Nov 19, 2015

Marsaxlokk, Malta

After our sunrise sail into the gorgeous port of Valletta, we hopped off the ship and boarded a bus set for a few different sights around the island. First being the most colorful of them all...the sleepy fishing village of Marsaxlokk! I'm still not quite sure how to pronounce the name of this place (I'm the worst at remembering these details), but what I am sure of is its instant charm. As if the turquoise sea wasn't already colorful enough, the amount of boldly-painted fishing boats scattered about the harbor made this seascape just about as fun as they come.

Marsaxlokk means "Southeasterly Port" (which is much easier to say) and has been in almost constant operation for thousands of years. Primarily used as a fishing hub, this well-loved village just a short drive from Malta's Mdina is home to hundreds of fishing boats (known as luzzus to the Maltese) and some seriously scrumptious Mediterranean-caught seafood. The morning of our visit, we wandered around the harbor, gawking at the colorful vessels and enjoying the fragrant smells of fish dishes wafting from dozens of waterfront restaurants lining around its parameter. In case you were curious as to why the blue, yellow and red color-scheme is found on almost all the luzzus...well, that's a tradition handed down from fisherman to fisherman over many, many years. In addition, if you look closely at the luzzus, you can see other features that set them apart from less colorful boats in the harbor. The high, pointed tips found at each boat-end are just one characteristic. Another? Well, the Maltese can be very superstitious, so many luzzu carry the traditional eye symbol faceted to the outside of the boat to ward away the evil's of the sea. Who could blame them, what with having to battle choppy waters and thwarting sea creatures day in and day out.

We were lucky enough to witness a few luzzus getting fresh coats of paint from their owners as we wandered the seaside promenade. Each fisherman seemed to take great pride in his vessel, even if it was hard to decipher one luzzu from another. I also began to fall in love with the village itself. There was no shortage of al fresco dining and rustic doors in this Maltesian wonder. Our good fortune continued as we were introduced to local Maltese artisans selling their wares at a large outdoor market. I picked up a few lace souvenirs as well as some colorful jewelry from a man making his own pieces right along the water. Tourism was very much alive and well in Marsaxlokk!

Snacking on some fresh shrimp balls we found from a local fisherman's seafood shop, we continued our exploration deeper into the village. Just behind the market stood a beautiful stone cathedral and beyond that, quiet color splashed alleyways (my favorite!). Rustic seaside charm oozed its way from the sun-soaked streets straight into my heart. Yet another one of those too-cute-too-be-true places that make you truly appreciate the opportunity of travel.

If Malta makes it to your bucket list (and it should), add a stop in tradition-filled Marsaxlokk to your itinerary. You must see the luzzus for yourself!

Stay tuned for more seascapes around Malta!

Nov 16, 2015

Sailing into Malta

A lot of people turn their noses up to cruising for various reasons. Too confining, short time in each destination, too much food (insert eye rolls, there's no such thing!) on and so forth. But there are experiences unique to cruising (or being on a boat, even) that most rarely consider. Even I was oblivious to these perks before our first sailing in 2013. Coming into each port (and in many cases leaving it, as well), can provide some of the most incredible views of your entire visit to a country. Case and point, our sail out of Venice at the beginning of our Adriatic cruise, our foggy float through the fjords of Montenegro, and our sunrise sail into Malta pictured here today.

Surprise, surprise...another walled city! Seemed to be the theme of our Adriatic were gorgeous vistas. We arrived to the port in Malta just as the sun was starting to peek over the horizon, making for some beautiful sun-washed clouds and golden streaks across the city's walls. As with every sail into port, D and perched ourselves on our balcony with over-hard eggs and toast and watched as Malta began to wake up before us. These moments are what I truly cherish about the cruising way of travel. Had we not been on a ship with a 7am wake up call...we would have never witnessed this side of Malta. Seeing the country from the water...commanding walls surrounded as far as the eye can see by shimmering sea...just adds wonder to an already exciting day visiting a new country.

More from Malta to come...

Oct 28, 2015

Corfu, Greece: Paleokastritsa Beach

This was my first experience ever laying on a beach in Greece. Well, sort of. We waded into the water on a resort beach in Mykonos a few cruises prior, but this was our first true beach day on a Greek Island. After finding the best bird's-eye views of Paleokastritsa Beach from above, we finally made it full circle and spread out our beach towels on the shell-laden sand. It was a hot day. Hotter than I expected Corfu to be in mid-May, but much welcomed compared to the chilly days we had still been having back in Germany during that time of year. The beach was small, just a cove maybe a fraction of the size of a long stretch of North Carolina beach line. But that water! The prettiest turquoise blue I had seen in a long while. That in itself was worth the whole cruise! This little beach cove was perfectly Greek...the fishing boats, the tanning locals, and beautiful scenery all around. Even a quiet seaside restaurant serving fresh seafood, gyros (my favorite!) and generous slices of homemade baklava. We spent a good bit of our afternoon in and out of the water and in and out of the restaurant noshing on local wine and spanakopita. It was one of those experiences you feel lucky to be a part of the whole time you're experiencing it. Do you know that I mean? I kept looking over the water thinking, "I'm not sure what I did to deserve to be here right now, but thank goodness I am!" Greece is definitely a favorite of mine, forever and always.

If you find yourself with a few hours (or days) to kill in Corfu, make some time for a lazy beach day. Paleokastritsa might not be the most hopping beach town full of bars and water sports, but it's just sweet enough to make a weary traveler thankful to be traveling.

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