Harbour Cruise in Sliema and Valletta
Travelogue with photos from Malta. Tuesday October 11th 2005
Today we'll go on a harbour cruise. On our way towards The Strand we see businessmen have a standing breakfast outside a small grocery, and a middle-aged woman in a lilac skirt pushes cat-breakfast and water through the bars of a big iron gate. The city is waking up.
Shops have hardly opened yet and we get an espresso in one of the cafés, where people relax with coffee, rolls and newspapers while the traffic rushes by to catch whatever it needs to catch.
On the quay two hopeful girls ask if we would like a harbour cruise. Well, it was the plan so we say "Yes", pay the 9 Lm and sit down on a bench, waiting. Below us sits an old angler and from time to time he throws bread into the water. His partner is cleaning a sardine-sized fish.
The ship docks, but we are asked to go to the sister ship instead. We settle on the fore deck and wait. We and two other couples are the only passengers. Departure is postponed from 10.15 to 10.40, but they don't get more customers.
We cruise the impressive Grand Harbour with all its creeks, and a tape-recorded guide explains in metallic English, German and French. As we pass Valletta's point with fort Elmo we rock and roll.
The trip lasts for an hour and forty minutes and it is refreshing to be on the sea even though the sun stings. Only the German voice suggests a tip for the captain, so it is a nay with a two to one vote.
Lunch at Tony's Bar
The sea air has induced an appetite and we have lunch at Tony's Bar (since 1922) on The Strand. By the way Tony's has an impressive cocktail list, and I notice one that breaks the usual pattern:
"Concrete: a little bit of every bottle served in a pint glass".
We make for our side of Sliema. It isn't far and by accident we walk too far before turning right - we are probably distracted by the dense traffic and fumes in the narrow street.
At the waterfront next to the playground is a small park-like area and we find our books and go into reading mode. Above us the traffic hums and below us the Med splashes gently.
The weather has been marvellous today, but it was also nice yesterday and the day before despite the scattered showers predicted by the weather forecast.
From time to time a smallish cloud has sneaked up and discarded a few drops, but has fled before you could unfold your umbrella. We stay on the bench with our books until the heat drives us home to a siesta at 3.
A bit past 5 we have coffee at The Mariner's Pub. There are some clouds now, but the wind has fallen and it is quite nice to sit on the balcony. At the hotel I checked the news on the Internet and read about the violent earthquake in Pakistan. The concrete boxes being built here do not look particularly earthquake proof.
Sliema's Best Restaurant?
Ee go home for a change of clothes. Torben has recommended a seafood restaurant - in fact he called it Sliema's best restaurant. The restaurant isn't far from The Strand, but first we want an aperitif.
The many tourists on this side make it difficult to find a vacant café-table in open air, but we manage. There are tourist children on two fronts. The parents ignore the children and consequently the kids exhibit uninhibited resourcefulness.
We are in the front zone of potentially flying forks, chips and cola, but miraculously avoid getting hit - even when the nearest kid turns a porcelain plate with chips and ketchup to shrapnel by throwing it onto the pavement.
Sliema Multi-Storey Car Park
High Street/Triq il Kbira
Tel: (+356) 21 319 209
Fax: (+356) 21 339 537
e-mail:ccp at onvol.net
Superb seafood restaurant. Meals are expensive by Maltese standards, but worth every cent. A meal of the same quality in Denmark would cost twice the amount.
After a strategic retreat at half past seven we find the Fumia restaurant on the roof of a multi-storey car park in Triq il Kbira (High Street), a side-road to Tower Road near The Strand.
As instructed by Torben we take the lift from the car park's ground floor to the 5th, walk across the dimly lit parking lots and onto the roof. A bit surreal you step into a garden and in a corner is a house: the restaurant. I doubt many tourists find their way to this hideout.
It is a top-notch place: Sicilian seafood restaurant with style and superb food and service. We find it a bit difficult to choose from the many specialities on the menu (there are many items we don't really know what is), so we order two pre-composed menus trusting potluck. However the young headwaiter says with a thick Italian accent that:
"Sorry, de menus are cantjellated"
and we have to find something else. Why didn't he say so the first time?
We order antipasti with different kinds of cold marinated seafood, and it is very very good. With regret Helle doesn't eat it all - there must be room for some of the main course.
For main course Helle gets grilled swordfish and I get 3 grilled squids on a bed of olive oil with lemon. Maybe swordfish and squid weren't the most adventurous, but we didn't want to ask a lot of questions. The dry Maltese Chardonnay (Marsovin) is perfect with the fish.
The young headwaiter is a super professional and has an eye on every finger and the new girl who is obviously being trained for the job. The other male servant is charming and smalltalks in (nothing but) Italian when he serves.
So when nature calls, and I cannot locate the proper facility, I find it natural to address him in Italian: "Mi scusi, dov'è il bagno?", I ask, and he replies with a smile: "Justa out-asaide and to the rright, Sir!".
More and more guests arrive - Maltese and Italians. Some are regulars, kiss the headwaiter's cheeks and send a "Ciao!" into the kitchen before they point to the fish they would like cooked. We, who were almost full after the starters, admire their appetite: dish after dish disappear effortlessly. One of the dishes is fish baked in a hard salt-dough, which the waiter cracks with a special hammer before he quickly cuts and serves the fish. It looks fancy. Two youngsters behind me systematically eat their way through a giant buffet of cold dishes.
We finish off with an espresso. Helle gets an Amaretto, while I get a Sicilian grappa, which is round and smooth and very good indeed. We are billed 28.5 Lm for the whole lot including salad and extras - very cheap considering the quality. A super place.
A few steps from the car park we see Torben's favourite hangout, The Menace, but a woman's shrill voice and the menacing music is no lure.