30 January 2013
As I write this post, I’m currently floating above my chair, with only a few square inches of my posterior making contact with the seat cushion. The rest of my body is suspended, touching nothing but the warm air.
Why am I balancing like a man who doesn’t understand how to use a chair? Because I’m English and I was on holiday, that’s why. And now, my skin, tomato red and stretched like a snare drum, cannot come in contact with any other surface or I’ll scream. It’s not the excruciating pain that I fear though. You see, if I scream, my wife will know I’m in pain, and if she knows I’m in pain, then her insistence that I put on sunblock and ‘not be a complete idiot for once’ will be vindicated.
So how was Gozo you ask? We had a great time, despite my determination to barbecue my own flesh. A short trip of four days was enough for us to experience most of what Gozo has to offer.
We started by catching the ferry from the Cirkewwa Terminal in Malta. Then it’s a short 20 minute trip aboard a ferry boat that has an inordinately well stocked snack bar for such a short journey. ‘That’s ridiculous,’ I thought as I looked around at all the people munching. ‘Can’t people spend a short 20 minutes without buying food?’
As I sat down at my table and unloaded my 3 packets of crisps, I realised that seafaring is hard work, and pirates must have been eating all the time. Susan, on the other hand, the picture of restraint, lectured me on the dangers of excess salt, and then proceeded to pour an entire bag of M&Ms into her mouth as if she’d just been poisoned and they were the antidote.
It’s a short journey, but what a wonderful start – we passed Comino with its beautiful castle, and even stepped out onto the deck to feel the sea breeze on my face and where my hair used to be. Then, the boat drifted into Mgarr harbour – as quaint and picturesque as it gets. We passed through the modern terminal, picked up our rental car and headed to our farmhouse in Ghasri.
It took us a while to find the place, but wandering around the quaint streets of this beautiful village was part of the adventure. We walked through the central square with its imposing church and asked one of the villagers about the street name. It turns out he knew the owner and kindly walked us to the front door. We opened the door, unloaded our belongings and went for a swim to Ramla l-Ħamra – it’s arguably the most beautiful beach in all of Malta and Gozo. It’s flanked by cliffs and fields, and behind the bay are sand dunes and a narrow winding road. But as beautiful as the beach was, with its crystalline waters and well-provisioned snack bars, it will remain the scene of the start of my epidermal nightmare. Susan offered to rub sunblock on me, but as soon as the deckchairs opened, I was snoring, and so began the crisping of my skin – Peking Duck style.
In the evening, we headed for a wine bar in the capital Victoria and enjoyed a glass or two of local wine – not Maltese, but Gozitan wine. Nice stuff, and it put us both in a holiday mood, so we decided to go for a romantic walk. As soon as we turned the first corner, we were hopelessly lost. It’s apparently a talent I have – some people have a great sense of direction; my talent is the incredible ability to get lost in a very short amount of time. It didn’t matter really, because the narrow winding streets of the old part of Victoria are beautiful and romantic. I acted like this was part of my plan – she knew we were hopelessly lost – it’s a yin and yang thing.
The next day, Susan and I visited the Cittadella – a beautiful walled city perched atop Victoria. I parked in a lot near the buses thinking that the journey was a short one. It wasn’t. And while Susan applied sunblock to her exposed neck, face and arms, the ultraviolet onslaught continued with me. Cittadella is beautiful and highly recommended. It’s ramparts and defences are still impeccably preserved, and the streets are incredibly picturesque. We stopped at a small bar for lunch and feasted on a local speciality of fresh crusty bread, sun dried tomatoes, fresh goats’ cheese and olives. It’s simple fare, but incredibly delicious and satisfying.
That evening, we drove down to Xlendi for a bite to eat. It’s a tiny village at the bottom of a valley, right on the water’s edge. The setting is spectacular – enormous cliffs shelter the small sandy cove creating a dramatic frame around the dark blue sea. As we sat down for a pre-dinner drink, the sun set right in front of us in the middle of the bay. It wasn’t long before Susan noticed the staircase along the cliff face, presumably built by sadists to allow masochists access to the top of the cliff for what is presumably a better view. I saw her looking and knew what was coming.
(to be continued)