“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
Anticipation and excitement were high as I woke up on the morning of June 30th. The long-awaited departure day for Malta had arrived. Anxiety was also lingering in the background, as it always does on days when I’ll be going on long airplane rides, but I have come to accept it as a necessary companion if I want to actually continue to go to Europe.
My suitcase, which had been thoroughly packed, got a once over to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten any essentials. Having never been away for so long, I was overly paranoid that something would get left behind and so I packed and repacked a few times throughout the day just to make sure it was all there. I had a variety of clothes for a variety of situations: shorts, tank tops, dresses, a formal dress for the wedding, and a few sweaters even though I knew I was highly unlikely to need them at any point (I didn’t).
I spent the rest of the morning organizing all out trip paperwork. Traveling between countries and across multiple cities required a good degree of organization – plane tickets, train tickets, hotel confirmations, tour confirmations, etc. I put my teaching skills to good use and obsessively organized a folder using a variety of colored Post-Its. Some may call this crazy, I call it smart.
All that was left to do was wait for Sarah to arrive and then my mom to pick us up and take us to Newark.
We piled into the car with our crazy heavy suitcases and started on our way to the airport. Though we left with plenty of time to get there, it still took longer than we anticipated due to traffic on Staten Island. However, we were upbeat and excited and even traffic couldn’t mar that attitude. We bid farewell to my mom at the airport and headed inside to check in. I was pleasantly surprised that this was a relatively painless process. One of the New York area’s international airports right at the beginning of the summer?? Chances were high that it would be crowded and crazy, but thankfully it wasn’t any more so than I would consider normal.
Of course, moving through check in and security lines quickly simply means that there is more time to sit around at the airport before your flight takes off. Once in the terminal, we sat down to have dinner – we had kind of planned in advance to have enough time to actually sit somewhere in the airport and eat rather than grab fast food from somewhere. We chose a Mediterranean kind of place – certainly not the caliber of food we would be getting once we landed in Europe but decent enough for a meal at the airport.
One thing that we had planned to do was a fashion blog of sorts, taking pictures of our outfits on each day. Well… I might as well admit now that we didn’t really do that but we did make sure to do it at the airport to show off our travel outfits.
Once we boarded, it took forever for the flight to take off. The entertainment system was working while were sitting on the tarmac, and I started watching Table Nineteen. I was legitimately nearly an hour into it by the time we took off. The gist is that Anna Kendrick plays a woman who attends her best friend’s wedding as a guest after stepping down as maid of honor after she breaks up with the bride’s brother. She ends up sitting at a table of “randoms:” other people who were invited out of politeness more than like, and the whole movie ends up being about the bonding that this table of randoms does. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I’d like to watch it again sometime when I’m not on a plane.
The flight was uneventful. I had the foresight to make sure that we booked our seats ahead of time so that we had a pair to ourselves on the side, rather than get stuck in the four seater middle of the plane. This meant that, while the seats weren’t exactly roomy, the only people we had to worry about disturbing if we needed the bathroom or anything were ourselves. Believe me, I had have many problems being in the window seat on planes and having the two strangers next to me pass out, leaving me stuck needing the bathroom with no escape. I wouldn’t inflict that particular pain on anyone.
I was fascinated by the plane bathrooms. They were downstairs. There was legitimately a staircase leading down to a bank of bathrooms stalls. It also made for a good area to stretch your legs for a bit during a long flight.
I continued to watch movies for the duration of the journey (Crazy Stupid Love, some episodes of The Goldbergs and Beauty and the Beast), forever thankful to the person who developed the back-of-the-seat, on-demand movie feature on long flights, and briefly fell asleep a little bit. I never sleep for long on airplanes – there’s too much noise. I did have a moment of annoyance on this particular flight however, because I managed to fall asleep and one of the flight attendants decided to teach over me and shut the shade. He did this to make sure that the light from the window didn’t wake me up, but unfortunately it had the opposite effect of what he intended, as his actions were what woke me up.
We arrived in Munich where we had four hours to kill before our the second flight which would take us to Malta. Though we were tired, we walked around the airport stores and browsed to stretch our legs (and were thoroughly entertained by the odd variety of products available at the German airport), and then got our first meal in Europe: sandwiches! And even though we were in the airport, the food was excellent (granted anything might’ve been excellent after the airplane food).
Our flight to Malta was much shorter (think New York to Florida), and I spent much of it reading and sleeping – yes, I actually managed to fall asleep for a solid hour on this flight, which really helped me out when we arrived in Malta because our journey was far from over when we reached the airport.
Malta consists of three islands: the main island of Malta, and then the two smaller islands, Gozo and Comino. Sarah’s family lives on Gozo, and so we needed to go from the airport to the ferry to get from one island to the other. We had a prearranged taxi to get us from the airport to the ferry terminal so that transfer was painless and easy. It wasn’t until we got the ferry terminal and had to deal with dragging our giant suitcases all over the place that things got a little difficult.
I need to learn to pack for a month in a carry on… or at the very least, a smaller suitcase.
Some advice – don’t make your first impressions about Malta about the area need the airport and the ferry terminal. Wait until you see the water. The blue of it is hard to describe – it wasn’t clear blue like you see in some pictures of tropical islands, although in some places it is. But crossing the water in between the two islands you see this deep blue, beautiful water. I was mesmerized watching it hit the side of the boat, the wake of the boat mixing white and blue together.
The only problem was my horrible suitcase. It was bulky and heavy and the wheels had a mind of their own. They got stuck on everything, and pulling it around was just a huge pain. However, as we otherwise arrived on Gozo without incident, I can’t really complain much can I?
My first real glimpse of Gozo was Mgarr, where the ferry terminal is located. The sun was just setting behind the island, backlighting the church and buildings on the hill and illuminating all the boats in the harbor. I immediately determined that I would need to get back there at some point in the trip to take some official pictures.
FUN FACT: Calypso, the nymph from The Odyssey who kept Odysseus trapped for seven years, is said to be Gozotan, and the island where she kept him was supposedly Gozo.
Sarah’s parents met us at the terminal. At this point, I was getting very tired. We had been in transit for over twelve hours and running on very little sleep. I was also experienced the shell-shock that I tend to have whenever I’m in a new country. I was glad we were staying with experts, however, as generally my shell-shock is accompanied by new place anxiety, but having Sarah’s parents made everything easy. It was also great because Sarah’s mom would fill us in on all the local and family history as we drove along. It was also during this drive that I got my first taste of the insanity of cars on Gozo. The streets are nearly all two way and very narrow, so there’s a car dance that goes on many times when one car encounters another trying to go the opposite direction. And with virtually no traffic lights on Gozo, it can get pretty crazy sometimes.
The first place the took us was Sarah’s paternal grandmother’s house, where we met her grandmother and uncle. We didn’t stay long, just enough to say hello and have some water. Sarah’s other grandmother was waiting for us at her house with a meal large enough to feed an army. She made kusksu, which was pasta, beans and cheese. It was awesome, made even more so by the fact that our first official meal in Malta was homemade.
However, it was kind of an eat and run situation since we needed to get to the apartment, settle in and get some rest. After a quick tour, and a good look at the fantastic view of the water from the balcony, we settled down and headed to bed, ready to begin our sightseeing adventures the next day.