Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Next Hop - North Island

The Hop on-Hop off bus is well organized. First you take one bus from your hotel to a meeting point where you then transfer from there for whichever tour you want. The plan for today was to do the north island, but before starting out, we opted to take advantage of the free boat cruise included in our 2 day tickets. The cruises end early afternoon, so if we did a north island circuit, we would miss out. 

Disappointingly, we were the last to get on the boat as they stopped those behind us due to lack of room. In hindsight, I had wished they had stopped us too. Ron had to force the three people who spread out over a four person bench to get them to scoot over making room for him as the fourth. The majority of the benches were facing the front of the boat. My only option was to sit with 2 others who were diagonal to all the rest. We had our backs to the captain’s area while staring over the port side.

The commentary was a mix of recorded with the guide adding to it. If I heard it once, I heard it fifty times “on the right side of the boat you will see…” The three of us benched on the port side were not able to see anything unless the boat did a full circle. By the time the boat circled around, I was concentrating on the current commentary, so missed the info about what we had passed. Not one point of interest was on the left side. Turning our heads would have been unproductive as the view was blocked by the bridge or whatever the nautical term happens to be. Quite honestly, I don’t care to know, because I was smoking by that point. We were in full exposure of the sun while the others were under an awning. I swear I could hear my skin sizzle. The temperature was 36C or 96.8F. Under better circumstances, I would have enjoyed this 90 minute boat ride.

Adding insult to injury, the north island bus was delayed by a half an hour. They were not sure if the delay was due to traffic or if it had broken down en route. It seems the buses do break down frequently, but a replacement bus is on the spot within minutes. This morning, we looked at the potential stops with their descriptors to decide on how to plan our time. 

Once we arrived at the respective stops, the plans changed dramatically. Like all well written script, the tourism propaganda made each stop sound like paradise lost had been found. In actuality, in some instances they were more like Dante’s Inferno. Our only stop where we hopped off was at Rabat and Mdina (Maltese spelling). We walked around the area in the blistering hot sun, but went into St. Paul’s Cathedral and Museum to cool off by paying admission of €10 each for the privilege. 

Once back at the hotel, it was a choice between a nap or a dip in the pool. Considering the pool hours end at 5:30 (definitely too early), the nap won out. We would have only had about 20 minutes in the water before having to leave. A shower would feel just as delicious.

Walking down to the waterfront again, we chose the next door neighbor to last night’s restaurant. Tonight was the Bad Bull Restaurant. It was a risky venture as last night, Victoria was turning people away while Bad Bull was trying to herd them in off the square. We both ordered the rack of BBQ pork ribs. Oh my gawd, they were orgasmic. There was so much meat on each, and the sauce was excellent. Definitely an excellent choice. We walked around the square some to work off the meal. 

Lest I forget, the typical Maltese dishes are rabbit stew, rabbit in spaghetti sauce, and bragoli. This is something that had to have been imported from Italy. My grandmother made this when I was a child, but the recipe is slightly different. The Maltese version is here. We did not try any of the Maltese specialties. There is something about eating Bugs Bunny that doesn't sit well with me. 

On the way back, we thought we would sit and watch the bocce games again, but tonight was Bingo. A hundred or more ladies with about a dozen men were hunkered over their cards as the numbers appeared electronically and then called. The caller would say it like “thirty-seven that is three and seven”. Perhaps for those not totally fluent in English, I don’t know. While we were watching a twenty-something man got Bingo. 

There are a number of restaurants situated below street level, closer to the beach. One of these has a humungous patio where the tables are pushed back to allow for dancing. This was our entertainment for about ¾ of an hour each night. They had a wide assortment of music for line dancing to the foxtrot and tango. Dozens of couples were out on the dance floor showing their stuff. It was lovely to see. 

When we returned to the hotel, there was a solo singer replacing karaoke. Strangely enough, there were only a handful of people in the audience. He actually was quite enjoyable, making it a puzzle why it was not crowded.
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