By Mary Charlebois
The sun and salt-air gave my hair golden threads. My feet have tan lines from days of walking in my Teva sandals. I slimmed down a bit, no doubt from the Mediterranean diet and countryside walks. I avoided the keyboard as much as possible and wore my camera like a proud tourist.
The heat and humidity were fierce for this coastal gal, but after a few days, I got the routine figured out. Get up at sunrise and do chores, shop, and explore before the oppressive afternoon sun.
Have a long, lazy lunch with a couple glasses of wine, take a nap, and laze away the hot afternoon. Just before sunset, go to the local café to meet friends and neighbors. Have a drink, and perhaps a late supper.
Door-to-door, my journey from Fort Bragg California to Bugibba Malta, took 26-hours. An auto from home to Santa Rosa airport, the Sonoma Airporter to SFO, Virgin Atlantic to London, Air Malta to Malta, and a dodgy taxi to Hotel db San Antonio in Bugibba.
My cab ride from the airport at 2 AM was like a high-speed chase—except no one was chasing us. The roads were empty. My driver seemed to know each twist and turn through narrow streets and country roads. Amber street lights gave an ethereal glow to buildings and crossroads.
After a hair-raising ride, my driver dumped me and my luggage on the street in front of Hotel db San Antonio. I clump-clumped my big red bag down the steps and through the front door. At the front desk, I learned I wasn’t expected until the following afternoon. A mix-up in the way time is written, I guess.
The desk clerk took pity on this crazed American traveler and found me a room in the busy resort.
Day-2, in a fog
After tossing and turning for a couple of hours, I got out of bed. I opened the curtains and the balcony door. There it was, the impossibly blue Mediterranean and the island of Gozo with its villages of cube-shaped buildings made of buttery sandstone. I couldn’t get in and out of the shower fast enough.
My first day was about acclimatizing and moving into the future 8-hours. I walked in the early morning hoping to shake off any lingering jetlag. I tried a pizzette for breakfast, fish for lunch, and rabbit for dinner. I checked out the beaches in my hotel neighborhood, chatted with some diving excursion guides, then took a nap.
At dinner, the anti-pasta set my taste buds for Maltese food. Local olives in four varieties, charcuterie, pickled beans, ripe and aged goat cheese, tomatoes, and lovely Rose Dressing were taste sensations. I continued my meal with Malta’s National Dish, Fenkata—a stewed rabbit. The stew was intensely flavored with red wine, aromatic vegetables, potatoes, and fall off the bone tender rabbit. I’m sorry, I devoured it before I got a picture.
I went to the lounge and ordered a €10 glass of Maltese bubbly. It turned out it was for an entire bottle. What a bargain for the crisp bubbles with a light floral nose. After two glasses, I went to my room and slept for 12-hours.
Day-3, falling in love with Mdina
I got a ticket for the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. I think it’s an ideal way to get your bearings in a new place. I did the complete circuit, then rode back to Mdina, my favorite Malta Island city.
Mdina is visible from long distances. It sits atop of one of Malta’s highest points. Heavily fortified, it’s imposing by day and magical at night. Mdina was founded around the 8th century and called Maleth by Phoenician settlers. It was the capital of Malta until 1530 when the Order of St John arrived. The capital moved to Birgu, and Mdina became the center for nobility and religious leaders.
The architecture captivated me. Medieval winding passages snake through the walled city and its two-story buildings made from butter-colored Maltese limestone. Mdina is called the silent city. It’s quiet and mysterious. Most passages are too narrow for cars. It was lovely.
I had lunch at Bacchus and fell in love instantly. The traditional Maltese eatery is lodged in a former artillery cave that was later made a place to store barrels of wine. Today Bacchus offers one of the best food and wine menus in Malta. Many of the sausages are made in-house. Fish caught that morning are brought to the table on ice for your selection, then cooked on the grill.
A salad with Burrata cheese was brilliant. The locally made cow’s milk cheese was a globe of cool silk. A cold, crisp local bubbly was ideal with the redfish I had grilled, and served over pastel green broad beans. Yum.
Day-4 going to Gozo
The taxi from Hotel db San Antonio to the Gozo Ferry was a pleasant excursion. My driver was Maltese and happy to talk about Malta. Along the road, he was a tour guide sharing history, culture, and laughs. He helped me get my bags to the terminal and we said farewell.
I stood at the rail on the ferry. It was the first time I realized I was going to a place I knew nothing about, in an apartment that could be a penthouse or a dump, with neighbors that might not like Americans. Oh my.
Living like a local
The apartment was a penthouse, the neighbors were welcoming, helpful, and enjoyable.
It’s customary to call the top-floor apartment a penthouse in Malta, and I had just that, a lovely penthouse on the 4th floor of a modern apartment co-op. If you look at the center top of the photo above, you can just see the top of my terrace doors peeking above the terrace wall.
In the morning, I watched the sunrise with my camera and a cup of tea. On my first morning, I saw the sunrise behind a stained-glass window in the parish church about a half-block from my Gozo home.
Crowing roosters in the parish competed with church bells and the melodic horns of the fishmonger and a farmer’s truck. Each announcing the start of the day at 6 AM.
On my first afternoon in Ghajnsielem, I walked to the food market 2-blocks away and had a shopping-spree. I filled two bags with goodies I found up and down each aisle.
At sunset, I lounged on the front terrace with a plate of olives, cheese, bread, and the greatest hummus on earth. To that, I added a local wine. I tuned in a radio station playing Maltese music and sipped the sun down.
Thanks for stopping by, MaryGo
Folks That Helped Me Plan My Trip to Malta
~ Travel Insurance – Allianz ~