Old island life

Trip Start Jun 24, 2011
Trip End Jul 04, 2011

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Where I stayed
Granny's Inn

Flag of Malta  ,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I woke up at the San Marino hostel and figured if I hurried I might be able to make the 8:15am bus to Rimini. I showered quick, got all my stuff together and literally ran from the hostel to the bus stop to catch it just in time. At Rimini I was able to catch a train right away to Bologna.

I stored my bag at the Bologna train station then took a walk around town. I went back to the main plaza (Piazza Maggiore) and found some markets on the side streets. It was neat to see the Italians about their everyday life shopping for fruits & veges. I did lots of walking and also just hung out in the plaza. Eventually it was time to catch the bus back to the airport.

The flight to Malta took us over the coast of Italy and Sicily where I could see Palermo and Mt Etna. Arrived in Malta and straight out to the bus stop to be right on time for when the bus should be there. It was about 15 min late - the driver let people off the bus told us we couldn't get on and drove away. That should have given me an indication of what to expect from bus service on Malta in the days to come. About 45 min later another bus arrived and this one actually let us on and took us into the Valletta. There I had to switch to another bus for Sliema. I got off right where I needed to and found the hostel. They had left a key for me so I could get in. Dropped off my stuff and went for a walk towards the St Julian's area. It's quite nice by the bay and has several restaurants, cafes and shops. I had dinner at an Irish pub. After that I wandered the waterfront promenade for a while. Along the way I saw old men sitting together and talking on park benches with old ladies sitting together on park benches nearby. I figured it was the husbands and their wives - the men seemed to be talking about their wives and the wives about their husbands. I found it humorous. While walking back to the hostel at 11pm, I stumbled upon a marching band in the street. I followed that to a church where they were doing some kind of celebration. The band continued to play and people were throwing confetti and prizes from the windows above. It was cool to discover that bit of local culture.

The following morning (Thurs) I caught the bus to the north end of the island for a ferry to the island of Comino. The ferry takes you to a little bay (The Blue Lagoon) on the island that's overrun with tourists. There's actually only a small bit of sand and that's completely covered with beach chairs and umbrellas. The water is a very pretty blue. I found a place on the rocks where I could leave my stuff and get in/out of the water w/o much trouble. The water was cooler than I expected but nice for a swim. I stayed there for a little while as more and more boats unloading people arrived. I decided to go to one of the other bays that's not so overcrowded so walked along a road to St Nicolas Bay. This is a private beach though and I continued on to St Mary's Bay. There were some people here but not too many. I stayed here for about an hour enjoying the sun before I headed back to the Blue Lagoon. Went for another swim there then caught the ferry back to the main island and the bus from there to Sliema. The bus was packed full and all along the route passed by lots of people waiting for the bus to the city. I'm not sure how they would ever get a bus since they fill up near the beginning of the route.
I got myself cleaned up at the hostel then down to the waterfront to catch the ferry across the harbor to Valletta. I wandered around the edge of the town by the fort and two gardens before exploring inside the city. There was a mix of old and new building within the city...it can be hard to tell when they all have the brownish-gray look. Not much in the city was open due to a concert going on - the Isle of MTV. I could hear it from within the city and decided to check it out (7:30pm). The headliner for the show was Snoop Dogg with a couple other hip-hop acts to open up. There were lots and lots of people and the show hadn't really started yet - there was a DJ playing music and a dumb MC trying to hype up the crowd with lame things like "show me your hands", "let me feel the love", "jump, jump". That went on for about a half hour before they brought out an English girl pop band called Parade (think Spice Girls). The majority of the people in attendance seemed to be teenagers so they might have liked it. I thought the band was horrible. That combined with all the kids made me decide I'd had enough and left. I went somewhat nearby to Triton Fountain and watched as buses tried to run over oblivious pedestrians. Catching a bus back to Sliema proved a little challenging as there were tons of people waiting for the bus and not enough buses. Eventually I got on one and made it back. I walked along the waterfront, found somewhere for dinner and kept walking around. Lots of people are out along the promenade so it's nice to be out.

Friday I was going to try to visit the old town of Mdina and some of the ruins on the island. The bus system would make that impossible though. I waited a while in Sliema for the bus to Valletta (main bus hub here) then had to wait some more for the bus to Mdina. I made it to Mdina (10 kms outside of Valletta) two hours after I first waited for the bus. Mdina is a walled old town that's kind of cute. Again there's a lot of the brown buildings and it's hard to tell if they're old or new. The town's not very big but has some cute side streets and a little plaza. Next door is the town of Rabat so I looked around there too.
From there I caught a bus to Mosta where I could change to another bus for the ruins (according to my bus route map). The bus dropped me off right at the Mosta Dome, the city's main attraction, so that was cool. I found a place for a meat pie too. The bus stop was labeled with the bus number I wanted so I waited...and waited...and waited. An hour and a half later and it never came. So I took the bus to Valletta and had another look around that city. Another overcrowded bus to Sliema where I found a spot for dinner then I walked out to St Julian's and Paceville, the nightlife area of Malta. There were lots of bars and clubs in Paceville but nearly everyone there seemed to be teenagers. It felt like being at an under-aged party. I didn't stay long and just walked back to the hostel.

I thought I'd give getting to the ruins another try on Saturday with the backup plan of going to the beach. I waited for the bus to the ruins for an hour. Since that didn't show I caught the bus out to Melleiha Bay (close to Comino ferry). I just spent the day out in the sun by the sea. Not so bad for a last day in Malta.
Back at the hostel I used wi-fi to FaceTime with Marina before heading to St Julian's for an Italian dinner. I had some good bruschetta and pasta :)  Did a quick walk around St Julian's and Paceville before heading back to the hostel. There I ran into my dorm roommate, a guy from Brasil. He was friendly and nice and seemed to be in Malta mostly for the nightlife. He had been studying in Ireland so was happy to get some sun and warmth. Our other roommate soon showed up - a stinky, unkept guy from France. He reeked of b.o. and looked like he hadn't showered in days. He only spoke a little English so it was hard to have a conversation with him. The Brasilian was downing beers before he headed out to the nightlife in Paceville. I had to be in bed somewhat early to catch the bus to the airport the next morning.
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