Day three: Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Blue Grotto, The sister, Maltese lunch, Golden Bay, Mass, Iranian Dinner, village feast

10 06 2011

Please note: I’ve been informed by someone who shall remain anonymous that I may have been too harsh on a certain person in my previous post so I will endeavor  to keep this post positive towards that particular person as best I can but us Irish aren’t famed for our positivity. [Evil Evil Ross]

Saturday started early much to Zahra and Ali’s dellight (see positive!). We had some more fruit and fibre and were on our way to see the local delights. The first stop was the Hagar Qim temples. [These temples are older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids in Giza and we are rightly proud of them]. We got a lift to the visitor centre there by Cec’s mum’s friend [Mum was helping out her friend’s son, and needed the car to go to pick up Annfrom the airport later].  Bernard had wedding obligations [Not our wedding, but a friend’s wedding at which he will be best man and of all days they chose the day I am there Oh Well] so he couldn’t join us. Again we availed of our student discount and proceeded through the new visitor centre which Cec had not been in before. We weren’t very awake [Weren’t we happy to wake up early ??] so we kinda skipped through it fairly quickly. We then walked to the tent covered temple. Apparently it was quite controversial to cover the ancient temple but I liked the mix of modern and ancient and it also will preserve the area for future generations. I really liked the temple and ancient carvings. We then moved to the other temples called Mnajdra which was a bit of a walk away and it was quite windy but sunny.  The Mnajdra temple was also covered and was quite similar to the previous temples but had some nice carvings.

Zahra, Ali and Me!...You can see how windy it was

Zahra, Ali and Me!...You can see how windy it was

Ross...ensuring the Temples stay up

Ross...ensuring the Temples stay up

We then went for a short walk to the Blue Grotto viewing site which was quite impressive and it was nice to hear some stories from Cec of her swimming and diving days around the grotto.

The Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto

We moved onto to a port and diving area further down the road where we sat, chatted and dipped our toes into the sea. I think we all found it nice to sit down and watch the divers while we soaked our feet in the clear water. [The ‘port’ is Wied iz-Zurrieq…it is where I spent many a day swimming in past summers, it being a short 20minute or so walk from my house] I saw the famous Italian in Malta joke that Cec was talking about before on a tea towel for sale at a local shop.

At Wied iz-Zurrieq

At Wied iz-Zurrieq

Wied iz-Zurrieq again

Wied iz-Zurrieq again

We then got picked up by Cec’s sister Ann and her mum. Cec was picked up by Bernard who was bringing her to their friends to give them a wedding present. It was the first time that I saw Cec’s sis in the flesh [Not true…you had seen her for a few seconds when she visited the lab over Easter] as we had only chatted over gmail before. She had just arrived home and was in good form. She looks and sounds like Cec but most of the time I can tell them apart [Good for you Ross :P]. Ali had more trouble distinguishing them. We then went to the house for a traditional Maltese lunch. I’m sure Cec can give you the proper name [Hobz biz-Zejt] but it consisted of bread roll with tomatoes, tuna, olives, capers, onions and gbejna. Cec instructed her mum and sis that I wasn’t to have tuna in mine because I’m not a major fan of it. So they made a special one without tuna. It was yummy! I later tried some of Cec’s with the tuna in it and it did enhance it.

For the afternoon we went to Golden Bay beach as Zahra was hankering for some sunbathing.  Ann kindly drove us there. The Fenech sisters were quite competitive about their driving skills. Zahra and I decided that Cec drives faster but Ann drives smoother. They are going to kill me now! Anyway we arrived at the beach which was definitely golden. There was a hell of a lot of steps down to it but it was worth it. We lay on the beach for a bit whilst waiting for Bernard and Cec to arrive. Once they arrived, Cec, Ann and I went for a swim. They found the water cold but for me, being used to the Atlantic Ocean, it was relatively warm. The sea was so clear but I that wasn’t good for me as it made my legs look eerily translucent .The others lay on the beach. When we got back to the beach Zahra and Ali went for a romantic walk while we dried ourselves off. We then went for some Ice-cream at the cafe and Zahra and Ali joined us. Zahra got herself a long awaited coffee.

Golden Bay: A photo taken on a previous trip by my sister's bf Michael :)

Golden Bay: A photo taken on a previous trip by my sister's bf Michael 🙂

Off we went back to the house where we left Ali and Zahra make their Iranian food. I tried to help but you know the saying too many cooks spoil the broth. Cec, Ann, Bernard and I went to a Maltese mass where one of the numerous aunts was saying a reading. Obviously I had no idea what the priest was saying but I could follow some of the responses and prayers by reading the pamphlet and looking at the projected screen. The young priest a friend of Cec’s and Bernard’s was really nice and said body of Christ to me when I went up for communion. I thought it was nice of him to make the effort although it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t Maltese as I was translucent (as Ann kindly described me) and also was taller than everyone in the church.  After a lengthy chat with the priest and Cec and Ann’s doctor and his wife, we headed back for our Iranian grub.

The food was impressive as always and everyone enjoyed it. I think I’m getting a taste for Iranian food after Zahra’s yummy birthday feast. We had a chicken, lemon, mushroom soup to start which was certainly different to any soup I had had before and tasted really refreshing. We then had the main course of stuffed bread which is a favourite of mine from Zahra’s birthday.  As usual Zahra with the help of Ali made a great dinner. With all the slagging I give her I can’t slag her cooking. I can’t wait for her to open her Iranian restaurant in Dublin! We had some walnut Ice cream for dessert which was a first for me and some fresh fruit.

We then went to a village feast. This was nice for us tourists but the Maltese were probably sick of going to them. From what I could gather most villages in Malta (apparently towns don’t exist) have feasts to celebrate saints. Each village could have more than one feast. Each feast has a colour and the village would be decorated in this colour for the week of the feast. The village feast we were at (can’t remember the name) was decorated in green [St. Joseph’s feast in Ghaxaq].  For the feast the church is decorated and the particular saint’s statue is proudly put on display. It was Saint Joseph’s feast that we attended. In the village square there was a great atmosphere where the band played. Most feasts have firework displays which are made by local volunteers with no chemical experience. We moved to the viewing area where the fireworks are supposedly timed to music but most didn’t seem to match with it. Ann had to leave us to pick up Stephen her brother from the airport but joined us later with jackets as some people were getting chilly. The fireworks were pretty amazing but Cec and Bernard didn’t seem impressed as they had seen so many before. It was longer than other fireworks display that I had been at. Zahra and Ali said they had never been as close to the fireworks as we were. We got a little shrapnel near us but nothing too dangerous. Zahra wasn’t impressed when a piece hit her square on the nose. We then moved to see the ground fireworks. Apparently it is quite common to have these at the feasts. I had never seen them before and I was quite impressed with the intricacies of the designs. Zahra should have some pics and videos of them [Will upload them once I get my hands on them]. Once one of the ground fireworks was lit another is lit and we moved forward to the next. Every time I thought we were moving to the last firework more appeared. After the finale firework we went home to bed.

By Ross O’Dwyer

Sampling the Wonders of Kildare: Day 2

23 03 2011

Sunday came, and my experience of rural Ireland continued. After a good, late breakfast, we went to mass in this quaint church a bit up the road from their house. After that, we decided to visit an outlet shopping centre nearby: Kildare Village outlet centre. We did not do much shopping (I bought a pair of Nike trainers for €34 or so, which I think was quite a good bargain). But we did go in nearly all the shops, though even with high discounts, most were out of our price range. I liked that the shopping centre is all based outside. Having had good weather certainly helped to make it for an enjoyable morning.

After a late lunch/early dinner (lunner?) at home which his mum cooked (MMMMM…had parsnips for the first time and they tasted good I must say), we decided to visit the Japanese gardens/Irish National Stud/Fiachra’s garden. This is one whole centre, with the two gardens and the stud farm. First up was the Japanese gardens, where we walked though the path of life 🙂

On the bridge of engagement

On the bridge of engagement

The view of the garden from the Hill of Ambition

The view of the garden from the Hill of Ambition

After the Japanese gardens, we proceeded into Saint Fiachra’s gardens, for some more greenery 🙂

The Lake

The Lake

The Monastic Cell

The Monastic Cell

We also visited the stud farm, where amongst other we got to see a video on how foals are born, the horse museum, the famous Irish studs (including Invincible Spirit 🙂 ) and numerous young foals with their mothers.

A tired, sleeping foal

A tired, sleeping foal

We also got to see these small horses (do not know their name…forgot it…anyone knows…something like Fallevallas), which are bred to have a small size. [UPDATE: it is called a Falabella]

Cute horses

Cute horses

By now, the time had passed, and we got a hot chocolate (not the best ever but anyways) and made our way home, to finish packing and make our way back to University.

Overall, a great weekend. I am ever so grateful to Ross for inviting me (he thought I would be bored…but how can you be with all this beautiful nature around…even just staring into it is more than enough), his parents for having me and being so nice to me, his sister for allowing me to make use of her room while she was away and his grandad for thinking I am a great person 🙂  (he is getting old…so that might cloud his judgement, but who am I to complain).

I was sad too say goodbye to this quiet village which was home for the weekend, and to such a wonderful weekend, surrounded by such nice people. Hope Ross will enjoy his time in Malta as much I did at his home 🙂

Thank you for having me 🙂

Christmas in Malta

28 12 2010

More than half my Christmas holiday in Malta has passed now (sniff sniff). Today week I will be back in Ireland and the cold (barring any flight cancellations). The past 1.5weeks has been quite eventful, as Christmas back home tends to be. I have mainly just slipped into Bernard’s life in the evenings and on holidays and doing bits and bobs of my own in the mornings. I have been to party after party, meal after meal. How else can you celebrate if not by food? However it is a fun way to meet the others.

Most of the activities were related to ZAK. To date 2 parties…and tonight I will have the third weeeee. The party tonight is an end of year activity for ZAK, and Bernard will be playing during mass, and at a mini concert they will be giving after before the DJ music starts. So for the past days I have had more ZAK :)…with rehearsals for tonight. However I enjoy myself (unless it starts getting boring hehe) and so do not mind. I also had an in-law party at Bernard’s house, where they invited all the family’s gf/bfs and their parents to…what else…eat. Bernard had a half day off so I went over to their house earlier to help in the cooking. However Bernard’s sister and her bf had already started so it was not too much work hihi. I also got to know Bernard’s sister’s b better :)…to date I had only met him for a total of about 3 minutes. He is great fun (I approve 😛 :P…not that you need my approval haha).

On Christmas eve we went window shopping in Valletta and then to midnight mass at the University Chapel…where I got to meet up with a couple of other friends who are always there. Then on Christmas Day we had lunch at my aunt’s house…MMMMMMMMMMM as usual…and in the evening we went to Bernard’s house, where we visited his grandfather and then played board games/cards at Bernard’s house with his sis, her bf and Bee’s brother. And I already wrote about my big present from Bernard. WEEEEEEE…it was fitting a big tightly (I have chubby fingers…what can I do), and I have now altered it to fit weeeeeeee. My fingers are a chubby size 17 for future reference :P. Sunday saw me meeting up with ex colleagues from GSD…Ruth, Lenny, Mario and Clarissa…with their husbands/wives/gf/bf…and CHILDREN (including 1 on the way…congratulations Ruth). It is always great to meet up with them again, as I enjoyed their friendship during my time at GSD, and I was thrilled to be invited to join them. The conversation did not ebb one minute as always and it is good to catch up.

My Christmas hols are not all play (and food however). I cannot switch off completely ever it seems. I have put in some time of work (would not call it hours). Working on a poster, a lit review and a paper…however this is done in a snatched 30mins here and an hour here. Not very productive, but it is the way I work best.

Hopefully u will get another update soon. Hope you had a VERY HAPPY MERRY CHRISTMAS 🙂

My First Visitor…Day 2

26 10 2010

Sunday came about and today the plan was to go to the city centre to walk a bit around and do some shopping. We made our way to the centre of town and walked a bit around. Shops do not open until 11am or 12 noon on Sundays, so we had some time to see some places. However at 11am we started making our way to our designated shopping area…Mary Street. We went round the shops and shopped and shopped and shopped. I have never done that much shopping in my whole life I think. We bought a webcam for Bernard, a coat each, a bath mat, clothes for me, some presents, a cute giraffe pyjama for me and Hippo bed slippers, gloves, ear muffs and I do not know what else. At around 3pm we were quite hungry so made our way to get some food…Bernard loves Subway sandwiches so that is what we got. Then went back to keep on shopping. This street is full of enormous shops…there is everything…Penneys, Dunnes, Debenhams, Zara, H&M…the list goes on and on. These are all shops taking up 3 or 4 storeys. It is positively exhausting.

We then made our way to my residence to put down our stuff, and then left to go to the OLV Gospel Mass. After mass, the others said they were going to a pub for a drink. We obviously tagged along. Unfortunately the pub had no food (it stopped serving food at 6pm), so after a drink and some chatting we made our way home where I cooked some pasta Bolognese and went to sleep soon after.

Bowling etc

13 10 2010

Yesterday after Uni I went bowling with a group from the OLV 630 Gospel Mass group. The others had choir rehearsal at 7-8pm, then off we went to the Coolock bowling alley in the Leisureplex. I got to meet some more people from the choir and they all seem to be really really nice. I had a great time…I also won (draw in 1st with another girl….weee heee)…I actually did quite well and I surprised myself (and the others hihi).

After bowling, some of us went to a pub close by to where I am staying. We only had one drink, but we stayed there for about 1.5hours chatting away. After that, Colette, one of the main people who organises the reading etc took me home. It was around 12:30am at this point. However we really had loads of fun. They are a really nice group of people, who try to include you and will come up to you to chat. I also like that you can have actual conversations with them (at least the people I had a good chat with), rather than chatting about superficial stupid stuff. Most of them are students or professional people, and so they go through very similar experiences every day. So it was a success overall.

I will now meet them next Sunday for mass…weeee.


10 10 2010

Today I decided I needed some ME! time. So I decided to make away with plans for most of the day. I knew what I wanted to do, but was quite relaxed. This morning I woke up at 8:30am (gosh, I am really sleeping a lot here…but who am I to complain 🙂 ). I immediately proceeded to wash my dirty laundry. Today was my first wash. I managed to wash nearly everything (except 3 white tops, which I did not want to put in with all the other stuff), and got everything dry. It cost me Eur5 aaaaa…Eur2.50 for the wash and Eur2.50 for the tumble dry, and that took up 2.5hours of my day :S. Luckily everything got dry, no colours ran (I put in some white underwear and a white cloth), and everything was successful.

After this, I cooked, ate and relaxed a bit (also had a nap 🙂 )…my first nap in Dublin weeeeeeee. In the afternoon I did some shopping, since on Mondays and Tuesdays Tesco closes quite early, and if I decide to go to the gym, it will not be possible to go shopping too. I also bought some hot chocolate mmmmmmmmm.

Then tonight I had the only thing that was planned in the whole day. Last Sunday I went to the 6:30pm mass at Our Lady of Victories church. I got into the Young Adult group, and offered my services as a reader (the other option was to sing in the gospel choir…so no real option there 🙂 ). Therefore today I went there a bit early to see how things work, and during mass read the introduction :). I even got a mention on the song sheet and another mention by the priest who advised all present that I was from Malta weeeee. Will be back next week…will see how this goes 🙂

Tired but Happy! Comino!

9 08 2010

I already have other posts with a similar name, but nothing else is fitting…knackered and tired but happy…it seems being tired makes me happy…oh well!…

Why, might you ask am I tired? Well this weekend was our planned camping trip to Gozo: Bernard, Sarah, Luke, Chris, Carina, Clayton and myself had met at the beach last Sunday, and a 1 day trip to Comino turned into a 2-day camping trip there. Friday evening Bernard and Sarah went to buy the supplies…and they made sure that we had enough…will tell you more about it later on! Bernard brought the pasta and pesto to my house…and I cooked 1kg of pasta, which I chilled to take up with me to Comino for all of us to eat for Saturday lunch. After this I packed and was ready to be picked up by Bernard on Saturday at 7:45am.

We made our way to Cirkewwa with (between 7 people) 4 big picnic coolers with food and drinks, 3 tents, and numerous bags and rucksacks. We caught the ferry, and we started making our way from Blue Lagoon to find somewhere to camp. Mid-way up the Blue Lagoon hill, a guy in a battered Fiat passed by and he (thankfully) gave a lift to some of our HEAVY picnic coolers (just to put you in the picture…one of the picnic coolers might have 6 bottles of 2Ltr water and 3 bottles of 1.5Ltr Diet Coke i.e. around 17kgs of drinks. The others kept walking until we met up with Chris who had gone with the picnic coolers in the car. He told us where the guy suggested to camp and off we went. There we found a public camp site. We found some space and pitched our tents. At this point we were ravenous…so we had the pesto pasta I had taken up with me. After washing the plates (in sea water…the sea was a mere 20 metres or so away from our tents) some of us slept, whilst the others went for a swim.

After swimming we dried up and rested (the others slept, whilst me and Bernard played cards). Me and Bernard then went for a short walk to explore the surroundings. We found some clean (very clean) public toilets, to which I am grateful, and then walked to a small chapel in the vicinity to check whether mass is celebrated. We were surprised…there were two masses on Saturday evening (6pm and 7:15pm) and one on Sunday morning (5:45am). We then swam a bit, has a snack (i.e. a whole meal for most people…of galletti, pate, crisps, tortillas etc), dried up and half of us went to the 6pm mass. I doubt whether I understood 10% of the mass…it was in Maltese…but the priest was old, spoke very fast in a thick accent and did not even breathe it seems between sentences. This does not augur well when you are tired, but oh well.

After mass…the remainder went to the 7:15pm mass, whilst we prepared the cooking area for the night’s meal. Once they arrived from mass, we started cooking. This was the menu for the night (per person mind you):

                1 Maltese Sausage

                1 Frankfurter sausage (as a hot dog)

                1 chicken kebab

                1 burger (inside a burger roll)

                1 wudy cheese sausage

                2 other sausages

You must also keep in mind that we were 7 people…however e.g. the burger packs were 10 each…therefore we had extra of everything aaaaaa…We certainly did not go hungry.

 After this we talked a bit, and my first problems of the night surfaced. My intestines were certainly unhappy…and I rushed to the clean toilets for the first time of the night. The others kept drinking and talking for some time, but I decided to turn in (although I did not sleep). After about 30mins (about 11pm), Bernard and Carina, who were my tent mates joined me in the camp and we proceeded to try to sleep. The guys from the next group who were camping in the next area decided they wanted to watch a movie (on a laptop I presume) at quite a high volume…but anyways…I still tried to sleep. At 12pm, I woke up in a panic…woke up Bernard and he gave me his torch, I searched for toilet paper and I rushed to the toilets nearby aaaaaaa. Then back to the tent, but this story repeated itself twice more till 3am L

 However I finally managed to sleep a bit weeeee…the next morning we woke up and had breakfast…3 sausages, baked beans, eggs, bread, bacon, nutella aaaaaaa…I did not have much due to the night’s experience aaaaaaa. Whilst setting up and waiting for the last people to wake up (Carina and Luke :D), we also noticed we had visitors in the night…we could notice small paws all around our tents…We had all heard that mice are a common occurrence on Comino…in fact we made sure to wash everything we ate in. Any food was either within the tents themselves or in closed picnic coolers…however it seems the mice came to check anyways…haha…nothing for you 😀

 Carina and Sarah then left to go to the Blue Lagoon to check whether we could go swim there (the day before jellyfish could be seen there, however the wind had died down, and they happily reported back that no jellyfish were there…Wippie…during this time we put down our tents and started packing…when they arrived back, we continued with our packing and then started to make our way to the Blue Lagoon (about 30mins away on foot). We found some space to put down our things at the Blue lagoon, and off swimming we went :D…

The Blue Lagoon

 The seas were crystal clear Although relatively cold…although that did not dampen our joy). We swam around, went to Cominotto and crossed over from under it (there is a cave :D) to the other side, and generally had a good time 😀 We then had something to eat (ftira with rio mare tuna insalatissime for the others, ftira with Nutella for me, and some crisps). Then back swimming we went. At about 3pm we went up to dry and proceeded to make our way to the boat boarding queue. We learned that the next boat was at 4pm…so we waited…the queue (not so much of a queue as a bunch of people) waited until our boat arrived…the thing is that a lot of different operators make use of the same quay…so people have to make their way through millions of others to reach their boat…we were way up front haha but we waited until our boat arrived…wee a boat from United Comino ferries which accepts red tickets (there were others with Blue tickets…I believe they go to another place, not Cirkewwa), and off we went.

 Our fantastic trip to Comino was over L…I did not even capture how much fun we had in this blog…however I would not change it for the world. We reached Malta, and did not want the joy to end. So we all went home, had a shower, slept for around 1hour, and back out we went. Chris collected me and Bernard…the others went with Carina, and we went to Tigne where we had something to eat and chatted some more 😀

 Next up: BBQ at my house next Saturday, to look at the fireworks at Qrendi and Mqabba, and have a good time WEEEEEE!!