Hotel in Malta; tour company in Croatia, and birding guide in the Philippines

This item appears on page 4 of the October 2011 issue.

REPORT ON MALTA…

During a visit to Valletta, Malta, July 25-28, 2011, my son and I stayed at the Castille Hotel (Castille Square, c/w St. Paul’s St., Valletta; phone +356 2122 0173), which offered comfortable rooms and a staff who went out of their way to make our visit a pleasure.

At €90 ($129) per night, our room on the second floor (there is an elevator, but the marble staircase was fun to climb) was large, with high ceilings and an updated bathroom. A large window opened onto the Grand Harbour, where we could watch the sun set over colorful boats and shuttered buildings.

From the fifth-floor breakfast terrace, the view over the harbor was spectacular. I lingered over homemade breads, local cheeses and hot tea to watch the water traffic. We loved the hotel’s location — close to historical buildings and only four blocks from the bus terminal.

The Upper Barrakka Gardens, with benches overlooking the harbor, was just outside the hotel’s front door ­­— a nice place to relax at the end of a day of sightseeing.

— Ann Cabot, Austin, TX

 

REPORT ON CROATIA…

Hiring a driver and car to visit a new country was not new for me, but going alone was, so I was understandably cautious about going solo with a driver for a few days (July 21-24, 2011) in northern Croatia. I wanted to see Zagreb, Rovinj and Plitvice Lakes National Park as well as have a short stop in Piran, Slovenia.

Through a last-minute online search, I found Zagreb Tours (Lopasiceva 12a, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia; phone +385 [0] 14825035) and contacted Davor Miskic (davor@zagrebcity.com), the company’s cofounder. Via e-mail, he helped me choose an itinerary.

When I met Davor at the Zagreb airport, I knew he was a good choice for me. Neither of us liked early-morning starts, so we agreed to later-morning departure times.

The drive from Zagreb to the Istrian Peninsula took only a few hours. Davor showed me special places along the way. He walked with me in Piran and Rovinj, pointing things out and offering an arm on steep stairs.

We drove the long hours to Plitvice Lakes, but the immense tourist crowd destroyed any interest I had in that unique place. In order to experience the 11 lakes that cascade into each other, planked walkways have been constructed around their perimeter. There are no side rails, and progress is slow, with many adults and kids on the walks. I didn’t feel sure of my footing or able to stop midway for a photo, so we took the high ground, finding a few good overlooks and then heading back to Zagreb.

Davor spent an entire day showing me his hometown, and I enjoyed a free evening on my own, eating at a street bakery and attending a dance festival in Zagreb’s central square.

I paid $1,100 for my tour, including accommodations, transportation, breakfasts and admission to Plitvice. Davor and I ate all meals together, splitting the tab as appropriate. My visit to northern Croatia was very enjoyable.

— Ann Cabot, Austin TX

 

REPORT FROM PHILIPPINES

We hired a birding guide in Dumaguete, Philippines, and had a most wonderful day. Birding guides can be hit or miss, and Jac SeƱagan of the Provencial Tourism Office (Provence of Negros Oriental, Philippines; phone 09 06 849 3390) was the best we have ever had.

On July 22, 2011, he took us to a lovely lake, where we were rowed in a small boat around the perimeter. He seemed to find every bird there and could identify all of them. Our next stop was a park/sanctuary, where, once again, we saw many new birds.

The price for the full-day tour was around U$150 for two people and included his guide/driver services but did not include the gas, boat, lunch or the tip. Do settle on price beforehand.

— Ellen Jacobson, Centennial, CO