This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.
I was in Malta, at last, after a travel day I had dreaded for a month but which was only stressful due to my own anxieties.
I arrived at my hotel, the SU29, which was named for the alley in which it was located, St. Ursula Steps. This was an apt name since I thunk, thunk, thunked my suitcase down 200 steps to get there, and the hotel was only half way down the alley.
This was the third of my three hotels on which the website had promised, “We won’t charge your credit card until you check out.” In all three cases, I immediately received texts and emails from my credit card company asking, “Did you approve a $300 charge by Moda Studio?” Unsure, I texted back “no,” and my account was immediately frozen. In the end, everything was fine and I hadn’t been duped into paying for $300 worth of Italian clothes that I would never receive. Just know that when they say you won’t be charged until you’re there, what they mean is, “We will charge you the instant you hit submit, and your credit card company won’t like it.” I had brought printed copies of my hotel receipts just in case the hotel disputed that I had paid, but none did.
One more thing about booking hotels. In case you’re not familiar with Rick Steves, he’s an American travel guru who specializes in Europe. He does TV shows, publishes guidebooks, and sells travel gear on his website. I found my Italian hotels in his books, and he says to mention that to get a discount. Not. They could have cared less. He also recommends staying at least three nights and offering to pay cash in order to get a discount. Nay. Neither hotel responded to this. Of course it was the off season, so maybe the prices were so low already they couldn’t be further discounted.
Here is a photo of my groovy hotel room at SU29. It rained most of the time I was there, so I never sat outside, but I enjoyed the idea of it.
There is a scene in the old movie Fargo where a typical blond, blue-eyed Minnesota store clerk says all the things that drive me crazy about my home state, in that embarrassing Minnesota accent that surely I don’t have, right? I can’t find the scene online but she says things like, “Hi der, how ya doin’? Did you find everything you need? Cold outside, eh? Paper or plastic? All righty den, have a nice day!” You could spend 20 minutes listening to all the niceties.
In Italy, it was the opposite. With the exception of Ristorante Fellini, I would be seated at a table and wait. And wait. Finally I would flag down a waiter, who would throw down a menu as though it was utterly beneath him, then stalk off before I could ask for a glass of wine. This would be repeated for an hour or so, and the check seemed to be especially difficult to procure—I felt like I was begging for it. Not once did any of these insouciant waiters come to my table to ask, “How is everything?” or “May I bring you anything else?”—standard questions in Minnesota. Even on the street, most Italians walked along looking as though they had just bitten into a lemon.
I immediately noticed that the Maltese were friendly. They had an openness and innocence that made me feel like I was in Minnesota, and I realized I had missed friendliness, even if it was fake. I also knew that as soon as I got home, the niceness of my fellow Minnesotans would bug the hell out of me.
I went out for a walk. I loved Malta! The steps, the balconies, the sea, the quaint shops, its compactness. Then I got to bed early so I could wake up at 4:00 a.m. I couldn’t wait for the election to be over with; I only wanted to know by how much Hillary had beaten Trump, then I could relish my day.