Day 08: Roaming Waterfront Towns

After waking up ready to put the Notte Bianca bus fiasco behind us, we readied ourselves to try and find some Maltese charm.  Our plan was to head to the seaside town of Marsaxlokk, which our guidebook said was a quaint and small fishing village that had a Sunday market.

This photo was taking as an example of the Maltese language (top line in black)

This photo was taking as an example of the Maltese language (top line in black)

Because it was Sunday, and because a lot of sights are closed on Sundays, it appeared we weren’t the only ones with this idea.  Once again we found the #12 and #13 buses to Valletta were packed full so it was a bit of a struggle to get onto one, but eventually we did.  And a bonus on that bus we finally got on was that this driver had the heat cranked in spite of the rather warm climate outside and the fact the bus was so full you couldn’t raise your arms above your head if you wanted, so I think we were able to drop 18 pounds each by the time we arrived in Valletta and had to transfer to the next bus.

Marsaxlokk park

Marsaxlokk park

According to my handy Arriva bus map we knew we’d need either the #81 or #85 to get to Marsaxlokk.  We were about to head to that departure bay when Jim noticed there was an X86 sitting there with the name “Marsaxlokk” on the front.  After carefully checking all the letters to make sure it matched up with the same place we wanted to go (the Maltese language is a tongue twister) we decided we had a winner and got on.  And since there is no such thing as an X86 listed anywhere on Arriva’s own transit map handout we called it the Phantom Bus and weren’t sure if we’d disappear into a cloud somewhere.

Traditional luzzu fishing boat

Traditional luzzu fishing boat

After a 30 minute ride we arrived to Marsaxlokk, and I think quaint is a word I’d consider using were it not for, you know, all the garbage strewn about everywhere.  But there it was, this fishing town complete with a robust market selling a little bit of everything.  If you needed underwear, scales, shoes, silverware, fish, African art, pots, light bulbs, a pillow, jackets, belts, or a slip, then you were in luck big time.  We roamed around and admired the colorful and traditional luzzu fishing boats in the harbor before making our mid-morning coffee stop.

Valletta church during the day.  The buildings are pretty impressive and shine against the sun.

Valletta church during the day. The buildings are pretty impressive and shine against the sun.

Once energized, we caught the X86 Phantom Bus back to Valletta to see what it looked like in the daytime.  We started with the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offers a pretty good vista over the Grand Harbor and across to what are called the “Three Cities,” Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua.  Next we wove our way up and down the quiet streets (given much was closed on Sunday) before heading down to the waterfront to take the 10 minute ferry across the harbor to the next town north, Sliema (€1.50/each).

Valletta from the water

Valletta from the water

Upon disembarking the ferry we found a man who sold tickets for tours around various parts of the Malta, and since we were interested in going to Gozo at some point (another island in the Malta archipelago) we stopped and inquired what kind of services they offered.  It turns out his company, City Sightseeing, also offered Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus tours around Malta that would take you to several points we were interested in visiting.  Normally we are not the HOHO types, as we generally stick to public transit, but the prospect of riding around on an open air transport instead of Malta’s bus version of the Sardinia Can was compelling enough for us to purchase a couple tickets (€15/each for a one-day pass).  The ticket price also included a harbor boat cruise, and since we like harbors and boats it was a no brainer.  We were now officially HOHOs.  It was about time.

Even though it was late afternoon by this point and we were waning of energy, we wanted to take a stroll along the waterfront so we continued walking north from Sliema, around a fancy ‘hood called Tigne Point, and toward St. Julian’s.  Eventually we succumbed to our weary legs, got on a bus back to our well-used Ross stop, and back to the sanctuary of our room.  We were both pooped and not all that jazzed about rallying for dinner, so we did what only grown adults can do, we watched TV, went and had gelato for dinner, and then came home to watch a little more TV and fall asleep.  Neither one of us slept very well, which is probably why grown adults don’t let their children have gelato for dinner.

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