Tag Archives: Malta

Marsala – Sicily

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Marsala  (Lilybaeum in Latin) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populous town in Trapani, and the fifth-highest in Sicily.

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The town is famous for the landing of Garibaldi on 11 May 1860 (the Expedition of the Thousand) and for its Marsala wine.

A feature of the area is the natural reserve of Stagnone Lagoon—a marine area with salt ponds.

The Salt Ponds and the Ancient Windmills used to pump the sea water out are so very beautiful…

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Marsala is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city Lilybaion, and includes the archaeological site of Motya island, an ancient Phoenician town.  See our visit to that marvelous place by clicking HERE.

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As we traveled to Sicily from Malta it was exciting to see the island coming into view…

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We stayed in our favorite hotel in Marsala, The New Palace Hotel

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We love walking the old city of Marsala, so filled with history and beauty..

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As with any ancient city in Europe, one must visit the Cathedral…

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We dart up the steps and enter the enormous doors …….what do we see…….. a wedding in progress…

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….up the side aisle we sneak, in order to obtain a better view of the goings on….

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What fun to observe this very formal event…we hurry to wait outside to see the newlyweds exit…

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What fun that was!

We had walked into the old town and on our way back we found the most marvelous restaurant…. Bucanieri

Look at the view from our table……..marvelous!!

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What a delightful meal we enjoyed, sitting and watching the chefs in the open kitchen….

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Crostini with Lardo and Fresh Tomato..

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Arancini di Riso and Sundried Tomato stuffed with Sardine…

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Octopus Salad

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Wild Boar Meatballs in a Rich Hunter’s Broth

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Delightful Frutti di Mari

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Tuna Steak in an Incredible Parsley Sauce

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Delightful cup of Rich Minestrone Soup

Then a walk back to the New Palace for some pastries..

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Nothing beats Sicilian Pastries…

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We so love Sicily and Marsala is always a delight to visit…..we hope you enjoyed spending some time here with us….

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Madrid – Spain

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While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….

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Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…

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The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….

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 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…

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On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….

Tarxien Temples – Malta

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The Tarxien Temples (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈtarʃi.ɛn]) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta.

They date to approximately 3150 BC.   

The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with

the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

See my post on the Hypogeum : https://the-tin-man.com/2013/06/22/hypogeum-of-hal-saflieni-paola-malta/

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures.

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The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored.

acma-Tarxien-TempleAt the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta.

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The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two.

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The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

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Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

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Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

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Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple.

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Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The visit was most amazing and I was so taken by the skills and dedication of our predecessors to create something that would last over 5,000 years.

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When we were exiting I saw some archeologists working on a dig….they saw me taking a photograph and bent into the dig and began to yell with excitement and then popped up holding a spoon…..

……love people with a sense of humor!!!

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Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – Paola, Malta

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The Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

We knew that this was a must see place, so several months prior to our trip we went online in search of tickets.  The place is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmosphere inside the temple complex is highly regulated.  This allows for only ten people per hour to enter for a very limited time period and only 60 persons per 24 hours.  As you can imagine, tickets are sold out for around a year in advance!  I found two tickets available on a day when we were going to be in Malta!!!  You bet I bought those within seconds of finding them.

The Hypogeum is located within a residential neighborhood and a bus drops you off blocks from the site.  You then wander the streets from small sign to the next hoping you are going in the right direction…

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Hey the place is just another residential doorway…….we went right past it the first time!

Now access is VERY controlled, as I stated, so all personal items are collected…….darn, no secret photos to be had!

Since no photos are allowed the following photos of the interior of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni are all from Google searches.

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The Hypogeum of Paola, Malta, literally meaning “underground” in Greek, is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase  (3000-2500 BC) in Maltese prehistory.

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Thought to have been originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times,  as is proven by the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that have been discovered during the course of the excavation.

The Hypogeum was depicted on a 2 cents 5 mils stamp issued in the Maltese Islands in 1980 to commemorate the acceptance by UNESCO of this unique structure in the World Heritage Site list.

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It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 60 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof.   The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found.   The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museums Committee.   Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.   Following Magri’s sudden death, excavation resumed under Sir Temi Zammit.

The first level is very similar to tombs found in Xemxija in Malta.   Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended.  Remember that these rooms were carved into solid limestone with DEER ANTLERS!!!

This was built in the Neolithic Age.

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The second level was only opened when the original builders found that this level was no longer adequate.   This level is only ten meters below the street level.

The Second level features several apparently important rooms, such as

the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber  is roughly circular and carved out from rock. A number of trilithon entrances are represented, some blind, and others leading to another chamber.  Most of the wall surface has received a red wash of ochre.

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It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta.

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 The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers.   It has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

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This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.

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 Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern.  On the right side wall the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock.

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 The second level contains a 2 meters deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.

The focal point of this room is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.

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  The lower story contained no bones or offerings, only water.   It strongly suggests storage, maybe of grain.

Stories from the Past

There is an account that in the 1940s a British embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup, went on a tour of the Hypogeum and persuaded a guide to let her explore a 3 ft. square “burial chamber” next to the floor of the lowest room in the last 3rd sub-level.   She claims that after squeezing through this chamber she came into a large room;  where she was standing there was a large cliff with a steep drop and the floor of the cavern could not be seen.   Across the cavern there was a small ledge with an opening in the wall.   According to Ms. Jessup, a number of “humanoid beings” that were covered in white hair and hunched over came out of this opening.   They raised their palms in her direction and a large gust of wind filled the cavern, extinguishing the light of her candle.   She then claimed that she felt something brush past her.   When she went back to the Hypogeum on another occasion, she was told no such tour guide had ever worked on the site.

Sometime after Miss Jessup’s first visit, a group of school children and their teacher visited the Hypogeum on an outing and entered the same burial chamber, which then collapsed while they were inside.   Search parties could not conduct a thorough search for the children or their teacher due to the cave-in.   The parents of the children claimed that, for weeks, they could hear the voices of their young children coming from under the ground in several parts of the island.  source:  http://www.philipcoppens.com/

Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defense system.   Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters.   Beneath Valletta some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor.   Prehistoric men built temples and chambers in these vaults.   In a pit beside one sacrificial altar lie thousands of human skeletons.   Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other.   The Government closed the entrances to these tunnels after school children and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned………….  According to National Geographic’s ”Ancient X-Files” there are no local newspaper reports or accounts from residents about the missing children, making it more likely this was an invented story.

Whatever the local lore is about this place, I can tell you that we felt very honored and thankful to have been able to walk these ancient rooms.  To imagine our ancestors toiling for years to construct this grand and beautiful place……….not to mention the marvelous ceremonies and rituals that must have been………..

Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul – Valletta, Malta

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On a recent European tour, we spent eight glorious days in the beautiful country of Malta.  It was an amazing journey and we found the Maltese people and culture to be so very wonderful.  In anticipation of a glorious time, we booked an apartment in the oldest part of Valletta, here is the view from our windows……yes,  stunning 180 degree panoramic sea-views of Marsamxett Harbor and Manoel Island, all the way out to the open Mediterranean sea!!!

Perfect for a leisurely dinner with beautiful Maltese wine….

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While searching for places to stay, I found this photo and decided I had found the perfect place!!

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The Tin Man has many stories to tell about the travels in Malta; however, let’s begin with the Church of the Ship Wreck of Saint Paul…..

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It all started with a shipwreck, as told in the book of Acts, about 60 AD while the apostle Paul was en route to Rome.

Boarding an Alexandrian grain freighter on the isle of Crete, a fierce Nor’easter blew the ship off course.

The tiny ship was tossed, it looked like all was lost.

(you should now be hearing the theme from Gilligan’s Island in your head)

The Books of Acts describes the scene as such:

“On the fourteenth night, they were still being driven across the Adriatic sea when the sailors sensed land approaching.   They took soundings and found that the land was 120 feet deep.   A short time later they took soundings again and found that it was 90 feet deep.   Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for daylight,”

When daylight came, they did not recognize the land.   But they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.   Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea,”

The anchors were discovered by Ray Ciancio in the 1960’s and are on display at the National Maritime Museum

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A Shipwreck’s Impact

With the storm still raging, the ship struck a sandbar, and began to break apart. With the vessel and her cargo a total loss, the nearly 300 men on board swam for their lives.   Miraculously, everyone survived.

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta,” the story reveals.

And so began a Christian influence in Malta that has continued down through the centuries.   Today, it is the most religious nation in Europe — 98 percent of its citizens are members of the Catholic Church.

Saint Paul is memorialized throughout the island, no where more than in Saint Paul’s bay,   today tourists come to the Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul to see relics of the Saint who was cast ashore on this marvelous island nation….

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While we had planned to visit this church during our stay in Valletta, on this particular day we were in search of Piadina Caffe, the number 2 rated restaurant in Valletta…

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This wonderful Café is owned and operated by a wonderful woman named, Giada….

There are only 3 chairs inside the tiny place and guests are invited to stand or sit on the sidewalk outside

Here is the interior of the entire place…..

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Delightful and Fresh Creations

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We had such a delightful time and returned every chance we had to this very bohemian culinary paradise.

Click HERE to read my review…….

To our delight, we sat on the sidewalk and there directly in front of us was the entrance to the

Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul!!

When we finished our delightful luncheon we stepped across the street to explore the church…..

The church hosts fine artistic works, including the magnificent altarpiece by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio

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The Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, also known as simply the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, is a Roman Catholic parish church and is one of Valletta’s oldest churches.

 St Paul is considered to be the spiritual father of the Maltese.   His shipwreck is popularly considered as the greatest event in the nation’s history.   For this reason, St Paul’s Collegiate Church is one of the most important in Malta.

The church is incredibly large compared to its humble entrance across from the café.  The inside is packed with all sorts of marvelous art and sculpture.

Here is part of the column on which the saint was beheaded in Rome; you see, he lost his appeal to Caesar and was executed, but his Roman citizenship spared him crucifixion, granting him a more humane beheading instead.

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The choir and dome of Lorenzo Gafà, the paintings by Attilio Palombi, and Giuseppe Calì

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The wooden statue of Paul the Apostle was carved in 1657 by Melchiorre Cafà, the brother of Lorenzo Gafa  who remodeled the church in 1680

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 The statue is paraded through the streets of Valletta on the feast day of St Paul’s Shipwreck, February 10

 One can also view the treasured relic of the right wrist-bone of St Paul……..

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What a delightful time we had wandering these ancient streets……..now it was time to go back to our marvelous apartment, after a few stops at the local markets to buy ingredients for dinner……….oh yes, and more wine!

(http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g190328-d2365752-or3-Valletta_Seafront-Valletta_Island_of_Malta.html#REVIEWS)

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 It was a day rich in history and discovery…..just the beginnings of an adventure that would lead us into the bowels of the earth to a Neolithic city over 5,00 years old

we sat and watched the sun set over our beautiful Malta and wondered what tomorrow would bring…..

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