05 April 2012

Xlendi Bay, Home Sweet Home

On the corner of Xlendi Bay, where the main road from Victoria meets the waterfront line of restaurants, we feel like we can predict the future. That corner white and blue building above is where we rented an apartment. The rhythm of the waves heard from our window in the morning tells us what kind of weather the day will bring, before we even leave bed. A loud group making their way down from the bus stop in the late afternoon means the restaurants won't clear their oil+vinegar sets from the tables quite as soon as they'd planned. A certain boisterous laugh made us know, immediately, that it was a group of Americans. Perhaps likening it to clairvoyance is a bit of a stretch, but we feel a bit ahead of the town's rhythmic ebb and flow.
We awake to the fishermen going out, and it feels like it is only us and them that have opened their eyes to the day just yet. When we hear them come in, we know that it is time to take our trash down to the curbside for 8:30 collection. By this time, the diving school students have arrived and made black constellations in the blue green water below our patio. So has the Xlendi Pleasure Cruise boat, a small compact thing that sits waiting patiently for any biters. The sound of the garbage truck signals a final check of our backpacks and we make our way out to catch the 8:45 bus to Valletta. Without ever once looking at a watch.
Xlendi Bay sits and waits for people to arrive and enjoy it. In our seven days here, we have not been able to figure out the business hours of any establishment. They all seem to run according to the same principal as us; when you hear the day come out your window, you better get up and ready. If we are home during the day, we have a truly Pavlovian response to the clinking of utensils being set out on the tables below. We fix ourselves a sandwich and smell pizza and pasta wafting upwards to our patio. In the evening, the clinking begs us to uncork our wine and plate whatever we've made. At least once a night, we hear a rendition of Happy Birthday from below.
Xlendi is a place for special occasions and daytrippers. But mostly daytrippers. They lap onto shores like waves. We feel like the thin line of current that shines in the bay - that last mark of arrival when all other incomers are long gone. Daytrippers, or "afternooners" more precisely, announce their purpose more than they realize they do. Backpacks and sensible shoes mean that they want to climb the white staircase that zig zags up the cliff. Then, come down and around to the tower. Afterward, they get a treat from Gelateria Granola and/or sit for lunch. The click of high heels hitting the pavement out of a parked Jeep Tour vehicle, tells us that they are going to skip the hike and go straight to lunching. Souvenir stalls open, selling thick knit sweaters you hope you won't need and thin Maltese flag beach towels that you purchase optimistically. (Ours will leave this country with us, unused).
The Boathouse Restaurant is the first to open and the last to close. Churchill, on the opposite side of the bay, is sporadic at best. We were told about both by a woman from whom's minimart we bought our necessities in Valletta. When she described The Boathouse as being on one side of the bay and Churchill as being on the other, we hadn't really thought that they were as close to each other as they were. "They are both great. Or anything in between. It's all good!" she'd said. Moby Dick restaurant and bar was right below us, where these British women ate smoked salmon salads. When we arrived without a cell phone and saw a sign to "call upon arrival" on our door, the proprietor of Moby Dick gave our landlord a ring as we drank coffee. When we left, he gave us a business card with a wink. He also had rental apartments available. No hard feelings.
That first afternoon, as we waited, a very tan man who had initially asked if we needed a cab kept checking up on us. As we sat and waited, two huge groups of high schoolers on Spring Break occupied Xlendi Bay. A French group raucously swam and pantsed each other as they changed back out of their bathing suits. A Spanish group sat along the water's edge, chain-smoking and texting. Sunglasses on. These two lovebirds snuck away to a cave and jumped a little when we came clomping in our boots.
It is a beautiful bay with nooks and crannies, old churches and limestone cliffs. The modern buildings may be a little bit of an eyesore, but the laidbackness counteracts them perfectly. The water is clear and full of fish. In fact, we really wonder if the Maltese Scuba School we saw advertised on a flyer back in our St. Petersburg schoolhouse was here. We'd seriously considered signing up, but thought that it'd be difficult to blog underwater. It's amazing to think that we may have wound up right here, in the same apartment, in the same village, having made an entirely different decision.
At night, when everyone is gone, the bay transforms back into its most natural state. A few lights, illuminate the road on one side and the staircase on the other, but those will turn off eventually. The sunsets are as spectacular as the sunrises. All we hear is the water out our windows. Home Sweet Xlendi.

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