gozo, malta

In the middle of our Christmas and New Year’s trip around Europe, we took a week to rest and relax a bit beside the sea. My grandparents generously allowed us to use their timeshare, and we picked a beautiful resort on Malta. The timing was perfect – we were there over New Year’s and our 3rd wedding anniversary, and it was a great way to recharge in the middle of our busy three weeks away from Madrid. While we were in Malta, we spent about half of our days around the resort – exploring the area by foot or just hanging out, and we spent the other half of the days doing day trips around the island.

Our first, and most anticipated, day trip was to the nearby island of Gozo. We took a couple of buses from our resort to the ferry terminal, and then a 25-minute ferry over to Gozo. The bus system on Malta, while inexpensive (we paid 21 euros for a card that allowed us to use it as much as we wanted for seven days, on both Gozo and Malta), was a bit frustrating at times. We would show up for a bus that was supposed to come at a certain time, and then find out that it had come early, or it would come 30 minutes late, or occasionally, not at all. Once we figured out this was just how the buses ran on Malta, though, we never used them when we needed to be somewhere at a specific time (i.e. the airport), and were just prepared to wait and be flexible. Most of the time, the bus stops were beautiful – we’re pretty sure we’ve never waited at prettier bus stops – so sometimes we took pictures, or just looked around, but mostly we stood vigilantly, because if you didn’t flag down the bus, it wouldn’t stop for you.  For example, this is the view across the street from one of the bus stops we transferred at frequently, St. Paul's Bay...

Back to the ferry, though. It was a short, albeit windy, ride over. We mostly stood outside, watching the island get closer. We took a bus to Victoria, the capital of Gozo and the place where most buses start and stop on the island, and ate our PB & J’s there while we waited about an hour for a bus to take us to the Azure Window (on Gozo the buses seem to actually run on time!).

The Azure Window is a limestone arch that was created after two sea caves collapsed, and today it's very popular with scuba divers.  The weather while we were there was mostly cloudy and windy, but it couldn’t take away from the beauty of the sea and the Azure Window.

Very nearby to where the bus drops people tourists off to the see the Azure Window, there’s a cove and a small fishing village that surrounds it. Some of the fishermen, it seems, have decided to capitalize on the proximity of the village to the hordes of tourists (especially in the summer, I’m sure) that come in on buses all day long to see the Azure Window and offer 15-minute boat rides from the cove, along the cliffs, and out to get a closer look at the Azure Window for only four euros. The boats are small – only about eight people can fit in them – but the rides seem to be quite popular. People were quite willing to part with their euros for a closer look at the Azure Window...I mean, even we were convinced.

After our boat ride, we went to a different part of the rocks, found a semi-comfy spot (I mean, we were sitting on rocks after all) and played Farkle. Definitely the most scenic place we’ve ever played.

Once our game was over, we tried to catch the bus back to Victoria so we could make our way back to the ferry, but we missed it by about three minutes, and confirmed with someone nearby that, yes, the bus had just left. We decided to explore the area closer to Azure Window a little bit more, and almost immediately we were glad we missed the bus. I think it ended up being our favorite hour of the day.

We took the bus back into Victoria and walked around a little before we took another bus back to the ferry.  Because we were a little isolated from the towns of Malta due to our resort's location, walking around was always so interesting for us.  Don't get me wrong - our location along the sea was a big part of why we loved our time on Malta - but it made our time in town extra fun because we weren't always there.  (The first picture below?  That's the police station in Victoria!)

We also explored the citadel a little bit before the bus came, and it was a beautiful time of day for it.  We enjoyed the views of Victoria and the island, as well as the setting sun.  It was a perfect way to end our day on Gozo, and really, 2015.  After all, it was New Year's Eve!

We took the bus and ferry back to the main island of Malta, and called it a day.  We had a great time on Gozo, saw some really gorgeous scenery.  It was one of my very favorite days of our trip, and perhaps my favorite day we spent in Malta.  It definitely made us want to return to Malta in the summer, as we were dreaming just a little of jumping into the water and swimming around, and soaking in the natural pool in front of the Azure Window that we saw when we missed the bus.  But of course, we also enjoyed the benefits of the off-season, as we didn't fight the crowds that I've read plague the area in the summer months.  I would not hesitate to recommend a trip to Gozo to anyone visiting Malta - I think the Azure Window is probably the most beautiful place on the island, in my opinion, and is worth the possible trouble involved with getting there.  Victoria is pretty nice too, and is worth a bit of time for wandering around and going up into the Citadel (after all, it's free!).

We celebrated New Year's that evening by watching some of the celebrations around the world on the BBC (the British influence still runs strong in Malta - just like that phone booth earlier in the post!) and when we found ourselves still up at 12:45, we decided to stay up and see if they showed anything in London.  Sure enough, they showed the fireworks over the Thames, London Eye, and Big Ben, and WOW.  We weren't even there in person and I'm pretty sure it was the best fireworks show we've ever seen.  If London wasn't consistently so cold and dark at that time of year, perhaps we could start dreaming of going there next year for New Year's...I think I'd be just as happy with another Maltese New Year's!  Our resort also shot off some firecrackers and there were some fireworks over the bay - it was a beautiful way to bring in 2016.