March 5th, 2010

Tea-drinker par excellence

Rabbit Wednesday

One of the restauarants next to the hotel, the other side from McDonalds and Wagamama, has a sign in the window saying ¨Rabbit Wednesday¨and it wasn´t clear whether it was the food on offer or dress code for the patrons. In any case, yesterday was Thursday and we went to San Guiliano, a very good Italian restaurant in the old gate house to the Spinola manor which overlooks this bay. For starters, chilledchimp had creamy buffalo mozarella with rocket and cherry tomatoes and I had beef capaccio. The mozarella was the best I´ve tasted and the carpaccio very meaty with some parmesan shavings as a counterpoint and a balsamic vinegar dressing. Her main was medallions of pork in massalla sauce and mine was rabbit cooked in red wine, rosemary and pine nuts. The rabbit was cooked slowly and almost fell of the bone, the sauce was rich but didn´t overpower the fine flavour of the rabbit. Pudding was tarte tatin. The ambiance was cheery and the staff excellent, inobtrusive but attentive without being obsequious, all round a very good meal.

When we´d recovered this morning we decided not to go Gozo because wed got up rather late and all though not very far, it would have meant a few hours on buses either way. So instead we went to the Ghar Dalam cave on the east coast. Above this is a small museum. One side is pure Victorian Horniman with rows of cases with bones recovered from the caves, bears, otters, pygmy hippo and elephant. The other side is more modern and has a geological and zoological history of Malta, as well as a couple of paintings that were shown at the British Empire Exhibition in 1954. The main paleontologist on the site was called Giuseppe Despott and he found some of the most significant finds in Malta.

The cave itself is about 150m long and about 15 wide. It goes straight into the side of the hill and as you come to the entrance, there is a sign saying ¨Just ignore the Earth Bees, they are harmless¨. Nothing was said about the Venusian Death Bees but we went in anyway. The sound of buzzing was quite strong and it turned out that the bees use the soft earth at the mouth of the cave for digging their nests. It´s not a big placce but is calm and charming and on the way back to the museum we saw a skink.

We then walked via Pretty Bay to Marsaxlokk, a fishing village. Pretty Bay is a gorgeous blue and green with another picturesque village at one end and an enormous container port at the other, possibly no longer deserving of its name. But we found a path between a castle now a fish research institute and a petrol plant that led along the cliffs with gorgeous views of the bay below.

Marsaxlokk is a working port with colourful fishing boats packed into the tiny bay or pulled up for repairs. The man in the museum said we should have Lampuki at the Carrubia but we shared a pizza at Mr Fitz next door. After a stroll around we caught bus back to Valletta and then the ferry the short ride across the bay to Sliema. It´s about twice as far as the Woolwich ferry goes but just a little 30´ motor launch but with much better views, Valletta, Manoel Island and the deep blue Med.

And that was it for today. We´ve had a really enjoyable holiday. There has been plenty to do and almost everyone has been very friendly. The hotel was good, and the food has been too. Public transport has been great 11 euros for 5 days is excellent value and the buses pretty much run on time. The only strageness was the driver this morning who seemed to be on speed. He was chewing his nails to the extent that he took his eyes off the road and his hands off the wheel, he was nervous and tried to race the other buses but his one was so old and cranky that it barely made it up the hill to the terminal.

But I´d certainly recommend it to anyone else.