Posted by: glenswatman | February 13, 2015

20150201-10 Malta bus rides and walks around the island

SUNDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2015 – Another sunny morning and slightly less windy judging by the fact we have a view towards the towns. Having said that when we head out for an afternoon walk we have to stick to the side streets as the waterfront is wild. I visit the indoor pool, luckily alone as it is really narrow and had anyone else been there it would have been impossible to swim the short lengths.

MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY – I’m chatting to the tour rep when Steve gets collared by someone from Azure. She explains that by going over to Golden Bay to look around the Radisson Hotel we will get Euro 30 in vouchers that we can use to book tours. Mention that we are absolutely not interested in time share and she says this is not that. Join her for the car ride over and then quickly realise that even if it isn’t time share it is very similar. In fact it is a combination of time share, holiday ownership and a holiday club that supposedly gets you cheaper flights, insurance etc. Although it is the top hotel on the island we don’t like it as it is way too big and impersonal and the rooms could be in a hotel anywhere in the world. Like last time they promote all the things they offer including exchanges to do cruises but as soon as I ask to see them pointed out on the booking site the ones we might be interested (including a board spectrum search for a Caribbean cruise) don’t materialise. We do manage to get a few drinks and a light lunch before we shake them off by eventually convincing them it is absolutely of no interest to us. Get back to our hotel in time to spend the afternoon sunbathing.

TUESDAY 3 FEBRUARY – Exchange our voucher for the open top bus tour and also buy the Captain Morgan harbour cruise discounted from Euro 15 to Euro12. The ticket includes a free shuttle from our hotel to Sliema ferries so no need to do battle with the congested local buses. Timing is perfect we board the 10.30am sailing underneath blue skies and with sunshine to enhance all the sandstone structures. The boat takes you in and out of the different creaks on harbours both sides of Valletta often with stunning views of the city. We pass numerous super yachts dwarfed by the enormous super tanker style container ship. The ferry for Gozo carries a large banner saying “Lidl welcomes you to Gozo”; bet they don’t have many motorhomes visiting that store! Although commentary is in English the strong Maltese accent and rapid delivery make it difficult to concentrate on but we get the gist of it. Back in Sliema we walk along the front and are a bit miffed to find that all the harbour cruise companies (including Captain Morgan) are offering the trip at Euro10. At one of the many cheap “hole in the wall” outlets Steve picks up a slice of egg bacon and sausage pizza slice (Euro1) and a sausage roll (80c) whilst I get a bag of chips to put me on. Bit of a farce catching the shuttle bus back as road works mean the first bus sails past, the next one doesn’t show and after almost an hour of waiting we only just manage to flag down the open top one. You have to go to the Valletta cruise terminal each time to change buses. We pass the half hour wait sitting at a roadside cafe having drinks whilst taking in the beautiful view across to the other peninsulas. We leave on Aussie Joe’s bus and he says that as the only passengers he will cut across inland rather than get caught up in the traffic and road works on the coast road. No idea what locals think as a double decker bus hurtles down the country roads but we sure enjoy the views over the dry stone walling and into people’s homes.

WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY – With good weather forecast we head off on the bus first to Mosta. The church there stands out a mile because of the enormous dome, the second largest unsupported dome in the world. It’s beautiful on the wall with enough low key decoration to make it appealing without being over the top. The church is also famous for a miracle on 9 April 1942 at 4.40pm. A German bomb pierced the dome, fell amongst a congregation of about 300 and rolled across the floor of the church but failed to explode. A replica is in the sacristy. To catch our next bus we wander through the ancient streets and pass by the headquarters of the Malta Liverpool FC supporters club en route to the out of town bus stop. We catch the country bus out to Dingli cliffs and alight near Bobbyland. We’re intrigued by the name and call in for a drink. Notices on the wall explain that during the war this was an RAF base and a bar was created here inside a Nissan hut. Later the new structure was built around the hut and the hut removed. The cliffs here are quite unusual in that the area leading up to them is boulders then the cliffs drop off to a very low plateau. This platter appears to be very fertile with lots of different coloured green areas indicating farming. Below this is a small cliff dropping into the ocean. It’s really scenic and a footpath has been created all along the top leading up to a chapel at the highest point on the island. Nearby is a golf ball style radio station. It’s hardly windy at all and in the sunlight makes a stunning spot to visit. Spend the afternoon on the hotel balcony. Meet Nigel and Ingrid at the casino where we only manage one free buffet from our gambling profits! Return to our area where Steve watches the Liverpool match at the Spaghetti Junction bar.

THURSDAY 5 FEBRUARY – Spend the day at the hotel relaxing with me popping out once or twice for a stroll.

FRIDAY 6 FEBRUARY – We’re on the bus by 8am heading towards Cirkewwa to catch the ferry to Gozo (Euro 3.65, £3 return). Just miss the 8.15 and wait for 9am sailing. It is a sunny but windy day making for quite a bouncy crossing. Our holiday presentation gave us the free Malta Sightseeing bus tickets (normally Euro 17 each) and we hop on the first 0940 departure. It’s very windy up top but we are rewarded with fine views as we head down to the orange sandy beach at Ramla Bay. The bus doubles back and makes a 10 minute stop at Savina Creativity Centre, linked in with the Duke of Edinburgh who approves of their home made products and as part of his sponsorship they must come up with 2 new products each year to send to him. The samples are delicious but expensive e.g. Euro7 for a tiny jar of chilli pickled onions. We get a 10 minute stop at Calypso Cave where the original cave, Where Odysseus was entertained, has collapsed. However you do get fine views over Ramla Bay. Ggantija Temples are regarded as the oldest free standing structures in the world but judging by the pictures and the fact we can see nothing from the bus stop we figure there is little left but a few piles of rocks. Make our first stop at Marsalforn, the biggest holiday resort on Gozo. The wind is creating terrific ways that pound into the narrow bay, over the walls and on to the main road. They are so unpredictable that Steve gets copped for an involuntary shower. We walk west around the headland for more superb views and mesmerising waves. Have to sit indoors at the waterfront cafe to avoid a soaking but it is very atmospheric. The bus commentary fills us in on island history until we stop at the pilgrimage Basilica of Ta’Pinu. 2 different people had callings in the original chapel and recovered from illness and word spread so much that a huge basilica has been built around it and the Pope has also visited. Testament to the many miracle cures are letters, silver plaques with depictions of the recovered limb and also sticks motorbike helmets and other aids no longer required or that covered an injured part. Must admit we both feel a moved and a little tearful sitting in the original chapel. There’s a steep walk up the hill past the Stations of the Cross and giving us stunning views of the area. Next stop is Déjà where even on the steep road in we are impressed as we can see the famous rock arch and also the quirky inland sea created when the roof of an enormous cave fell in. The “Azure Window” rock is stupendous – Great Ocean Road eat your heart out. Maybe we have dropped luck with the wind creating amazing waves that crash onto the rocks and give up 10m spray but we are blown away by it in more ways than one. Refreshed by a large ice cream sundae from a stall we visit the inland sea which is also enchanting and has waves rolling up a pebbly beach backed by tiny colourful boathouses. Further round the bay are more rocks at the entrance to a deep gorge that leads inland below a big watch tower. We think it is a truly beautiful area of natural beauty. Lend was originally a small fishing village but now a small holiday resort with a few hotels and lots of restaurants, not only waterfront but today some have water lapping at your feet. Again the waves enhance the cove and almost make it difficult to depict the caves. It seems amazing that on calm days you can go out here on a pedalo. Pick up a walking track around the headland and into a gorge and won to a small bridge that crosses it. Given that the buses come round each 45 minutes we opt to return to the harbour for a coffee until the bus comes. Ironically and unusually we again get very hot drinks (delicious hot chocolate and a good size portion of hot chips all a Euro1 (75p) each. Having been led to believe Gozo was more expensive than Malta we now think it is just the prime waterfront spots that have higher prices but a few feet back, and still with a water view, you get great deals. Our last stop of the day is the main city of Victoria, aka Rabat. It’s difficult to get to the citadel due to renovation work on the whole area but we are rewarded with fine views to both sides of the island. Heading back the basilica of St George is very impressive inside. Passing a museum we see free entry today and are lured in to look at many religious things depicting the story of the island. We’ve missed the first bus so pass a little time at Bee Hive cafe which is busy with locals including Police. They obviously realise 50c (35p) for hot drinks, 25c (18p) for a hot pasty, 80c (60p) for a cake and 1.20 (£90p) a small pizza is great value and everything is really good. Catch the last bus back to the harbour and make the crossing after dark giving us a nice view of Mgarr Harbour area lit up. It’s almost 8pm when we arrive back after an absolutely fantastic day on gorgeous Gozo. Having taken over 200 photos I’m going to have fun editing them. Think we will go back sometime and do a few places on our own but as all buses are hourly and go via Victoria we did the right thing today to get a good overview.

SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY – Sunbathe in the morning then walk over to Qawra only to find The Boathouse is not open for lunch as advertised. As it is such a nice day we settle on Champion Kiosk where we can sit on the terrace and admire the view and activities in the bay. A few people are swimming and there is a Dutch company have a boat from which they are sending out a mini submarine to do surveys within the bay. Steve walks down to check out the water and gets a bit more than he bargained for. His croc style shoe slips off and crouching down to retrieve it he ends up with a wet bottom when a wave comes in. Spaghetti Junctions gets Steve’s business for the football showing.

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY – Around 2am we are woken by an alarm. Peering into the corridor I spot a couple of men racing through. They say there is a fire but everything is OK. Steve looks out of the patio doors and sees smoke coming from a room in the other wing on the same floor as ours. As it gets worse I venture back into the corridor and notice the fire door near our room hasn’t closed as it is wedged open. As I go to shut it I spot smoke coming along the corridor round the corner just as a couple appear. I ask “are we evacuating?” and hear “you’d better”. Returning to our room I remove the wedge and close the fire door. We look out again and can see that the smoke has subsided and everything seems to be under control. When we get up in the morning we walk up the corridor and see the burn signs around the room door and burnt scraps of carpet nearby. I report the fire door being wedged and learn no one was harmed in the fire. Take the bus out beyond Mellieha to the Red Watchtower stop. Set out to walk along Marfa Ridge with ocean views on both sides. Initially it is a wide road with lots of side turnings to the left to different bays. This is an area for hunting in season so no surprise to hear lots of gunshot. The road narrows and leads to a headland. A new chapel has replaced the original that went with the crumbling cliffs and a plaque to a boy who lost his life here. Good warnings to stay away from the edge. Crossing the headland we walk through a tent style campsite to the north coast. There we have views of Comino and towards Gozo. Pass another campsite with lots of static caravans. As we walk along the north coast we cross numerous pretty bays each with lots of rustic holiday homes in village style. The scenery is lovely with fine views and wonderful ocean colours. Stop for a drink at the first bar soaking up the sun and taking in the scene. It’s almost a shock to cross another bay and find the majestic Rambla Bay Hotel in front of us, a huge contrast to the rustic holiday homes. Catch the bus back to Mellieha where we grab a bit to eat before visiting the huge cathedral which is closed but doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the stunning views from just behind it. Early evening there’s a change in the weather with a big thunderstorm.

MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY – Make the short walk to the next village of Buramarrad. Boy is the wind cold and biting. Visit Scott’s supermarket and head to the cafe for a warming drink. Pleasantly surprised to find the hot drinks are free. Once we get back we enjoy the indoor pool which is like a warm bath.

TUESDAY 10 FERUARY – It’s a lovely day and a public holiday so we head off on the buses. Travelling via Valletta we reach the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. The pretty bay is full of brightly coloured fishing boats and it reminds us of similar places on Crete. It may be small place “I Place” claims to be the only restaurant on the island with I pads as menus. We stroll along in both directions then stop at Cafe Paris for drinks having learnt that the places at the far edges of resorts are cheapest. In fact their lunch of starter, fresh fish main course, carafe of wine and Maltese liqueur is tempting at Euro 10 (£7.50) but not at 10.30am. The next village along is Marsaskala but it seems less appealing. Connecting via the airport we head to the Blue Grotto. The boats aren’t running today but we get a nice view from the panoramic lookout. It’s a stunning location on the south coast so we walk along to the temples a mile or so away. Many cars are parked at the look out, mostly with elderly people inside having a nap in the warm sunshine! It doesn’t seem worth paying to see the Hagar Qim ancient temples as we can walk right up to the fence and see a bunch of rocks under a canopy but the setting is wonderful.


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