San Sebastian, Malta

Day One in Malta: Exploring Qormi

Alex and I are currently cuddled up in our pajamas, getting ready for bed after an extraordinarily long day. I’ll probably go into further detail about this tomorrow, but let me explain the minor situation that took place at 4AM this morning. I woke up at 3:30AM – not an easy task – to get ready for my early morning flight and taxi pick up at 4:15AM. I had called to book the cab on Saturday to make sure we’d have a ride to the airport. Shortly after 4:10AM, a cab pulled up in front of my accommodation. When I went to get in the cab, I discovered that it wasn’t the cab that I had ordered. At that exact same moment, I received a  phone call from the cab company letting me know that they wouldn’t be sending a cab for us. As luck would have it, the cab parked in front of my complex hadn’t been booked (what are the chances at 4AM?!), so I was able to get him to take me to pick up Alex and drop us off at Victoria Station to make our way to the airport. Let me just say, never book with London Black Cabs. I was so disappointed. If, by the grace of God, a cab hadn’t been lingering in front of my complex, I would have been in a bit of a bind considering the tube station doesn’t open until 5:30AM. After making it to the station, we jumped on the Gatwick Express, made it through check-in and security in record time and got into Malta without a hitch. A series of fortunate events, indeed.

San Sebastian, Malta

We’ve now been in Malta for nine or so hours and have already been exploring Qormi, including an extra-special visit to the house my mom grew up in and the bakery that her parents owned. My mom was born and raised in Malta, one of twelve children in a big Catholic family that owned and operated a bakery in their village. Many of her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews still live in Qormi, not far from where she grew up.

Bakery in Qormi, Malta

I had actually imagined the old bakery to be in decent working order and was a little shocked to see the once-used building in a state of rubble. Still, the fact that my mom walked in same building when she was a child is a pretty cool thing to experience. I grew up hearing stories about her life as a child on this far-flung island, but it was hard to ever really put it into context. Seeing it in real life made it all much more real. When she lived here fifty years ago, the world was different. Their world was their village, not much beyond that, much less beyond the island. Seeing the small village she came from and imagining their move to San Francisco, California is daunting for me to think about; I can’t even imagine living it as a child with no English skills and no connections to the outside world.

We’re staying with family that I hadn’t really met  before this trip and they have been so incredibly accommodating. Not only did the entire family come to the airport to greet us, they also spent the entire day escorting us to must-see sights, making us Maltese delicacies, and took the week off to be our personal tour guides – much more than anyone could ask for or expect! I’m excited to experience Malta in general but even moreso to experience it with local guides and local knowledge. I find getting to know a place beyond the shiny hotspots is such an important part of traveling and really getting to know a culture in an authentic way.

Stay tuned – I’ll soon be sharing photos and experiences from St. George, San Sebastian, an innumerable amount of Mediteranean churches, a Christmas market, a life-sized house made of chocolate and tons of other highlights. We’re planning on visiting Valletta and Mellieha tomorrow, followed by a trip to Gozo on Wednesday via ferry for the full Maltese island experience.

Malta: Fun Facts

Azure Window, Malta

1There are 365 churches in Malta. One for every day of the year.
2Malta is a mere 122 square miles with around 425,000 inhabitants. Despite the low population (in terms of absolute numbers), Malta is the third most densely populated nation in the world. That definitely speaks to how small the place is!
3 Gozo is called the Isle of Calypso, referred to by Homer in the Odyssey.
4 Gozo is home to Ġgantija megalithic temples, a UNESCO heritage site and the world’s oldest free-standing structures.

Stay tuned for more adventures in Malta and Gozo plus photos from our journey.

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.