human transactions. And it was simply lovely.

You might be surprised to learn that, even though I live in Europe, I actually don't buy all my groceries from a market. I don't even go to a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. I go to a grocery store in the basement of the mall next to my flat. Glamorous, no?

- Jess

p.s. our wedding might be in a market!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Road Trip Logistics: Hotel Las Torres, Zaragoza

enjoying a tortilla de patatas and reading up on tourist literature

the view from hotel las torres, zaragoza

During our brief visit to Zaragoza we stayed at the Hotel Las Torres, located right on the city's main square. It has three stars, cost just €55 a night, and far surpassed our expectations. There is free Wifi at the hotel and public parking is available nearby. And, although the rooms and hotel itself are quite lovely, it's the view that is the real winner here.

From the hotel's top floor you are at eye-level with Our Lady of Pillar's tiled domes. It is absolutely surreal. The view was so incredible that we slept with our curtains open all night so we could see the glittering tiles every time we woke up, and hear the church bells tolling in the morning.

As if I hadn't fallen in love with Zaragoza already.

- Jess

hotel: €55/night
wifi: free

p.s. i wish we stayed longer and visited the spa!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Tale of Two Churches: Zaragoza's Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and La Seo Cathedral

zaragoza's two cathedrals
basilica of our lady of pillar and la seo cathedral, zaragoza

basilica of our lady of pillar zaragoza plaza
basilica of our lady of pillar and the plaza del pilar, zaragoza

basilica of our lady of pillar zaragoza
the view from our hotel room

Zaragoza's main square is flanked by two huge churches: The Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar and La Seo (San Salvador) Cathedral.

The basilica, although it dates back to early Christianity, was constructed in its current Baroque style between 1681 and 1872. The exterior is beautiful (those tiles!), and if you're visiting Zaragoza you should definitely take the time to walk across the river to appreciate its full silhouette. There is strictly no photography permitted inside the church, so photos of the interior are relatively difficult to find online, but it houses a few wonderful original examples of Mudejar, Gothic, and Romanesque architecture. It is also still very much a functioning church. As we wandered through, people slipped into confessional booths and kneeled in prayer. Honestly, it's a bit uncomfortable to visit. Numerous (big, capital letter) signs around the church make it very clear how tourists should and should not conduct themselves (i.e. make it very clear tourists are tolerated, but only just). However, it's certainly worth checking out.

La Seo Cathedral, if you haven't already guessed by now, was my favourite of the two. It is, quite simply, enchanting. But you'll have to take my word on it, because again, no photography is permitted here. It was built on the site of a Roman forum and a Moorish mosque and began to develop its current Mudejar form in the 14th century. As you walk inside you are surrounded by the most beautiful, rhythmic Gothic vaulting which pull your eyes up to the church's amazing ceilings and domes. Lace and flesh and flowers made of stone and alabaster cover the walls. It is spectacular. While it too, is a functioning church, it felt much more relaxed and peaceful than its neighbour. It was worth every bit of the €4 admission fee, which also includes entrance to La Seo's tapestry museum (we ran out of time to see it!)

The spires of these two churches have become symbolic of the city of Zaragoza. And you don't need an art history degree to figure out why. Given their complicated architectural histories, La Seo and Our Lady of Pillar are uniquely Saragossian. They are physical expressions of the city's complex past. And they're pretty darn easy on the eyes.

- Jess

entrance to the Our Lady of Pillar: free (donation recommended)
entrance to La Seo Cathedral: €4 (includes museum admission)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Birgufest 2012

Last weekend we headed to Birgufest 2012 in the fortified harbour city of Birgu, Malta. This festival is known primarily for one thing: candles. For two nights each October the medieval city is lit by candlelight until midnight. It is nothing short of magical to wander through its narrow streets guided by a million flickering lights. There are also free tours, free entrance to all museums, concerts, and plenty of street food.

For dinner we grabbed takeaway ftajjar from Two and a Half Lemon and ate them with our feet dangling over the harbour's waters. The Birgu Marina was recently redeveloped and is turning into a lovely spot. It has a small but burgeoning restaurant scene, is home to the Casino di Venezia, and has an unparalleled view of super yachts and sailboats and Valletta's bastion walls.

Birgufest 2012 was packed with crowds, but on any other day of the year Birgu is very quiet and peaceful. It's often skipped over by tourists, but if you ever find yourself in Malta and are the kind of traveller who likes discovering little hidden gems, this is one.

- Jess

before you go - traffic getting to Birgufest was crazy. If you're going to Birgufest 2013 take public transit and allow yourself double the time to arrive (e.g. a 45 minute bus ride will likely take 90 minutes). You can also book a water taxi in advance from Sliema/St. Julian's or the Valletta waterfront. If you're taking a car there are park and rides available; we drove and parked on Triq Marina in Kalkara, and walked to Birgu.

ps. photos from Birgufest 2010 (we looked like babies!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rolex Middle Sea Race 2012, Malta

Mike woke me up early Saturday morning with the promise of take-out hot coffee and pastizzi from my favourite cafe, Cioconat Lounge, if I would come with him and the dogs to watch the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. So we lugged two beach chairs, two pups, and two hot mugs down to the tip of Tigne Point to settle in for a sunny, windy morning show.

It was pretty spectacular to watch the dozens upon dozens of sailboats dart out of the Grand Harbour, hoist their spinnakers, and zip past Sliema's shores before turning out to sea. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is held every Fall in Malta, and this is the 33rd edition. The race course takes sailors from Malta, around Sicily, Pantelleria, Lampedusa, and back to Malta in a counterclockwise route. The race record was set in 2007 at 47 hours and 55 minutes - imagine! If you're interested, you can track the progress of the boats here.

The Europa 2 is a favourite to win, but I love the beautiful black sailboat the Stig, and the Pewag World's Strongest Chain sailboat (now there's some fun marketing!)

Do you sail? I have a weak sea-stomach, but I think it's all so romantic and adventurous.

- Jess