Thursday, September 22, 2016

GOZO: The Other Big Maltese Island

We've arrived, the final post from our Malta trip back in April!  Yes, it really has taken this long because we really did pack it all in.  And we'll never forget it.

We basically did everything on our own, with the help of public transportation (bus and ferry) and the one Grand Harbour cruise that gave us a view of Valletta from the water, which was important to us.

Other than that, the only planned excursion we took was the all-day trip to Gozo, the smaller island just north of Malta, just past the wee island of Camino.  We had been told we could do the trip on our own but the bus system might be problematic.  You could get from one place to another but some buses came only every hour.  It was a no-brainer to use a tour coach, from Buggiba, our hotel, for the entire day, round-trip.

Malta is the largest island:  culture, commerce and administration.
Gozo is the second largest island:  fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture.
Camino is the smallest island:  one hotel, pop. 4, day-hikers, water sports.

[Our travel agent was the one who suggested we NOT visit Camino, 
since we´re not sun-worshipers.]

Here's the public bus route/system for Gozo, covering 26 sq. mi. with a pop. of ca. 37K.
Our all-day trip, from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., stopped at 5 main places after arriving at the Harbour.

But first, we had to get to the ferry in Cirkewwa from our hotel in Buggiba, 14 km. away,
passing interesting landmarks along the way.
The Gozo Channel Line runs back-n-forth all day long, every 45 minutes.

It's a 25-min. ride covering approx. 6 km. across the Mediterranean Sea.
It was fun to "capture" the island from the sea...and find our coach waiting for us.

From there, at the Mgarr harbor, we started our 5-point Gozo experience.

1.  Victoria (aka Rabat), the Capital City of Gozo.

From the ferry our coach drove us the 5km to Victoria, the capital city of Gozo.
It's situated on a hill, the highest point on the island, with the citadel on top.
Once off the coach, we started climbing further up to the citadel/Cittadella and cathedral within.

This is the Cathedral of the Assumption, dedicated in 1716,
with the clock tower in the curtain wall of the main gate keeping watch.

You walk in and immediately look up!
There is no dome on this cathedral but inside is the appearance of one
 because of the trompe-l'oeil painting, creating the optical illusion ((top-right).

This was when Astrid and I wandered off from the group to take photos!

We can never retain all the information from the tour off we go,
knowing we can Google later for the info we want

Because the cathedral is inside the citadel, we kept climbing to the wall, looking back.

From there, on top, we could see all across the island to major landmarks.

As you know, what goes up must come down,
so down we went back into the capital city of Victoria, away from the citadel.
St. George, Gozo's patron saint, was killing the dragon everywhere.

So many impressions, just like in Valletta, the capital city of Malta.

2.  Lunch at the Fishing Village of Xlendi.

From Victoria we drove 3 km to Xlendi for a 3-course, mass-produced lunch (with wine).
Xlendi happens to be one of the most beautiful stops on the island,
but we were only there long enough to run down to the bay and take a handful of pics.

3.  Fontana Cottage Industry.

After lunch we drove 2 km to Fontana for a chance to see/buy Gozo crafts/products.
(Nearby were ancient stone laundry basins.)

Remember, the Maltese Islands depend on this kind of tourism for their economic existence.
And what did we buy?  Prickly pear jam and carob liqueur (for on top of ice cream!).

4.  Azure Window near Dwejra Bay.

From Fontana we drove 7 km to the Azure Window near Dwejra Bay.
We first had the opportunity to see the "window" from a short boat ride.
For an extra €4 pp., what the heck, right?

 It was a chance to see this major tourist attraction from a different point of view (right-middle).

Then we saw it on the sunny side, in all its glory.
The natural arch is made of limestone, of which the Maltese Islands has plenty!

5.  The Ggantija Temples in Xaghra.

From the Dwejra Bay coast we then drove inland 10 km to our last destination of the day:
the Ggantija megalithic temple complex from the Neolithic era, a UNESCO site.

When do we get to see things this ancient???
These temples, c. 3600-2500 BCE, are more than 5500 years old...older than the pyramids of Egypt.

I'm not sure it's really hit me how old this was,
but what a way to end our trip.

While driving from here to there, we saw so many places of interest.
If we were on our own, for maybe an entire week on this island, we'd try to see it all.

Impressions.  Impressions.  Impressions.
(That's the carob tree, bottom-right, with its pods.)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Guess what!  This ends the Malta Trip from April.  Finally.
And none too soon because...tomorrow we fly to England for a week-plus with friends!
You know we can't resist that, right?

Happy first day of autumn!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Out in the Dutch Boonies

By now you know how much Astrid and I LOVE to veer off the main roads to go find Dutch treasures everywhere.  The ones the tourists never see!

And I had been hungry for new weathervanes for a long time (especially while working on the gazillion Malta pics).  So, dear Astrid spent time to work up a route that would take us to new places not all that far away...for a 4-hour drive this past Saturday.

Basically, the route followed the Linge river that runs through our city, Gorinchem.
The river is 99.8 km long, one of the longest flowing rivers entirely within the Netherlands.
See the graduation cap atop the flag pole?  That is NOT a Dutch don't you wonder!

We were out mainly to find weathervanes, since I was so hungry for them.
But look what else we found...and even got to eat an Elstar, one of my new favorite apples.
The Dutch invented it by crossing Golden Delicious and Ingrid Marie apples in the 50s,
first introduced to America in 1972.

It's apple-picking time here in the Netherlands (as elsewhere, of course).
How fun to stop and hobnob with the pickers.
Astrid had a lot to talk about because she was a picker herself in a past life.

Check out the apple "train," as I call it.

BTW, Saturday was our Open Monument Day here in the Netherlands,
held the second Saturday of September each year.
This is the De Vlinder (The Butterfly) windmill in Deil, built in 1913.
Isn't she gorgeous dressed in white!  We don't normally see white windmills here.

As I often say, more Dutch you cannot get!

But then...the surprise of the trip that Astrid found for me on the Internet:
a quaint covered bridge with this archer on its Tricht.
It took us awhile to find it...and it was private property from the bridge on...
but what we saw was better than enough.

And since it was time for lunch, there in Tricht we found this delightful café on the Linge:
De Lachende Gans = The Laughing Goose.
We were hungry for Dutch good as any we've ever had.
Just think:  We could have taken a boat from Gorichem along the Linge to this point!
We're only talking about 30 km.

So, did we find weathervanes????
You betcha.  Many are variations on the theme, as you see.

Like I said, variations on the theme!

A couple of them I have shown before, but who cares...or remembers, right?!

THIS, folks, is what I love about the Dutch polder and boonies.
T H I S.
(With many thanks to Astrid for making it happen!)