Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 3-12, 2009 Sheer bliss down south :) 7 days in Malta, 3 in Sicily! HOT, HOT, HOT! The weather was 30-36C/90-100F all week and it was so fabulous! Garmisch surely out rains Seattle hands down! So, the constant sun and heat of Malta was very welcome...even if I did complain at the time that I was sweating as soon as I stepped out the door of our apartment! Before going to Malta I started to wonder why we were going there (even though I did pick it out haha). I was starting to think we would do a few things and then lay around the pool the rest of the time...wrong! You know me better than that, there were tons of sights to see and I kept Mom and I busy everyday! I did allow us to have a half day on our last day. We walked around downtown/Saint Paul's Bay near our apartment; took a day cruise around the island, including a memorable stop at Comino and the Blue Lagoon; visited the new capital, Valetta, and the old capital, Mdina; shopped at a crafts village and glass blowing place; went to Gozo; saw the colorful fishing boats in Marsaxlokk and a few other small stops in between! After spending a week in Malta, we took a very, very early flight to Sicily (the transportation service picked us up at 3:50am or they were supposed to anyway...). Our trip to Sicily was short but we had specific plans: Taormina, Mt. Etna (the volcano), and Catania. As was the case in Malta, buses were pretty cheap in Sicily. 54 cents/ride in Malta...closer to 7euros/round trip in Sicily (that was for buses outside of the city...inside the city they were maybe 1 euro or something). Friday we caught the bus to Taormina, walked around town, then took the cable car down to Mazzaro (Taormina's Beach). On our way home we learned a $$$ saving trick from two German ladies traveling around. They "do everything on [their] own" and knew how to get to Etna without the 60euro tour guide/bus and without taking the 8:15am train from Catania. The trick is to take the 11:20 train from Catania to Nicolosi and then transfer buses. This option cost less than 6 euros/person/roundtrip and you don't have to spend all day at Etna...because the only bus back to Catania is at 4:30pm. Once at Etna we weren't even sure what we were going to do to occupy our 4-5 hours, good thing we didn't take the 8:15am bus! The cable car to the top was 27 euros/person and it didn't even take you to the highest point so that wasn't something we were interested in...after eating lunch on a terrace over looking Sicily's coastline and walking through all the shops we realized there were a few craters that we could walk around, so we did! The volcanic site was neat and the drive up to Etna was interesting to see - you could see all the lava and damage from previous eruptions (most recent, May 2008). Then, Sunday, our last day of vacation, we walked around Catania. As big as Catania is, it didn't take us as long as expected to see the highlights but it was still nice. We leisurely strolled along (well, I tried to leisurely stroll but I just can't help but to speed walk) and stopped for a gelato break and a few water breaks. After 10 solid days of vacation time I was not ready to come back to GAP or work...but here I am, in my single room blogging about my wonderful vacation!! More pictures to come later...as you can imagine I have lots of pictures to sort through between our three destinations.

Valletta, Malta's capital, at the bus terminal :)
yes, those are the buses we rode around in all week!

Blue Lagoon, Comino (there are only 8 inhabitants on the island of Comino)

Mom and I in Dwejra, Gozo...getting ready to see...

The Azure Window!!

Marsaxlokk, traditional Maltese fishing village

Mt. Etna, Sicily (Europe's largest active volcano)

Catania city center - Duomo and elephant statue

More Malta Pictures

Copenhagen Sneak Peak

June 26-29, 2009 Mom came to visit! First stop, Copenhagen. She flew from Dulles to Munich via Amsterdam, then hopped on a plane with me to Copenhagen...so she had no time for jet lag! While in Copenhagen we saw all the main attractions, including the little mermaid, twice since it was so close to our hotel. We also rode the train that connects Denmark to Sweden! So, we were in Sweden for a day...who does that?! :) Malmo, Sweden was a small town and the boat canal didn't offer much in the way of beautiful views...more industrial than pretty but it was still nice. We ate lunch at the only cafe in one of the parks/gardens and had the best scones with cream cheese and jam, so good it inspired our breakfast choice for our week in Malta! The weather was pretty nice - not too hot, not too cold - just right :) On another note, the one thing that stood out the most while in Copenhagen was how expensive everything was!! Copenhagen was definitely the most expensive city I've visited since moving to Europe!!! Average meal dish cost $20! No matter what it was - pizza, sandwich, etc. and public transportation was also pricey and less than convenient. The trains/metro sort of circled the central area of the city but didn't take you to the meat of the city...but all in all it was a great trip! Mom nor I had ever been to Denmark and Scandanavia was a stark contrast to our next trip, Malta and Sicily!!

walking through Kastellet, a fortification with a church and a windmill

so many bikes in Copenhagen!

sunset from our hotel balcony

Nyhavn - the hangout street for locals and tourists

Nyhavn, again

More Pictures