At the beginning of March, the reports of the coronavirus spreading in Europe had started to become more frequent. And there we were, considering if a trip to Malta was a sound idea. The plan had been that Little A and I would head to Malta for a week while Susann went to London for the London Book Fair. We had booked the plane tickets before the virus started spreading and had arranged to stay with an old friend in the town of Marsaskala. This is how our trip turned out and our experiences of traveling alone with a three-year-old while the coronavirus was striking Europe.
Staying in Marsaskala
In Malta, Little A and I stayed with a Polish friend in the town of Marsaskala. The town is located on the eastern shore of the island and mostly concentrated on the peninsula between the Marsaskala Bay and St Thomas Bay.
Marsaskala mostly consists of residential buildings, many of which are still being constructed or renovated. There is not much nature left on the peninsula as every square meter is either used for buildings, roads, or pavements. Almost at the tip, there is the St. Thomas Tower, which is one of the few historical buildings together with the Marsascala Parish Church at Marsaskala Bay.
Valletta is about 30-40 minutes away by bus and it is the easiest destination to reach with public transport. Luckily you don’t have to leave Marsaskala to enjoy your time, especially not when traveling with a three-year-old.
Malta Alone with a Three-Year-Old – Marsaskala and Beyond
Exploring Malta alone with a three-year-old is not the easiest task. Taking the taxi will most likely mean a ride without a child safety seat, which is a big issue in general when not bringing your own car. For me, the visit meant only a few limited short Uber rides, but we tried to use the bus or preferably even walk. Walking with a stroller is possible as long as you stay within the built-up areas and you would be surprised that you might cover more than three towns in one short walk.
Finding things for Little A to enjoy wasn’t hard. After a long Swedish winter in thick winter clothes each time she was going out to play, Little A really enjoyed going out in lighter clothes. Yes, the Maltese might freeze a bit in March, but we surely enjoyed the pleasant temperatures. Little A enjoyed running along the beach promenade and she loved the playgrounds in the area. We frequented three playgrounds in Marsaskala. There was one small at St Thomas Bay that was a bit more worn by time. Then there was a large nice playground at the square at Marsaskala Bay, we could not pass by this one without stopping. The favorite did, however, seem to be the large playground at Sant’Antnin Family Park.
It was slightly more difficult to find good playgrounds in a few other areas, such as Valletta and Birgu. Sliema had a few more that were easier to find. But in general, the playgrounds are sparse and not all are in good condition.
Always Something New to Explore
Malta might be small, but the island has a lot to explore. During the three earlier visits to Malta, I had stayed around Gzira and Sliema. The exploration has mostly been inland to Mdina, or westward to Buġibba, Xemxija, Golden Bay or Gozo. Valletta had of course been a part of each visit of the island as well. This time it was the eastern side of the island that was in my eyesight.
There were a few trips to Valletta also this time, mainly as a way to reach other areas such as the Three Cities and Sliema. The Three Cities, consisting of Senglea, Cospicua, and Birgu, had been on my scope before but never been included in the final plan. This time was different and Little and I made sure to explore them all. Sadly Little A decided to sleep when we entered the impressive Fort St. Angelo.
One day we found ourselves walking along a bumpy small road on the other side of St Thomas Bay. The main destination was Marsaxlokk a few kilometers away and Little A altered between walking and riding in the stroller. Once we reached Marsaxlokk we did actually continue even further instead of turning back. We did, eventually, end up in Birżebbuġa for a very short visit before going back to Marsaskala.
Decreasing Number of Fellow Tourists
While we were enjoyed our stay in Malta, the situation around Europe changed. My first notice of this was that the many tourists at the beginning of the week got scarcer and scarcer each day. Buses were suddenly more spacious and eventually, you could walk the streets of Valletta without barely meeting anyone.
People’s responses also changed during the week. People looked more and more disturbed when anyone got too close and a small cough or sneeze could literally cause people to leave the bus. The alarm was growing and the atmosphere grew tense.
Malta’s Response to the Novel Coronavirus
It was eventually the response of Malta’s government that caused me to get worried about our flight home. With our planned flight back to Sweden on Saturday, the Maltese government started to add travel restrictions on Thursday. They increased the restrictions from only Italy to also include France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. It was with tense suspense that I read the government’s update on Friday. My fear was that they would decide to include Sweden in the previous list.
In the week we were away, the situation in Sweden had changed drastically. The initial few cases had increased and it was now not far from the level of the countries to which travel had been restricted. Luckily the Friday briefing did not include further travel restrictions, but instead the requirement of people arriving to spend two weeks in quarantine. It looked like we would be able to go home.
Flying Back Home to Sweden
Our flight from Malta had seemed to be close to empty when we checked in and chose our seats. When we arrive at the airport, it turned out that Sweden was one of few countries with a flight that day. People had been sleeping in the airport to catch flights back to the UK. People were obviously stranded and our flight was eventually fully booked. Few seats were left empty.
When I spoke with a few fellow travelers, there turned out to be three groups of additional travelers other than the ones that were originally planning to take this flight. There were the Swedish nationals living and working on Malta that wanted to leave the island before an expected closure. Others chose to fly to Sweden to be able to continue to their home countries. Then there was the group that had just arrived the day before. The ones who received the information about the quarantine requirements first upon arriving on Malta. So instead of spending their vacation in their hotel rooms, they had decided to book a new flight home.
To summarize: It was a great experience to be able to spend a week on Malta with Little A, but it was an even greater relief to be able to get back home.
We hope that you are all doing well out there, wherever you are. Traveling is secondary in these circumstances that we currently are in. Take care and hope to see you out and about soon.