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The Perfect Travel Itinerary for a Short Stay in Malta

Malta is a beautiful place with loads of places to go and things to see! If you’ll only be there for 2-3 days but can’t figure out which sites to see or how to fit in the most activities you can in the shortest period of time then I am here to help. After studying abroad in Malta for a whole semester, I learned the in’s and out’s of the city, which things are more worthy of a visit than others, and how to maximize your short-term stay in Malta.

Here is a 2-3 day travel itinerary you can use to help figure out your plans.

Day 1:

Please note: Day 1 of this itinerary includes lots of walking and shopping. If you don’t plan to do much shopping, the itinerary will definitely be shortened and you can add one more thing to it. I would suggest adding the President’s Garden, as it is quick, beautiful and on the way to Mdina (the last stop on the itinerary).

Sites to see: Valletta, Sliema, Mdina, Paceville (optional), President’s Garden (optional)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7-8am: Get up and dressed

8-9am: Take the bus to Valletta

9-12pm: Explore Valletta and grab lunch (Sites to see in Valletta: museums, upper Baraka and lower Baraka gardens, “war room”)

12-12:45pm: Take the ferry from Valletta to Sliema (when you walk into Valletta, the ferry service is on the left side… there is a sign pointing to it but I would ask for directions)

12:45-3:30pm: Explore Sliema. (Things to do in Sliema: Go to The Pointe shopping mall and other shops)

3:30-4:30pm: Take the bus to Mdina/Rabat

4:30-until: Explore Mdina and Rabat (Things to do in Mdina: tons of museums, St. Paul’s Catacombs, try Fontanella Tea Garden or Sharma’s for dinner, if on a Sunday, check out the Rabat market)

10pm-until (OPTIONAL): Got Paceville, Malta’s strip of clubs and bars– the best place for night life in Malta. It is located in St. Julians

 

Day 2:

Please note: This itinerary is best for a Sunday because that is when the HUGE market is open in Marsaxlokk. If you don’t go on a Sunday, don’t plan on shopping or aren’t interested in the market then I would suggest St. Peter’s Pool and/or Ghar Dalam Cave (both of which aren’t far from Marsaxlokk) instead.

Sites to see: Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto, Dingli Cliffs, Ghar Dalam cave (optional), St. Peter’s Pool (optional)

7-8am: Get up and get dressed

8-10am: Take the bus or taxi to Marsaxlokk (a taxi will be best depending on where you are staying)

10-1pm: Explore, shop and eat at Marsaxlokk and restaurants

1-2pm: Take the bus (or taxi) to Blue Grotto

2-4pm: Take the boat trip into Blue Grotto and explore the area

4-5pm: Take the bus or taxi to Dingli Cliffs

5-until: walk the coast of Dingli cliffs

 

Day 3:

Please note: It will take almost a full day to complete the activities listed here…specifically if you plan on swimming in Comino or plan to go to Gozo.

Sites to see: Gozo or Comino (your choice), Bugibba (optional), Malta National Aquarium (optional)

8-9: Take the bus up north to the ferry stop

9-9:45: Take the ferry service to Gozo or the speed boat service to Comino

9:45-12: Visit the Azure Window (Gozo) OR lounge at Blue Lagoon (Comino)

12-12:30: Head to Victoria, the city center (Gozo) OR walk to the watch tower (Comino)

12:30-2: Explore Victoria(Gozo) OR go through the watch tower museum (Comino)

2-3: Head to one of Gozo’s museums or temples (Gozo) OR walk back to Blue Lagoon and head back to Malta (Comino)

3-5: Explore Museum and/or temple (Gozo)

5-until: Take the ferry back to Malta (Gozo)

Later/when you get back to Malta: Stop by the Malta National Aquarium if you have time and watch the sunset OR visit Bugibba OR watch the sunset at Golden Bay Beach

I hope this helps you figure out your travel itinerary. The must sees are definitely Mdina, Valletta and Comino and/or Gozo if you have time to travel there (because it will take a full day).

The 7 Must-Sees of Malta

Malta is filled with loads of things to do and sites to see. Here are my list of must-sees that I compiled after spending a semester abroad in Malta.

1.) Valletta, Malta

Valletta is the capitol of Malta, and it is the area known for its ancient-rustic style buildings. In Valletta, you have the option of grabbing some delectable gelato, studying up at some of the most popular museums in Malta, shopping at some stores, or simply relaxing at one of the gardens that gives a great view of the water. Occasionally Valletta has fireworks, food and music festivals, so that’s something to do as well. You also have the choice of taking a short ferry ride to the opposite bay, Sliema, and getting a legendary view of the capitol. Whatever your choice may be, Valletta is one of Malta’s most well-known, unique and spectacular areas so I definitely wouldn’t miss it. P.S. I took this picture on the ferry and it has NO FILTER on it– that’s really how it looks!

2.) Mdina, Malta

Medieval Mdina is the land of the knights– it’s the old capitol of Malta! As you walk into Mdina, you get a glimpse into what the times of the knights was like, as there is a moat that surrounds the entire area that used to be used during war. Outside of the unique shops and beautiful cathedrals in Mdina, there are also some outstanding restaurants with unbelievable views. From these places, you get to see the rolling hills of Malta– which is just as beautiful as the sea. If you decide to check it out (which you DEFINITELY should) be sure to go to Sharma’s Ethnic Cuisine for good Indian and Arabian food or Fontanella Tea Garden for delicious cake and the best view!

3.) Blue Lagoon, Comino

Blue Lagoon is an exotic beach on Malta’s sister island that makes you feel like you’re in paradise. As a matter of fact– it IS paradise! Its name comes from it’s unbelievably blue water, which you can see in the picture.

4.) Azure Window, Gozo

I underestimated this place and was pleasantly surprised when I went for a visit! Azure window is a HUGGGGE naturally made monument of stone that stands really high and connects to a rocky yet hilly land. It is located on the larger of Malta’s sister islands: Gozo. Here’s me during my visit there!

5.) Blue Grotto, Malta

Once again, we have another unbelievably blue area of water that is sure to take your breath away. If you don’t have the time or desire to take the ferry over to Blue Lagoon but still desire to see blue Maltese waters then Blue Grotto is the place to go. Here, you get to take a traditional Maltese boat to some of Malta’s most legendary caves. Inside, you’ll find blue raspberry-colored water along with tons of jellyfish. It’s only 8 euros for the boat ride and it’s well worth it!

6.) Marsaxlokk, Malta

The famous market, Marsaxlokk! If you’re wanting to do some inexpensive souvenir shopping or get a first-hand glimpse of Malta’s legendary colorful boats then this is where you want to go! Sunday mornings, Marsaxlokk opens their HUGEEEEE outdoor market that aligns the south coast of the island with street vendors and tasty treats. There are also loads of restaurants to go to and fresh fish (almost too fresh)! Don’t come too late though– it takes quite awhile to walk the whole market and gets awfully crowded towards the end (around 12-1pm). If you’re not able to make it on a Sunday, there are still some vendors who are there throughout the week.

7.) Ghar Dalam Cave

This is an area near Marsaxlokk that is not only a cave, but also has a museum detailing the history of the cave and it’s relevance. This is a great place to go if you are wanting to learn a little more about the island but don’t have time to roam in an extra large museum. It’s one of my favorite caves!

I hope this helps you figure out your Malta travel schedule. Trust me, these are the best spots to visit in Malta and it’s surrounding islands and you won’t regret any of them!

Best Places to Swim in Malta

After spending an entire semester in Malta, I definitely have a good idea of the best places to take a dive. Of course, there are many options considering Malta is an island, but these are the top 5 places that are best for swimming based on my experience. Sidenote: Malta is beautiful anywhere you go, so don’t fret if you can’t make it to these ones– there are plenty of other breathtaking spots on the island.

1.) Blue Lagoon, Comino

Blue Lagoon is a rocky beach located on one of Malta’s sister islands, Comino. To get there, you simply take the bus, take a speed boat, and you’re there. It’s name “Blue Lagoon” becomes quite telling when you visit it– the water is VERY blue, beautiful and breathtaking. This beach is literally like paradise and, because of it, gets thousands of visitors during the tourist months.

2.) Ghajn Tuffieha/Golden Bay

On the island of Malta itself, this is, without a doubt, the most popular beach/set of beaches. Ghajn Tuffieha is an area on the west side of Malta that encompasses three major beaches: Golden Bay, Riviera Bay and Gneja Bay, all of which are walking distance from each other. Of those, I’d choose Golden Bay as my top pick. As you walk to the shore of the beach, you’ll see a vast number of street vendors and vegetable stands where you can buy souvenirs– because you’ll definitely want to remember this place. On all of the beaches, you can also do water sports like rafting or wake boarding!

 

3.) St. Peter’s Pool

St. Peter’s Pool isn’t meant for the timid! It’s a naturally made “pool,” formed by the rocks of Malta that allows people to jump off the ledge of the island into the current of the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t worry, it’s not too far of a jump but it does take a bit of courage.

4.) Ghar Lapsi

Ghar Lapsi is a swim and dive site located on the southeast side of Malta. It encompasses a cave that you can walk underneath or climb on top of. It’s a bit of a pain to get to, but it’s well worth it. If you are looking to lay out and tan, this isn’t the place– but if you are looking for some serious swimming and beautiful views, this is the place!

5.) Santa Marina Bay, Comino

Just like Blue Lagoon, Santa Marina Bay is also located on the tiny island of Comino. In fact, in order to get to it you have to pass by Blue Lagoon– so in essence, going to Santa Marina Bay gives you the best of both worlds. Since Blue Lagoon is the most popular beach on the island, if you are looking for a more quiet beach time on a sandy bay then this is the option for you.

5 Effective Ways to Help Finance Your Study Abroad Trip

Studying abroad never seemed financially realistic for me. I almost gave up on my dream of studying abroad because I thought I wouldn’t have the money. My parents aren’t millionaires (neither am I, by the way), I didn’t have a large enough savings, and no scholarships were rolling in. But a way was made and I took my trip! I didn’t give up on my dream and neither should you.

Here are some tips to help you finance your study abroad trip:

1.) Save — I noted that I didn’t have a large enough savings… but I did have some money save. Start planning your trip in advance to give you time to save. Pick up a weekend job and promise yourself that all the money you’re going to make will go to your study abroad account. Set up an automatic debit on your bank account that will transfer money to your main account to your study abroad account every time you get paid. There are a lot of ways you can go about doing it, but don’t overlook the importance of this one.

2.) Get a saving partner — For me, it way my dad. Since I knew a year in advance that I would be studying abroad, my dad agreed to save for me, with me. I saved 30 dollars every pay period, and so did he. If there’s a trusted adult that you know, ask them if they will commit to putting away five or ten or 20 dollars for you every time they get paid. Those ten dollars every two weeks over the course of one year with multiple people can add up!

3.) Send mail to friends and family — A few months before my trip, I typed up some letters explaining my trip and requesting donations and sent it out to close friends and family. This was extremely impactful for me — it got me almost half of the money I needed for study abroad!

4.) Apply for as many scholarships as you can — Your first priority should be applying for scholarships at your school. Since there are less people competing for scholarships at your school, you are more likely to get one! A lot of the money I used for my trip came from school scholarships. Next, apply for outside scholarships — small and big. Remember, every little bit counts.

5.) Pray — Even after I did these things mentioned above, I still was short on money. For me, personally, I can honestly say that God provided and answered my prayers. Although this should be a first option, it should never be counted out as an option at all.

Customs: Malta vs. United States

It’s not until you step outside your realm of comfort and experience something new and different that you discover that new and different is out there, and what’s new and different for you is ordinary and normal for many. Reflecting on my experience, there are so many small and big differences between the habits and customs of Malta and the United States. I’m going to share them here. Some of these I wrote while in Malta, others I am writing now as I’m reflecting.

1. The restroom and bathroom are called “toilets”

“Pardon me, I’m going to the toilet” is what I hear all the time. In addition, many of the signs for the bathroom have a picture of a male standing up in front of the toilet to represent the male’s restroom, and a picture of a woman sitting down to represent the women’s restroom. It’s pretty funny actually.

2. Squirrels in the U.S. are like cats here in Malta

Seriously, cats are everywhere! In The U.S. the only cats we see are pets. But here? Cats are just like squirrels and they roam around everywhere. In orientation, a cat just roamed in the room and then left. Their cats are also very sporadic—they’ll start running randomly… For anyone who knows me, you KNOW I’ve been freaking out. I.Do.NOT.Like.Cats.!!!!!

3. The English word “like” is equivalent to the Maltese word “mela”…..kinda

When you hear Maltese people speak English and their own language, you hear them constantly saying the word “Mela.” But when you ask them what it means, no one can give you an explanation of what it actually means. I’ve discovered that the word “mela” is a filler word — the same way that “like” is used in English as a filler word. Mela can mean so, um, good, alright, okay, next, so and many other things!

Example conversation:

Maltese person: Are you going to the event tonight??

Me: Yeah, I’ll be there.

Maltese person: Mela. I’ll see you there

Another example conversation:

Me: I’ve known you for quite some time and still don’t know your name…what is it?

Maltese person: Mela, its Ann

Me: Great, now I can call you by your name.

Maltese person: *laughs* mela.

4. Taking the trash out has a different meaning.

Maltese people take their trash bags and put them on the curb (a.k.a. the side walk—see the photo). They don’t put all of their trash in a large trash bin. Additionally, their trash bags are sooooo small compared to ours.

5. Taking a box for your to-go food is a no no

If you ask for a box, they’re definitely available, but many people in parts of Europe frown upon asking for a box. The first time I went out to eat with a girl from Bulgaria she looked at us crazy when we asked for a box and she seemed pretty embarrassed! She also thought it was appalling that sometimes we would ask to have other people’s food that they didn’t want. But by the end of studying abroad, she ALWAYS asked for boxes and ALWAYS asked to have people’s food that they didn’t want. Hahaha.

6. Sidewalks in Malta are not conducive for romance.

Most of Malta’s sidewalks are not even sidewalks (to me)! They are very, very small and unevenly paved. If you want to have a romantic walk in Malta, you’re limited on the places you can go — unless you want to walk on the street with your lover and risk getting hit by the dangerous cars. Sad romance, maybe? When it rains, you will DEFINITELY get splashed if a car speeds by you. It’s almost like walking on a balance beam. With Malta being so small, you would think bikes would be a “thing”—but there’s no way because the bikes will barely fit on the sidewalk!

7. Almost all restaurants have the menu posted on the door or window.

I love that restaurants do this because it allows you to restaurant-browse without having to go in, ask for a menu, and then awkwardly leave because you don’t like what they serve or feel pressured into getting food you don’t really want.

8. Tax is included in the price showed on price tags and menus.

In Malta, you know exactly what you’re going to pay when you go to buy something; tricky taxes aren’t a factor. So if the McDonald’s Menu says 7.50– your meal will be 7.50– tax is already calculated into the price. Tipping also isn’t a major, mandatory thing when eating out. Tipping about 5% is enough in Europe, or just rounding up to the nearest dollar (or ten dollars if your bill is a bit bigger).


9
. Closing and locking doors isn’t really a thing in Malta…at least not where I stayed.

If you walk through the university residence where I stayed — day or night — you will see every single door wide open. There’s a secret stealer that goes in the flats at nights and steals people’s food and everyone complains about it….but nobody ever locks their front door. It’s seriously just not a thing and I don’t understand why. It probably reflects the country’s extremely low crime rate and amazingly terrific weather. Additionally, if you walk to shopping areas like Sliema or Valletta, business always keep their doors open as that’s how they attract customers.

10. They don’t have too many apartments here– just flats.

What’s the difference between a flat and an apartment? Well, a flat is bigger with way more rooms and often more than one floor. Essentially, it is a row of small duplexes or a complex of duplexes that are all connected. Think of an apartment but instead of having one or two bedrooms it has 6 or more bedrooms (sometimes). It’s very similar to a hostel. In the flat (at least mine) there are 7 rooms, 4 bathrooms and one kitchen with two fridges and 12 large cube-cabinets for each person. I know, a little unusual for the American standard but everyone in the flat becomes one big family! Cleanliness though? That’s a whole different long, depressing story.


11. You buy your grocery bags and re-use them.

Instead of getting plastic bags at the store every time you grocery shop, you either have to buy every plastic bag you need, or buy a reusable grocery sack that you bring back every trip. At the grocery store I go to, Smart, they also offer delivery for groceries over 30 euros.

12. There are barely any stop lights here

Street signs are primarily used in Malta- but even the street signs are very informal. For instance, there is a sign made of card board that says “SLOW DOWN” that is written on cardboard and nailed to a post. This is VERY common to see.

13. American pancakes and European pancakes are not the same thing

In America, when we think of pancakes we think of a thick dough patty with lots of syrup and perhaps other toppings like fruits or whip creams. But in Europe, pancakes are much different. European pancakes, also sometimes interchangeably known as crepes, are made of a batter that is much thinner and runnier. The pancakes, or crepes, are very thin and easy to eat with two hands. They are typically rolled up with Nutella inside and whip cream on top with other toppings like fruit. Also, unlike our pancakes, Europeans often eat pancakes (crepes) as a dessert, not as a whole meal.

14. Trash bags and baskets are called “Litter”

We think of litter as a place where animals go to the restroom, or a pack of little puppies, but litter here is where you put your trash.

15. People eat gelato instead of ice cream

And NO, they are not the same thing. They look similar, but are different. Gelato is creamier and goes through a different process when being made. It is also, many times, made out of natural materials. It’s just altogether BETTER!!!

I hope this gives you insight into the Maltese way of life. It is pretty amazing, I must say. Writing this brought back so many amazing memories. Ciao!

Is Reverse Culture Shock Real?

The answer to that question is a strong YES.

In the weeks leading up to my coming back to the States, I would go from being extremely excited about coming home, to wanting to stay in Malta my whole life.

Two extremes, I know.

It always had a tendency to lean more toward ready to go home, though. Since I barely experienced culture shock coming into Malta, I just knew that I wouldn’t experience reverse culture shock coming home.

Boy was I wrong.

My first mild symptom of reverse culture shock came before I even came home. Since I changed my plane ticket and was coming home earlier than expected, I didn’t want my mom to tell ANYBODY when I was coming home. Not any of my family, not even my best friend. I just didn’t want to have to deal with everyone asking a million questions and giving me hugs and wanting to spend time and treating me different. I just wanted to be normal. I just wanted my life in America to go smoothly and normally, as it did before I ever left.

I was home a whole week before I told my best friend that I was home (she thought I was still in Malta).

What was also a bit strange for me is the fact that I quickly jumped into my normal routine as soon as I got back — church, work, home. It took me awhile to get adjusted to the time difference, but, overall it felt like I had never really left. And I think that’s why I wanted to avoid all the questions… I didn’t want anyone to ask me what I learned or whether I was different, because, quite frankly, it didn’t even feel like I ever left….so why would I be different?

Even though the experiences I had in Malta were quite magical, they felt unreal. Surreal. Like a fairytale. Like it was amazing, but just a dream. A figment of my imagination.

Time really flew. My experience was really amazing. It was a fairytale for me. And it ended in an instant. And I don’t think that’s something I grasped, or even wanted to face.

It’s weird because while I was abroad I was very reflective, thoughtful and vocal about the things that I learned and experienced. But when I got back, I had nothing to say besides, “It was great, I learned a lot,” in a hesitant voice, hoping no one would actually ask what I learned.

I think I just need more time to take it all in.

The next symptom of reverse culture shock came as soon as I got of my plane in little ol Wichita, KS. All I heard was American accents. And it kinda freaked me out. Typically, in Europe, when I hear an American accent I want to run up to the person and say “OMG YOU’RE FROM THE STATES?!” But (obviously) if I’m in America….and they have an American accent….then they’re from America. It was just weird not hearing Italian accents and French accents and German accents and Chinese accents and Irish accents and multiple languages spoken.

Before I came home I developed an internal list of every single food place that I wanted to visit that I had missed so dearly when I was gone — Chipotle, Applebees, El Agave, China Go, Cheddars, just to name a few. But surprisingly, I barely went to any of those places like I expected. In fact, I barely ate at all.

Now, it’s a few weeks down the line, and I wish I could get it all back. The tiny sidewalks, the annoying flat mates who don’t clean, the beautiful view of Valletta, the raggedy buses that may or may not show up, the cats that I hate, the walks to Smart and the mini mart, trips to Golden Bay. I just want it all back. I’m still trying to figure out how it ever left me. Or how I ever got it all to begin with?

It’s safe to say that my experience was a fantastic fairytale. But that’s all I can tell you about it right now.

More thoughts to come about reverse culture shock, but I wanted to let everyone know that it is definitely real.

 

Grand Finale and Final Flight

I can’t believe my study abroad adventure has ended. In the snap of my fingers, it’s all gone….

Here’s an overview of my last days in Malta (TEARS) and my flight back home (MORE TEARS).

I got back from Barcelona just five days before I was scheduled to leave for home. I wanted to experience as much of Malta as I could in my final days and shove as many memories as I could into my brain. The initial plan was that my sushi partner, Maya, and I were going to take a final sushi trip. But when I got back, she had made other plans. So I took my final trip to Gocci and had sushi…..this was the place that made me a sushi-believer (TEARS). While I was in Sliema, I also stopped to get some gifts.

Sunday (the next day) I was extremely exhausted from traveling so I just had a more relaxed day. I did some writing, slept a bit, and walked down the street to the President’s Gardens to get dinner.

Monday, I decided to go back to paradise (Comino island). I really didn’t want to go alone, but timing was horrible because while I was getting ready to leave the States, everyone else was cramming for finals (luckily, I only had papers and turned them in early). I left my phone at home and took the trip to Comino in peace. I wanted to be able to swim in peace without worrying whether someone would still my stuff. I also just wanted to take in the experience and not be distracted by my little cellular device.

When I got to Comino, I went to the smaller beach first. I laid out, got in the water, and repeated. It was still pretty cool in the water because it hadn’t been sun-shiny the past couple of days. There were tons of jellyfish scattered on the sand and you could see them lying at the bottom of the sea. It sounds cool, but it actually scared me a little!

I then walked to Blue Lagoon, laid down my items in hopes that no one had sticky fingers, and got in the water. I was hoping to really get my swim on, but it was just too cold. I’m glad I got to at least dip my toes in the blue-raspberry water. After that, I laid in the sun for awhile, then got on the ferry to go back to Malta. That was my last time in paradise.

When I got back to the residence it was about 3 P.M. I decided that I didn’t want to waste the rest of my day, so I took a shower and headed to Mosta to get some food and explore. I saw the Mosta dome (during a war back in the day, a bomb landed in the Mosta dome, which is a church, but never went off) up close and got some Chinese food. It honestly wasn’t that impressive, but it was still fun to explore.

 

The next day was Tuesday. My last day in Malta (plays suspense and heartbreak music). I had to live it up. I went to my favorite spot in Malta — Valletta — with my friend Jerry who I had met just days before. He is from a French island and he said he hadn’t visited Valletta and didn’t really have any friends. So I decided it could be a great day for us both! We took the bus, walked around, did some shopping, got some gelato (twice!), took the ferry to Sliema, took photos of Valletta’s beauty, and had some great talks. This was probably the hottest day I had ever experienced in Malta, by the way. It was so heartbreaking and unreal leaving Valletta. It was one of the first places I visited and now one of the last I’ll see.

When I got home, I took a cool shower (since it was scorching outside), took a nap, and then got ready to head to Mdina with my flat mates and friends for our (my) final Maltese dinner. We went to an outstanding Indian restaurant in Mdina and we all splurged on food!!!!!! It was so delicious and I’m so glad I went there over anywhere else.

After our dinner, I had a miniature photoshoot. It wasn’t until I saw the photos that I realized just how tan I had gotten due to the radiating Maltese sun. Here are some pics from my final day:

 

 

 

When I got back from that, honestly, I was sad. I spent the rest of my night packing (or shall I say, stucking) my suitcases and chatting it up with Miranda and Himangini since they weren’t able to make it to the dinner. We talked and reminisced and just enjoyed each other’s presence.

Sidenote: One thing that’s different about leaving home than leaving where you studied abroad is that when you leave home, even though it may be tough, you know that you can get it all back. Yeah, it may be hard to leave your friends and family and favorite restaurant at first, but you knwo that you’ll be coming back to it eventually. Maybe that’s what gave me comfort when I left. But it’s so much more difficult leaving Malta than it was coming because I know that once it’s gone, it’s gone…. I can’t just come back to the same people again. Also, the Residence was such a close-knit community that I feel like my flat mates know me more than my own family. They may not know my deepest thoughts and feelings…but they know me. Not sure how to explain it……

That’s kind of sad to me

 

Alright. Departure day. I got up early in the morning to finish packing and cleaning my room. I (tried) to wrap all of valuable in gifts in clothing, and I really hope nothing breaks.

Now, I’m here at the airport in Chicago having to wait overnight because I missed my flight into Wichita. Let me give you an overview of my flight.

When I got to the airport, I realized how big of a mistake I made by stuffing my carry-on bag with stuff. My arm was LITERALLY bruised from carrying it through the airport. I thought I would be able to find a cart in every airport to set it on, but I was so wrong. I literally cried once because it was so heavy and painful. Silly me.

Luckily, though, the checked bag man let me check my two suitcases without paying extra, even though they were both overweight. He’s an angel. My flight out of Malta went great. Here are photos:

 

malta3 malta4

 

But its when I got to Germany that I had issues. As i mentioned, I suspected that every airport would have carts you could use to carry your bags… But Germany had NONE. And my gate was on the opposite end of the airport. And I had multiple heavy bags with me. I trekked my way across the airport, bruised arm and all, and managed to make my flight. It was tough, but I did it.

I arrived in Chicago next. I was shocked and excited to see so many black people (in Malta there are next to none). I felt very….comfortable…like I didn’t stand out as “the black girl” anymore. So that’s good.

When I got off the plane in Chicago I had to fill out a customs form, stating the items I had. This is where I encountered issues. I had packed away some jelly, olive oils, herbs, and seeds (all unopened) in my bag. I wasn’t sure if I should mention that on the form. I mean…..they were all gifts….I didn’t secretly plant a bomb….and I didn’t want to get them confiscated. Turns out, I had way too many items to list anyway, so I just gave a broad generalization of what they were and prayed nothing got taken out.

 

Now, finally….. It’s 2 A.M. I’m sitting in the Chicago airport writing a blog post because I missed my flight. Even though it was my previous airline’s fault because it was late, they wouldn’t pay for a hotel for me because the flight wasn’t “late enough.” I just want to be home and done with traveling.

I can’t believe I really left Malta.

I’ll give another update about my time being back here soon. Ciao.

Busy’N’Barcelona

I took my first trip alone to Barcelona, and it was much better than I thought it would be. I felt free and independent and much safer than expected. Here’s an overview of my time.

Day 1:

I departed from the University Residence to head to the airport. I decided to take the bus to save some money, and because I needed to use up my bus passes before heading back to the States. Boy was that (almost) a mistake! I intentionally left early for the airport because I know just how unreliable and untimely Malta’s buses can be — especially the ones that go to the airport. I waited at the stop for 40 whole minutes before any bus that goes to the airport. It was late.

Nonetheless, I was at the airport two hours before my departure time, which was exactly what I was wanting! The plane ride had a few bumps because of the clouds, but overall it went very well. Here’s a picture from the plane:

I used to despise plane rides because my ears couldn’t take the plane, but studying abroad has helped me move past that — now I can sleep through landing and take-off!

When I arrived in Barcelona, I struggled to find the correct bus to get me to the hostel, but after a few guess-and-check attempts, and a couple of minutes of wandering, I arrived at my hostel. I found a place to eat up the street, a Japanese Restaurant, and got some chicken fried rice (because how in the world can you get that wrong?!). When I finished eating, I walked back to my hostel and planned out the next day so there would be minimal confusion. Confusion was the LAST thing I needed since I was traveling by myself.

Overview of Day 1: I was EXTREMELY saddened and let down by Barcelona — the parts I had seen were just “average” even though everyone I know said Barcelona was amazing.

 

DAY 2 IN BARCELONA:

I’m an early bird so I got up early, ate breakfast at the hospital (nothing fancy, just cereal and juice but FREE), and then headed to the grocery store. Prior to leaving, my friend Andy gave me some expert travel advice. She suggested that instead of spending money for a meal lunch and dinner, just find a grocery store and get snacks to eat throughout the day (e.g. bananas, chips, sandwich bread, lunch meat, etc.) so that I can splurge on dinner and get what I want. So I did just that and packed my groceries in my bag.

Now, the touristing could finally begin. The first place I want to was Casa Battlo — a beautiful and interesting home built by Gaudi. I almost skimped out of buying tickets because they were 20 euros, but I’m so glad I invested in them. Casa Battlo has a mosaic design an unique tile colors and structures. It’s definitely Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions — souvenir shops are filled with Casa Battlo’s designs on them. Here are some pics:

 

I truly did enjoy Casa Battlo, but……I still wasn’t overjoyed with the city of Barcelona.

Until……..

I walked across a huge plaza of geese….

…..turned the corner and saw a huge open field with the Arc de Triomf.

 

This was the moment my love journey with Barcelona began.

After I discovered the Arc and the beautiful park and zoo, I skipped my way over to the Gothic Quarter. This area reminded me of Prague — the design, the buildings, the castle-like, dracula-like feel. Prague, all the way. The architecture here was sooooo amazing, and the people who built it were absolutely amazing designers! There were tons of cool and creepy shops (which reminded me of Italy a bit). It was just a nice area:

 

Within the Gotchic Quarter were many museums. The one I chose to go to was the World Culture Museum. Turns out the World Culture Museum was actually a world religion museum. But that’s fine, I love learning about others’ beliefs. So I roamed around there for awhile, left and then came across a museum that turned out to be Barcelona’s history museum. On the way in I heard two American accents and chatted it up with two other fellow Americans. It’s always refreshing to meet people from the States getting the same experiences as you! After I left there, I randomly discovered a food and clothes market with excellent-smelling food.

I implemented self-control and didn’t buy a thing since I knew I had lunch in my bag. The food did make me hungry though, so I went back through the Gothic Quarters searching for a store I found because I really wanted to get my sister a purse from there. The area is so huge and confusing that I didn’t find it again (sad face).

At this point, I walked back to the plaza near the Arc de Triomf, ate my snacks and relaxed for about 30 minutes until the city’s transportation started running again (it was on and off this day because there was a labor strike). I actually ended up just wandering around Barcelona instead of taking the public transportation. I discovered a LONNNNNNG strip of shops and restaurants. Literally, there were servers lined up in rows trying to convince people to eat at their restaurants.

Welp, someone got me. I was trying to secretly look at a restaurant’s menu and, next thing you know, a server comes up to me and convinces me to eat at their restaurant. I’m so glad I did though because the restaurant was BEAUTIFUL. I got the traditional chicken paella, which was also deelish. Here are some photos of the restaurant:

 

 

After that, it was starting to get dark, so I really had to figure out my next move because I didn’t want to be wandering BCN alone at night. I wanted to go see a flamenco show, but I also wanted to see the magic fountain….but I knew I wouldn’t have time to do both. I, ultimately, decided to do the Flamenco Show, which was AWESOME.

Sidenote: One thing that really hit me hard during the flamenco show was the absolute obsession that people (including myself, sadly) have with their phones. In this show, I sat on the balcony and looked down on the show. All I saw were people with their phones out the WHOLE time. If people weren’t recording the entire show, they were texting or instagramming. I just realized how absolutely consumed we are with image. I guarantee those people who were recording the videos and taking photos weren’t doing it for their own memory-sake, but to show others how ‘fabulous’ their life is; they may leave having not taken in the flamenco experience, but only gathered a couple of photos to show off. We can’t even enjoy experiences because we’re obsessed with impressing people in the aftermath of it all. It’s really sad.

So anyways.

So when the show ended, it was about 9 P.M. I was still a bit sad that I couldn’t go to the magic fountain. It was still extremely bright outside, but I knew I needed to begin heading back to the hostel to avoid being out too late. I put the hostel in my navigation (which was now fully charged thanks to the outlets at the flamenco show). For some reason, my phone was now taking foreverrrrr to load. So as I was waiting for it load, I just walked in the direction that I knew my hostel was in and stayed on the path of the city buses to be sure I didn’t get lost. It felt like it had only been 5 minutes of waiting for my navigation to load, but apparently it had been much longer. I look up from my phone’s navigation and see a HUGEEEE arena. Next to the arena is a street with what looked like a castle at the end. There were TONS of people. This was obviously a tourist attraction area.

I walked down the street and next thing you know, I see……THE MAGIC FOUNTAIN!!!!! It was beautiful and big!!!!!! The same thing I didn’t think I would get to see!!!!! I was so happy! I gathered around the magic fountain like the rest of the curious tourists and watched it for awhile, while taking glimpses of the magical castle-like building (it truly looked like the Walt Disney castle) behind me. The fountain gleamed with blues and yellows and reds and just had me in awe! It changed shapes and movements based on the sound of the music I literally felt life this was a dream come true sort of night!!!!!!!

The fountain was just beautiful and big. It changed colors and shapes based on the music that was playing and there were tons of people with blankets lying and sitting around the fountain. I continued to walk up the stairs and escalators (they were outside escalators) and behind the fountain at a more elevated level was a palace looking building! It reminded me of the Walt Disney castle. I got some pictures and just stood in awe at the building and the fountain. I then kept walking up and just overlooked the whole area.

 

I was soooo in awe! My day was truly amazing! After that, I stopped to get some gelato and hustled my way to the hostel. To sleep I went….

Day 3:

I had a lot to check off of my list so I woke up at 7:30am.

The first stop of the day was Tibidabo, Barcelona’s tallest mountain. I took the metro to the Tibidabo stop, got off and went in search of the transport that takes you up to the mountain to the amusement park. After a lonnnnng confusing search and a bunch of confusion, I ended up hiking up the mountain….yes, HIKING.

Correction: I decided to TRY TO hike up the mountain.

Please note, although it is technically a mountain, hiking up it is do-able; it’s relatively small compared to many. The view from where I was was beautiful! And finally, my selfie stick came in handy.

I discovered some frightening things in my attempt to hike up the mountains (bones, animal skulls, etc.) so my journey quickly came to a halt. I finally got back to the bottom of Tibidabo and made my way to the famous Sagrada Familia, a beautiful Cathedral. I got there a bit earlier than I had reserved my ticket for so in the meantime, I got a small lunch at a fancy burger restaurant called Hollyburg. I ordered a huge burger and some fries for only 5 euros. The restuarant had an elegant yet modern appeal to it, which I truly adored. Here are some photos:

  

After that I went back to Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is an extra large cathedral that is one of Barcelona’s most prized possessions. I was a bit of a skeptic about going to see it. I’m not really a huge cathedral fan. I think they’re cool and beautiful, but especially am not hip to paying to see them (Sagrada Familia was 13 euros). This is one of the few (or only) cathedrals that I was utterly in awe of!!!!!!!!! There were colorful mosaic aligning the walls and windows that reflected throughout the entire cathedral, making you feel like you were walking in rainbow-land. It. Was. Stunning. Here, look:

     

I’m telling you, the beauty of this place was mind-blowing. The architecture and design was so impressive! It was definitely worth the money!

After walking around for quite some time and crossing paths with a stunning Jewish center, an outdoor food market, and an open terrace, I decided to go check out the magic fountain again during the day. When I got there, I found out that the huge building behind it is actually a museum. Here are pictures of the area during the day so you can compare and see how magical it truly is at night! P.S. I used my selfie stick once again.

   

Now…….. My favorite place in Barcelona. Probably more than a favorite than the magic fountain… Park Guell.

What can describe this place? Lovely, peaceful, beautiful, breathtaking. Just to name a few adjectives.

I took the metro to the bottom of the park (which is situated on a mountain) and I went up a butt load of escalators to get to the top of Park Guell so I didn’t have to walk. When I got there I just followed the pathway and wandered around. I came across a park monument. It was a cross sitting on a cone-shaped building with the top cut off. There’s a spiral staircase going around the monument so you can climb to the top to look over the city and take pictures. It was a beautiful monument with a beautiful view.

After that I continued to trek and roam the mountain. I took a dirt pathway up a pretty steep hill to reach the top of the mountain. From there, I sat in awe of the city. In awe of my blessed life that I don’t even slightly deserve. In awe of life and experiences. In awe of earth’s beauty. How could I ever complain?

I really wanted to watch the sunset from this panoramic view, but I didn’t want to try to make it down the steep and dangerous hill in the dark, so I made my way down before dusk.

On the way down, I discovered a WHOLEEEE different part of the park that I didn’t even know existed. That was just the icing on the cake. Wow wow wow!!!!

When I left Park Guell is was nine at night. I had an extremely long 13 -hour day. I was exhausted, to say the least. I made my way to the nearest metro (which was actually pretty far), got back to my hostel, took a quick shower, then knocked out for the night. What an amazing day. What an amazing Barcelona.

Day 4:

So glad I went to sleep early the night before. Since the airport I flew into was 1.5 hours outside of Barcelona (did I mention that?), I had to get up at 6:15 A.M. in order to catch the bus to the shuttle, catch the shuttle to the airport, and catch the plane. It turns out my plane was delayed (which is when I started writing these blog posts). The view from the airport’s all-glass windows was beautiful. Just mountains.

I made my flight and headed back to Malta where I had five more days to experience Europe before heading back to the States…

Assignments and Adventures

Here’s my next set of adventures!!!!!

The past few weeks have been a flip-flop between fun and study.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy sight-seeing the past few days, so I used to day to just relax my mind and body and prepare for my next international vacation… Barcelona!

About this trip. I’m extremely excited, but a bit nervous. One, because I’ll be traveling by myself. And two, because my hostel emailed me yesterday informing that the days I will be there there is going to be a metro strike. This means public transportation will be limited. It’s not exactly unfamiliar because this happened when I visited Rome, but it’s still not ideal. My hostel gave me the metro schedule and luckily (unlike Rome) it will be open for some parts of the day and all other public transportation including the streetcar and city buses will be running as normal. Traveling in Europe has taught me one important thing: check for strikes and accommodate accordingly. Strikes occur quite frequently by public transportation workers in parts of Europe so you have to be prepared and flexible if/when these things come up. I’m so glad my hostel informed me ahead of time.

Yesterday I took a solo trip to Gozo, a smaller island that sits right next to Malta (also called a “sister island”). Sometimes it can be frustrating when there’s no one to go with me, but honestly, getting to explore beautiful parts of the city is very peaceful and relaxing — you notice things you ordinarily wouldn’t notice; you think about things you normally wouldn’t think about…you just get time to explore and reflect without the distraction of others.

Anyways, when I got to Gozo, I took the bus to Azure Window and Victoria, the capitol of Gozo. Azure Window is a natural monument that makes the shape of a hugeeeee upside down U. You can walk on top of it, and it’s surrounding area is rocky and tan. The waves that hit against the cliffs are beautiful.  I don’t know how to describe, it was just an extremely cool place and I’m SO glad I went.  

Next, I went to Victoria, which is the capitol of Gozo. It had an outdoor market, cute restaurants, and nice shops. I bought quite a few gift items in a cool little shop! They had food items like olive oils and seasonings. I tried their Gozitan coffee (I don’t even like coffee!) and it was amazing. I bought some, just for memory-sake.

After my little Victorian adventure, I took the bus back to the ferry, took the ferry back to Malta, then took the bus (again) back to the residence. Here are some photos of Gozo:

Sunday I decided to take a dive in the Mediterranean Sea. A little dive site called Ghar Lapsi, to be exact. This is one of my favorite places to swim outside of Golden Bay and Blue Lagoon, even though there isn’t much space or lounging.  The area near Ghar Lapsi reminds me of those old western movies… I’ve never been to Australia, but it kind of reminds me of Austraila haha. Here is a picture of me floating in the water:

When I got back from swimming, I was starving. Abeed (my flat mate who is an Indian food chef) was busying studying, so for the first time I tried to make curry for myself. I succeeded and it was AMAZING. He was so proud of me. If nothing else, that’s one thing that I want to keep when I go back to the States, an open mind to try new things (including foods). Who would have thought that I would be eating sushi and cooking Indian food by the end of my trip. Having the courage to live outside of your comfort zone has great rewards. It expands your mind and grows you as a person.

Another one of my recent adventures was my swim trip to St. Peters Pool (I know, I’ve been taking a TON of swim trips!). I went with a bunch of Irish ladies and some others. Quick overview: This area is called a “pool” but it’s actually just a low-level cliff that’s safe for jumping and swimming (unless it’s Windy). Here is a picture:

Guess what…… I jumped…… I jumped off the ledge! I was so scared to do it but it was so fun and invigorating. Believe it or not, this was my first time being fully immersed in the sea. I know, you would have thought that I would have done that a long time ago considering I am on an island, but nope.

I went on two escapades on Friday — Blue Grotto and Golden Bay rafting. Blue Grotto is a cave that has extremely blue water. You can only get to it by specialty riding on the specialty, colorful Maltese boats (too far and too dangerous to swim). It was UHHHMAAAZZZZZING. Seriously, SO BLUE. You could see little jellyfish swimming around in the photos. Another crazy thing that happened is after we finished our Blue Grotto ride, my adventurous friend jumped off of a cliff (not a safe or short one like St. Peter’s Pool, which I mentioned earlier). I’m not gonna lie, I was scared for her. But she made it out… as she always does during her risky adventures. Here are some Blue Grotto photos:


In the late afternoon/evening I went kayaking at Golden Bay Beach. My flat mate and I kinda didn’t follow the rules and we went way past the line they tell you not to cross. In fact, we kayaked to two other nearby beaches. We kayaked over to two other bays and went past some beautiful rocks and cliffs. It was extremely tired, so we took a few breaks in the middle of the sea. My flat mate jumped off the kayak, but I was too scared to do that because of the deep waters. It was my first time getting that deep in the water.

 

I was in class-mode during the week. Wednesday I had class so I went to campus early to do some homework. I also met with my photography professor and she seemed much more please, and much less harsh about my ideas and preparation for my photography project *wipes forehead.*

I’ve been working diligently to complete my final essays and I finally turned in my last final Monday and am ecstatic! All of my assignments are complete after hours and hours of editing and writing, and now I can relax until my departure date. Reflecting, I still can’t believe I have lived a real-life fairytale and that I’m not only surviving but LOVING my time here. All of my fears were just bogus negative thoughts trying to psych me out of all that God has for me. How silly I would have been not to go! I don’t want this fairytale to end.

I think that’s about it for this week. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The Go Home Blues, and Breathtaking, Blue Views

The past few days have been extremely good. As I prepare to turn in my final papers (including a 20-page paper for my advertising class) I’m ready for some new adventures. I’ve actually had quite a few, since most of my finals are complete!

The dance majors at the University of Malta hosted a dancing event in the courtyard of Uni, right outside of the Canteen (the equivalent to the cafeteria or student union). There were rows of string hanging from tree to tree with tons of trivia questions and riddles on them about Malta and its history. Every few minutes the dancers would go in the middle and do a routine. One of my friends was a part of it and taught me all about the Maltese and Roman history of each dance. Interesting!

Wednesday night my flat mates and I went out to the residence tennis court and played some nighttime tennis. Meanwhile, I also made up a rap song about tennis (because I make up rap songs about everything). The tennis match was SO inspiring that, off the top of my head, I developed by fourth rap song of the semester.

The following day I spent much of my time doing homework. The day after that I visited Malta’s capital and a beautiful bay and shopping area right across the water. I put on a nice dress that was stuffed at the back of my closet (because, obviously, I packed way too many clothes.) We took the ferry from Malta’s capitol, Valletta, to the bay/shopping area, Sliema/Mdina. The view is BREATHTAKING. When you google ‘Malta,’ please know that much of the photographs are probably not photo-shopped– it’s this beautiful in real life! We got to Sliema, we checked out a few stores, I bought a really cute crossover bag, and I tried the sushi place that has been on my radar for weeks!

Sidenote: It’s so weird/interesting that the foods I hated prior to studying abroad (or claimed to hate but had never tried) are now some of my favorites. Curry and sushi have won me over all the way!

After getting sushi, we walked along the coast of the sea until we got to a miniature bird farm. It a fenced off area with cats (just because cats are everywhere here), roosters, ducks, geese, and a few other animals! It’s a bit creepy and random, but its very cool. It’s crazy to think that this was one of the first places I visited when I came to Malta and now it may be the last time I see it!

Our original itinerary for the weekend involved going to do some adventure sports – including the legendary ziplining! But…all of the tickets were completely booked so we came up with some alternative plans: Visiting Comino/Blue Lagoon.

Let me give you a brief overview of Comino. Comino is a tiny (when I say tiny, I mean tiny!) sister island of Malta. It is only a few square miles big, it is uninhabited, and has only a few restaurants (which, by the way, are verrrrrry cheap and tasty). Outside of that, Comino has two major beaches, the most popular being Blue Lagoon. Why is it called Blue Lagoon??? Well, because its very… extremely … beautifully …. BLUEEEEE.  I had seen pictures. But didn’t know how much this beautiful place was going to blow my mind!

So my flat mate and I left our flat early in the morning to head to the ferry that takes us to Comino. It can take about an hour by bus to get there, and we wanted to be one of the firsts to get on the ferry and get a spot on the beach. When we got to the ferry sight, we took a 20-minute ride on a miniature speed boat to Comino. The water looked as normal, but we turned a corner around a cliff and all of a sudden all of the water turned aqua and sky blue… PARADISE.

While we were there, we lounged on the Blue Lagoon beachside (still too cold to swim), then we hiked over to the watch tower museum (did I mention Comino has NO vehicles and ONE dirt road?), and, finally, visited a smaller, less crowded beach on the island and accidentally got sun burnt. That sun burn was well worth the beautiful, blue experience, let me tell you! We then headed back to Malta and our ferry driver took us through some caves, which were a pretty amazing sight!

 

 

 

I wish photos did this justice, but they don’t.

I wish I had visited Comino earlier so I could know how breathtaking it is and visit it multiple times. Oh well. This is definitely on my top places to visit list for anyone visiting Malta for at least 3 days.

I’ve been going through a roller coaster of emotions, but now I’m just excited for my final few weeks here. All I have left to do is finish my finals, then I’m on my way to Barcelona to live how the Spaniards do for a few days. Did I mention I’m taking this trip all by myself????

This week will probably be the last time I do a lot of things (sad face). It will be my last time going grocery shopping, and my last week with a full closet because I am going to start packing early.

I think leaving will be much more difficult than coming was. It’s one thing to leave the states because you know that even if your experience abroad is bad, you’re going to come back home at some point! But now, leaving Malta I know that I may never come back (I hope I do, but there’s so many other places to explore first). That’s a difficult feeling. I’m leaving the place that was home for 5 whole months, a place that has 5 months worth of experiences and memories and lessons, and I may never be back. Difficult to grasp, yet still excited to be going to my real home.

Those are my thoughts. Until next time.