As a rule when I am on holiday or travelling and reporting back on a place I try and remain positive and upbeat, I try to find the best in a place, I try not to be disappointed.
Today is an exception – I am going to tell you about Popeye Village.
Popeye Village is in Anchor Bay, Malta and it was constructed as a film set for the 1981 film starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. When the film was shot and the actors had all gone home the set became a modest tourist attraction.
I first visited the place in the summer of 1997 and in those days it still looked like a film set. Entrance can’t have been too expensive because in 1997 I wasn’t that keen on parting with unnecessary cash (still not actually). The buildings were much as they would have been for the shooting of the film, a lot of timber and the smell of sawdust. There were a few little embellishments of course to try and amuse visitors but really nothing too dramatic. In fact I think I remember thinking that it was dangerously close to falling down, one Mediterranean storm and it would be surely washed away and gone!
Fast forward twenty years…
Returning to Malta and the Mellieha Bay Hotel it seemed like a good idea to visit again and take my grandchildren. I thought that they might like it there.
Not wishing to rely upon the dreadful bus service I booked a taxi at several times the cost of the bus and it arrived on time and took us to the entrance of what is now marketed as a theme park. I arranged to be picked up in three hours time and the taxi driver gave me a card and a sympathetic look and said if we needed picking up earlier then we should give him a call. There was a message in there which I missed.
The first shock was the entrance fee, I nearly collapsed on the spot and had to be held up while I tapped in my credit card PIN number.
As soon as were inside I knew that it was terrible. The place has been given a gaudy paint makeover, all horrid primary colours; at the centre was a man who was dressed as Popeye but didn’t look anything like Popeye, a man dressed as Bluto but didn’t look anything like Bluto and a woman dressed as Olive Oyl who I have to concede did look a bit like Olive Oyl.
We stayed for about one hour, the children were bored, even they couldn’t find anything to amuse them, the boat ride was late and overcrowded, it wasn’t even a boat, it was a rubber dinghy, the water park was a paddling pool, the free drink (adults only) was barely a thimble full of something cheap and horrid and after sixty minutes or so (less probably) I searched though my pockets for the taxi driver business card.
On the way out Sally set out a list of complaints to the staff – this is usually my job, I am the one to get irritable and argumentative but Sally completely upstaged me today and eventually I had to drag her away from the ticket booth before she trashed the place and thankfully the taxi turned up to take us back to the sanity of the Mellieha Bay Hotel.
As I remember the film wasn’t that good either. Rubbish actually!
I cannot find any single reason to recommend this place, it is expensive, it is amateurish and it is really quite dreadful. It took me a couple of beers to get over the experience. TripAdvisor gives it a rating of Four Stars, I give it minus four!
If you are going to Malta do not waste your money on this so called attraction. If you are determined to see it then walk or drive to it and take a look from the other side of the bay, do not waste your money going inside!
So now I am thinking. Where else have I been that has also been underwhelming and a disappointment.
If Popeye Village is top of the list then second has to be Gatorland in Florida which I had the misfortune to visit in 1990.
And in third place it will have to be the Wild West film set in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands where I went with my daughter Sally in 1987. She was less than one year old so happily for her she has no recollection of it.
What is the most disappointing place that you have ever visited?