30-Days in Malta, Days-1—4

By Mary Charlebois

30-Days in Malta
30-Days in Malta – By 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.

Day-1, arrival

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.

30-Days in Malta - First view
30-Days in Malta – First view. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Hotel db San Antonio.
30-Days in Malta. Hotel db San Antonio. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Maltese pizzette. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Maltese pizzette. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Hotel db San Antonio anto-pasta. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Hotel db San Antonio anto-pasta. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Maltese bubbly. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Maltese bubbly. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Mdina. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Mdina. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Mdina passage. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Mdina passage. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Bacchus in Mdina. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Bacchus in Mdina. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Barada cheese. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Barada cheese. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Gozo Channel Ferry. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Gozo Channel Ferry. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Courtyard for Ghajnsielem Gozo apartment. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Courtyard for Ghajnsielem Gozo apartment. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Ghajnsielem Parrish Church at sunrise in Gozo. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Ghajnsielem Parrish Church at sunrise in Gozo. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Gozo shopping spree. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Gozo shopping spree. Photo: Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Supper on the terrace. Photo: Mary Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Supper on the terrace. Photo: Mary Charlebois

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.

30-Days in Malta. Gozo sunset from my apartment terrace. Photo: Charlebois
30-Days in Malta. Gozo sunset from my apartment terrace. Photo: Charlebois

Thanks for stopping by, MaryGo

~——~

Folks That Helped Me Plan My Trip to Malta

~ Local Experts – Visit MaltaMalta Uncovered ~

~ TransportVirgin AtlanticAir Malta ~

~ PlayHeadwater Walking Tours ~ Hera Cruises ~

~ HousingAir B&BHotel Ta Cenc & SpaGlamping Hub ~ Hotel db San Antonio ~

~ Travel InsuranceAllianz ~

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Phyl Doppelt says:

    Now I believe you went to Malta ! So enjoyed reading days 1 – 4 and look forward to the rest of your travels in Malta.

    Like

  2. Yes, I really went to Malta. I’m happy you like 1-4. It’s a process, but wonderful to recall.

    Like

  3. Loraine Joyner says:

    At last! We get to follow your immersion into the Maltese life. Installment 1-4 with your usual take-me-there pix and colorful narrative is a perfect enticement to tune in again for your next bit of intrigue! Thanks so much , MaryGo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Loraine, thank you. I’m pleased you liked my story and photos. Malta and Gozo are still calling to me. I must return. 🙂

      Like

  4. John Bechtel says:

    You are my favorite travel writer. Your prose is so natural, unrestrained, and so you! When it comes to traveling, you are the real deal, and it comes through in your words. I admire your journey, in Malta, and life in general. Kudos!

    Like

    1. Hello John. Thank you for your lovely compliments. I thought of you while in the Med. I thought I might turn a corner and see you sitting at a sidewalk cafe, laughing, and chatting with locals. Perhaps another year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John Bechtel says:

        I waved, but you kept on going.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. John Bechtel says:

        Wasn’t that in a movie once? Or a novel? Probably by Danielle Steele. She must have covered that in at least one of her 300 novels. It would take a lot of planning to pull off that kind of surprise. And you’d have to be damn sure it would be a welcome surprise. Otherwise it would be a totally different kind of novel. 😊

        Like

  5. fswolfe says:

    This post exemplifies the “you are there” school of journalism; it made me wish I was there.

    Like

  6. Faye, your words touch my heart. Thank you. We need to plan a couple of weeks on Gozo in 2020. 🙂

    Like

  7. Cherryl says:

    Your photographs are brilliant Mary, very sharp 🔆

    Liked by 1 person

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