Yesterday we got up earlyish and caught the nine o clock yellow bus from Sliema Ferries to Rabat which is inland, it is right next door to Mdina but very little traffic is permitted in Mdina which is a walled city and extremely beautiful. The bus ride itself was an adventure, one of the very oldest buses we have been on and extremely tatty. Onslow said that he could understand the shock absorbers not being replaced three months before the new fleet comes in but felt they should have been replaced five years ago. The driver kept on letting people on until the bus was absolutely packed out, people were sitting on knees in places and at least twenty people were standing. It made the Tube at rush hour look empty. There is a sign on the bus that clearly states it is licensed to carry forty people, I counted sixty seven and a pushchair. At Naxxar a motorbike policeman waved the driver to stop and gave him a right old telling off, wrote down the number and the time (he looked at his watch) and then sent the driver on without removing any passengers. It took a good hour to get to Rabat and Onslow says it was the most uncomfortable bus ride of his life.
At Rabat we headed for The Little Train which does a circular route of the area and from some distance there are wonderful views of Mdina. We went through Mtarfa which is where the Royal Signals and WRAC were stationed in the sixties and seventies and if any of my friends from those days who were posted there read this, the clock tower is still standing. Mtarfa itself has a lot of new building though and has grown considerably from the little village it was then. The train ride was lovely and the commentary pointed out things of interest so afterwards we went off to have a look at St Paul's Catacombs and church which were most interesting and then it was time to seek out lunch. And we had the most fabulous lunch at Ristorante Constanza Navarro. A simple set lunch, I had penne with a rabbit sauce to start and Onslow had some cheese ravioli in a rich tomato sauce - huge portions and absolutely delicious. For mains we both had the Bragioli which is a sort of beef olive and this was totally different from the one we had in Valletta a couple of weeks ago. A very thin slice of beef had a very thin slice of ham laid on it and then chopped hard boiled eggs, raisins and onions were mixed together, spread on it and rolled up and tied. The spicing was definitely Moorish in execution. They were cooked in a rich tomato sauce studded with chunks of carrot and decorated with half a dozen tinned marrowfat peas (a very Maltese garnish I am beginning to find) and served with loads of chips. The pudding was halva, but not halva like I have ever come across before. It was dry and crumbly and almost powdery when in the mouth - it was absolutely fantastic. Two beers each accompanied lunch and the total cost was twenty seven Euro for the two of is. I am now trying to work out how to get back there for some more of that halva. I know I won't get Onslow on the bus again.
The afternoon was spent in Mdina in various museums and simply wandering around in the sunshine, going up and down the ramparts and soaking up the atmosphere. The architecture is absolutely wonderful, a lot of baroque and very "French" looking in places. The lovely golden sandstone creates such a visually beautiful image and the city is very well maintained. There are horses and carriages driving people round but we just walked and walked.
We went to catch the bus back and it was the same driver - who crammed it full again. Onslow thinks he is on commission and needed to earn extra money to pay the impending fine from the morning!