valletta by day // the best day*

the second day that noelle and i went to valletta was mayyybe definitely one of the best days of my life...

nothing very significant happened. it wasn't a particularly special day---i didn't accomplish some feat or earn a degree. i didn't win money or witness a miracle. i didn't even really fall in love. ;) but this day, as a whole, surpassed many other monumental days i've lived. because it was just really damn perfect from beginning to end. 

and it was so because of my perspective. i woke up that day and chose to feel GRATEFUL.

i was so overwhelmingly grateful to be doing every little thing that i was doing, noticing every unique and cliche detail under that ancient sun, hearing every musical maltese accent, every vibration of a busking band's guitar, every click on the steep cobblestone... all of my senses were tingling on overdrive. i was so happy it made me dizzy. 

we walked through sliema to the ferry dock to cross the harbor to valletta. i must admit that the entire time noelle was leading the way, i was constantly 10 steps behind, curiously marveling at some open balcony or detailed door knocker or effortlessly perfect flower arrangement or THAT BRILLIANT BLUE SKY. 

we had walked through our little temporary neighborhood a couple times by then, but something about the vibrancy of that day really got to me. every color demanded my attention. 

we took a small cobalt blue ferry boat across the glistening harbor and i was positively manic with joy at being on water for THE FIRST TIME since i left my sailing job in st thomas last may.

i never thought i'd be the kind of girl to ever have fluttery heart palpitations at the sight of steel cleats and neatly coiled lines... but learning to sail in the caribbean was such a growing experience---such a testament to hidden strength, such a lesson in resilience---that i will always, always be a sailor at heart. 

so the body parts of boats that i spent so many months learning and gripping and hooking and tying and polishing will ALWAYS symbolize that time in my life that i finally talked back to the condescending little voice in my head that used to say don't bother stefanie, you could never do that!

cause i proved it wrong once and now i know i can do it again. and again and again and again. ;)

we climbed the streets of the capital to the upper barakka in search of an art festival called patches. local artists set up booths of colorful goods---everything from handmade clothing to recycled jewelry to woven rugs to vintage finds.

there was a band with this angelic lead singer who we insisted on knowing. we insisted on knowing e-ver-y artist. we made friends with a brazilian jewelry maker, a maltese videographer, and a polish sociology writer. i bought a bracelet made out of cut plastic bottle covered with beautiful fabric from an artist's favorite torn dress. it is hands down my most meaningful maltese souvenir. 

the view from the upper barraka was unreal. as in it looked more like a green screen than real life. which is maybe why JMW Turner painted the grand harbor and made it look sublime.

after patches, we walked through the wine & music festival still going on in another part of valletta. we searched the streets until we found the perfect spot for dinner---an outdoor cafe in front of a massive church, with a live performer singing moby. noelle ordered rabbit ravioli and i had a pizza with olives, mushrooms, hard broiled egg, and artichoke... deeeLISH.

we two giggled in disbelief at all the joys our senses were experiencing in that moment: music, food, beauty, friendship, culture, and some really luscious warm winds.

after dinner, we started the trek back to sliema, at which time we were mildy harassed by funny young italian boys who hardly spoke a word of english. to get our attention, they spouted out the only italian words they figured americans would understand, "pizza! italia! mafia! bella!" and then we resorted to a google translate app to carry on a hilarious faux conversation, which everyone on our bus watched for entertainment. by the end of this bus ride, i was engaged to a 19-year-old sicilian who likened himself to scarface... ha! dream come true, right?

once off at the bus stop, i awkwardly bid farewell to my 10-minute-fiance. then noelle and i walked along st julien's lit up waterfront JUST as their epic religious festa was reaching its climax.  

crowds of people had flooded the space in front of the church. men in white robes held up religious figures and a full orchestra performed. fireworks erupted in the bay, casting red and purple sparks across the sky. then, just as we were weaving our way through the masses of people, they started lighting sparklers all around us. i looked over the crowd at all the anonymous hands holding up their glittering ignition, and my first thought was THAT's dangerous... but my second thought was holy god, this is SO MAGICAL. 

we hurried back to the apartment just in time to watch the very end of the firework show from our 9th floor balcony. finale.