Today, after breakfast (someone burnt the toast & then retrieved it from the toaster with her knife!) I wrote Thursday & Friday’s blog and then went out. It had rained a little bit in the morning but by the time I got to the bus stop, the sun was out. I hid down the road in the shade to figure which bus I should be getting – the info said only one was going to Valletta but I know that every bus that came to the other stop yesterday was going there. As it turns out, they are, but they’re marked for the far end of the loop they’re making before they all finish up back in Valletta. The one I got on went to San Gwann and the back streets of Sliema before ending up at the main bus station. It was hot, I had to lean against the cold window but it had free wifi – Malta’s very good at that.
Now I could understand how Valletta works – or at least, where it starts and finishes, which had been a mystery. Valletta is a walled city occupying the end of this peninsula. I entered through the City Gate, which is a combination of huge dry most, massive lumps of yellow limestone and a big stone doorway. Immediately on the other side is Parliament, more yellow limestone but this time very much of the future, and the new royal theatre, an open-air built in the bombed-out remains of the old one. It was hot. Really hot. I wandered a little way down the main street then spied a sign for the Sliema ferry. That meant a sea breeze so off I went. Valletta is very hilly. As I made my way down to the shore I found a 4×4 that was holding up traffic by not being able to get up a steep hill and another hill with grippy sttips cut into it.
At the bottom was the ferry – much more the size I’d imagined for the Gozo ferry, more like the Browner’s ferry. Sliema, on the other side, was very different to Valletta, all high-rise towers, no limestone at all. I got my return ferry ticket & sat at the front upstairs. The wind was cold as we sailed across, the sort of freezing cold I’d hoped for. And when we reached Sliema… it was like being in any town in Britain. M&S, Burger King, Zara, Matalan, an entire seafront of British high street shops. Great view of ancient Valletta, though. And right in the sun. I walked along the seafront and then decided it might be best to get the ferry back over to Valletta and hide in its narrow alleys.
So I did. I walked to the end of the peninsula looking over at St Elmo’s Fort and ate some lunch on the rocks. I walked round the fort via the narrow back streets of what is apparently the old red light district, round all the historical stuff, saw the Three Cities on the other side of the Grand Harbour, the Siege Bell and then walked back into the touristy streets where I got on the land train. It basically did the same route I’d just walked but it kept up a commentary and we went found a few places at the south end of the city that I hadn’t seen.
I finished off my tour of Valletta with St John’s Co-Cathedral – best on the inside but closed after 12:30, also I need to find out why “co”-cathedral – and the main square and armoury. That done, I bought some postcards and went to the bus station.
They don’t make it easy there. I eventually had to look up buses that would go to Qroqq 2 on the app and then go and look up the bay on the departure board and found my bus not in the main bus station but a separate set of bays at the bottom of the road. And then I discovered if you go a direct route, Qroqq is only 5-10 minutes on the bus, virtually in easy walking distance.
I thought I had plenty of good to last 24 hours but when I’d eaten pretty much everything within twenty minutes of getting home, I realised I needed to go shopping. I found a quicker way to Gala Center, this time via Gzira, more or less. This is why I’m confused about exactly where I am – all the town’s and villages I’ve ever heard of seem to overlap just here.
At 10:50 that night, there was a bright flash of light – not the notification light on my phone. Then what? Then a huge rumble of thunder, one of the biggest I’ve ever heard. Ah. Yes, it had been ridiculously hot ever since I’ve been here. A thunderstorm is always what follows excessively hot weather. It tumbled on and off all night and had a second go at a real thunderstorm about 4.30am. It’s now 9.17 on Sunday morning and although the thunder has finished, it’s still drizzly and grey – which suits me far better than the sun.