I’ve lived in Xaghra, off and on, for about three years now. When I say “lived”, it’s more weekended, a word that Word says doesn’t exist, but it does, because I do it.
We bought a flat here as an occasional weekend place, thinking we wouldn’t be here that often, say once a month and probably not in summer anyway. Buzz, wrong answer, the decompression factor kicked in and we head up here as soon as possible when the weekend looms and linger here as much as possible when it starts retreating. So weekending is more half-weeking, sometimes, though the weekend is normally involved somewhere.
Which is not to say that we’ve abandoned our “normal” home in Malta, just that our son now has even more freedom than when we’re around. It’s an arrangement that works.
Xaghra, as you probably know, but be patient for the benefit of the non-familiar, is a village that sprawls over some five ridges and a relatively large plateau between them pretty much in the centre of Gozo.
We’re virtually on the southern end of the most north-north-western finger (confused? That’s the idea, surprise visitors are not part of the decompression process) which means we get a view of the setting sun over 180 degrees of the island – we’re as far from the sea as it’s possible to be in Gozo, which is actually about 10 minutes, but we’ve swum about five times over the last three years, so it’s no great hardship.
Why Xaghra? Coincidence, really, and it’s too long a story to go into anyway, but it’s turned out to be a pretty good place to be. If you want to get to Rabat, which is what we call Victoria, it’s a three minute slalom down the Sellum (you head to the cemetery and hope the brakes work); if you want to get to Bugibba-in-the-North (Marsalforn) it’s five minute the other way; and if you want to get to the ferry, you can do it (I have) in seven minutes and still catch the trip.
Everywhere else you want to be in Gozo is in equally easy reach, especially if you avoid Racecourse Street on Saturday morning (it’s full of Maltese tourists doing the retail-therapy thing), which is not difficult if you’ve a sense of direction slightly better than that of a dead pigeon.
You want the papers? Head to Joe Cini’s petrol-station, they’re usually there by 8.00. Did I say petrol-station? Aladdin’s Cave, more like, but that’s a symptom of many retail outlets in Gozo. Trot along to Victor’s to rent a DVD and you’ll see what I mean – it’s in front of Iz-Zajbra, where the pizza is cheap and not bad at all.
Victory Square, which is what downtown Xaghra is known as (and where Cini’s is) has no less than six eating and drinking places, two of which are Daniel’s Oleander and DVenue (check out the art at the latter and forgive my vested interest, says he grinning sheepishly) and all of which are pretty good fun. Check out Diamond Jubilee for a good dose of Gozo Chic, it’s worth it, especially on Sunday morning.
All other needs are catered for in Xaghra: there’s a post-office (queues not an issue) a couple of pharmacies, many grocers (ours is St Joseph) a gun-shop (never been there, since I’m not precisely a pro-hunting guy) and a number of pet-shops and hardware stores. Cultural needs are catered for by a three minute roll down the Sellum (see above) with two opera houses (four performances a year; this isn’t Milan) and a cinema. The large banks maintain some sort of presence, though I suspect the main business is transacted in Rabat. Hint, though: if you need an ATM, head to Nadur, you can park just next to it.
You’re also in touch with the past here – stroll around aimlessly and you’ll miss most things (except for Ggantija, you’d have to be blind to miss the tourist throngs) but there’s a rather splendid little volume – “Archaeological Walks on Gozo” (by Lenie Reedijk, which explains why she writes “on” rather than “in”, I suppose) which will guide you neatly to the lesser known spots which are worth a look.
So that’s it, my Xaghra. It’s not actually mine, but it’s the one I’ve got to know, and it’s a good place to live.