Night Location - Mgarr, Malta
A Muse of the Day: There was a slight glitch on arrival at the hotel in Gozo as David and Amber's room reeked of cigarette smoke. They were offered a second room, and David said to Amber who was sheltering in Gemma and Gareth's room that it was the next door on the left. Amber threw the door open with expectation, only to see a tiny storage room filled with fold up beds. She burst out laughing and returned to Gemma's room. David actually meant 2 doors to the left - the junior suite.
The 3:30am wake up call came around very quickly for everyone except Gemma who is still struggling with jet-lag and woke up at 1:30 ready to go. The hotel staff seemed particularly concerned that Gemma and Gareth would not wake up and therefore felt the need to call them on 4 separate occasions within 3 minutes. Gareth at first answered with thank-you, then while on the toilet he answered once more. While he was in the shower, Gemma answered the next two calls.
Our pre-ordered taxi was waiting and surprisingly our four bags fitted in the boot of the Skoda with ease. As there wasn't a lot of traffic at 4AM, the taxi driver took the liberty of driving through Athens as though he was in the Grand Prix. He paid no attention whatsoever to lanes and took it as a personal challenge if he was overtaken. Nevertheless we arrived safely and joined the queue for Air Italia.
Airports at early hours of the morning are always quite amusing. Today was no exception. In front of us was a very rude American couple, complete with an enormous baggage trolley. Due to their excess luggage they were begrudgingly forced to pay a fee in spite of the fact that they were flying business class. We suspect that as a result of their rudeness the Air Italia lady at check-in appreciated our courtesy and therefore gave us exit row seats for the flight between Athens and Rome. Due to this, our flight was excellent and we arrived in Rome feeling surprisingly good.
Fortunately we had opted for the four hour transit, rather than the two hour transit in Rome. On arrival, we set off to the transfer desk to try and get our boarding passes for our Air Malta flight. The Air Italia staff did not know where to send us so directed us to information on two separate occasions. The information man was also a bit vague and directed us to the boarding gate where we should wait until one hour before departure and hopefully then we could collect our boarding passes. Waiting at the gate, we attempted to do this and were directed back to Air Italia. Needless to say, we had very little hope that our bags would arrive at this stage given that no one in Rome airport knew how we should transit!
Surprisingly all four bags were spotted from the transit bus while waiting to get off the tarmac in Malta. There was great excitement from Gemma and Amber. Cleverly, David had booked a transfer in an 8-seater mini van from the airport to the port where we would catch the ferry to Gozo. In reality we were ushered to a 30 year old, clapped out Peugeot station wagon where our first impressions were confirmed when our elderly driver struggled to open his boot. The four of us piled in and set off through the back roads of Malta. Malta is hot, there was no air-conditioning so our windows were permanently down with wafts of body odour, dead animals and animal excrement flowing through the vehicle.
Malta is like no country we have ever been to before. It is a dry and barren wasteland in the Summer with spectacular churches. 365 churches in fact. We found out that our driver used to be an ambulance driver and so he didn't indicate, drove out in front of oncoming traffic and narrowly missed the stone walls built everywhere on the side of the road. The walls are made of limestone rubble that is perfectly piled into straight lines. As the driver said, "What else is there in Malta?"
The ferry to Gozo was arriving as we were dropped at the port and so we took a seat on the outside and enjoyed the 20 minute crossing. Arriving in Gozo, we spotted our hotel from the ferry and David maintained that it would only be a short 400m walk. He failed to mention the perpendicular incline and no footpath. Determined, he set off with the three of us in tow. Needless to say, we arrived at the top of the hill red in the face and sweating, so much so, that we were offered a welcome drink.
This hotel was booked because of the pool and it didn't fail to disappoint. It looks out over the fort and cathedral of Mgarr Harbour and down to the sea below. Refreshed, we ordered a taxi to drive us to the Citadel of Victoria. Not having a plan or a map, we meandered along the narrow lane ways and walls of the fortress. There were incredible 360 degree views of the island from the top and at sunset it was spectacular.
The citadel is home to a cathedral with a flat dome. Inside, however, the artists have created the impression that there is a dome that soars high above. Afterwards we stumbled on another church square complete with cafe and here we had dinner.
Originally we had intended to go on a 6-hour boat cruise around Gozo tomorrow. We were sadly informed that the weather conditions may be too rough and so we abandoned this option and have instead hired Mario, our taxi driver who took us to dinner, to be our guide around the island.