Day 8 - Valetta Grand Harbour Cruise and Craft Village

Tuesday 20th May 2009

One final day in Malta and we did what most people would have done on their first day - take an 'orientation' boat trip around the Grand Harbour; in our case, though, there was little in the way of orientation, more a different view of places we'd already been to in the previous week. Just as with most other tourist spots in Malta, it was noticeably full of doddery grey-haired people (I spotted just one younger couple who stuck out like a sore thumb in comparison; I'd like to think that they were thinking the same about us, but perhaps we're not quite the spring chickens that we might like to think we are!).

Taken on the Captain Morgan's River Cruise around Valetta
Taken on the Captain Morgan's River Cruise around Valetta

The tour around the harbour and its various inlets and bays took just under 2 hours. The surprising part, for me at least, was that the industrial part of the harbour where they were refitting, refurbishing and generally getting things ship-shape was quite interesting. Perhaps it was a result of almost a week's worth of visiting old buildings and megalithic sites that the workings and scale of a dry dock ship re-fitting seemed like something a bit different and interesting.

Taken on the Captain Morgan's River Cruise around Valetta

After the boat trip we found ourselves once again on the now very familiar bus route into Valetta, possibly for the last time, though. After a quick bite to eat in the centre, we headed back out of the bus station bound for the craft village at Ta 'Qali. Our first trip out there hadn't been particularly successful - being as we'd arrived after all the shops had closed! - but on our final day on the island we had the opportunity to tick off some of the last items on the to-do list.

The guide books all said that the craft village buildings were nothing special, and they were dead right. The location was once an airbase and the people plying their crafty trades did so out of those semi-circular corrugated iron roofed huts that you see on air bases the world over. But, as the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, don't judge a craftsperson's work by the quality of their (admittedly cruddy) building!

Pottery, jewelry, ceramics, all the usual kind of stuff that you'd expect is here. We enjoyed the glass-blowing most though, particularly one place (there are a few glass-blowers on site) where the concept of health and safety seemed not to have arrived yet. There were a handful of men wandering around the workshop, carrying red/white hot globs of molten glass on the end of the blowing poles, wearing nothing in the way of protection apart from the thermal gloves they were holding the poles with; short-sleeved shirts and shorts and hot glass seemed like an accident waiting to happen, but the thought hadn't occurred to these guys, apparently! Still, none of them bore the telltale signs of clumsiness. One guy was so cool (an ironic turn of phrase, given the heat in that place) that he was turning the hot molten glass into a series of elephant shaped sculptures without removing the cigarette that was wedged firmly in his mouth.

Ta'Qali Craft Village

Once we'd had our fill of all this creativity, we took another bus journey to ... well, we weren't entirely sure. We had a good number of hours until we'd need to leave the hotel and head for the airport so we had something of a lucky dip. In all honesty, I can't remember what destination we were aiming for at the time but we ended up getting off at a place called Bugibba. Not too much to say about this place, other than it seemed like a good location for people holidaying with children as there were quite a lot of activities along the seafront (skate bowl, trampolines etc), but not much for us to see. With time ticking on and us having absolutely no idea what bus we should take next, we decided to instead to head back in the direction of the hotel rather than risk getting lost on the last day and missing the transfer to the hotel.

So, where did we go? Why, our old favourite the good restaurant Paparazzi. One last chance to savour the oddly-named but impeccably-prepared pizzas as the sun set over the bay and, metaphorically, over the holiday as a whole.