We have had a very busy couple of days here in sunny (and sometimes not so sunny!) Malta, but it has involved one key ingredient – food! Yes, like any good Trefoil Guild trip, the last few days have involved a lot of eating and drinking. However, we have done other things in between.
Yesterday (Thursday), we started our day at the Dingli Cliffs. This is a beautiful view from the north east coast of Malta, and is one of the highest points on the island. We took the opportunity to take in the views, as well as trying some local treats which were on sale from a van next to the cliffs. Can anyone guess what the fruit is?!
With a bit of time to spare, we took a slight detour to Verdala Palace, which is the summer home of the President (we seem to be making a habit of visiting her gardens!). The gardens were full of scented orange and eucalyptus trees, which made for a pleasant stop.
We moved onto the Limestone Heritage Park, where we learned all about the history of this important industry in Malta. Almost all of the buildings in the country are made out of the limestone which has been quarried from the local area. It was interesting to find out about how the stone had influenced the growth of the island, both literally and metaphorically.
Our visit ended with a very tasty lunch, based on typical Maltese dishes. This included the ‘hobz biz-zejt’, the traditional bread with tomatoes, the pastizzi which we had on Monday, various cheeses made with sheep and goats’ milk and ‘bigilla’, the local red bean dip – not to mention a lovely glass of the local wine to wash it all down with! We finished with ‘halva’, made with honey and sesame seeds.
This was enough to make us all a little sleepy but there was more exploring to do. Our final stop of the day was Qormi, known as the bakery of Malta, and Emmanuel’s Bakery. Here we learnt how the typical Maltese bread or ‘hobz’ is made, all by hand and using a traditional wood-fired oven. The heat was sweltering! However, it was fascinating to learn their tricks of the trade. We were also lucky enough to take some lovely biscuits.
We returned back to the hotel and had a little rest, since we needed all of our energy for later. We were awaiting the arrival of the Malta Trefoil Guild, a branch of Trefoil Guilds in Foreign Countries. Together, we had a brilliant evening of Guiding, friendship and conversation – Margaret B took over the role of ‘hostess’ and made sure that everyone circulated between each other! Many of the British group had a lot of questions about life here in Malta, and so we learnt a lot from each other. Their oldest member, Laura, is 92 years old and was running the Malta Guide depot until recently. A true inspiration for us all – thank you for your company!
Today, Friday, has been a slightly quieter day, and has definitely involved less food. We started today with a visit to the Ta’Qali craft village, for two demonstrations of Maltese crafts – the Valletta Glass factory (you may be pleased to know that no breakages had to be paid for!) and the filigree silver jewellery. At each, we had the opportunity to watch the craft people at their work, before being able to purchase some examples. Both techniques struck us as very complicated, however not to the experts.
We then had some free time in the pretty seaside town of Marsaxlokk. Marsaxlokk is famous for its brightly coloured boats, which adorn the harbour. The sun has really come out today, so it was very pleasant to walk along the harbour side and see all of the boats in the bay. The boats had obviously been well cared for, and they were all unique – except for the painted eye, which is meant to warn off evil spirits.
It’s a very sunny afternoon here in Malta, so I think the group has headed to the beach. Tomorrow, we all have a day at leisure, and it seems that everyone has something a bit different planned. I am looking forward to hearing all about it over dinner tomorrow night!