Wednesday, July 4, 2007

4th of July

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I brought back steaks from my trip to England. It is permitted to bring meats within/among EU countries so it was perfectly legal. Between our weekend outing and Terry's work-til-2am night at work, we have been a little slower than planned at finishing them (we had 3 meals' worth). The night of July 3rd, the temperature cooled off, Terry was able to leave work when it was still light out, and we grilled and feasted on good red meat. Then he put together our new TV stand and we tested a DVD - worked wonderfully. It was a lovely way to begin the holiday.

On the 4th we had to get up earlier than normal for a day off because we both had plans. Terry - the guy who can't handle heat - decided playing softball on the 4th of July was a must. I was going with some folks to Buggiba to an "Underwater Safari" - essentially a boat with underwater viewing section. This woman's daughter had gone with her school and really enjoyed it, so we decided we'd go too.

We gave ourselves about 45 minutes to travel about 10km. Silly us. It took at least 15-20 minutes just to go about 1km through Sliema and St. Julian. By the time we got to Buggiba it was already 10:30am - boat launch time - and we hadn't found parking or the boat site. So, we ended up settling in to the noon boat ride and we had about an hour to kill in Buggiba, where none of us had been previously. Buggiba is a coastal town on the northern portion of Malta. It is very cute, lots of shops and little places to stop for snacks and a cold drink. In some ways it is a lot like Sliema, clearly tourist-focused - but with less traffic and fewer people crowding the promenade. Here is a bit of information about it.

The boat was much smaller than we had expected, and from the top we could see down into the viewing area. We could see a surprising number of fish just right off the dock, and they were surprisingly large. We had only seen little guppy sized fish everywhere else along the coast, and these were at least a foot long. No, not big, but you see our comparison. The boat took us out toward an island with a statue of St. Paul and we went down to the viewing area.

Those who are prone to seasickness may not have enjoyed this part, as it got a bit warm and stuffy down there and occasionally another boat would pass nearby and the wake would rock us a bit. The viewing area was basically a row of fold down benches, for 2 people each, and rows of windows on both sides. From what we could gather when we re-emerged upstairs, the boat took us around the island. It was probably 20-30 minutes in the viewing area. We did see a LOT of fish. One minor complaint I had is that there was a great poster of the fish one finds in Malta, with their pictures and names so you could match what you see with its name. However, the poster can't be seen from anywhere other than a few certain benches in the middle, and once you were seated you couldn't get up. There were a few we saw often enough that we remembered their markings and were able to match them up when we walked past when viewing time was over, but I would have preferred to have access to the poster while we were watching. Although there was a decent variety of fish, they weren't particularly colorful or with interesting markings, for the most part. Yes, I learned to dive in Australia so I have probably been completely spoiled and jaded regarding the aquatic life found in most parts of the world.

All in all, I thought the tour was worth it, and would go again with visitors who want to take the trip. We had tentatively planning to go with Terry's dad, we thought it was something he would really enjoy, but as he and Terry get horribly seasick, we may give it a skip.

The ride home was of course only 25 minutes, as we had expected the ride there to be, and Terry and I met up and headed out to a barbecue hosted by an embassy family. Our contribution was my apple pie, which was not as good as it can be - I have to tinker with the timing of things in this climate. Also using fresh lemon juice has a different effect from using the concentrated stuff we have at home.

It was a little strange having a 4th of July without fireworks, not even on TV, but it turns out our village is having its festa this weekend so the fireworks are a-comin'.

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