3:30am is not a suitable time for an alarm. Unless you’re going on holiday, in which case, it’s a necessary evil. Last few things are thrown into the suitcase – or not in the case of a hairbrush, which explains why I’m wearing a hat in all photos from now on. I’ve not even left my bedroom and one of my newly applied false nails has pinged off and is somewhere down my trouser leg.
Taxi was pre-booked by app the night before, so I don’t have to deal with talking to a human that I’m not married to at this time of the morning. I’ve cheered up though by the time we get to BHX for our bag drop at 5am. All our flights these days seem to be from Gates 1-20 so we head round to the “secret” All Bar One. It’s too early for alcohol, even for me, but we do manage a quick breakfast before the Ryanair scramble. Apparently buying priority tickets doesn’t really give us any advantage when it comes to getting on the plane as we’re all bundled onto the bus together. However if they try and take my suitcase off me I’ll wrestle them to the ground. Me, Mr Fletche and our suitcases successfully make it onto the plane.
Three ish hours of minor tedium later and we’re disembarking in warm sunshine. It’s been a while since we’ve done this. Malta airport is pretty well organised and we’re soon reunited with our other suitcase. Time to meet the new Fletchemobile. Except the staff at the Avis stand are as inept as they were in Inverness and it’s another 40 minutes by the time Mr Fletche comes back, brandishing car keys and a frustrated look on his face. However, during this time I have managed to contact our guesthouse host George and he’s happy for us to check in early.
Mr Fletche gets his first taste of driving Malta style. It’s only two roads, and a 20 minute drive, but we soon learn that times and simple directions mean little. We pull up where the GPS tells us to, but there is little indication that this is Coast Ridge Mansion. Or anywhere that tourists would choose to venture. There is a tiny iron sign which says “Il Haruba” which I vaguely remember from Google Street View, and I get a glimpse of swimming pool through a gate. We’re here. Our guesthouse will henceforth be known as George’s. Do not try and Google this.
We’re greeted by George and shown up to our room; it’s a little dark but it’s cool thanks to a powerful AC unit which will leave me shivering at night and creeping under the bedcovers. There’s no view to speak of, and the bed creaks as soon as we walk within a foot of it but I keep reminding myself that this was the most bargainous of all bargains at just £440 for the week. It may not be the Ritz, but for this price – who cares? We’re not given much info and we’re left to our own devices so we unpack then decide that having only eaten a handful of polo mints since Birmingham it’s probably time to find somewhere for lunch.
We’re not in walking distance of anywhere remotely useful (apart from a bunny farm – which turns out not to be as cute as it sounds, with rabbit being one of the staple foods here in Malta…) so we get back in the Fletchemobile and head to Qawra, our nearest town – a 10-minute drive away. We’re not over enamoured with the food choices available – and there seem to be quite a few “Brits-Abroad” type pubs around – but we settle on Quattro Fratelli where there’s a shady terrace overlooking Qawra Bay and Sunny Bay lido and we have a wrap, fries and a beer. We also find a mini-market where we buy essential supplies. This mainly consists of water, crisps, biscuits and a bottle of red wine. As we have no fridge in our room, this seems like the most sensible alcohol option for in-room drinking.
We drop the car and supplies off, freshen up, and then go in search of our local bus stop for the No 49 which will take us to St Paul’s Bay. Buses are hourly, so I’ve meticulously researched the timetable. They have recently switched to a summer timetable though so we leave ourselves plenty of time to find the bus stop. It’s a 10 minute walk down a surprisingly busy road. The bus stop is at the bottom of a zig-zag hill, on a roundabout, so we can see the bus coming from the top. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait some more. We have checked the timetable at the bus stop and the bus is definitely due. Five minutes ago. Ten minutes ago. I remember reading somewhere that bus travel is a little hit and miss. The No 49 arrives, 20 minutes later than the timetable suggests. Although it’s closer to the winter timetable time. After 35 minutes out in the late afternoon sun, we’re glad to finally be seated on the air-conditioned bus. Buses are great. I’ve done the planning, so know where to get off, and we make it to St Paul’s Bay, taking note of the return bus times. We’re not planning on a late night after our 3:30am alarm call so the fact that the last bus is at 9:45pm isn’t an issue tonight.
St Paul’s Bay is a fishing village which merges into the livelier Buġibba and then onto Qawra. We walk along the seafront, from Wignacourt Tower all the way into Buġibba via a quick Aperol Spritz stop. There’s a pretty impressive sunset going on during our stroll, and we even catch a bocci game going on (a bit like bowls, but with lots of different sized items to throw at a jack. You can find out more about bocci here if you so desire).
Buġibba is bustling, with al fresco bars and restaurants lining the promenade, street entertainers and a lively square with a big screen showing the World Cup. If this was our base we’d probably be drunk every night. After a late lunch, we’re not hungry, but we can definitely manage a gelato from Il Goloso Gelateria. Which promptly melts all over our hands. We decide to finish our evening off with a cocktail from Miracles before making our way through the back streets to the bus stop. The No 49 is just a couple of minutes late. We love Malta buses.
All is quiet when we return to George’s. The only life around is a pile of kittens on one of the chairs on the pool terrace. The TV in our room doesn’t work but at least we have a bottle of red wine. A glass of red wine in bed becomes a habit I need to break when I get home.
Tomorrow – exploring the capital city of Valletta! We’re putting our faith in the Maltese transport system to get us there. Anyone wanna hazard a guess on how THAT one goes?