Gozo, Malta

Continuation of holiday diary.

Arrived at ferry terminal in good time. They leave every 45 minutes, so only had to wait about 10 minutes but in the hot sun it felt like forever. Was surprised by how big and near Gozo looked – like a peninsula across the bay.
Son 2 gave directions but the other two quite vocal. Conversations like:
Son: Take the next right.
R: This one, this one, turn right now.
Husband: I’m not going up that one, it’s too narrow. Right, which way now?
M:I think that’s wrong anyway.
Son: It’s not wrong, I know where we are exactly. Probably. Okay, if there’s a roundabout take 3rd exit. But there wont be, roundabouts are only on the map, they never exist in real life here.

Also hard to see ‘no entry’ signs as the sun has faded them all.
Gozo has more flat roofed houses and domed churches. Very pretty.
Met villa man in square and went to villa. ‘Panorama’ in Xaghra (pronounced ‘Shara’. My family never managed that.) We booked it through James Villas but it has its own website.
Villa very luxurious. It’s set on the edge of the hill with views across a huge valley towards the citadel at Victoria.

Drove down winding road to nearest big supermarket. A Lidl. Very stressful. No brands I recognised, hard to find everything we needed, very limited choice. M noticed maggots all over eggs. Not good experience.

Walked from villa into centre of Xaghra, about 10 minutes unless you got lost. Several people sitting outside chatting. Square has a few restaurants to choose from.

We ate at Oleander. Very friendly and welcoming. Food nice, especially the baked brie starter served on figs and walnuts. Delicious. Husband and M raved over the tomato, capers, olives and peppers bruschetta. Son 2 agreed it was delicious ( and he doesn’t even like capers, olives or peppers. Isn’t very keen on bruschetta either.) All too full to eat our main courses. Had lemoncello shots then walked home. Didn’t get lost.

Wednesday: Lazy day. Unpacked, did washing. Cooked pancakes and bacon – all takes ages in unfamiliar kitchen. Kitchen is beautiful but rather lacking in equipment. Used salad bowl to make batter. Only coffee maker seems to be a Nespresso machine ( but no capsules) or a cracked cafetiere which I don’t fancy using. Think maybe a dog mauled it at some point.
Pool boy came. He was about 70.
Boys found some toy boats and had races with them in indoor pool. So glad the sophistication of the villa has affected them.
Got cinema room working, watched a Mandarin dvd.
Horrid lunch. Hate Lidl.

Played ‘Game of Thrones’ board game. I still don’t understand the rules. Much testosterone fuelled arguing and making of alliances. Was a very long game. Lucky we weren’t in a beautiful villa with views across a valley full of sunshine. R hibernated somewhere. Wise girl.
Of course, the best thing of all is that long after the game FINALLY ended, it could be discussed at length, each move analysed, much advice given. Shoot me someone.

Strolled into town. Picturesque square/church rather spoiled by extensive building work. Found a small supermarket 5 minutes walk from villa. It sold everything that I had tried to find in Lidl, many with recognised brands. (I hate Lidl.) It opens at 6am, so ideal for buying stuff before breakfast.

Ate at Oleander again. No one really enjoyed their meal. Maybe it’s just too hot to enjoy eating.

Thursday: Lazed, swam, ice creams. The ice creams were like rocks so turned down the freezer to 1.
Pizza for lunch. Tasted mainly of plastic. ( Lidl).

Drove to Xlendi. Parked in car park behind the shops (everywhere we went was much less crowded than resorts in the UK. There are not many spaces in the car parks but there are always some.)

The shops and cafes run along the waterfront. It was very crowded with a shingle beach. There were buoys marking where was safe to swim (easy to get run over by a boat when swimming in Gozo.) We walked along a rock wall to some steps down into the sea. Swam/snorkelled. Mainly saw small shoals of fish. Water really salty ( stung eyes) and very deep – the only way out was up the steps

Drive home was difficult, winding roads and lack of signs. Apparently they were designed to be confusing because the island was raided so many times. They succeeded.

Ate in DVenue, another restaurant in the square. They had a good fresh fish platter. Nice meals.

Walked back to villa and watched Harry Potter (not my choice) in cinema room. This is a long room built under the pool, so is dark and cool. It has black leather sofas that recline and a big screen and sound system. Note to self: never allow husband to install a fancy sound system. He has it loud enough for the whole town to hear. Claims base is set too high.

Friday: Walked to local shop and bought local honey, eggs and milk. Made pancakes. There is also a bread van that comes from the local bakery and drives around the town honking its horn at about 10 every morning. Stops in various places. Nice crusty bread.

After lunch, went for a drive. Drove to Dwejra Bay. Beautiful. Rocks down to deep blue water, Azure Window (a big hole in the rock which was very crowded with people taking photos), several ice cream vans, stalls selling tourist tat from Africa, St Anne’s chapel (more modern than expected.) You could look down onto the Inland Sea. This used to be a huge cave but the roof fell in, so now it’s a giant rock pool surrounded by cafes and full of boats for hire and divers. Took photos.

Drove through St Lawrences. Took photo of church, which was very ornate, lots of red and gold. All the churches here have a basket of material next to the door, so you can cover your shoulders.

Drove back to Xaghra via Ghasri, Zebbug, Xwejni Bay, Marsalforn. You can imagine how my family pronounce these names.

Saw interesting rock formations and salt pans but was told I had exceeded my photograph limit and the car was not stopping.

Getting into Xaghra a challenge due to closed roads but no helpful diversion signs. Also, Gozo DOES have cul de sac/no-through-road signs, because I have seen some. However it obviously did not buy enough because mostly they are unmarked and you just have to turn round when you get to the end.

Got home eventually. Ate several ice creams. Still not losing weight.

Played Game of Thrones with the males. Husband’s turns are like advert breaks in the US – you can write diary, read a book, cook a three course meal and still not miss any play. Boys had coded talks to discuss the rules in secret (like I would’ve cared.) R sunbathed and talked to the boyfriend.

Ate at DVenue again. Finished with complimentary lemoncello shots. Weekends get busier, so we booked a table for Sunday.

Saturday: Quick breakfast, then drove back to Dwejra Bay. Worried about hair being dry so put suncream in it. R asked me why my hair was blue.

Walked down some steep steps from the first car park to a cove where Fungus Rock is ( big rock where they used to collect a plant. Which apparently was not a fungus.) Water wonderfully deep, you could just float around wearing a snorkel, lost in an underwater world. The route into the water was via sharp rocks, so we wore swimming shoes ( bought for about £5 from Amazon before we came and they worked really well.) Saw rocks and seaweed and shoals of fish. Son 2 asked me if I knew my hair was blue.

Bacon and egg lunch at villa.

I stupidly said, ” The rocks look much nearer in the water than they really are.”
Males then discussed/argued about (for hours) the refraction index of water. M used breadsticks to illustrate. Argument somewhat weakened when breadstick went in his eye.

Played G of T. Each move took 27 hours.

Have noticed that no one listens to me. I think they honestly do not hear me, have grown accustomed to just tuning out my voice. Have started to speak with Scottish accent. This makes them all stop and stare at me in surprise ( not sure they actually listen to what I say but at least I now have their attention.)

Watched Pitch Perfect in cinema room. Still not my choice but not as bad as you might think.

Cooked steaks (horrible) and had them with red wine (nice) and salad (okay) in fancy dining room/wine cellar which has been carved out of the rock below the villa. Very atmospheric.

(Hair no longer blue. But suncream made it very wiry, was not a good idea.)

Sunday : Made pancake batter then couldn’t light hob. No gas. Annoying. Husband checked barbecue outside and managed to light it. Took ages to heat up but then worked fine. Was rather lovely to eat breakfast outside, overlooking the valley. Sent text to villa man who changed gas bottle later that morning.

There is a small dog who wanders along the ridge and peers at us. Doesn’t seem to understand French or Mandarin. Everyone has given him a different name.

Had cold shower. I have problems with the taps here. You sort of have to push them up to turn on then wiggle them left to get warm water. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. No one else has this problem so it must be me.

Walked to church. Service was in progress but other people were going in so I slipped into the back. Was incredibly hot in there. Very full church, lots of families. No order of service sheet or hymn books or Bibles. Service all in Maltese, was like listening to Arabic, couldn’t understand anything. After 10 minutes, with sweat trickling down my back, I gave up and slipped out again. I’m glad I went – I don’t know how else to make Sundays different – but there seemed little point in staying long. Pretty church though, painted ceilings.

Husband went to cake shop, Cafe Reale. There is an Italian man who owns it. He gets up early every morning and bakes wonderful cakes. We tried a selection.

From about 11:30 to after 12 each day, there is lots of canon fire/fireworks across the valley. R suggested they are the midday canons and the Maltese are not very good time keepers. Husband suggested that maybe a bird had got lost and strayed across Gozo and we were hearing the hunters. (Hunting is a problem here, there are not many birds left now.)

Played G of T. Each move took 29 hours. Clearly one major difference between the genders is that females can decide future moves DURING someone else’s turn, hence taking much less time when it’s time for their move. Plus they don’t actually care that much.

R had washing machine disaster. Now has lots of clothes that match her yellow sundress. Boys played her lots of songs with the word “yellow” in. I’m sure they were trying to make her feel better.

Dinner at DVenue. Good again.

Saw a blue light on a roof. Told R they have blue stars in Gozo.

Monday : Husband went to buy water and milk. Hard to find full fat milk here. Today bought 2.5% fat. I think the darker the blue of the carton, the higher the fat content. But not necessarily.

Discussed family chores as husband has decided everyone should help (that idea went so well last holiday.) R and M responsible for all dishwasher duties. They immediately formed a trade union and appointed R as spokesperson. Spent some time discussing terms and conditions with husband, who tried to instigate penalty clauses but R told him it contravened European law. So glad he started this. Son 2 (in charge of rubbish disposal) kept offering to strike in support of R and M.

After lunch walked to square. Full of dusty roadworks, so continued round the corner to a little cafe. Had ice creams and coffee. ( I had Malteaser ice cream – clearly from Malta.) Hot walk back to villa.

Went to Victoria as R wanted to buy gifts (yaay shopping, my favourite.) Very windy. Told a storm was coming, 110 lightening strikes in Tunisia, apparently. Shops all rushing to get their displays inside.

We went to Maldonado Bistro. They didn’t open until 7pm but kindly let us go in early and have drinks while we waited.
Son 2 used his clever phone to translate the menu from English into Maltese and Mandarin. Helpful. The menu had 12 different bruschettas. This kept family occupied for 50 minutes (just the choosing bit. You may have not noticed but my family enjoys negotiating/discussing/persuading. Strong opinions. Not my genes.) R tried a kinnie, which is advertised everywhere here. It’s a bitter orange drink. Very bitter.

Bruschettas were huge when they arrived, half a loaf. Very nice. Great atmosphere (down in a wine cellar) and friendly service.

Only problem was toilets which Son 2 informed me were clean but built as stalls and the dividing partition was below his eye level. But he is very tall. Good restaurant, definitely recommend a visit. info@maldonado.com.mt

Drove home. Streets pretty at night. Saw several blue lights on poles. Boys told R it was an alien invasion.

Tuesday: Son 2 complained he had not slept due to M being in charge of air conditioning. He said it was practically snowing in their room and he might have pneumonia.

Drove to Xewkija (pronounced shewkeeya”. But not by my family.) Saw the third biggest dome in Europe ( except one in Malta also claims this. One is higher and one is wider, so there is some dispute. Sounds like my family.) The rotunda is nice, quite simple inside, apart from the massive dome. It was built over a smaller, more ornate church, which they moved to the side by numbering all the stones and moving them individually. It is now a side chapel.

The main church has some good modern art, including two statues made of papier-maché by Alfred Camilleri Cauchi. I like papier-maché, made a rather fine mask when I was at Junior School. Not that it really compares.

Went to small supermarket next to rotunda (husband has developed a peach addiction) started to absolutely pour with rain, ran to car, soaked.

Drove home through Victoria, which is like the moving staircases in Hogwarts in Harry Potter books – whichever way you go in you can never find the correct route out.

Cleaners at villa. Were very thorough, even found two towels husband had hidden in wardrobe in attempt to get extras. J asked them for blankets.
Lunch. Thunder storm.

Males decided they wanted to build sandcastles on Ramla beach. As it was cloudy and cool, R and I decided to walk there. Started to follow road signs, then realised that they directed traffic along major roads so followed map instead. Reached a ridge where we could see beach but it was unclear how to get down to it. By this time the sun had reappeared and it was very hot. Two stray dogs joined us, happy to have some company and walked with us, waiting at every bend for us to catch up. We ignored them but they came anyway, was rather nice. Took an hour to reach beach (nice walk if not sunny.)
Found males in far corner of beach building Venice. Drove home.

Swam. Pool very cold when full of rainwater. Ate ice creams, which are still too hard. Realised the “fast freeze” button had been left on by previous guests.

Wednesday: After breakfast, drove to Victoria. Walked to citadel. Great views, could see all around island. Went into the battery, which led to the silos (huge grain storage areas, like great caves.) Very interesting. The silos are connected by a dark narrow tunnel (from when they were turned into a reservoir) so now you can walk right into them. Son 2 and R sang a chant, harmonising with their echoes. Was magical.

Then saw the rooms used as WW2 shelters. They were under the reservoirs, so if they’d been hit, everyone would’ve drowned. Not such a good idea.

Didn’t pay for the museum. Didn’t pay for the prison, but did put Son2 into the stocks outside. Didn’t see a Christmas tree ornament to buy. But did see some traditional lace. Shop owner said it was the last of her stock as all her suppliers were now in their eighties and younger women wont sell their work because it earns about 50p an hour. Seemed too mean to buy any.

Had lunch back in Xaghra at Cafe Reale. They have the BEST iced coffee. Still not losing weight.

Males decided to return to beach, we stayed here to swim but then the pool man arrived so we couldn’t. Annoying.

Males returned late, very happy, had built a brilliant castle and had been joined by another family (somewhat younger, so they could pretend they were building it for the children.) Also helped by ‘Steve the tiler’ from Australia who had used his building skills to good effect. M had heaved heavy boulders to protect it, Son 2 had applied a more scientific approach and incorporated some thatch to increase structural support. M rather disparaging of the thatch. It was slightly surprising how long three adult males could discuss a sandcastle for. Husband did suggest a post dinner drive to show me and R but unfortunately drank too much Cisk and was over the alcohol limit. Such a shame.

Nice dinner again at DVenue. Every Wednesday evening at 9pm in July and August a drama group performs in the square. It has an excellent sound system but I suspect the performance appeals mostly to their family members.

Afterwards the choirboys played football using the church doorway as a goal. Excellent use of space.

Looked across the valley. All the towns are now full of blue lights on poles. Apparently they represent Mary ( not aliens) and I assume are ready for the 15th, which is Assumption Day. There is a strong Catholic presence in Malta.

Thursday : Husband booked a boat for Friday afternoon, Xlendi Watersports, €80, 4 adults, 2 hours.

Drove to Calypso’s cave. This is where Ulysses was put under a spell by the witch Calypso when returning from the Trojan war (if you enjoy Homer.) It was confusing to find on maps as there’s also a viewpoint and you can’t tell which is on the road. Followed signs. There was a small boutique where an elderly lady (possibly Calypso) was selling clothes, followed signs along a walkway. Brilliant view of Ramla beach and out to sea. No cave. Searched around a bit (while husband checked sandcastle with zoom on camera). Found some disused steps and some scaffolding holding up a rock. I think Calypso’s cave has collapsed. Shame.

Went back to square for more iced coffee with cream at Cafe Reale.

Watched building work and cars narrowly missing each other. I must say, Gozo has a LOT of building work, they seem to be rebuilding the whole island.

Back to villa in time for 12 noonish canons. Gozo also has a lot of canons.

Went to the salt pans at Xwejni Bay. Very interesting. Shallow pools , cut by hand, to collect seawater. When it dries they harvest the salt crystals and sell it (Gozo sea salt.)

Walked around Qolla-L-Bajda. Weird rock erosion and a cave. White clay cliffs eroding fast, beach littered with great chunks of fallen cliff. Cove interesting but a bit smelly.

Evening meal in Marsalforn. Ate in Menqa L’Antika, which had good reviews but either we were unlucky and went on a day when they had staffing problems or they wrote them themselves. Good menu but food didn’t really match descriptions.