Bus tour of Malta island, April 17, 2017

Today we took a bus tour around the big island of Malta!  Below, the Maltese flag! Above is the Siege Bell War Memorial and below a huge cemetery outside the city limits.Then we left the bus for Hal Tarxien Prehistoric Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While walking through the area, spotted some flowers and one of the famous Maltese rabbits (they are on most menus!!!). Then back on the bus for more sites!   Next stop at Marsaxlokk, a fishing village on south coast, for lunch and walk around town.

 

 

Valletta touring, April 15, 2017

Today was our day to walk around Valletta, seeing the sights! Views over Grand Harbour, above and below.Waiting for the firing of the cannon, enjoying Spritz’s with Chuck and Laurie, and checking in with our families with emails! The Saluting Battery was constructed in the 16th century by the Order of St John.  It saw military use in blockage of 1798-1800 and in World War II.  It was an active military installation until guns were removed by the British in 1954, and opened to public in 21st century for tours with gun salutes daily at noon and 1600.We then walked to Baracca Gardens. Above and below are pics from Church of St Francis of Assisi.Above, Victoria Gate, one of the ports through the city walls!A great day in Valletta!!

 

Valletta, Malta, Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Today we started our tour of Valletta, capital of Malta, with Chuck and Laurie, our friends from Aledo (now Angel Fire, New Mexico)!  Below is Court of Justice. Below, Chuck and Laurie discovering the Shipwrecked Church!Above is Ft St Elmo and below is Grand Harbour behind us! Above and below is St John’s Co-Cathedral, behind the city walls of Valletta.   This Baroque Cathedral was built by the Order of St John between 1572 and 1577.   We then walked to find a good vantage point for watching the Good Friday procession through Valletta.  This was phenomenal with most of the actors staying in character, even the little kids, for over 2 hours!  The scrolls that are carried seemed to be books of the Bible or different characters in the procession. John the Baptist, below!The 8 men below (4 on each side) are carrying this huge statue, weighing about 500-600KG (1100 -1300 pounds or over 150 pounds PER man), with wooden posts on their shoulders.  This is considered an honor to be chosen, and if you wish to fill a vacant slot, apparently sometimes you have to pay for the postition!  There were numerous statues carried this way throughout the procession! The above mass (poor quality, but best picture I got), is a traumatic bursa on the man’s neck from carrying the statue for so long over his shoulder!  They rub them during their breaks, but seem to put up with the discomfort!What an amazing event for all of us to witness!!

 

 

Gozo to Valletta Sail, April 13, 2017

Today we sailed to Valletta to find a marina!  Below looks like “Elephant Rock” to me! Above, first view of Valletta, capital city of Malta, known as Il-Belt (the City) in Maltese.  Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with buildings dating from 16th century, built during the rule of Order of St. John. The harbour as been used as a port since Roman Empire times due to good shelter for naval vessels.  Below is the St Elmo Breakwater Footbridge, an iconic landmark with holistic architectural and structural designs for the area.Above one of the St Elmo Breakwater lighthouses with green lantern.Will pick up Chuck and Laurie from the ferry from Sicily tonite and start our day of sightseeing Valletta, Malta tomorrow!

 

 

Gozo, Malta, April 11-12, 2017

We had a great 2016!!  Enjoyed our 3 month visit in the US seeing family and friends!  We returned to Sicily, did our boat repairs, updated some things, provisioned with food, did our haul-out and bottom paint job, waited for good weather and FINALLY sailed 50 miles south to Malta from Sicily!!! Arrived in Gozo Marina, watched the full moon, settled in to rest, then started sightseeing on the 12th!   Looking toward our dock walking along the water!   Steve saw kittens and I saw an octopus here!  Below, view of Mgarr from the marina area. Took a bus and began our tour of the Cittadella in Victoria, Gozo. Above and below is Cathedral of the Assumption in the Cittadella of Victoria built 1697-1711 in Baroque style.  It stands on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Juno. Above, is the Piazza of the Cathedral.  As described below, the Stone circle is under the greenish square to the right of the statue. Below, more views from the Cittadella, also known as the Castello. This area has been inhabited since the Bronze, or possibly Stone Age, with the site starting as a Roman acropolis, then a castle, then a fortress.   Above is the Church of St John the Baptist, Rotunda of Xewkija, the biggest church in Gozo with the third largest unsupported dome in the world.  This new church was opened in 1978, on the site of the first church, consecrated in 1755, which has remnants in the Sculpture Museum next to the new church.  The common colors on fishing boats in Malta!

 

 

 

Citrus Bowl Game, December 31, 2016

Our first ever Bowl Game!!  (know this is not Orontes II related, but had a wonderful time and another adventure!!!)  University of Louisville (U of L) vs Louisiana State University (LSU)!!  We went first class on a chartered jet with David and Tamra and the Louisville Alumni group, met Lamar Jackson (Heisman Trophy winner) and had a BLAST!!!

 

 

Agrigento, November 25-26, 2016

Drove south from Cefalu to Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, (actually most are built on a ridge), one of the greatest displays of Greek art and architecture, a national monument in  Italy, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This archaeological site is the largest in the world with 1300 hectares (3212 acres).  There are 7 Doric temples, parts of gates, parts of a necropolis and other tombs and catacombs.  (we actually visited the park twice, as we could not fit it all in the first day, so some pictures show different lighting). Above and below is the Temple of Juno or Hera, (Tempio di Giunone), built about 450 BC. Walking on the ridge, looking over the valley towards Agrigento. Above and below, some of the tombs built on the ridge. Then to the temple of Concordia, built in the 5th century BC, and one of the most preserved temples in the Valley.  It was turned into a church in 6th century AD. Above and below are the Agrigento goats, called Girgentana, domestic goat indigenous to the area.  Both sexes have the tall spiral horns!  They are on the endangered list. Above is one of the catacombs.  Below are remains of Temple of Heracles, built in 5th-6th century BC, the most ancient of the temples.  It was destroyed by an earthquake.   Above and below show the Temple of Zeus and its surrounding archaeological ruins, called the Olympeion field.  Built in 480 BC to celebrate the victory over Carthage, it has been reduced to ruins.  Above and below are the “telamons” or giants, male statues used for building supports in reference to Atlas. Above and below, Tempio dei Dioscuri, with some fallen columns.  Also called the Temple of Castor and Pollux, reconstructed in early 19th century, using pieces from other temples. Above and below The Altar of the Temple of Zeus.   Above are grooved areas we found among the ruins in the area.   Some looked like furrows for water, others for connecting stones to each other. Above and below the Sanctuary of the Chthonic deities.

Ending our Sicilian road trip and leaving the Valley of the Temples on our drive back to Marina di Ragusa.  Beautiful places to spend lots of time exploring!

 

Cefalu, November 24, 2016

We arrived in Cefalu after dark, so sightseeing was minimal!!                                          Below is the Cefalu Cathedral!  We celebrated our Thanksgiving dinner in Cefalu!  8 tapas (appetizers), pasta dishes, pork and potatoes and dessert!  YES, we were full and it was delicious!!

 

Tindari, November 24, 2016

Continuing on our Road trip, we drove to the Straits of Messina, then on to Tindari, a Greek city since 395 BC.  We started out visiting the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Tinadari.  According to local legend, the statue of Byzantine origin was smuggled out of Constantinople in the 8th or 9th century.  A storm drove the ship into the port of Tindari, where the sailors deposited their load at the local abbey for safety.  The inscription on her statue reads “nigro sum sed formosa”, meaning “black am I, but beautiful”.

    Walked around the top of the cliff with great views!  The island in the background below (about 12 miles away) is Vulcano, one of the active volcanoes in the Aeolian Islands and one where we walked to the rim and saw the fumaroles: vents for steam, sulphur and carbon dioxide. Lunch before another hike!!  The round dish is arancini, a rice appetizer with various combinations inside (tomato and meat sauce or mozzarella or spinach and cheese or ham and cheese, etc).  Then off to walk around the remains of ancient Greek and Roman ruins and their small museum. Amazing Mosaics still fairly intact to this day!   Another Greek-Roman theatre in Sicily!!  Smaller than Siracusa and Taormina.

Then took off along the northern coast of Sicily to Cefalu!

Taormina, Sicily, November 23, 2106

Taormina, one of the most romantic and beautiful places in Sicily!  BUT a driving challenge to get here!!!  As you can see below, looked like a straight drive to Taromina!  Then I added the villa directions and really was not sure what to expect!!  LOL!!!  It looked like someone threw pasta on the map!!  It ended up being one-way, VERY CURVY, occasionally the road was built off the cliff, so the ramps hung out off the edge!!  NOT for the weak of heart!!

Below are views from the terrace of our villa B&B.  Extraordinary!! Arch into the city of Taormina and below the walkways through the town. Above and below the Greek theatre of Taormina, built in the 3rd century BC, rebuilt in the 2nd century with bricks more in the Roman style.  We loved looking over center stage with Mt Etna in the distance! Yes, Mount Etna, the second most active volcano in the world!  What an awesome view!!! Below are views from the walkways around the theatre at the top of the cliffs! Above one of the lower levels in the theatre.  Below Church of S. Caterina (St Catherine).

Above and below, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Taormina. Above and below is the Duomo/Cathedral of Taormina, dating back to the 13th century.

Then we visited the Botanical Gardens!   Then more walking around the city! Just a fabulous place to visit!