I was chatting with someone yesterday who told me about a fabulous fishmonger (Azzopardi) about a ten minute walk away so I left Onslow in bed and strode off early with my trusty rucksack to forage. The shop was absolutely incredible - I have never seen anything like it. There were a couple of swordfish on some scales by the entrance, a massive iced counter with scallops in shells, king prawns, Dublin Bay prawns, clams, sea bream, bass, octupus and squid and at least a dozen fish I did not recognise. There were two hug chest freezers with transparent tops which contained everything from kippers to crabs. A tank had plenty of bad tempered live lobsters and a little glass fronted fridge contained caviar, squid ink and bottarga. The shop was really crowded - about a dozen men and me, which makes me think that the purchasing of fish is a male chore in Malta. One man in front of me had ordered a turbot which cost him over two hundred Euros. I bought twenty king prawns and they cost twenty five Euros and we shall have them with wonderful Maltese bread, Italian butter and wine as supper. I asked about mussels and was advised that he hopes to have some on Monday or Tuesday so since my launderette is not far away I shall check on Monday while the washing is doing.
I came back to the flat, cooked Onslow's breakfast and then we went to catch the bus to Naxxar to see the Palazzo Parisio. We went along the coast road past Paceville and St Julians and there were quite a few Navy looking ships on the horizon. I suspect they are standing by because of the Libyan problems - it is not very far from here.
On route to Naxxar the heavens opened but Howard and Hilda were in the rucksack so we were undaunted. We bought our entrance tickets and went straight to the cafe where I had a fabulous hot chocolate which gave me the strength to climb the most incredible marble staircase I have ever encountered. Every step is made from a single slab of marble and the coping over the banisters is made from one piece which must measure over twenty feet. Onslow wanted to slide down it but I always spoil his fun. The original building dates from 1733 but it was totally refurbished at the beginning of the 20th century and was the first place in Malta to have both electricity and a telephone. It is very opulent - I think there is less gold leaf in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The music room defies description - gold and white throughout and I wished I had packed my sunglasses.
There is a particular quirk to the architecture on Malta which really pleases me. The balconies. They are totally different from any I have seen elsewhere. The Maltese in the towns all huddle together in apartments and the older ones seem to be four or five storeys high. The wall on the street is flat but as soon as you get to the first floor there is what looks like a squared bay window with four panes on the front and one on each side. All the subsequent floors have exactly the same arrangement and they are painted in the same colour on the same building, but you can get a block of green ones next to a block of cream ones and some maroon ones a bit further on. This is a little balcony and they quite often have washing lines hooked on them. I have twice seen the lady of the apartment lowering a basket on a piece of rope for groceries to be put in them.
Malta just gets better. Tomorrow is the half way point of our holiday and the weather apparently becomes much sunnier and drier as soon as we get into March.