"Never too late" - text on a Maltese bus
I wake up at 6:25. The night sky is on retreat, because the sun is rising below the horizon. Energetic couples walk for exercise on the promenade; fast and with bent arms moving like pistons. A man walks his dog instead of his wife, and the tempo is relaxed with time to sniff and leave calling cards.
Today's destination is Marsascala, a small coastal town east of Valletta. We don't know much about it, but from time to time one should take a chance.
The bus from Valletta is an old Bedford. The young driver happily uses his powerful horn if the dense traffic doesn't move, and agile passengers are allowed to get on and off with the bus still moving. It is a half hour ride, and almost all the way the towns have merged into one.
The houses are not as elegant as in Sliema, and the stones seem rougher. The houses are uniform, but shops, workshops and flowerpots break the monotony. The bus struggles over the last hill, and then the sea is below and the horizon unbroken. Down to the right lies Marsascala.
We get off by the marina. Cities like this always grow from the harbour, unless pirates were once a plague. However there isn't much to look at, or maybe we just don't find it. The town is hardly awake yet.
A reddish blond woman with a cap and sneakers relax on a bench by the water. A boy is playing in a small playground. An English couple sits outside a café. He is drinking beer. It is quiet except for the cars that all seem to be leaving.
We go for a walk in the sleeping streets and look at house fronts and closed shutters before returning to the café. The Englishman has finished his beer. The place is called 'Summer Nights', but opens early none the less. There is shadow outside, and the espresso is good.
If there is anything of interest in this town it requires an effort to find it. Our choice is simple: we return and are in Valletta at 11.
Republic Street is teeming with people. We buy some postcards, but the girl doesn't sell stamps - we must go to the post office, she says. She puts my note into a scanner. I ask if it is to check for counterfeit, and it is.
Click to enlarge
At one of the stalls in Merchan Street Helle buys a fan, and we walk back to find the post office and buy stamps. We find it after having asked for directions two times, but the queue is so long that you can hardly get through the door, so we drop it immediately.
Going through the city gate I hear a voice saying: "Hi Eric!". It is a colleague who left the day after us. They are staying at Mellieha Holiday Centre and have just arrived to Valletta after an hour on the bus. We take a hot bus with plastic seats to The Strand and have an omelette at Tony's Bar. Time for siesta.
After a rest and a shower I settle on the balcony. Helle joins me. It says on the door that it should be closed because of the air condition. I find it hard to believe that this will have any impact on its ability to blow tepid air, but never the less Helle closes the door.
"Click", it says. The door is not just closed - it is locked. We are on the 5th floor. Maybe Spiderman could access the balcony from the outside, but he is an honest person, and anyway it is foolish that you can lock the door from the outside.
However reflections like that do not solve the present predicament. I look down. Two girls are on the pavement below and I yell: "Hello!" at the top of my voice. Bewildered the girls look sideways, and I shout again: "Up here!" and wave.
You don't go into descriptive details when you shout from the 5th floor trying to make yourself heard above the surf and traffic noise; but one of the girls is bright and understands the room number, because we are soon released by the boy who helps out in the restaurant. A good thing it didn't happen at night.
Afternoon in Sliema
As we leave I ask at the reception if they sell stamps. They don't, unless I buy a postcard, but if I turn the corner there is a shop. We turn the corner and walk for 200 metres. No shop. We return and turn yet another corner and true enough: a shop where they sell stamps.
We seek the shade of a parasol at the café across the street, but it is more out of habit because it is cloudy now. With the light breeze the temperature is very pleasant.
After the coffee we walk along Tower Road with the sea on our right. Many have had the same idea, and it is a mix of strolling couples like us, mothers with pushchairs, perspiring joggers and those who walk very fast with an MP3-player in the ear and a water bottle in the hand.
From the terrace at The Mariner's Pub we watch some families angling with long fishing rods from the pier. The only thing they pull out of the water is the boy, who jumps with a splash once in a while. Lights around the bay are switched on as the sun sets.
Dinner at Ponte Vecchio
Tonight's restaurant can be seen from our balcony. The clouds look heavy, and if it should begin to rain the restaurant is strategically well placed for a hasty retreat. It is called "Ponte Vecchio" like the famous bridge in Florence. We get a table outside. The service is very kind and professional.
The fish soup is tasty and creamy. The waiter recommends the house red wine made by the family. It is sunburnt, smooth and spicy with a hint of raisins or sherry in the aftertaste. Not much nose though.
As main course Helle has a chicken fillet with a lemon/butter sauce. I have a thick filletto grilled to perfection. With this mixed vegetables with a frozen past.
Eight Frenchmen ripe for pension are at the next table. They know how to enjoy food, life and being together. One of the gents has a formidable red nose. We are full to the brim and have no room for dessert. Instead we have espresso and grappa.
It begins to rain, and the staff gets busy moving tables and chairs. We are billed 20.75 £M, which is very reasonable. We cross the street quickly navigating between raindrops.
Tower Road, Sliema
Family-run restaurant with Maltese and Italian food. On the negative side is that the same dull deep frozen vegetable mix is served with all (or at least most) main courses. Guests are mostly tourists.
The third glass is awarded for the extremely kind service and the waitress who masters several languages (however not Danish).
Price level: medium to semi expensive in Malta.