A busy day today! It was cloudy but warm when we woke up with the forecast predicted to be sunny. We met Stuart in the lobby at 0830 and headed off for our dive which was to be at Popeye’s Village. When we got there, the swell was still quite large so we drove up to Cirkewwa and it was the same there. Decided to delay diving to the afternoon and go to Qawra Point on the east coast of the island. Instead, we would go to Marsaxlokk Market this morning for a shop fuddle and lunch.
A quick call to Fi, back to the hotel and 15 minutes later we were on our way again, heading south to Marsaxlokk. The sun was out by now and it was a really warm day. Lovely to see the blue skies.
Marsaxlokk is a very picturesque fishing village, with lots of very colourful small fishing boats moored up in the harbour. It is still the largest fishing harbour on the island and the majority of fish eaten in Malta are landed there. There is a daily fish market but on a Sunday the market extends to stalls of every kind and runs the entire length of the bay. It is always very popular and crowded with locals as well as tourists. On the other side of the road, the harbour front is lined with fish tavernas and it’s a great place to go for lunch.
We managed to park right on the harbour side and we then walked through the market, browsing the stalls. The fish looked amazing. Most of the stalls are generalised tourist tat but there were some good ones, nice jewellery, local cheeses…. The town is just so attractive.
Once we’d seen all the stalls, we found a likely taverna and perched down in it. It was barely midday, and we were diving later so a full on fish lunch wasn’t really a good idea. Sadly. Stuart and I had shrimp omelettes which were lovely. Bob had tomato and cheese bruschetta and Fi had a ham and cheese toastie. We had coffees and three large bottles of sparkling water. Came to about 10 euro each.
We then drove back up the coast to Qawra Point for our dive. Managed to park right down on the little promontory and got kitted up. This was our shake down dive to get used to diving with our own kit again. It’s been two years since I’ve used anything but rental kit so it was so nice to have my own jacket on again. It was calm at the point but there was a swell, we just thought…. oh well….. and went in. There was a lot of surge in the shallow water and we had to swim over the wall of the natural swimming pool to get out into the open water. That took a bit of timing with the surge. Bob mistimed and had a nice bump and drag along the rocks!
We then headed along the promontory keeping it to our right. Our intention was to just explore that side, but we ended up swimming to the end and then made the decision to go on around, rather than face the “over the wall” challenge again. Quite interesting rocky topography, with little canyons and arches. Lots of fish- big schools of them, some octopi, a moray eel, jelly fish, nudibranchs, sponges, starfish…. It was a really long dive and a long swim to get all the way around the headland and to the exit point. We had about 30 bar at the end but frankly, we could have surface swum once we got around the point and into the sheltered bay, if we’d had to. But we were ok. We sort of underwater surfed with the swell back along. I found some shotgun cases. Must have been in over an hour at least. Fi was glad to see us back!
And I know you will have been as anxious as I was to know how my shortie wetsuit performed!!!!! It was absolutely fine. The water is really warm and I wasn’t cold for an instant. I daresay the water on our deeper dives will be colder but I feel confident that it is going to be ok and I don’t need to hire another. Phew….
So, a good shakedown. Got our kit comfortable, our weights sorted and all ready for more challenging dives later in the week. Felt pretty good in the water despite the long swim. It will do me good.
Tonight we went out for dinner to a lovely little place in St Paul’s Bay called Trattoria a Lanterna
Quite small and very Italian, to be strictly accurate, Ligurian. The food was quite reasonable and very authentic, rather unusual. Sadly my diet precluded eating quite a lot of utterly delicious sounding things. And the wine was very cheap too, most bottles around the £10 or £12 mark. It’s one of the things we have noticed about Malta, how cheap the wine in restaurants is compared to the UK. There must be absolutely zero tax.
So, to start, I had a monster plate of charcuterie which was delicious. Bob had a thick vegetable soup, Stuart had octopus cooked with tomato and herbs and potatoes, Fi had roasted vegetables stuffed with a herb mashed potato. Oh, yes, there were two plates of different focaccia served while we looked at the menus. I didn’t have any of that either 😦 For main, I had squid cooked with spinach and peas, as did Stuart. Bob had mushroom tagliatelle and Fi had ravioli stuffed with something and served in a tomato sauce. The squid and pea creation was delicious, almost a stew but stacked into a dome. Just yummy. Stuart and Fi had a bottle of wine, Bob had two beers, I had a major bottle of sparkling water. We had double espressos. They brought us free limoncellos and glasses of fruit and nut mix. All in all, with service, it came to 120 euro, not bad for all we ate. A good little gem of a place.