Category Archives: General info


In Malta and what we’ve seen of Spain, there are not underground gas lines to homes and businesses.  Instead, the delivery man has scheduled routes.   A good job for the physically inclined in carrying full tanks to doorsteps, and taking away the empties.

Aside: orange trees line the streets here, but a couple of samples reveal a tart (like a lemon!) variety.

IMG_1914If a home has gas, it’s typically used for stove, hot water and maybe heat in the northern areas.

IMG_1918Always being watched.  Bluest skies.

IMG_1495Making the corner in Malta, the driver made his presence known early one morning (!) by tooting his horn.  – Laura


A common packing challenge for any trip is what shoes to bring.  It’s a  bigger challenge when you’re only bringing a carry on.

IMG_1621Dave’s solution: He wore the brown, newly-soled slip-ons, and didn’t pack a second pair after a last-minute decision to leave the little-too-tight hiking shoes at home.  During a visit to Valletta Thursday these Clark hikers were spotted at 1/2 off.   Now the slip-ons are taking a well deserved vacation.

IMG_1622Laura’s solution included these two pair which so far have worked out well.   The purple ones have a very flexible sole, and are light and  squishable for packing.  My last minute decision was to not bring a nice walking sandal, even though there was room in the suitcase.  They won’t be needed until later in the trip, and I’ll go shopping for a pair (souvenir!) when the need arises.

What to Do on a Rainy Day

OnlineLearning ClassesWhat do you do on a rainy day?  Well, learn something, of course!   What has changed in the last several years is how easy it is to take quality classes online.  I have highlighted three online learning institutions above: edX, Khan Academy, and Udacity.  My first class was a Java programming class from Udacity a year ago.  In August I took a Solar Energy class from edX while we were in Mexico.  In the last couple of days I’ve worked my way through the first half of the Linux operating system class at edX.   While most of the edX classes are college level, much of the Khan Academy classes are along the line of Advanced Placement High School or Junior College (perfect for me to re-learn Calculus) on down to grade school.  While I’m mostly interested in technical subjects, courses in history, art, music, etc are available.  edX is a learning platform but most of the coursework comes from major universities all around the world such as Delft, U of Austin, MIT, and Harvard.  In addition, major companies such as Google, Nvidia,  & mongoDB have developed some of the classes because of their unique expertise in the field and a little self interest on their part.  Some of the classes are designed to be taken at any time in a solo environment, while others start on a specific date, have weekly lectures (that can be viewed at your leisure), regular homework and social media abilities to work with others in the same class.  You can take classes for free from all three institutions if your sole objective is to learn the subject.  If you want to be certified or get credit, there are nominal fees (compared to brick and mortar schools)  associated with the class.  Corporations are now beginning to recognize certifications from these classes, which in my view is an endorsement of their quality.  In any event, you can get a college level education for free or pay $30K plus a year to a university system more interested in your student loan money than your education.    In addition, you can make some real learning progress on a rainy day in Malta. -Dave

Blogging Statistics

A Maltese Junkyard surrounded by a limestone block wall. Note the Cathedral off in the distance. Our walk takes us there on the way to the 5500 year old Ggantija Temple.

So far our blog has been seen  by 295 unique users  and received  2495 hits.  Wow! Those are big numbers for a little travel blog for family and friends. However those numbers are far from real.  The real unique users are about 20 or so, and real hits are about 300.  If you look under the covers, about 80% of the hits are from China, and another 10% from Russia and the Ukraine, all trying to hack the admin password.  Luckily there are plugins available to help “blacklist” IP addresses of offending computers.  Last night was particularly fruitful with 10 more computers blacklisted.  By the way, if you use simple passwords like qwerty, 12345…, 121212, etc.  your blog would be history by now (I can see what passwords folks attempt to use).   I’m sure the same applies to your email account, bank accounts, etc.   . -Dave

Cost of Living

The leggy “lady” on the left has a rather deep voice…(photo from Madrid)

No, the picture above has nothing to do with this post but we had to throw it in somewhere.

So how much does it cost to live in Madrid or Malta?  I thought I would highlight some of the costs comparisons between United States/Tacoma and what we are experiencing in Malta and Madrid.  Overall day-to-day costs are definitely lower here.  To balance the picture though, I have no idea what folks in Spain or Malta pay in income taxes or health care costs, nor do I know what there average pay level is.

1) Our Malta ferry from Malta main island to Gozo was $5.50 round trip.   A comparable ferry  from Mukilteo to Clinton (Whidbey Island) costs $4.80 one way.  Bus tickets for all day are $1.75 where as an all day bus pass in Tacoma is $5.00.

2) Can of tomatoes here 45 cents, nice ground beef $3.50/lb, large crusty bakery bread 98 cents/loaf, premium pastries (tart or cheesecake) $1.60 from a bakery,  dinner bills with two drinks and two entries about $25 (would have been about $35 in the states).  Groceries seem to get about a 10% tax however other things don’t seem to get taxed or the taxes are included in the price.

3 )Our furnished Madrid apartment would  rent for about $1100/month and an equivalent apartment in Seattle would be about $2,200/month.  Our furnished apartment in Malta rents for about $600/month and would be equivalent to a place like Tacoma where rents would be about  $1,200/month.  Note the prices for Madrid and Malta are all inclusive (costs of the apartment itself, electricity, trash, internet, etc.) where as the cost in Tacoma and Seattle are apartment only.  As  such you could add another $200 to the stateside costs to get a good comparison.

4) Museums are probably about the same.  We pay about $5 for small museums and about $15 for large museums (like the Prado in Madrid).

5) The only cost that seems to be higher here is gasoline.  It would run about $6.45/gallon here in Malta and I’m guessing about $2.00 in Tacoma at the moment.

Note:  All numbers have been converted from euros to dollars. -Dave





We have been planning our next steps.  Before we left Tacoma we booked flights from Madrid to Malta at 6:20 on January 11 and our first place to stay on Gozo.  Malta is an archipelago but from a population standpoint consist of two main islands, Malta itself, sometimes called Valletta which is the capital of Malta, and Gozo.   Gozo is about 26 square miles and 38,000 people.  It is about 8.7 miles by 4.5 miles – not a very big Island.   The main Island of Malta is 94 square miles and 400,000 people.  We will be in Malta for about a month, the first 8 days on Gozo and the remaining on the “big island”.  Today we looked at the bus schedule and found we can take the 1X bus from the airport to the le-Cirkewwa ferry dock where we will travel on to Gozo.  The proprietor for our Gozo place said he will pick us up at the dock if we let him know our schedule.  Looks like the ferry leaves about every 45 minutes.  You can buy a bus ticket for all day for 1.5 euro and the airport buses allow for luggage.   We also just booked our first place to stay when we return to the big island.  We booked two weeks but told the proprietor we may stay a third.  This particular place is only 20 euro a night ($24) a pretty good price but did not want to commit the whole time without seeing it.  The proprietor said he would reserve the third week just in case.  Malta is interesting in that it is an amalgamation of every society in the area.  It was of military interest due to its central location in the Mediterranean and as a result, everyone conquered it at one time or another.  Since control shifted from one country to another over the centuries, the culture retains aspects of  both Europe and north Africa.  We took the picture above and added it to the “About Us” link at the top of the blog.  -Dave

Trip Strategy



For this trip we are trying to live within our retirement checks or stated another way, live for the same price we would at home.  We are using the web site to find lodging.  This site gives you the ability to search for bunches of places to stay and allows you to enter criteria to narrow down the search.  We are using three criteria: 1) whole house 2) washer/dryer and 3) wifi.  You can see all the candidate homes on a map and click on a home to see the description and all the included pictures.  The airbnb vacation rentals are all homes/apartments/condos/rooms that people, in contrast to companies, are making available.

We type in what ever city we are interested in and look for a place that looks decent and is either walkable to most places or is on a bus or train line to get where we want to go.

The selection of “whole house” on airbnb also assure us we find places with a kitchen which is also key to keeping cost down.  In general we plan to to eat two meals at home and one out every day.

We intend to stay in one place for at least 10 days.  The longer you stay in most airbnd establishments the better price you get but also the longer you stay the more you get a feel for what life in a particular city is really like.  The trade off of course is that you stay too long in either a city you don’t like, or a home you don’t like, and that you don’t see as many attractions over the course of a trip (in our case 4 months).  On balance we are shooting for about 2 weeks every where we go.

I have included the picture of two wine bottles we bought in our neighborhood grocery store here in Madrid.  I’m always on the search for the cheapest bottle of drinkable wine I can find.  We bought two bottles one costing  $1.38 and the other “expensive” wine  was $3.90.  Laura and I both preferred the $1.38 wine so it now replaces a previous cheap wine we like (in Malta several years back for $1.90).  In fact bottled water costs more than bottled wine here in Madrid.   – Dave



Goodbye Artist’s Loft and Tacoma

IMG_0768 - Copy

Dec. 30, 2014 Finds us handing back the keys to the loft, running a few last minute errands and heading to Kent for an awesome dinner with Tom, Lori & family.  Living in downtown  Tacoma for 4 1/2 years  was good times, and we will miss our neighbors in the Artists Loft and the local haunts we’ve become regulars at.