The "tour" from the hotel consisted of the taxi dropping us off at the top of a steep hill and promising to collect us four hours later. I made a mental note of landmarks and set off.
In the square outside the church, the local brass band was playing Carols; a living tableaux nativity scene featured a stoic Mary and Joseph in a barn with an extremely well-behaved baby and donkey; small girls in spangled dresses and santa hats strutted and swirled watched by locals enjoying the morning sunshine. Beyond the square stretched the fishing harbour of Marsaxlokk which is home to around 70% of the entire Maltese fishing fleet. Many of the brightly coloured boats have "Eyes of Osiris" painted on their bows to ward off evil spirits.
On Sundays the harbour is ringed with rickety market stalls providing an assault to the senses as odours of fish mix with the more pleasant smells of warm pasties and pastries; tiny dogs leap and bark; toy helicopters whirr; families argue and debate purchases; and a mandolin player sings mournful songs whilst touting his CDs. The range of wares on offer including foodstuffs, household wares, clothes, shoes, orange trees in tubs, make up and soem classy African carvings, as well as typical tourist tat. In the central section is the fish market where colourful red snapper, sea bass and sea bream are set out in rows beside heaps of octopus, slabs of giant tuna, and trays of the local fish Lampuki. If you are able to find a gap in the stalls, you may be lucky enough to see some of day's catch of game fish being hauled in from the boats and weighed before being spirited away to top restaurants on the Island.
At the far side of the harbour is a sandy beach, slightly marred by the ugly power station on the horizon, where a couple of beach fisherman. were trying their hand and a lone couple shared a picnic.
By lunchtime the pavement cafes and restaurants were packed with locals tucking into vast bowls of pasta and seafood, accompanied by the local wines or Cisk lager. Rain threatened so I darted into a café where I enjoyed a coffee and enormous slab of cake and reviewed my 200+ photos before reluctantly dragging myself back uphill to the awaiting taxi. Stallholders were already packing away. Overall, it was a fabulous day out in a photographer's paradise where, in December, there were very few tourists. A slice of the real Malta.