Last Minute November in Malta

Visiting Malta in November

Bordeaux to Marsaskala

I bought a kindle book sometime ago and in my panic of having nothing to read on the plane I decided that today was the day to read it.  We’re trying to budget on our trips; less comfort but more travel.  So we didn’t buy our seats which did save a few euros; I was allocated 4A and Gerry 17A.  We both got a window seat and had no one sat beside us but we missed each other.  Or at least I missed Gerry.  I tried to entice him down to row 4 with the promise of an apple and scintillating conversation but he had extra leg room and an emergency door and was having none of it.  And so I turned to my book. 

I’ve read a few books that have ‘spoken’ to me but today, sat alone in seat 4A, I was reduced to tears.  Not tears of sadness but just because the words written Paulo Coelho within the pages of The Alchemist could have been written for me.  I was lost in the words.  Later I learned that I missed the views of the island as we circled to land and missed the towering cliffs and views of the beaches and ancient towers but no matter, Paola’s words left me wanting more and I was sad when we finally arrived and I had to put my book away (for today at least).

We Arrived in Malta

We arrived in Malta.  A few weeks ago I had an email proclaiming a winter sale with Ryanair.  I didn’t believe them but nonetheless I clicked to check.  15 euros to Malta!  Woah!  F I F E T E E N euros to Malta.  Well how could we say no?  Gerry had already said no to a bargain of a cruise in Antarctica but Rick Stein had been to Malta so this island was on his hit list. 

Travel Shouldn’t Cost the Earth

I looked for cheap accommodation.  If we are serious about travelling as much and as far as we can then we need to cut our costs.  I found an apartment in one corner of the island which seemed remarkably cheap.  It did look kind of basic but it had good reviews and a fabulous view so we booked.  Gerry found a good deal on car hire and we booked that too.  So we have 11 days in Malta for less that 50€ a day, which is the budget that we need to stick to.  Food and drinks are extras but it’s a good start for us.

The guy at the Car Rental said unfortunately we’d arrived early and there was a 20€ excess if we took the car before 10:00am.  He said the office didn’t open until 10:00 but he had called us in! It was 9:35.  That’s ok we said, we can wait.  In the end he handed us the keys as he would have needed to wait with us.  It was about 2 minutes later, as we left the airport, that we realised drivers in Malta are crazy! 

We arrived at Marsaskala 25 minutes later and found a parking space opposite the apartment.  We weren’t meant to check in until 15:00 but the guy sent me a WhatsApp saying the earlier the better for him… so at 10:30 we sat looking out at the glorious view drinking hot tea and feeling rather chuffed with ourselves.  We went in search of a supermarket and found a mini-mart but it had all we needed for a few days and because we had spent more than 40€ we were entitled to free kitchen rolls!  Woohoo!

A Stroll Around Marsaskala

We had an early lunch.  The clock says 11:20 but it felt much later after our 4am start.  After lunch we had two choices, fall asleep or go for a walk.  We choose the latter.  We walked along the waterfront on our side of the inlet and then continued along the other side.  We kept walking until we left the town behind.  We walked by the enormous church which dominates the skyline and which we thought must be ancient, but it turns out it’s not that much older than Gerry (still pretty old though :D).

We sat on a bench and looked up the history of this town.  This area was originally a little fishing village which has grown and grown.  The name Marsaskala has Arabic roots. Marsa is Arabic for bay and Skala is perhaps derived from Sqalli (Sicilian) as Malta is less than 100km from Sicily. Humans have lived here since pre-historic times and much evidence of their lives has been found.  Early Christian catacombs have also been found and it’s thought that Marsaskala was a Roman port.  The Ottomans arrived in 1614 and were defeated by the Maltese but the shoreline here has evidence of lookout towers that predate this battle and that were extended after it.  Sadly the 1659 Tower was demolished by the British Army in 1915 and no trace remains.

From 1530 to 1798, Malta had been ruled by the Order of Saint John. They were ousted by Napoleon but the Maltese stood their ground and asked Britain for help. Eventually, the French left in 1800 and Malta voluntarily became a British protectorate. We were meant to leave 2 years later but we refused and on the 23 July 1813 Malta became a Crown Colony and it wasn’t until the 21 September 1964 that Malta finally became independent again.

Żonqor Point Salt Pans

We continued walking, along the rocky shoreline, watching the waves break and the continuous succession of tankers sail by on the horizon.  The rocks are littered with man made cut out square and circle shapes; the Żonqor Point Salt Pans.  It is thought that the Phoenicians started collecting salt on Malta and the Romans continued.  Little has changed even today and between May and September people still harvest the salt.

Gerry decided it must be time for a drink so we turned around and walked back towards town.  We stopped at a little café beside the harbour and watched the boats bobbing and quenched our thirst whilst listening to Amy Winehouse.  It was time to head home.  It felt late to us but it was only 4:30 when we arrived, nonetheless an early supper was called for and and early night is on the cards!  We know how to party!

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