Malta, Game of Thrones.
First stop, San Anton Palace and Gardens. Residence of the President of Malta, film set for Game of Thrones Season 1. A stunning urban jungle paradise, beyond even the film references. Life in the gardens originates, quite literally, from all over the world; it is custom for a visiting foreign leader to bring a flower, tree, or even animal to the garden as a gift. The gardens themselves were opened to the public in the early 1800s, but they were originaly planted long before that. Some of the trees are over three hundred years old.
Second stop, St. Dominic’s Convent, a fascinating monastery, almost always closed to the public. It’s most recognizable now as the garden where Ned Stark confronted Cersei Lannister about the linneage of her children in Season 1 of GoT. But locally, it’s known for a statue of the Madonna that allegedly “cried” real tears of blood during a service. The statue is still on display. Fed up with pilgrimmage crowds, the residents of the convent limited the hours. Now, the place is one of Malta’s best kept secrets.
I’m not a big tour person; this GoT tour, though, was a highlight of our trip – it brought us to places like these, hidden from the main stream, brimming with their own secret history. I learned so, so much – about film, geography, politics, Malta. Very, very much recommend.