It’s overcast when we wake up on Saturday morning, although we soon feel the increased humidity when we step outside. Alfred was right: when he rescued us on Wednesday he told us that the wind was due to change, bringing a different climate. Not only was he our white knight, it turns out he was a pretty good weather forecaster too.
We’re making our way south today towards the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. This is the village that’s on the front of every guide book, colourful luzzu fishing boats popping brightly in front of a cloudless azure blue sky. So when we pull up in a handy harbourfront parking spot we’re a little disappointed to discover that the sky is more of a blank white canvas and the sunshine is struggling to do any more than weakly poke through the clouds.
It’s still wonderfully picturesque though, and we spend some time wandering along the promenade, watching fisherman at work (the fisherman equivalent of workplace admin appears to be the hours spent repairing their nets), admiring the crafts at the waterside market and perusing the menus of the many seafood restaurants advertising their catch of the day. Marsaxlokk has more than enough beautiful doors, windows and building facades for Mr Fletche to photograph, making up for the lack of “the right light” over the water. I’ve learned about the importance of “the right light” over my years as a photographers wife.
The temperature is rising. As we’re surrounded by water, we decide the sensible thing to do is to take a boat trip. We hop in the car for the 20 minute drive over to the Blue Grotto. Located at Wied iz-Zurrieq, the Grotto is a series of caves and caverns made famous by it’s beautiful crystal clear waters which reflect green and blue when the sunlight bounces off the pure white sand below. The only way to see this phenomenon is by boat, and it’s a 25 minute cruise around this chain of caves with names such as Cat’s Cave, Honeymoon Cave, and Reflection Cave.
I’m seated at the rear in front of the boatman. He insists on dunking my hand in the water whenever we get to a sparkling, shimmery pool of water. Although the colours on my hand are very pretty, I fear for the increasingly loose wedding and engagement rings on my immersed left hand. The Atlantic Ocean has already tried to swallow my engagement ring once before. My hand emerges, with slightly shrivelled fingertips, but jewellery intact. It’s a fun trip, and at less than €10,00 each it’s an inexpensive way to see one of Malta’s gems.
We have a light ftira lunch at one of the alfresco cafes lining the way from the inlet to the car park. We fancy finding somewhere to relax for a couple of hours – and I’m finally ready to take a dip in the sea – so we head back through Marsaxlokk and over to St Peter’s Pool. It’s not the easiest place to drive to. We follow a twisty turning narrow road, praying to St Peter himself that we don’t meet a car coming the other way. We fall for the lazily handwritten sign on a wall which says “St Peter’s Pool parking this way”. The roads get narrower and twistier until we’re in the “car park”. This is local enterprise at its best as we pay €2,00 for the privilege.
After handing over our cash, we find ourselves on a cliff edge overlooking the pool. And it’s beautiful. And surprisingly busy considering the remote location and “challenging” access roads. We carefully pick our way down the crumbling limestone cliff. There are flat(ish) rocks all around the crystal clear pool, so we step over bodies until we find a spot to claim for ourselves. Adventurous types dive from the cliff into the clear azure waters. I take a more sedate entry into the water via natural steps and one of the access ladders. The water is freezing. Not Krka in Croatia freezing but freezing enough to set my teeth chattering nonetheless. Mr Fletche sensibly decides to watch from afar.
It’s time to head back to George’s for dinner. One of the reasons this slightly odd guesthouse gets such good reviews is on the strength of our host himself and his culinary skills. The conversation with George went something like this:
Us: George, is there any chance you could cook for us on Saturday night
George: Of course, what would you like?
Us: Er, what’s on offer?
George: Meat. Or Seafood.
Us: Er, meat please
George: Okay, I’ll cook you all the meat. And some grilled veggies too. Do you have big appetites?
Us (looking nervously at each other): Er no, not really
George (looks disappointed)
Whilst we’re getting ready for dinner we hear a pounding coming from the kitchen. Either Maria (not her real name) is throwing a tantrum or George is tenderizing the hell out of some unspecified meat. At least we haven’t had to select our own from the bunny farm across the road.
There’s no party at George’s tonight – or anyone else around at all apart from the kittens – so it’s dinner a deux out on the terrace. We’re offered wine or beer, and George’s helpful assistant brings out the largest platter of meat known to mankind. I’m very glad we didn’t say we had big appetites. There is pork in a creamy garlic sauce. A huge traditional Maltese sausage. And a slab of steak, ridiculously tender but a little too on the bloody side for my liking. There’s also an accompanying giant platter of grilled vegetables, sauteed baby potatoes and asparagus wrapped in pancetta. The kittens curl around our legs in anticipation.
We make a decent dent in the meat pile but there is little chance of us clearing the plate to George’s helpful assistant’s dismay. We have ice cream with sprinkles for dessert, which is how all good meat-heavy meals should end.
We’re in the middle of nowhere stuffed to the gills with meat, but we’ve replenished the wardrobe with red wine so it’s an early night for us. Tomorrow we’re off to the cities of Rabat and Mdina!