We have been on the go for a few days in a row now, so we decide that today will be for sleeping in, domestics and hanging around the hotel. We have run out of clean clothes. We don't particularly want to pay the hotel's exorbitant laundry prices, so we decide that we will wash them ourselves. We order laundry detergent from reception, and it turns up as a liquid in a tiny plastic cup draped in Glad Wrap. I start to wash clothes in the bath. Issy tells me I'm doing it wrong, and gives me a lesson in how to do it properly. I hadn't realised it could be so complicated. We try to hang the clothes on the inflatable hangers that Issy brought with us, but they are too heavy. The plugs keeps popping out, and the clothes then fall back into the bath. I start to think that this isn't quite as much fun as the past few days have been.
We need to do some gift shopping so we catch the bus to Sliema. As we walk out of the hotel, I nearly get run over. Issy let's fly at the driver with some Australian expletives. It occurs to me that she has just used some words that I haven't heard since we left home. I wonder if any Maltese expletives have been directed at me since we got here. I decide that there probably have been, and my total ignorance of the local language is therefore a very good thing. Issy tells me I need to be able to at least string a few Maltese sentences together before we leave here. I'm nowhere near being able to do this at the moment, so I think that I will disappoint her again.
We walk to the bus stop. The first bus flies past without even slowing down, which is in stark contrast to the two previous experiences we've had here where we haven't wanted a bus or a taxi, but they've stopped for us anyway. We decide that we will wave vigorously at the next bus. This works. It stops and we get on.
We stop at Sliema and Issy shops. There is a good view from here over towards Valletta, and the Co-Cathedral is very prominent on the skyline. We stop for lunch at a Cuban restaurant and again order Maltese bread topped with olive oil and tomato paste. If this is what we're eating I'm not sure why we bothered to go to a Cuban restaurant. We’ve had this dish for lunch every day we’ve been in Malta so far, and I wonder if they serve it at all the restaurants here. We passed a Japanese restaurant this morning. I wonder if you can get it there.
We catch the bus back to the hotel. There are wet clothes hanging everywhere in our room. There's only room for one of us to sit down, so I go for a swim. As soon as I jump in I realise that I'm wearing my only dry pair of undies, and we're about to be picked up for dinner with another of Issy's cousins. I iron my undies dry. Disaster averted.
Issy's second cousin Melanie picks us up and drives us to her parents' place. There is a sign on the wall next to where Melanie parks her car, with words in Maltese followed a long string of apparently random numbers. I ask Issy what it says. She says that it warns against littering, and that the penalty for this is six months in jail or a fine of 2379.37 Euro. I wonder who came up with that number. I think that the Maltese must be a very exact people. I wonder if they would throw you in jail if you only paid 2379.36 Euro. Melanie explains that when Malta converted from Pounds to Euro, everything, including fines, was converted using the exact exchange rate on the morning of the conversion, and no one has ever quite got around to rounding things off.
Melanie's father Louis is Issy's cousin, and he and his wife Mary have only recently moved into their new apartment in Marsaxlokk. They take us to a waterfront district across the harbour from Valletta known as The Three Cities. Louis says that the Cities' Maltese names are Bormla, Birgu and Isla, and that their English names are Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. I don't think that I really understand this. I wonder who decided that Bormla in Maltese means Cospicua in English, when Cospicua isn't even an English word, and bears no resemblance to the Maltese word. I ask Issy what the Maltese word for Melbourne is. She gives me a strange look. I get that a lot. I then think that maybe I need to start wondering a bit less about things like this.
The whole Three Cities area used to be old dockyards and has now been renovated. The renovation has been done really well and the whole area is very impressive. The weather is as always perfect for alfresco dining and we share some pizzas at a restaurant next to the water.
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