Malta 2019: days 1 & 2

Day One

I’ve never flown Ryanair before. It was fine, except that pretty much everyone on the plane had paid to upgrade to Priority to get a cabin-sized bag as well as their free small bag and there wasn’t room in the overhead lockers to put all the suitcases. The people opposite me were upset that their Priority bags didn’t get priority in the lockers and that they hadn’t been allowed to board early to get first use of the lockers. That’s not what Priority is on Ryanair and it definitely doesn’t work if there’s only one person on the entire plane (hello!) who hasn’t paid for it.

We took off over Poole Harbour & then went over Southampton and Portsmouth before flying across the Channel to France, at which case my geography dissolved and I settled down to my tablet. The lady at the end of my row was up & down, apparently not sure whether to take her designated seat in front of her husband, the empty seat next to him or the entire empty rows at the front. Well, when the cabin crew handed the lady directly in front of me a sick bag & turned on her fan, I thought I might make use of those empty rows.

The front of the plane was basically empty. I helped myself to an entire row and enjoyed the freedom of leaving my stuff on the seat next to me for the next two and a bit hours. I saw an unidentified Mediterranean island, I saw spectacular mist and waves and I watched the Malta-Gozo ferries chugging across the Channel before we reached the airport. Being right at the front, I was 7th into the building, 6th past passport control & then 1st out into arrivals.

I decided the best way to deal with the bus was to get a 12-journey card rather than pay cash (and therefore keep enough small coins) for every journey. It would have been nice to hang around at the airport for five minutes – sunset and palm trees! Not a combination I generally see in Norway or Iceland – but the X2 was already about to depart. True, for the first five minutes the LCD display inside said X3 & I had to adjust my plans before realising i was on the right bus after all.

I got off at the wrong place. I thought Qroqq 4 came straight after University so I jumped off at the hospital. Still, my phone said it was only a 16 minute walk to the residence & I reached Qroqq roundabout in under ten minutes.

I knew my room was in student accommodation but I’m so glad I’m not a student here. All the windows look out over internal shafts. My room is quite luxurious – you’d have to jump to reach the other side rather than step and light comes down the shaft. There’s a perpetual rumbling noise a bit like a giant fridge, the lights aren’t quite bright enough & the fire alarms keep going off. It’s absolutely fine for £43 but I think it would be pretty grim to live here for a year.

Day two

I got up early for breakfast (toast good, juice bad, cereal worse) and then went out. Quick stop at the tiny shop near Qroqq for food supplies, then to the bus stop. 9:05 in Malta in January is not meant to be so hot. There was nowhere to shelter from the sun while I waited for the bus and by the time it turned up, I was about ready to collapse from heatstroke. The bus didn’t help by having its heating going. By the time I reached the Gozo ferry, I knew I’d be seeking out the shadiest breeziest spot on the deck and staying there. Maybe I’d stay there and go backwards and forwards all day until I’d cooled down enough to function. In fact, standing right at the front un just a t-shirt was freezing and then I finished the job by deciding the best way to explore Gozo was on the top deck of an open-topped hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus.

We went all over the island. There was an audio guide but mostly it crackled and only one ear worked. Gozo was not built for buses. We took some very tight corners & some very narrow streets and you could have stepped off the narrow balconies onto the top deck. It was windy and the sun kept going behind clouds so most people sat with winter coats and hats on.

The only place I actually hopped off was at Dwejra. That’s where the Azure Window used to be, a 50m high Durdle Door, before it collapsed in a storm in winter 2017. However, the guidebook mentioned “distorted crater-like topography” and of course I liked the sound of that. It’s limestone but in places it looks like pumice and in places it’s as much shells as rocks. Very weird to scramble on.

But what I enjoyed in Dwejra was the helicopter. A big chunky one, the kind that does search and rescue. It swooped over the beach twice, looked like it was going to land, then winched down two people. Yes, I went to see what was going on. No, I wasn’t the only one. It swooped away again and then returned and winched up two people, together. They both looked like they were in helicopter uniform. There was no sign of any rescue needed. I conclude that it was training. It was very interesting but also very noisy.

I got back on the next bus. The audio guide actually worked on this one but it was ten minutes behind where we were so we didn’t know what to look at until it was far too late. In Victoria/Rabat there’s a street leading to the bus station that’s one way except buses. I’m not convinced that’s a system that works very well.

We returned to the harbour & rather than rush for the next ferry, I found a table & had late lunch so I could get calmly on the following ferry. It seems to go so quickly – well, it doesn’t move quickly and it was a bit tougher on the way back but the journey was over do soon. I enjoyed the ferry.

I expected the bus back to be chaotic, what with an entire ferry-load trying to get on but they all went for the non-express buses with Valletta on the front. Ok, the X1 doesn’t technically go to Valletta but it doesn’t exclusively go from Gozo to the airport. But it meant I could sit at the front, where I could see where we were going and where the windows aren’t filtered to make sunset appear half an hour earlier (this was a problem on the X2 yesterday – from my seat it was pitch black outside). The driver went a little too fast – if he has to hang onto the side of his cabin when we go round a corner, he’s going too fast – but it was fun and we got back to Qroqq 4 far too soon. I nearly missed it. By the time I realised we were getting close, it was already the next stop.

I stopped at Gala Centre for food on the way back – it’s inside a Seat dealer, there’s no obvious entrance to the supermarket although there are two exits and there’s no obvious way out of the building either. Still, I got 2 litres of Happy Day orange juice and some food and then I went back to my room.

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