Posted by: glenswatman | February 1, 2015

20150121-31 Exploring Malta and a change of hotels

WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY – It’s a lovely sunny blue sky day and we had intended to make the most of it and go to Gozo but Steve is really whacked. Sit by the outdoor pool where I chat to Frank and Margaret, also avid travels who gain my admiration when they say they are off ski-ing next month even thought Frank is now 79. Couchsurfer Dave arrives and joins us for lunch in the apartment. We have much in common as he is also a nomad, has a motorhome in Spain, lived in a naturist resort, enjoys holistic therapies and now lives on his yacht. He tells us about his voluntary job here as a Radio presenter and how his show helps publicise the plight of the African migrants who have arrived here after barbaric treatment in their own countries. I want to do a big shop at Lidl now we are staying here for another 5 weeks but they are all in the Valletta area. Dave offers to take me there on his way home to Sliema then drop me at the bus to come back. Although a little more expensive than Lidl in Spain the quality of the fresh produce seems far better than in the local shops and I have to contain myself to only buy what I can fit in 3 large bags. Not sure what the driving whilst on the mobile phone laws are here but our bus driver does a pretty good job of doing both almost all the way back! Good job I stocked up as Steve really doesn’t feel like going to the Casino evening buffet as planned so at least we have plenty to eat. Settle in to watch the first episode of Lark Rise & Candleford. Friend Teresa in Japan told us about it when she heard that we used to run a Post Office and jokingly wondered whether we had robbed it as had the lady in the series. Fling every possible treatment at Steve with tea tree gargle, eucalyptus bath and massage then tiger balm on his chest and it does seem to help at lot.

THURSDAY 22 JANUARY – It’s a dull morning so we wallow in bed watching another enjoyable episode of Lark Rise. Get up at 11am and find that it is raining and we are in the midst of the thunder and lightning storm which may explain why we both have headaches. Spend part of the afternoon in the gym and using the pool and Jacuzzi which is nice and relaxing. Steve’s still not well in the evening so we give the planned outing to see “Elvis” a miss and stop in watching more of Lark Rise. In spite of following the same routine as last night Steve has a really bad night and ends up going into the spare bedroom.

FRIDAY 23 JANUARY – I’m getting a little concerned about Steve now so find out our options for seeing a Doctor if he Steve gets worse. Turns out the quickest thing would be to go to the main hospital which I passed on the bus route to Valletta. It’s another stormy day so we hunker down and watch movies.

SATURDAY 24 JANUARY – We walk to the shops between showers. Even when it’s not actually raining you can easily get wet as the drainage is poor and the Maltese drivers seem to take great delight in driving quickly through puddles and splashing pedestrians. Discover “Vegmix too” shop which has better quality fresh fruit and veg and the cheapest water so far at Euro 2 (£1.60) for 6 x 2 litres. In fact the way the Euro is going it is probably even cheaper as we are now getting around Euro 1.30 = £1. In the evening Steve heads out to watch his football and sitting in the hotel lounge I get chatting to Martin & Cassie. They also live in a static caravan own a motorhome. They are only here now as Martin has had a shoulder operation and can’t drive. Exchange info on places to visit and eat in Malta.

SUNDAY 25 JANUARY – Making the most of the sunny morning we set out to explore. Can’t decide where to go so opt to catch whatever bus comes first. It’s the X3 heading towards the airport but we can get off and visit the fortified town of Mdina. It’s a little gem with attractive streets and ornate buildings. It’s just starting to drizzle when we spot an advert for a museum rooftop terrace cafe serving hot mulled wine and biscuits for Euro 2.25 (£1.50). We have a view of the dome of St Paul’s cathedral and glimpses of the coastline far below. There are numerous museums (all with a charge) and churches (all closed) but overall we just love wandering around. On the opposite side of the bus station is Rabat with more interesting alleyways to explore. Their St Pauls cathedral is very fancy inside and in our opinion way over the top. Return via some back streets and discover a small bar that almost looks to be in someone’s front room. They are advertising cups of soup at 75c (60p) and we’re in. At least Steve is as I realise they are sachets of “cup a soup” and contain wheat so he gets mine as well. I order a coffee and the barman suggests Steve tries some local Maltese bread which turns out to be a whole sandwich filled with a kind of salsa. Amazingly the total bill is only Euro 2.80 (£2.20) and we’ve been entertained by the local men in there as well. Steve’s been doing a lot of coughing and spluttering whilst walking around so we head back to the apartment arriving early afternoon and just before the rain starts again. We’re just about to head out for a meal when Couchsurfer Dave calls and is in reception. He opts to join us for dinner across the road at The Boathouse. It is a totally gluten free restaurant serving Italian and Chinese food. We opt to share the food and order an unusual Capresse pizza with lots of vegetables on it and ham. Chinese veg stir fry and a portion of chips. Freshly baked bread is also served with the meal and it lovely to be able to tuck in without worrying if I am going to end up in pain later. They call it apple pie but the dessert is more like a sponge cake with apples in but served with cream it is very nice.

MONDAY 26 JANUARY – The weather looks OK with just a few showers forecast around noon. Steve suggests I go for a ride out on the buses. It’s a small Toyota Coaster bus that does the route to Golden Bay on the opposite coast. I’m thinking of walking along the coast past Ghajn Tuffieha Bay to Gnejna Bay then into Mgarr to catch another bus. Heading in to black clouds it is no surprise that we get a downpour even before arrival. An English couple are waiting at the bus stop and tell me they have done the walk and it was terrible. The track is like clay and you either end up sinking into it or on the embankments you slip and slide. Other than a hotel there seems little else in the area so I stay on and alight near Xemxija and after getting a soaking waiting for a bus I get on one towards Cirkewwa. Passing through the town of Mellieha it has stopped raining so I alight to browse around. No sooner have I come out of the Euro shop than the heavens open up. Luckily I am carrying a poncho so can cover myself and my bag easily. Pressing on to Cirkewwa we pass a campsite on the right with just one large American motorhome with slide outs and on the left a sort of rustic holiday camp with old caravans and shacks all painted a pale aqua colour. It has stopped raining so I get off as soon as we reach the coast intending to walk a bit. Foiled again as by the time I reach Paradise Bay there is another downpour. It’s tempting to hop on the ferry to Gozo as I can see the sun shining there but instead head back to the apartment for lunch. Call in to a chemist to pick up some medicine and lozenges for Steve. It has brightened up again so I venture off on the X3 airport bus. It is a circuitous route zig sagging a way across country but there is always something interesting to see, views over the country or nice buildings in the towns. Drainage is obviously a problem here as every time we get to the bottom of a hill the road is like a lake. Just before the airport I spot a massive Lidl and hop off to pick up a few things. Needless to say by the time I come out and have walked half way to the bus stop it starts raining again. Trying to jog a bit one of my shopping bags breaks and I have to clutch it to me. At the Valletta bus stop the first one that comes says B’bba so guess I am in luck and it is going to Bugibba. The bus swings by the airport then continues through unfamiliar countryside and down to the coast. We veer off up an unmade road and stop by a pickup truck. The driver gets out and they start taking jerry cans from the back of the truck to put the petrol into the bus! Dropping down to a bay I spot a sign saying Pretty Bay – oddly named as it is a container port. I check out my map and find we are just about in Birzebbuga and at the opposite end of the island to Bugibba. The driver suggests I hop off and get on the bus behind to Valletta then change again. I’ve bought frozen salmon and fish and as all journeys are slow I am starting to get concerned. Naturally it rains when I have to change buses at Valletta but at least boarding at the terminus I am assured a seat in what is to become a very packed bus. It’s way after dark and I’ve been on buses for most of the day and am feeling a bit sorry for myself when I pick up the brown paper carrier bag that I bought at Lidl and it breaks due to being wet from the defrosting food. I create a make shift bag with my poncho to get me back to the apartment. Steve’s had a restful day finding that lying still means he doesn’t cough and hurt his ribs.

TUESDAY 27 JANUARY – I’ve figured out that the corner apartments have the best of both worlds with a front balcony sea view and side balcony to catch the afternoon sun. I enquire and am shown 402 with 4 balconies, (one on each bedroom and 2 in the lounge) an en suite shower room and a Jacuzzi in the main bathroom. Steve is spending a lot of time in bed so having a brighter room with sunlight should make him feel better. We make the move and it seems to be a good one as we enjoy sitting out in the warmth. I use the Jacuzzi like a washing machine to catch up on laundry and hang it out to dry in the sun and breeze. Late afternoon Steve is up for a short stroll to Champion Kiosk for a coffee. A couple of hardy souls brave the water to swim off the rocks below – must be tourists! Sat outside a man breaks up his biscuit to feed the birds and what a gathering. As bedtime we realise we have made a bad move as it is really noisy from the traffic below. Closer inspection reveals that the patio doors are single glazed and have gaps. The noise continues throughout the night then gets worse at 5am when the buses start.

WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY – We’re both pretty tired and figure we have explored all room options at Sunny Coast. Walk to Topaz Hotel to see if the apartment we liked is still available. At this stage we reckon that having a sunny room beats the ocean view. After considerable negotiation we manage to secure the deal at Euro18 (£14) as previously offered. Get back just before another downpour. It’s dry but incredibly windy as we walk over to Oracle Casino. For Euro 7 (£5.50) you get a buffet and drink and although not outstanding food it is excellent value for money. Steve’ picked up a voucher offering Euro 20 of betting for a Euro10 deposit and he opts for it to be used on the slots. Mainly playing 1c a line over 25 lines Steve does quite well. Most of the time we haven’t a clue what we are doing so have to keep calling the attendant to instigate the free spins. Meanwhile we get free drinks. In the end Steve cashes out Euro 25 so we’ve had a free evening and been fed and entertained.

THURSDAY 29 JANUARY – In many ways we are sad to be leaving as this would be a cracking place in summer when you want shade and cooler apartments. Our pre arranged Euro 10 (£8) car picks us up for the transfer to Topaz Apartments where we put our luggage in the room and food in the fridge whilst they are cleaning. I leave Steve sat in Hotels Royal Oak pub watching Andy Murray playing tennis whilst I explore the nearby area. The car driver pointed out a cash & carry which I would otherwise have avoided but turns out to be a massive supermarket with good prices. Most shops seem to be catering more to locals than tourists and have better fruit and veg and lower prices (water even down to Euro 1.70 for 6). Return and settle onto our balcony after lunch. Think we will have sun from first thing until after 4pm which is great. Steve wants to look around the area so I plan what should be the most direct route to the coast. Emerging from the side streets we are well and truly blasted by the wind. The enormous waves are crashing over the jetty making it unusable but creating wonderful waterfalls as it cascades over the side. Steve has a few coughing fits so we cut back to the hotel. There are many more English movie channels so we settle in for an evening of viewing.
BUGIBBA 1 – TOPAZ HOTEL T432 (Euro 18, £14 night)

FRIDAY 30 JANUARY – It’s a cloudy morning so I hang the washing on the lines provided over the bath tub. The first bus to Valletta is full and passes us by so we take the next bus to Bugibba bus station where we can be sure of getting a decent seat on the Valletta bus. We stroll around exploring a few different areas until it starts to rain. Duck in to Danis cafe for a spot of lunch after which it is dry. We’ve only walked a couple of miles but I can see Steve is whacked so we head back. In the evening we walk to the nearby pub for the quiz. It’s pretty poor effort with a woman coming round to each table area and relatively quietly reading out the questions which takes ages. As a team of 2 we only get 16 out of 20 whereas the winners have 18 so not a bad show.

SATURDAY 31 JANUARY – We can appreciate our new location with the sun streaming into the rooms. It is very thought and inland looks hazy from dust blowing. I drag a bed to the window area and lie inside but still getting the sun. We attempt a walk out but quickly realise it is far too blustery for Steve. In the afternoon I go for a circular walk whilst Steve watches football in the hotel pub.


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