Malta actually consists of three islands, although confusingly one of these islands is called Malta. While we stayed on the island of Malta, we did take day trips to the other two islands, Gozo and Comino.
We opt to spend a day driving around the island of Gozo. It’s a slow start since as soon as we turn the car on a red warning light starts flashing. We’re renting through goldcar, which while cheap, appears to be one of the dodgier car rental places around. After a quick call to the company, who assure us that red flashing lights are to be ignored (I’m sure that’s what your maintenance manual at home says too), we set off.
The car ferry to Gozo is quick and as we begin our drive on the island, we spot an imposing looking church that we decide is worth a visit. It turns out we were in Xewkija, at the church of St John the Baptist (sometimes also called the Rotunda of Xewkija). It’s actually a modern church and is possible to take a lift to the rooftop for views of the entire island, although there is a suggested donation. Unfortunately we put our donation in while no one is looking, leaving us in a very Seinfeld-esque situation, discussing whether we should remove our donation and replace it while someone is looking. Alas we decided not to, and instead probably just appeared as though we didn’t pay.
Our next stop is at the Ggantija temples, the largest of the megalithic temple found in the Maltese islands. They’re dated back somewhere between 3600 to 3000BC, but the oldness means you’re mostly looking at piles of rubble. Perhaps the coolest part is the old graffiti from past tourists, many hundreds of years ago. It’s a strange thing to find cool, since I hate when currently alive people graffiti tourist attractions.
It’s time for lunch, so after a quick wander through Victoria, we find a cafe with a rooftop terrace up three perilous flights of stairs. The waitress immediately falls in love with our godson (who is completely irresistible, so you can hardly blame her), showing him off to her builder boyfriend who just so happened to be working on the rooftop next door restoring the Cathedral of the Assumption. Oh the joys of having your partner watch you work all day.
After a long, leisurely lunch filled with rabbit stew, beer and amazing views, we set off for the beach. For some reason we keep forgetting that the water is freezing, but we do manage a quick dip. Above the beach at Ramla bay is one of many caves which is thought to have been the cave from Homer’s Odyssey. There are many sites which claim to be calypso’s cave, and perhaps this cave may well be the cave, but from the ground it looks like a rather uninspiring hole.
We end our tour of Gozo with a short boat ride at Dwejra, where you can see the Azure window, the arch where khalesi and drogo were married (yes, more game of thrones locations, they’re inescapable in Malta). For a few euros a fisherman will take you through a tunnel to see the inland sea and fungus rock. It’s only a short ride, and our captain sticks to a well rehearsed script (in fact when someone asks him a question he forgets his place and repeats a few lines), but it was a very pleasant end to our day and is one of the highlights of our trip.
The main attraction on the island of Comino is the blue lagoon – an actual sandy beach-like spot in Malta! We arrived by an early ferry, which meant we had the place almost to ourselves. With each subsequent ferry arrival the place slowly grows crowded. Unfortunately the water here is freezing as well, and contains jellyfish. Myles and Russ had a great morning fishing for jellyfish with their thongs, and impressing the crowds of children who’d gathered to watch/reap jellyfish trophies as a reward. The rest of us stood at the edge of the water pointing out jellyfish, while wishing that there were both less jellyfish and warmer water to swim in.
Jellyfish, crowds and cold water aside, it is a beautiful spot and certainly worth a day out.