29.01.2013 - 29.01.2013 14 °C
Muriel and I started the day with a morning walk around one side of the Xlendi Bay. The walkway starts below our apartment and runs along the inner inlet and then crosses a small gorge over what is probably a 400 year old foot bridge to a small fortress on the bay called Xlendi Tower. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds thus continually changing the appearance of the landscape. We just can’t get over the unique beauty of this place and the fact that we have it mostly to ourselves save for a few locals busy renovating apartments and businesses in anticipation of the tourist season.
During our walk we saw numerous rectangular indents in the soft rock below the tower –undoubtedly they were human constructs. I suspected that they were shallow ponds for making salt and a bit of research revealed that I was correct. What was interesting was that such a freely available resource such as sea salt was monopolized by the Hospitaler Knights to provide income. If you want to know more I came across this site.
Abby once again is not feeling 100 percent. She has developed a head cold that we are sure is going to be shared around the family before long. We had established a rule at the beginning of the trip that no one was required to go on any outings if they didn’t feel like it. Abby exercised this option while the rest of us set off for a few hours of leisurely exploration. Gozo is quite small so it doesn’t take too long to get anywhere although it does involve and negotiating a labyrinth of roads that wind through numerous villages. The secondary roads are often more patch than pavement and at times the potholes outnumber the patches. We were looking to go for a walk along some cliffs that overlook the islands of Comino and Malta. We found a dirt road that led us to an ancient landscape of stone walls abandoned fields and roads and the outlines of numerous dwellings. It felt almost eerie walking through an area that was once fully utilized and then universally abandoned seemingly all at once. At one time Gozo must have been much more intensely used for the raising of domesticated animals but now huge tracks of land are returning to the wild. The rocky landscape produces only a meagre amount of grass at best so it is not surprising that modern Gozitans have chosen to more intensively farm the truly fertile areas of the island.
It was fairly blustery so we kept our hike short in case a down pour should strike. The little dirt there is in this area instantly turns into cement like substance once it gets wet. In no time you are a few centimeters taller due to the accumulation of sticky mud on the bottom of your shoes.
After our cliff walk, we headed off to town of Marsalforn, which has the largest amount of tourist accommodation on the island and has possesses a few hundred meters of sandy beach which is a rare sight on Malta. Much like Xlendi, the town was largely abandoned with most shops and restaurants closed or undergoing renovation. The winter seas crashed waves over the waterfront road and a fairly sizeable amount of sand had been deposited on the patios of the closed restaurants. As in Xlendi there were a number of businesses in danger of flooding due to the waves and had small dykes of sand and boards built in front of their doorways to keep the seawater out. I guess the number one business principle of location, location, location makes the costs associated with annual flooding and the related repairs worth bearing.
Our visit to Marsalfron confirmed that we had located ourselves in the best town in Gozo and that winter was really the best season to be here. We can see that summer crowds competing for limited beach space would not be our scene.
On our way to Marsalfron we stopped to hike up to the Monument of Christ. It is like a mini Christ the Redeemer statue from Rio, Brazil. It looks the work of one church or even a farmer. On Gozo any hill can quite quickly give you a great view. This deceptively small hill gives a ripping view of the entire area and the wind blowing at the top is at near gale force. The statue itself is a bit disappointing being made of fibreglass but from far away it does add interest to the surrounding countryside.
This evening we had made plans for a very rare dinner out. Even though Abby was not feeling her best, she could not pass on a culinary fieldtrip. Travelling as a family on a budget has meant trading off on experiencing local cuisine. However, tonight we went all out trying to address this deficit. Our research told us the Boathouse Restaurant was the top restaurant to visit in Xlendi in the winter. It is right on the waterfront and we have noticed over the weekend it was packed throughout the day which we took as a very good sign. Fortunatley, a weekday evening in the winter saw many tables available and waiters quite ready and willing to be attentive to our needs.
A few of our readers may not be too pleased with some of the dining choices made by Muriel and me. We apologize in advance but really have no regrets. We wanted to eat Gozitan specialties. Muriel ordered a traditional Gozitan fish soup (Aljotta) and I ordered a deep fried pepper cheese (Ġbejna) served on top of a salad as our appetizers—both were absolutely delicious. Abby had French onion soup and Hannah a prawn bisque which both had a Maltese twist as they were very thick soups. Abby enjoyed hers while the consistency of Hannah’s along with its pungency required an acquired taste. All of our appetizers fully revealed that Maltese restaurants serve incredibly large portions of food.
For our main course, Muriel and I wanted to eat the number one meat on Malta; rabbit. Muriel had rabbit spaghetti, which is quite popular, and I had pan fried rabbit in a dark brown sauce of red wine, cinnamon and cream. When my plate arrived it appeared I was being served nearly an entire rabbit. With apologies to the Easter Bunny, Beatrix Potter fans and all pets named Fluffy, Muriel and I enjoyed our meals immensely. Abby steered clear of anything that hopped and had a savoury crepe stuffed with chicken and mushrooms which was equally delicious. Hannah decided to go with the Sicilian connection that Malta enjoys and ordered a seafood risotto. This dish came loaded with mussels, squid and octopus. It was the octopus that Hannah felt she needed to develop more of a palate for. All-in-all it was the best restaurant meal we have had since coming to Europe and for a higher-end restaurant it was great value.
With stuffed bellies we waddled home to enjoy the night view from our balcony. The ache we felt looking down on Xlendi wasn’t from our stomachs as much as from the thoughts that we were leaving this wonderful location in the morning.