We‘ve 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've run out of clean clothes. We don't particularly want to pay the hotel's exorbitant laundry prices, so we decide to 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 soon 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‘re too heavy; the plugs keeps popping out, and the clothes then fall back into the bath. We don't seem to be having quite as much fun as we've been having over the past few days.
We need to do some gift shopping so we catch the bus into Sliema. As we walk out of the hotel, I nearly get run over. Issy lets fly at the driver with some Australian expletives. It occurs to me that she's 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 actually a 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 I might have a bit of work to do.
The first bus flies past the stop 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. This leaves us a bit confused about local bus hailing etiquette. We wave vigorously at the next one and it stops. Whilst this is undoubtedly good, it hasn't done anything to clear up our confusion.
We get good views from Sliema 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 quite sure why we bothered going to a Cuban establishment. We’ve had this dish for lunch every day we’ve been in Malta so far, and I start to wonder if they serve it at all the restaurants here, irrespective of their advertised cuisine. We passed a Japanese restaurant this morning. I wonder if you can get it there.
Back at the hotel our room is now fully draped with wet clothes hanging up to dry. 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. Issy teaches me how to iron undies dry. I'm learning a lot about laundry today.
Issy's second cousin Melanie picks us up and drives us to her parents' place. We park next to a sign 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 hadn't really thought of the Maltese as being a particularly exact race. I wonder if they'd still throw you in jail if came up a cent short. Melanie explains that when Malta converted from Pounds to Euro on 1st January 2008, everything, including fines, was converted using the exact exchange rate on that morning, and no one's 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 tells us that the Cities' Maltese names are Bormla, Birgu and Isla, and that their English equivalents are Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. I'm not sure I'm quite understanding 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 its supposed Maltese translation. I ask Issy what the Maltese word for Melbourne is. She gives the look. I get this a lot. I think I mightn't get it quite as frequently if I wondered a bit less about things like this.
The whole Three Cities area was previously dockyards and has now been very tastefully renovated. The weather is as always perfect for alfresco dining and the setting is idyllic. We share some pizzas at a restaurant next to the water.
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