A little island paradise

I had such a great time in Malta I have fallen behind with my updates, so I have decided to write single post that covers my time there…

On the Saturday morning we went to the Blue Grotto, a beautiful picture postcard place (like many others in Malta). The Farrugias were also visiting with Adam, Simone and the kids from Geelong. I didn’t realise they would be there at the same time as me, so there was quite a number of us. I also met Lil who came down to the beach to meet us. We got started early, about 8AM before the morning heat had set in. The water was warm and a crystal clear blue as we climbed up and jumped off the rocks. When we first arrived it was nearly empty, but slowly the crowds began to build. Locals jumping into the water, people scuba diving, streams of tourists piling into the little boats for the journey around the caves. Mr Farrugia bought us a ticket for the boat to head out to the spectacular Blue Grotto caves. I was amazed at the clear blue water, the unusual rock formations and the brilliant colours that lay just below the water line. After the beach we went to see some of the megalithic temples, older than the Pyramids in Egypt, that archaeologists are still not sure who built them or how.

That night we met up in Buggiba (I think that’s how you spell it!) near the apartment where the Farrugia family were staying. It was a really vibrant little place, especially because Brazil were playing in the World Cup many of the restaurants had TV screens to follow the game. We went to a Thai restaurant where the food was really nice and abundant! I think we probably ordered too much. It was great to meet Mary-Jane for the first time at dinner too. Mary-Jane was backing Italy in the World Cup, who were out by now of course, but also didn’t like Brazil. Lil on the other hand was cheering for Brazil so during dinner we would be periodically checking in on the match for updates. When we had finished eating, the match was nearing the end with the penalty shoot out looming, so we wandered into the square to find a TV and follow the action. After every shot there was a cheer from one group of supporters. Malta, being neutral, seemed to have fans for either side equally represented so it made for a tense and exciting atmosphere. In the end, Neymar did it for Brazil. Lil was happy, and Mary-Jane not so much. After gelato, we wandered down the waterfront through the hive of activity. The Maltese tend to be nocturnal creatures and the place really comes alive at night.

On Sunday morning at the assembly meeting I met Sergio, Valeria and their two year old, Thomas. Sergio and Valeria were originally from Sicily but now live in the same street as Warrick and Dayna. After the meeting we had lunch together and Sergio was a great hit with the kids making balloon animals and flowers. Unfortunately, Thomas took an interest in my bike that was in the hallway, managing to get black grease from the chain everywhere. Sergio did a good job of scrubbing him clean but I think he ruined his white shorts. Later in the afternoon we went down to the beach again, this time another spot with rock pools where I managed to get so comfortable I fell asleep.

Monday we took the ferry across to the island of Gozo, a very short trip. On the way I discovered a wonderful local snack, pastitsi which is flaky pastry filled with vegetables and ricotta cheese. Deadly delicious and super cheap. I ate two on the ferry trip there, had another two for lunch once we got there and another on the way back. They were pretty yummy. When we arrived on the bus at the ferry terminal we were set upon by people in green shirts for tickets to the sightseeing bus. My initial reaction is always to be reluctant to these sorts of offers, but I listened to the guy and he gave us a pretty good deal. It was actually a great way to get around and see everything. We went to the Gganjhi temples, which are apparently the oldest freestanding temples in the world! I also jumped off the bus to go to the citadel in Victoria to explore the old prison, the archaeological museum, the folklore museum and the citadel itself. I then met up with the others again for a quick swim at Xlendi beach before heading back on the ferry. Warrick had to work, but was there to pick us up at the ferry port. We finished the night off with some authentic turkish kebabs.

Having brought my bike to Malta, I hadn’t actually ridden it yet, so on Tuesday morning I set out on two wheels to explore. I started from Warrick and Dayna’s house in Marsaxlokk and went to Valletta. Valletta feels like a classic European city, just on a small scale, but being right on the coast and surrounded by walls gives it a very unique aesthetic. I cycled around the city bumping over cobbles, visited the archaeological museum (yes, another one!), the war museum, the palace, the armoury… It was great to get acquainted with more of Malta’s fascinating history over the past 7000 years (or so). From Valletta I headed west to the ‘silent city’ of Mdina. This is a really cool place, again set up on a hill surrounded by city walls it has only very narrow streets, so cars can’t really travel inside, only horse and cart (or bikes of course!) Since I had spent so long in Valletta, it was getting too late to visit any of the museums, so I spent about half an hour just rolling around the city streets. Definitely one of my favourite places in Malta and I’d love to spend more time there. From Mdina I continued west (and north) to a lovely little spot on the coast called Gininja Bay. This is where I met everyone else and we had an assembly BBQ on the beach. More of a locals hangout than a tourist spot it was a very relaxed setting as we watched the sun set over the water.

In preparation for my first flight since arriving in London, I decided to cull some weight from my luggage. Having been through France and Italy, there was no use for my guidebooks anymore or the wad of maps, brochures and guides I had picked up along the way. So on Wednesday morning I walked with Dayna and the girls to the town with the nearest post office so I could post it home. I was quite a decent trek, probably 30 minutes in each direction. We set off pretty early, but it started to heat up. The girls did very well I thought, with hardly any complaints and were rewarded with an ice cream and a cold drink when we reached our destination. When we got home the girls and I watched Despicable Me 2 until Warrick came home from work for lunch. Warrick and I then went for a drive to the ‘3 cities’ where we wandered around for a bit and admired the billionaire yachts parked in harbour. We caught a water taxi across to Valletta and had this funny conversation with the boat owner, who seemed to think we were from one of the yacht crews. We thought he was joking when he asked which one was ours, so we played along for a bit until Warrick explained he actually lived in Marsaxlokk. After a walk around Valletta we stopped for a delicious handmade gelato (the best in Malta) and bought some amazing cakes for supper that night. Following the Wednesday night meeting, everyone stayed for supper, which gave me a final chance to say good bye. We over catered on the cakes, but they were delicious.

It was 5:30AM the following morning, as I gathered my things with Warrick and loaded up the car. I had weighed my luggage and it was happily well under my 20kg checked allowance. The bike was all bagged and taped ready to go on the plane. This was another big test, since the bike had never travelled like this before I was a little nervous about it. I said good bye at the airport to Warrick. It had been such a perfect time to relax in Malta and a joy to see Warrick and his family, along with meeting the others for the first time. At the check-in I cautiously handed over my precious cargo, entrusting it to the care of the Ryanair crew and airport baggage handlers. I had a quick breakfast at the airport cafe then it was time to board the plane and bid farewell to Malta. So London ‘ere we come, eh?