Oh My My Malta, Part 2
Our last day in Malta was such a unique one that it deserves its own post.
Now that I'm sitting down to write this, I'm retrospectively amazed at myself for fitting all that we did into one day. To put our last day in Malta into context: we had to be at the airport at 6pm, so we packed the night before and woke up early to check out. Obviously we wanted to maximize our time as much as possible.
As per the advice of the hostel's wonderful reception staff, Madison and I walked a block or two to a locals-only coffee shop called Café Berry. Regulars waited outside, the baristas welcoming them by name and asking if they'd have their "usual". Despite being a literal hole in the wall, it was decorated beautifully and the food and drinks were crafted to absolute perfection. I ordered a pistachio latte (I mean, what the!!?? Who's ever heard of that!!?? It was mind blowing good, by the way) and cursed myself as we walked away for not discovering this place earlier on.
After much indecision the day before, Madison and I decided to do the northern island tour with the same hop-on hop-off bus company we used to see Mdina and Rabat. On our walk to the other side of Sliema, we passed a pastizzi place that our hostel staff had also recommended. As per my Malta food bucket list (yes, I have country-specific food bucket lists), I had to stop and order a pastizzi. Pastizzis are little triangle-like savory pastries. The flaky crust is similar to that of a pot pie, and the filling can either be ricotta cheese or mushed peas. I fought the urge to order two and opted for the mushed peas option while Madison went for the ricotta. We stuffed them in our packs and rushed onward to the bus station to buy our tickets.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, the tour bus was the ideal way to see all of the island at an affordable price. I played my "return customer" cards right and scored Madison and I a little discount on our tickets. Unfortunately, because the northern route covers more area than the southern one, the number of buses are fewer.... and the first bus departs earlier, so we missed it by a few minutes.
Our accidental timing blunder probably cost Madison and I the ability to squeeze one extra city into our itinerary, but our day was so perfect as it panned out that I have no complaints. That Friday shaped up to be a hot and bright one, so Madison and I instinctively retreated to the shade of a nearby open-air cafe while we waited for the next bus. We ordered smoothies and broke into our pastizzis. They were gone in seconds- Madison and I collectively agreed that those pastizzis were some of the best food we tasted in all of Malta, which is saying a TON because everything was so damn good.
Atop the tour bus, I found myself fighting rogue tree branches instead of the cold. For whatever reason, I was in the single seat that I mean just got mangled by mother nature. The whole bus was laughing at my continual misfortune- meanwhile, I was curling into Madison, praying the trees would spare me another stop. Still, the views from the top proved unbeatable.
Around 11, we rolled up to Marsaxlokk, which was our first city of the day. Snaked along the ocean's edge, Marsaxlokk is a picturesque little fishing village, brimming with life and bright colors. The town comes to life on Saturday mornings for the fish market, and while we were a day early to experience the market commotion, I was wholly captivated. Brightly colored boats of all shapes and sizes rocked on the water and fisherman worked diligently on the shoreline repairing and repainting their tiny vessels. Spiritually, I must have died and gone to travel heaven at least 20 times.
From what I gather, Marsaxlokk was once the hub for tourists. As the decades have passed, Marsaxlokk has been overlooked, with modern tourists flocking to St. Julians or Sliema instead. I have to say- Marsaxlokk exceeded my every expectation.
Our first order of business was scouting out a place to eat lunch. We afforded ourselves one splurge meal during our vacation, and figured Marsaxlokk would be the end all be all to our fancy dinning search. We sought out the advice of a woman manning the tourist information booth, and her recommendation did not disappoint. Just barely 11 am, Madison and I were the first customers at La Capana, which turned out to be best case scenario, as the placed filled up almost immediately.
Our table outside offered the perfect waterside views and just enough sunlight to bless me with a #sick sunburn. Our dining experience was one for the books- Madison indulged in a bottle of local Maltese wine, and I treated myself to lots of beer. We had fresh bread, olives and bruschetta brought to our table. Our waiter came around with a iced plate of fish for Madison to make a selection from, all of them freshly caught that morning. Of all the times I've ever sort of felt sad to be a vegetarian, this was one of them. I drowned my sorrows in a plate of freshly made pasta, and was so blown away with how delicious it was that I looked for something else to be sad about so I could order seconds. Alas, Marsaxlokk proved to be too perfect.
Time is but a construct in Marsaxlokk, as our meal took almost two hours. That meal went down in travel history- it was easily one of the best meals I've had abroad, and maybe even at home, too. We had a few moments before our bus came to explore the small market and take pictures. While we were waiting for our bus, Madison finished her bottle of wine on the go like the classy women we are and I picked up a figoli (another thing on my Malta food bucket list) and stuffed it in my pack for later. Figolis are famous Maltese almond pastries made around Easter time- and boy, they're famous for a reason.
Back aboard the bus, we worked on our sunburns some more and sadly, had forgo our plans to see The Golden Coast- a luxurious beach- in fear of not having enough time.
Our last stop was the Blue Grotto. It's not much of a town as it is phenomenal ocean outlet. The Blue Grotto's claim to fame is its ocean cave that boats can enter through an archway. Unfortunately, the waves were too rocky for boats to access the Grotto, so Madison and I didn't get to experience that. We did, however, score immaculate views from a nearby cliffside.
We walked down to the overlook, took some pics, and then scaled the side (very safely ;) ) to get an even better vantage point. Here, we found some A+ lounging rocks, and so we deepened our already pink sunburns to the sounds of my favorite Spotify playlist, which I'll link below. Had the water been less rough, we definitely would have hired a boat to go to the inside of the grotto. Oh well- always next time, right?
By the time our ride arrived, the sun had drained our energy and we were basically just lifeless bodies boarding the bus. The trip back to Sliema was bittersweet- no part of me was ready to leave Malta, but I was so thankful we had the opportunity to explore the country in as much depth as we did. We saw so much, yet there's still so much more I want to see. Malta, I'll be returning soon...
Here's a funny bonus story-
So we went to Brussels, Belgium for a day after we left Malta. It was legitimately so cold, I couldn't even take my hands out of my pockets to take pictures. I think I tried for like, all of two minutes, and then decided it was time to call it quits after I lost all mechanical function in my fingers. The cold made my eyes water, and I kid you not, I think my tears froze. Anyway- I hope you enjoy all 2.5 pictures I took in Brussels.
I won't be publishing a Brussels guide or a journal, because well, one, I have no pictures, and two, because I felt that there really wasn't that much to do in Brussels. Granted, yes, we did take shelter indoors in some of the most random and eclectic places for most of the day, but I don't feel like any of it was that notable. I guess the takeaway here is visit Brussels, eat waffles and buy lots of chocolate- but don't budget more than a day or so.
If you missed it, my Malta gallery has been posted. Also- those budget-friendly mini guides to Ireland and Malta are coming soon... be on the look out! In the meantime, blast this playlist and relive all my Malta memories with me!