Malta Travel Diaries: Gozo

Travel Diaries_ Gozo

Weather report from Malta… it’s sunny.

After yesterday’s bus adventure we’re sticking with the Fletchemobile today and heading off Malta and over to its sister island Gozo. It takes about 25 minutes to drive up to Cirkewwa where the ferry terminal is and as luck would have it, a ferry is just pulling into shore. It’s touch and go whether we’ll make it onto this one, but we’re soon swallowed up into the bowels of a big ship. It’s our third car ferry trip after the two in Croatia, and it always amazes me how much is loaded onto what is essentially a floating tin can. I don’t dwell on the logistics and instead find a spot on the sundeck where I can bask in the sunshine whilst watching Gozo approach.

30 minutes later and we’re emerging at Mgarr in Gozo. We have a plan, thanks to my Marco Polo guidebook and app. Our first stop is the small town of Xewkija, with its spectacular Rotunda at the Church of St John the Baptist. I’m not as prepared for church visiting as I was in Valletta yesterday, with both my knees and shoulders on show (scandalous, I know) but there are some handy scarves available (proper ones, not like the paper capes as in St Johns Co-Cathedral) so I modestly drape one around my shoulders. The kindly gentleman who works there doesn’t seem bothered about my exposed knees and beckons me in to explain how the new church was built on the site of the old church when it got too small for the community. The old church was dismantled and bits of it are now behind the red curtain in the corner. I fear the red curtain will lead me into some Lynch-esque Twin Peaks world, but instead it’s a store room for some impressive religious artefacts and artwork. It also leads us to the terrace of the Rotunda. Which thankfully has a lift, unlike some of the other churches we’ve visited (Florence and Bruges spring to mind for particularly exhausting climbs). There are indeed spectacular views over Gozo, and I opt to climb the additional winding steps to the top of the bell tower. I have (thankfully) descended by the time the bells chime the hour.

Malta, Gozo, Church of St John the Baptist, church, rotunda
The Church of Saint John the Baptist, commonly known as the Rotunda in Xewkija, Gozo, Malta.
Church interior, church of Saint John the Baptist, Gozo, Malta.
Inside the Church of Saint John the Baptist (pic by CPF Photography)
Rooftops of Gozo
Looking across Gozo from the rotunda of Xewjika

Xewkija ticked off the list, our next stop is the temple of Ggantija. Except our GPS isn’t playing ball and keeps taking us to what looks like a (closed to the public) construction site. We give up and head for the windmill we’ve just spotted. We park up – right outside the visitor centre for the temple. Typical. Past the windmill and we’re in the village of Xaghra. This looks like a perfect place to pick up lunch, except the only place that we really find is a little hole-in-the-wall, Maltese version of Greggs. I have a full-on meltdown in the shop because my eyes are watering thanks to a combination of sweat, suncream and mascara and I can’t see anything. We panic buy a meat pie, two pastizzi and a bottle of Kinnie. Kinnie, to the uninitiated, is the local soft drink. If you mixed Tizer, Irn Bru and Dr Pepper, this is what you’d get. And it’s strangely addictive so I have no idea what secret ingredient is keeping us hooked.

Kinnie, Maltese soft drink

Back in the car and it’s a quick detour to the disappointing Calypsos Cave. Disappointing largely because I have no idea where the cave actually is. There are stunning views over the red sands of Ramla Bay though. Next we head to the seaside town of Marsalforn. With it’s al fresco cafes on the seafront all thoughts of our rapidly cooling meat pie and two cheese pastizzi disappear as we settle down for a traditional Maltese sandwich (ftira) with chips and a cheeky Aperol Spritz. We have to run the gauntlet first of staff trying to welcome us into their restaurant. There are three in a row. It’s Tenerife all over again.

Refreshed, we head to the salt pans before heading for Gozo’s capital Victoria, with it’s imposing citadel. We park up, then in traditional Fletche fashion we fail to find the citadel and end up walking in completely the wrong direction. Eventually, we find our way back into the centre and make our way towards a square where earlier there had been market stalls and cafes aplenty. Now, at just 4pm, everywhere appears to be closing up. There is a stage being erected and there are flags adorning lampposts, but not much else going on. You’d think the locals were gearing up for some sort of public holiday that we didn’t know about… (Spoiler alert. They were. Happy Feast of St Peter and St Paul Day everyone!) We find a cafe bar which is still serving and have a well deserved drink in a shady spot on the square.

salt pans, Gozo, Malta
The salt pans of Gozo

From Victoria, it’s back to the coast, this time to the site of the Azure Window at Dwejra. It almost seems morbid, like dark tourism, to visit a site that’s no longer there but if I close my eyes I can still see the arch that jutted into the sea until just last year. I wasn’t aware though that Dwejra is also home to a great swimming hole – an inland sea – and we regret leaving our towels in the car as this would be a great place to relax for a while. Instead we head off to our final stop on our Marco Polo tour, to Xlendi Bay. We hope to soak up a bit of sun here, but the the small beach is already in shade as the cliffs loom claustrophobically over the bay. I dangle my feet over the sea from the wall for a while before we decide to head back towards Mgarr and the ferry. Again, our timing is impeccable to catch the ferry, even having to pay our passage this time round (you only pay Gozo-Malta, not the other way round) and we start thinking about where we can head for sunset.

Dwejra, Gozo, Malta, Azure Window
The site of the Azure Window at Dwejra

Ghajn Tuffieha is about 20 minutes from Cirkewwa, even more when your GPS insists on a short cut which takes us round in a circle after we politely refuse to follow its directions down a one-way road. But eventually we park up and enjoy a pretty spectacle at one of Malta’s top sunset spots. We break out the pastizzi to celebrate.

Sunset over sea, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Malta
Sunset at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

We drive back towards Bugibba hoping to catch the second half of the England v Belgium match. It’s a quick drink at L’Ostricaio before heading back home after a long day. Which is where it all gets a little odd. Firstly, there is nowhere to park outside George’s which frustrates Mr Fletche no end. Finally, after tucking in as close to a wall as possible, we walk back to the guesthouse, only to find around 60 men in the pool area having some kind of gathering. There’s a bar in the corner where there had never been a bar before. George and some of the guests are watching Love Island in the lounge, unperturbed by the shindig outside. We’ve barely seen a soul here for two days and suddenly it’s party central? The pile of kittens are nowhere to be seen. We slink up to bed feeling a little confused about our accommodation… I keep reminding myself it was only £440 for the week…

What carnage will await us when we go down for breakfast in the morning? Will there be bodies floating on unicorn lilos in the pool? A Maltese man passed out on a sunbed, with seven cats for company? Keep reading to find out 😆

Visiting Gozo; Malta Travel Diaries

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