Having been distracted by Mint, a coffee bar in Sliema, we did not arrive in Valletta till mid afternoon. Being November we knew that our daylight hours were limited but this was only a preliminary wander to recconoitre Malta’s capital. From the ferry we climbed up to Republic Street, the main thoroughfare through Valletta.
We wandered from square to square exploring but could not find the definitive view of the Grand Harbour the subject of so many photographs.
A quick look at the map and we realised that the walled city of Valletta was on a peninsula between two harbours. Having discovered this we headed down the other side towards Victoria Gate. As we did so we were greeted by the instantly recognisable vista of Malta’s Grand Harbour.
The best place to view the Grand Harbour is from the battlements so we decided to wander round following the defensive walls back to the Sliema Ferry. Doing so we came across the Lower Barracca Gardens and paused. It was a serendipitous moment. We had been walking and looking ahead but wandering around the gardens we looked back along the walls to a quite remarkable sunset which had been developing, sneakily, behind our backs.
All photographers love a decent sunset and Olympic Holidays were running a Mediterranean Snap a Sunset photoblogging competition [see the details on Olympic Holidays competition page] and this developing sunset looked a likely candidate for my entry.
We spent time in the gardens just admiring the harbour and the sunset taking photographs of valletta and the boats silhouetted against the burnished sky. What made it even better was the the reflection in the waters of the Grand Harbour. Two sunsets for the price of one.
Most of the stroll from the gardens back to the ferry was in the gloaming that seemed to linger just long enough for us to have a visual experience that made us fall in love with the city. The tourists had gone and the streets were deserted except for a few Maltese residents. That is how I like a city; you get to feel its heartbeat and realise it is a lived in place and not just a showpiece.
If it hadn’t been for that sunset we would have hurried on round and missed a different side of Valletta that could so easily have been missed. I also learned to look over my shoulder occasionally – you never know when a sunset might be creeping up on you.
We visited Valletta again a couple of days later and experience a lot more of it and plan to return again. You can read about the eight experiences I recommend in a post I wrote earlier. Whatever happens on my next visit that sunset over the Grand Harbour will remain fixed in my visual memory.