A day of “holiday” for the Maltese who go out to lunch, and often have their festas on that day. Today was the Festa Fawli or strawberry festa held in Mgarr, a town whose church has a silver dome. It has also the only oval dome on the island.
So, off to the park and ride at the craft village set up for the occasion. After a long queue we got onto the minibus and off to Mgarr to see the famous strawberries. The town was heaving with people, all carrying bags with strawberry produce, liqueur, cake, fruit, jam, nougat , plants etc.
The crowds were so large we could not get anywhere near the stalls, but the atmosphere was great and everyone was enjoying the sun and the live performances by local singers. There was a gigantic cake somewhere, but we did not manage to find it and I think most of the “events” were scheduled for much later.
So we learned that next time we either go very early for the produce or later for the events. We lunched on maltese date pastry and an enormous 2-flake ice cream, then back to the minibus.
Oh, and we may be on Maltese TV!
Lawrence went for his first walk in the Maltese countryside. He began from home and walked to Chadwick Lakes, which were historically part of the water system of Malta. This series of dammed steps down a valley is home to many beautiful flowers, butterflies, birds and snakes also I expect! His photos can be seen on http://legsit.com. From there he had to fight his way through head high grass flanking the overgrown path to Mosta, where he got the bus back home.
My day was more prosaic. Got to know the butcher, the baker, (no candlestick maker), the pharmacist and the optician. People are really friendly here.
Our printer arrived in the afternoon, and we then took off in our cranky hire car to Marsaxlokk, a colourful fishing village in the south, where I bought a handbag from one of the market vendors, and strolled along the front where the fishermen were mending their nets on and off their bright boats called luzzus.
Lawrence spent the remainder of the afternoon/evening setting up our printer until the football in the evening. I am so pleased we have still got access to our Sky channels. I would have missed my football!
Easy day. Went to see Fort Rinella, just along the coast to the southeast of Valletta. This is a very interesting fort, as it was built into the hillside, grass encouraged to grow over the roof for camouflage from the air. It is home to the biggest cannon in the world – the Armstrong 100 ton gun which takes a charge of 2000kgs of gunpowder and a shell of 1 ton which has a range of 8 miles and accuracy of 4. It was never fired in anger, and costs so much to fire that it is only done rarely.
A bonus at this location was the underwater filming set which is one of the best in the world, with films like Troy, Raise the Titanic and others. Malta is no stranger to filming as Gladiator was also filmed there. Apart from the two very interesting locations, the area is not very pretty and entry to the fort is expensive. so glad we did it, but will not include it in a tour for guests!
Took car hire back this am and the day went downhill from there. Got the bus to Sliema, hoping to get some stuff in Boots there. However, Boots sign seen, store non-existent! On the long one and a half hour journey from Golden Bay, I developed a migraine and lost a part of my visual field, which, given my recent eye problems was a bit scary! OK though.
We decided to get a cuppa and a pit stop. Jax gaily went down the stairs to the loo while waiting for the tea and soon discovered that she was locked in and could not get out. Banging on the door did not bring anyone for at least 5 minutes. The man who came to my rescue did so by kicking one of the vertical walls back into true. They move apparently and regularly lock people in! There was no loo roll either!!! Thank goodness for Kleenex!
Back to the bus, hoping for an uneventful journey home. Called into the bank to collect a security device for our Maltese bank account. This was completed easily, but on the way out I missed the small step and the tenor of the day reasserted itself as I went head over heels, ending up on my back like Kafka’s beetle! Thankfully no harm done, only to my pride.
Made it safely home tucked firmly into hubby’s arm for pills, tea and TLC. Much better. Real Madrid/Spurs match tonight. Should be good. A demain, mes chers – sorry, can’t speak Maltese yet.
A much better day. Pottered about in the morning with some harp practice, and then agreed speedily to L’s invitation to lunch in Mdina, our neighbouring, medieval city to do a bit of tourist research for our future guests. Paid a large fee to go into the “Mdina Experience” exhibit, but not really worth it. Three elements, which were more of a refresher for those who know about the city already, rather than a truly educational experience.
Lunch was much better. We had it in a courtyard trattoria – 1530 AD – which lived up to it’s reputation as one of the best places to lunch. It is part of the famous Xara Palace hotel, one of the oldest in Malta. Surrounded by gnarled, limestone balustrades, galleries and archways, it was a delight. Maltese portions though – waddled home! More chilling, then early night.
Cold, drizzle, a day for staying in and harping. New kitchen knife arrived. Good quality kit is so expensive here that it is better to send for what you really need and have it delivered from UK.
Food is cheaper though. Am missing the car, though we can get all we need from our local shops. The people are friendly and helpful, but prefer to do business in Malti as we are not in an ex-pat area, thank goodness. We are going to learn the language and have identified a teacher though not yet made contact.
Have heard that the car will arrive in Italy on 17th, so a few days after that we should have it here. It has been a saga, costing us around €5K to get it transported and registered here. Despite that, it is cheaper than buying a car here, where prices are twice what one would pay in UK.
So tomorrow off to the Medieval Carmelite Priory in Mdina for the twice weekly classical (solo) concert, and then to Sky TV for the footie/tennis/marathon.
Well, no concert today. While tucking enthusiastically int a piece of sesame brittle from the local confectioners, Lawrence broke a piece off his tooth. So, how to find a dentist?
Our delightful landlady turns out not only a prestigious medic, but also the owner/operator of a comprehensive medical establishment which includes dentistry! Off we go to a very impressive clinic where the offending tooth was repaired for a pittance (unlike at home!) and we promptly decided to register there for all our health needs.
The rest of the afternoon involved football, Manchester derby, followed by Real Madrid/Barcelona. Our Sky box decided to go off-piste 10mins before the end of the Spanish match, so we retired to bed at midnight, not knowing the result!!
Well at least they drew! Ironing day today. Halfway through decided to go to the farmers market close to the craft village in Ta’Qali, so rushed to catch the bus. The driver very kindly dropped us off right at the market, but with later consequences, did not tell us where the bus stop back was! Lots of lovely vegetable stalls mixed in with the inescapable clothing (brash) and shoe (very worth investigating!) stalls. Some good things if you dug deep – eg some handmade wooden furniture. L bought a wallet and I hunted for a hat without success, and having bought some lovely bananas we headed off in the direction we thought the bus would go in. You guessed it – not a bus stop anywhere. By the time we found one, we had walked halfway home! Still it was a nice day, everyone had a happy face, and we had engaged with another local resource. If we did it again, we would not go over lunchtime as it seems that there is a morning market and an afternoon market with different traders in each, and the changeover is around then. Something to bear in mind for the future.
The day was rounded off with another success, when we finally managed to complete the (Malta) times cryptic crossword. And then, Like Zebedee, so to bed.