The decision to spend part of our year-end vacation in Malta was not a result of a careful deliberation, but made more or less on a whim. Tei was reading news or doing some random browsing online, when she saw cheap flights advertized to Malta (something like 25 euros). After a quick search on Wikipedia about Malta and travel sites for flights, we booked Ryanair flights from Marseille to Malta for about 150 euros (with seat choices and check-in luggage).
We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Bugibba at St.Paul's Bay, Northern (or North-western) part of the main island.
It was rainy and windy when we arrived in Bugibba after a long bus ride from the airport --- it was not an airport shuttle but a regular bus service stopping in all possible villages on the way. The plus side was that we saw a lot of the island.
We had some problems finding to the apartment since once again the Google maps app that AirBnB is using had placed it at a wrong location on the map.
When we eventually had settled and gone through all the formalities withe the renting agency's representative (Lino was his name), such as checking the electric meter because we were supposed to pay for usage exceeding 25 kWh per day, we were very hungry. After a quick tour in the village center we found ourselves in Gastro pub Rusty Spoon for a couple of beers and nachos.
The adventure of the night was to find a supermarket to do some shopping for dinner and breakfast. At this point it is good to note that one of the advantages of traveling in Malta is that everyone speaks English, which makes things quite easy. One could argue that it is also a curse since the country is crowded by rowdy British tourists even during the off-season (or specially then).
Anyway, even more of an adventure was to navigate back to the apartment on the streets with no street lights.
Malta's tourist office has created a number of walking routes around the main island. They offer quite a good overview of the country's natural environment and cultural/historical sites. The routes are relatively well marked, but a drawback of some of them is that they follow roads which may have quite a heavy traffic.
When we got back from the run, we noticed that water had been cut. A little later the electricity was cut. We tried to contact the owner but they got little advice or help to offer. They even pretended that they did not know about the works (which was not true since there were notices everywhere --- it was only now that we noticed them), and then claimed that they couldn't do anything, and "these things can happen anytime in Malta." They could have warned us of the construction, though.
The guy at the work site promised that the water will be back in ten minutes, but it was not back until hours later.
We contacted the tourist office to ask if any of the hotels offered day passes to their spa, and found one, San Antonio Hotel. The shower in their gym cost us 6 euros per person.
After the shower we walked along St.Paul's bay to Xemxija to check Is-Simar Nature Reserve, but it was closed that day. We continued to Xemxija Heritage Trail, an old Roman road.
Our trip to Valletta encountered the first obstacle when the bus driver tried to turn to this street. It was not a trivial task to turn the bus around on the narrow street and the tight intersection. Then we spent next hour and a half crawling in the slow moving traffic through the town of Mosta. It would not have been so painful if there hadn't been a dozen noisy British tourists in the bus.
Once in Valletta we skipped the tourists attractions, and just took a quick tour around the harbor before installing us before the TV at a seafood restaurant Bocci for lunch while watching sprint competitions in Davos.
Salina Bay salt pans. They had built a new paved pedestrian promenade by the bay, and installed information boards on salt collection and production in Malta along the way. We stopped to read each one.
Malta airport. Unfortunately, on too many trips the adventure has started at the baggage collection, and also this time. Our carry-on luggage was yellow-tagged, and when we were boarding we were asked to hand it over with just a simple question "Are there any valuables in it?" We said no since we did not know that sunglasses belonged to this category. When we picked the bag from the belt in Marseille, we did not check if everything was there, but noticed that Tomi's sunglasses were missing only when unpacking at home. Of course, Ryanair compensated nothing since we did not make the claim at the airport.
Beautiful Marseille in a miserable rain. If you ever visit Marseille, there is a nice vegetarian restaurant Cafe l'Ecomotive under these stairs on the left (where you see "FE"). Be aware that it is very popular, so be there just before the lunch time. Despite having a rush of clients at midday, they have a policy that you can spend as much time there as you wish.
This concludes our one-week trip to Malta, which we were not too impressed about.