Saturday, 21 April 2012

Beaches, Buses, and Bars

We spent the first few days in St. Julians, which is known for its lively nightlife. Bars stay open until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning if you can stay awake that long, which is quite popular with the younger crowd.

St. Julians

After a day of wandering St. Julians and Sliema, we decided to escape the city via a sightseeing bus. If you choose to ride on the top, pay attention or you might catch a palm tree with your face. Slightly embarrassing at the time, but it provided plenty of amusement for the other riders.

The first place we stopped at was Marsaxlokk, a fishing village on the south side of Malta. The highlight of this harbour town is the brightly painted fishing boats, called luzzus. Most have a pair of eyes painted on the front to protect against evil, which probably saves them having to purchase insurance. Not surprisingly, Marsaxlokk is known for its seafood restaurants lining the harbour area. There’s also a decent souvenir market, but the tapestries we found here were three times more expensive than in other villages.

Luzzus in Marsaxlokk

Next up, we stopped at the Blue Grotto, which is a stunning section of the southern coast, popular with divers. This is a rocky section of coastline, with several caves and sparkling water in various shades of blue. It’s the perfect photo opportunity, with plenty of restaurants offering balconies and great views.

Along with our bus tour, we received a complimentary harbour cruise around Sliema’s Marsamxetto Harbour and Valletta’s Grand Harbour with Latini Cruises. The cruise took around an hour and a half, and would have been a very pleasant trip had it not been windy and raining. Freezing my ass off while wearing a plastic poncho is not my idea of fun, but the crew did their best to make the trip enjoyable, passing out blankets and making as much space behind the glass as possible. I would love to try it again on a sunnier day.

Grand Harbour, Valletta

After a few days, we moved up the coast to the much more laid-back town of Mellieha. The nightlife is quiet, intimate, and perfect for me: small pubs and bars with a mellow atmosphere. Mellieha has a nice stretch of sandy beach with sun loungers and umbrellas for rent, which made for a very relaxing afternoon.


For variety, we caught the bus from Mellieha to Cirkewwa, and hopped on the ferry to the northern island of Gozo.  The ferry takes about 30 minutes and lands at Mgarr. After running the gauntlet of overeager, pushy tour operators, we caught a bus to the town of Xaghra, on northern side of the island. We rambled over to Calypso’s Cave (from Homer’s Odyssey) and hiked down the hill to Ramla Beach. Ramla is covered with red sand, and was a great place to soak up some sun. There’s three beach front restaurants, offering typical snacks, pizza, and drinks.

I thought six days would be plenty of time to see all Malta had to offer, but I was wrong. I could’ve easily spent another week and not seen everything on my list. We had booked a cruise around Comino and the Blue Lagoon, which was canceled due to wind, and I also wanted to visit some of the wineries and see the glass blowers. We didn’t get a chance to see any of the ruins, and only briefly visited one church in Mellieha. I’m counting all of this as an excuse to visit again!

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