As much as Johanna hates to admit it, she has a pretty keen eye for birds. She pointed out this gorgeous Collared Flycatcher male to me as we were walking along the beach of a lagoon in Comino, Malta.
You always hear them before you see them so let's start with this:
My great-grandparents lived in a tiny log home a few minutes outside of the town I grew up in. The house was charismatic in many ways but the front porch was memorable for me because of all the feral barn cats sneaking around, looking for food scraps. Sitting in the threshold of the door to the kitchen was a rickety, creaky red screen door. I can tell you exactly how it sounded to open because the song of the Yellow-headed Blackbird is nearly identical.
Here's to one of my Colorado favorites, the raspy, unoiled Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus).
In a time when everyone wants to appear like they are not tourists, I will be the one rooting for kitschy tourist things like hop on/hop off bus tours. I will be the one with my camera slung across my body and my rain jacket wadded up in my hand. I'll have sneakers on and a ponytail. The wind and miles will not depreciate my tilted, curious head.
The thing about bus tours and guided walks is that they are often the best way to see a large majority of sights when time is limited. The information obtained through cheaply assembled ear buds on the top of a double decker bus is usually a bit out of date but still covers non-recent history. And let's face it, touring is secretly mostly about withstanding the pain of your blistered, well-traveled feet (if you're doing it right). Sometimes you need to take a load off.
All of the photos in this post were taken from a bus tour in Gozo, Malta.
I have opinions about travelling. A bunch of them. You might think that this means limits but the exact opposite is the goal. If I had to boil it down to one simple mantra, I'd give you this advice:
Eat what the people eat, do what the people do.
And for god's sake, don't waste precious time at chain restaurants (unless you have children, I'm not even going to touch that one) and empty activities that are featured in "best of" lists. Talk to the people. Get the scoop on the underground sitch. Watch Anthony Bourdain shows. Eat a bug.
Last bit of advice for this post. Don't be intimidated by other people's travels or their wealth of travel experience. You do you. And feel free to apply any of my travel tips to your very own city. In fact, people generally know the least about their own city. You can recommend commonly talked about sights to visitors but how long has it been since you took a look for yourself?
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Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) - Wied Il-Għasri, Gozo, Malta
I took this photo on a dirt path below the lighthouse that sits above Wied Il-Għasri. Unknowingly, we were walking through private property and eventually happened upon a tiny shack dug into the hill. It looked rather questionable. Luckily no one was home.
The detour was worth it to spot my first ever leaf-warbler.
I kill an average of one succulent per quarter here in Newfoundland. Succulents are arid weather plants (high temperatures, low rainfall). They get most of their water from the air. Where I live, there is more water than I can comprehend. Lots of precipitation, humidity, ponds and bogs every few feet. But it's cold. And too wet. There is no need for draught-resistant plants here. But I attempt to grow them anyway.
Succulents are on trend right now. And just like with Apple devices, I am drinking the kool-aid. Why has it taken so long for the masses to realize how cool cacti are?! If you're like me and you are obsessed with these little alien Darwinian champions, you will be blown away by the succulents in Malta.
Two words. Climbing. Cacti. Picture the way Morning Glory vines all over everything (and then you panic and regret ever saying Morning Glory was pretty). Now imagine thick Cathedral Cactus looking SOB's climbing up 3 stories of 300-year old farmhouse.
You've got to see this array of succulents.
I can't get enough of the macro plant porn. You need to see these roadside cacti as well though.
You can't gauge the height of the cactus in the above photo but I'll tell you, it was easily twice my height (I'm 5'4").
If you're feeling nerdy and you want to identify some of the above plants, please take a crack at it in the comments. I would be happy to collaboratively nerd out with you.