Let’s go to Gozo

This really is the height of luxury. Nothing to do but walk around in the sunshine. We meandered along the promenade in the opposite direction today, away from Valetta, heading towards St Julian’s, which is where we stayed the last time we visited Malta. There was a noticeable difference in temperature between walking in the Sun and being in the shade. But it was glorious, so much more pleasant than the rain in Manchester, for which we see there’s now a yellow warning.

Selfie of the day

We’d both decided not to being swimwear with us on this occasion, but that may have been a mistake. When I saw this guy playing with his water jet-powered rocket booster system in the harbour, I thought, I’d like to have a go at that. Liesel wasn’t so keen, though.

Water jet pack man
Cat man 1

We noticed a few shoals of fish in the water too, it was that clear, contrary to our expectations. And when we found the local Marina regulations, we could see why. I suspect most if not all local sailors follow the rules. I don’t have a boat, so I didn’t really have to commit the rules to memory, but there you go.

Under MARPOL legislation, it is illegal to discharge oily residues into the sea. All automatic bilge pumps must be switched off unless the engine (s) is equipped with a separate oil tray. A bilge water pump-out facility is available at this marina. Violators are subject to sanctions.

Enzyme-based products must be used to clean bilges, not detergents. Oil absorbent pads should be kept onboard for emergencies.

Marina regulations prohibit the discharge of sewage or grey water (effluent from shower, laundry and wash basins) into the basin. Full shore facilities (toilet/shower units, marine pump-outs and live-abourd pump-outs) are available at this marina. Violators are subject to sanctions.

It is strictly prohibited to dump any solid wastes into the marina (Food waste, paper, rags, glass, crockery, metal, ropes, packing material and any plastic articles). Violators are subject to sanctions.

The maximum speed inside the marina of any marine craft is limited to 3 Knots. Violators are subject to sanctions.

Apart from mooring lines and service cables, it is prohibited to leave or store items on the marina quay. All such items will be removed at the owner’s expense

After reaching St Julian’s, we deviated from the promenade, and found ourselves not so much walking as scrambling or scrabbling along the lunar landscape of the beach. Plenty of trip hazards for my two left feet, but I survived without mishap.

Rocky Beach

We found civilisation again close to The Westin Hotel Dragonara. I’m sure it’s a fantastic, comfortable place to stay, but we’re very happy in our little b&b.

We sat by a proper, sandy beach for a while, watching the people, me with a coffee and Liesel with an ice cream. That guy’s brave, we thought, not just for swimming in the sea, but for leaving his bag unattended, having just been flashing his mobile phone.

St George’s Bay

The sand at St George’s Bay is quite coarse, but still easier to walk on than the rocks earlier. I saw one jellyfish in the water.

As we walked back through the town, past a shopping arcade, I remarked that we’d been here before. Nope. I was by myself last time, Liesel was having a rest, a long, luxurious bubble bath or something.

The building site was a bit ugly. Aren’t they all? But this one is A new destination to elevate Malta’s urban landscape. Cutting edge entertainment for all. A carefully created shopping experience for everyone. A heightened culinary affair. Well I for one can’t wait to see what’s so different about all these new shops and restaurants. All brand new and shiny. How ironic then that, as we walked around the corner, we noticed a really, really old bus.

Old bus

Always try and remember to look up.

Fab mural

One thing we’ve noticed all over the place is the proliferation of hire scooters. Most users are on the pavements, moving at a reasonable speed amongst us pedestrians. But some braver souls are on the roads travelling at over 20mph, easily keeping up with the general traffic flow. I thought about trying one out, but, well, it’s the thought that counts.

Scooters

Of course, if this were Manchester, these scooters would all be in the water by now.

The recycling bins are pretty nifty too. We saw one guy with huge bin-bags full of cans and plastic bottles. We wondered why he didn’t just leave those bags by the recycling bins. But then we realised, those bins actually pay you for the recycled items.

Recycling facility

It’s always good to try and work out what an item of scuplture represents, especially when the adjoining plaque only has a description in a different language, in this case, Maltese.

Triton Fountain by Ċensu Apap

I think it was first made in 1986 and subsequently repaired in 2017 then located in front of Ċensu Apap’s house in Sliema. The Ministry of Transport had something to do with it. My Maltese is very limited, even with Google Translate looking over my shoulder.

On our previous visit to Malta, we visited a coffee shop at Tigné Point a couple of times. So we had to make the pilgrimage there again this time. Iced coffee and hot coffee were enjoyed, not to mention a second breakfast.

French Affaire

We soaked up as much Sun as we could while walking around the tip of the peninsula. One thing we didn’t anticipate seeing was a man taking his cat for a walk. Well, taking his cat out for some fresh air, at least.

Cat man 2

I made the mistake of buying another coffee as we got close to home. Mistake? Yes. Because when we got to Lidl, the assistant wouldn’t let me take it in, which meant that Liesel had to get the shopping alone. I hung around outside, enjoying my coffee and the sound of the bells of the Parish Church of Stella Maris, just around the corner. A crowd of people were gathered outside, but I couldn’t see whether it was a wedding or some other celebration.

We’re now used to being disappointed by the weather at home when we lift the blinds each morning. And that feeling of, well, ‘dread’ is probably too strong a word, but that feeling is still there, even after being here in the Mediterranean for a few days. But so far here, we’ve never been greeted by anything other than dazzling blue skies and signs of bright sunshine. So it was no hardship to leave our house and walk to the bus stop.

An ex-balcony

I’m just glad we weren’t standing by the bus stop over the road when that balcony came a-tumbling down.

Since Covid, Manchester buses have had the windows fixed so they can’t be closed. Not that that stops people from closing them. The idea is that fresh air will reduce the spread of Covid. Here in Malta, the bus company has done the opposite. ‘Keep Windows Closed. This bus is equipped with Bioactive AC filters for improved air filtration. Please keep windows closed for maximum efficiency.’ Yes, of course some of the windows had been forced open. The first bus we caught today had a temperature of 28°. The second, a baltic 22°, brrr!

We were entertained by the American couple behind, about the same age as us, learning to use public transport, probably for the first time in their lives.

Him: Did you press Stop, dear?
Her: Yes, I have ascertained how to stop the bus by pressing the button. Is there anything else you’d like me to do?

It was just a pity they hadn’t ascertained how to board the bus, through the correct door, not through the exit to avoid paying the fare.

We disembarked at Sanglea, and couldn’t help but notice this example of extreme yarn-bombing.

Crochet Christmas tree

That was a labour of love, I wonder how long it took? Just along the road as we made our way to the tip of the peninsula, Liesel posed for a photo, sporting her exclusive shopping bag. I think that’s St Philip’s Church at the top of the road.

Liesel and bag

This is obviously an old part of Malta, one of the houses had the date 1702 inscribed.

Sanglea Gardjola Watch Tower

Walls have ears. That’s the saying, and this watch tower really does have ears. And eyes.

Looking over the water towards Fort St Angelo, it would be easy to deduce that the whole island is really just one big fortress. The entrance to the Grand Harbour is fortified too.

Fort St Angelo

We hadn’t really agreed a plan, but found ourselves walking around the bay, past the American University of Malta, around to visit the Fort itself. A relatively cold wind blew for a few minutes but it didn’t last long, and once we were in the sunshine again, we soon warmed up.

Small boat

Quite a few of these little boats were in the water, or up on the quayside, but we didn’t go for a ride in one. They’re very colourful though. Luzzu? Ferrila? Where’s my Maltese correspondent when I need him?

Another selfie, you lucky people

On another occasion, we’ll visit the War and the Maritime Museums, but today, we were just soaking up the Sun. Outside the Maritime Museum is the first steam engine to arrive on Malta.

Old steam engine

We’re not totally averse to visiting places and we spent a very pleasant hour or so at Fort St Angelo, although we could have spent much longer there. Most of our visit was still outdoors, up and down many steps and slopes. Which led us to wonder whether my Dad had been to Malta during the second world war when he was in the Royal Navy? We know he was in the Mediterranean, possibly in Crete… but that’s it, that’s all we know.

There is a lot of history at this fort, going back to before the original fort was built in medieval times. It was, of course, damaged during the war.

Damaged wall

As well as being used for defensive purposes, it has been used as a prison, a Royal Naval hospital and as a court over the years. Not to mention the chapel and, now, for us visitors, it provides a great view of the harbour.

Cannon’s eye view of the entrance to Grand Harbour

There is a café, but after all the effort of climbing stairs to find it, it was found to be closed. Nightmare.

Mast

Liesel and I decided not to climb the mast on this occasion. ‘Reaching 80 feet in height, this wooden ship-mast was installed around 1910. The Royal Naval White Ensign and the flag of the chief naval afficer responsable for Fort St Angelo, normally Flag Officer Malta, were flown daily following the Fort’s transformation into a Royal Naval shore establishment in 1906, Special signs were hoisted for the manoeuvering of naval ships in harbour and weather forecasting. Another naval ship-mast was located across the Grand Harbour on Lascaris Bastion in Valletta but was removed in the 1970s.’

We left just before closing time and carried on walking along the bay. We stopped for a beverage, both choosing a delightful, thick, tasty, hot chocolate on this occasion.

Bird’s eye view of Fort St Angelo

I’d like to say I hired a one-man octocopter so that I could take a picture of the fort from above, but, here’s a secret: it’s just a photo of a photo.

We walked up a hill to the bus stop and returned to Sliema. Around the corner from our b&b, we came across these stars. My guess is that they were to mark David Bowie’s birthday.

Stars in the street

He is the original Starman after all. And who can forget his appearance at the Malta International Song Festival in July 1969 when, amongst other songs, he performed When I live my Dream, probably his best love song, with an orchestral backing? In the festival, he came second to a Spanish singer called Cristina: I wonder what happened to her?!

Later on, we dined at the top Maltese restaurant Wagamama where we were entertained by Lady Gaga. Wagagaga.

It’s hard work being on holiday so we took a day off. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic were the order of the day for me, although Liesel did do some actual work on her laptop. We also packed to prepare for our departure.

On our previous visit to Malta, we’d missed out Gozo so we decided we’d pay a visit this time. The plan was to catch the fast ferry from Valletta. However, our plans were scuttled. Unlike the ferry, thank goodness.

Schedule Update: 10th January 2023 & 11th January 2023

Kindly be advised that due to the inclement weather conditions the Gozo Fast Ferry trips will be suspended for today Tuesday 10th January & tomorrow Wednesday 11th January.

Keep a look out on our socials or website for the latest updates.

Our plan B was to take a bus to Ċirkewwa and catch the normal, slow ferry. We could understand why the fast ferry service had been cancelled, the wind was really strong, the sea was being whipped up, such a contrast to the calm seas we’ve enjoyed for the last few days.

Rough sea

Here is the rough sea as seen through the dirty, rain-besplattered window of a moving bus. We waited for about half an hour at the ferry terminal where I paced up and down and round and round. There are signs everywhere telling us to wear masks, but nobody bothered. There’s even a vending machine selling them.

The voyage lasted about 25 minutes and the passage was indeed windy and rough. A couple of passengers turned a bit green but I think most of us felt ok. I went out on deck for a short while and the best thing is, my hat didn’t blow off.

Gozo ahead

Our b&b on Gozo is a bus ride away, in Victoria, below the famous citadel which we’ll explore another day. Claude met us, showed us around, and suggested some good places to walk on the island. He confirmed the public transport service is good, you can get pretty much anywhere in about 20 minutes by bus.

We went for a short walk to the town square where we had a late lunch. Or early dinner, if you prefer. And we got some shopping.

St George’s Basilica

There’s space on this façade for two clocks, but rather than a sundial and a conventional clock, there is Alpha and Omega, for Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of our lives. The right hand clock gives a rough idea of the time of day, if you have no other means of telling the time.

Back at the b&b, we relaxed and considered thinking about planning what we might do and where we might go during the next few days, taking into account the conflicting weather forecasts.

Author: mickandlieselsantics

We are a married couple, one American, one Brit, one male, one female, neither of us as fit as we would like to be, well over 100 years old altogether.

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