Sunday 26th July 2015
Chester / London
An early start from North Wales. The advantage of Senior Railcards means we can get to London from Chester in just a little over two hours and for a fraction of the usual price. The Pendolino is excellent. Only one stop at Milton Keynes and you’re in London.
Compare that with trying to go by train from Chester to Cardiff. How on earth Dr. Beeching missed all those stations in mid-Wales escapes me. I swear they are building them as you approach. Anywhere with three sheep and a dog seems to be eligible for a train halt.
But I digress. On this trip, we had to change at Crewe, The station at Crewe is a cheerless and eternally draughty place with minimal customer comforts. With three suitcases and hand grip the memsahib and I looked as though we were running away to the circus. So many clothes for two weeks in the sun. On top of this…..this is the repack.
We’re lucky to have a billet in Bethnal Green when we go to London. A day in the Smoke is a joy before setting off for the sun. Oxford Street for shopping and a pint in the Camel in Bethnal Green before eating our at Meshi on Bethnal Green Road.
Monday 27th July 2015
Gatwick / Olbia / Alghero
Scouting the route out from Bethnal Green to Gatwick, last May, wasn’t actually necessary, but it helped when trying to negotiate an early start. We flew out with Meridiana. For a budget airline, they still provide a breakfast of sorts. Not as unusual as Korean Airlines but eminently more recognisable.
Olbia airport is small but adequately functional. Beware if you’re hiring a car. Finding the right desk in the car hire offices can be a nightmare. Budget car hire has budget signs, so we were rather late in collecting a rather anonymous Nissan something-or-other.
Two hours later, on excellent roads, we were in Alghero. The apartment has a ‘sea view’. Well, it has…providing you can stand on the balcony and crane your neck far out to the west. Then you can see the sea!. However, it’s wonderfully adequate. It’s in a modern block in an area that’s safe and Pierpaolo has done his best to make us feel at home. With any luck we won’t see him again for a week. With a Conad supermarket just up the road, it wasn’t long before the fridge was stocked with wine, beer and other comestibles.
Ten minutes walk from the apartment and we were in Alghero old town. It’s a walled town dating back to about the 14th or 15th century. Built around a harbour, it’s now home to hundreds of elegant and expensive yachts. A great place for the passagio.
We ate at a ristorante on the first night. It’s situated at the end of the promenade and faces out to sea and the sunset. Well, when in Rome, as they say…you have to have pizza. The mensahib ordered scampi but they turned out to be langoustines. You can’t complain.
Traveling all day is exhausting so by 10 p.m. we were back in the apartment and watching Joanna Lumley’s trans-Siberian adventure and looking forward to a fresh and exciting new day.
Tuesday 28th July
Mugoni / Capo Caccia / Torre del Porticciolo / Porte Ferro
Sleeping on hard beds is said to be good for the spine and the hips. So they say…Not sure what the Italians call a ‘baguette’ but the bread was fresh, warm and went wonderfully with Italian coffee.
We headed north out of Alghero to Mugoni and a beautiful beach. The beaches are quiet, expansive, sandy and beautiful. The water in the north is stimulating. Not as warm as I would have expected and with just enough of a wave to clear away any cobwebs from a previous night.
Leaving Mugoni, we headed up to Capo Caccia, Torre del Porticciolo and finally Porto Ferro. Beautiful wild beaches. So many to choose from.They are all worth a visit and none of them more than an hour or so by car from Alghero.
We ate at Luci de Golfo, a restaurant on the way into town. It’s set back a little way from the promenade and offers a tourist menu at 16 euros and a ‘mare’ menu at 18 euros. Spaghetti with mussels and lasagne followed by tuna steak or pork chop with a lovely lemon sorbet to finish. Excellent value and lovely food.
Wednesday 29th July 2015
Fertilla / Argenteria / Porto Ferro
Today we drove out to Fertilia. It is one of Mussolini’s creations. Built on the Roman style as part of his new ’empire’. Alas, like Mussolini, it was dead! It’s an agricultural town that has lost the awareness of ‘haste’ or ‘industry’ or even ‘interest’.
We moved on to what the Lonely Planet describes as a ‘ghost town’ – Argenteria. It was a deserted mining town on the coast. Clearly, my Lonely Plant guidebook is getting on in years. It certainly isn’t deserted any longer. The developers have moved in and it’s three-quarters way towards being a huge holiday village. It’s a ghastly place. I don’t really understated how the Italians can choose to swim and sunbathe amid concrete mixers and lorries. Needless to say, we didn’t stop.
The rest of the day was spent at Porto Ferro. What a lovely beach. Set amongst pine woods and dunes, the beach has waves. This is a little unusual on this coast. It also has a welcoming breeze. The BBC weather app clocked 34 degrees but it felt considerably hotter.
Gradually, the pallor of the British winter is being lost. On the SPF colour chart I’ve moved from Cornish Cream to Thousand Island Dressing.
Thursday 30th July 2015
West coast / Bosa / Villanova Monteleone
Today we headed south along the west coast. It’s the Sardinian equivalent of the Big Sur, hugging the coastline, craggy with many beautiful bays and coves. Eventually, we arrived at Bosa. It’s a medieval town with an Aragonese castle and was very hot. Certainly, it must have been in the late 30’s. Too hot to walk up to the ramparts of the castle to take in the view…unless you’re British of course and then you do it at midday when everyone else has fled to seek shelter and have lunch.
It’s a long and winding drive back via the beach at Villanbova Monteleone. We stopped before Villanova at a beach set at the end of a long volcanic plate. Eight inches of water for half a mile. Horrid. Rather disappointed we sought solace in beers.
Ristorante Ramblas was close enough for the evening. Spaghetti, fish and lots of wine. The perfect Italian meal. Typically Mediterranean, the sky thickened up and it looked as though it might and ought to rain…but none arrived.
Friday 31st July 2015
Mornings can be surprisingly cool considering the BBC weather often shows 33 degrees. The mistral helps to keep the edge off things.
We headed back to Porto Ferro and the beach. It’s probably the easiest and the nicest of the beaches within easy reach of Alghero. You can get there in the car, but it’s just as easy to take the local bus.
Again, we had lovely weather. Clear blue skies and a sharp breeze to take the edge off the high 30s temperatures. Lazing on lovely sand and dipping into clear blue sea is the recipe for for good Friday.
In the evening, there was a beer festival in the town. There was a band in the park and everyone out until late. Alghero old town is a maze of tiny, very inviting streets, narrow and very old. It’s a really lovely place.
Sometimes, the sun gets to me. Take too much in and the appetite goes and all you want is a few nibbles and a lot of liquid, preferably fizzy. I always seem to have one night like this, every holiday.
Saturday 1st August 2015
Stintino / Torre Falcone / Porto Torres / Castelsardo / Sedini / Bulzi / Nulvi / Osilo / Sassari
Today we woke to heavy cloud. The BBC forecast light rain and the temperature had certainly dropped during the night. It was almost cool enough to seek out the shirt.
We headed out in the car to the far north of the island.
Following the road past Stintino we stopped at Torre Falcone. Long views of the outlying islands, but little else, to be honest.
Porto Torres was reminiscent of Holyhead. So we kept going along to coast road to Castelsardo. This is a lovely town built around a Genoese castle set on a high hill.
A winding route back to Alghero takes in Sedini, Bulzi, Martis, Osilo and Sassari before turning for Alghero. Sleepy villages and towns testament to the conviction that siestas are a serious way of life. We didn’t see a human being or car from noon until four o’clock. A couple of rather hot dogs and that was it. Everything shut down and shuttered.
Finally, it rained. But it was so warm it evaporated as soon as one could say ‘Hey, it’s evaporating’.
I feel it’s time to move on.
Sunday 2nd August 2015
South to Pula
Moving on rather than going on involves a different style of packing. This time, it’s just a matter of throwing things into bags and into the car before heading off. It’s a four hour drive from north to south but the roads are in excellent condition and the traffic invariably light.
By 2.30 we arrived in Pula. The one-way system is quite difficult and, although we could see where we wanted to be, because we were staying right in the centre of town, it took a couple of tries before we found the right entrance in the right street.
It’s a traffic-free zone from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m – if you’re likely to arrive on an evening.
The town is beautiful. They had hung up parasols from wires running across the street as part of the summer festivities. Look up and you’re dazzled by a panatella of blues, reds, purples and pinks.
Juliana’s house is at 119 Via Nora. It’s a door in the wall that leads to a very old courtyard, an even older main house and a cottage annex. We stayed in the annex. It’s overgrown for shade and there is a motley collection of pets: two daschunds, a hunting dog, a rather grumpy cat and a whole flock of chickens. However, as a hostess, Juliana is lovely and welcoming. Pastries on arrival and the fridge ready stocked with water and beer.
The annex is old and smells as such. Not damp..but lived-in. Dark lounge and kitchen with a mezzzanine bedrom, one extra bedroom beyond that and the bathroom.
The town was lively so we shared a pizza and a bottle of wine and watched people pass by.
Monday 3rd August 2015
Su Guventuddu / Nora
Woke to blazing sunshine and took the camera out to catch the beautiful colours reflecting off the parasols in the street.
Breakfast was supplied by Juliana who had left early in an old cloth-topped Fiat 500 to look after her sick mother. Thick black coffee and warm croissants filled with apricot and lemon.
We went to Su Guventuddu beach, not far outside Nora. The water was bath-warm and so clear, despite seaweed in placs. It’s not the green clingy weed that we have in the UK but rather crisp grey weed that doesn’t cling.
Tuesday 4th August 2015
Costa de Sud
Croissants and coffee again courtesy of Juliana and then out on the Costa de Sud. You can find beautiful coves and beaches that you have more or less to yourself and can spend a glorious day under the sun.
There is a very good Farmacia in Pula. That’s very handy when you find yourself being eaten alive by mosquitoes. It would be true to say that there is a bit of a problem there and, if you are prone to being bitten, then you need as strong a DEET mix as you can find.
Mid-summer festivities in Pula are a regular feature and not reserved for weekends. On this evening there was a dance festival on in the main square with Mexican dancers, traditional Sardinian marriage dances and Samoan dancers. Very colourful.
Wednesday 5th August 2015
Cagliari / Santa Margarita
Cagliari is the main town on the island. Well, really it should be called a city. It was touching 40 degrees and with a blisteringly hot sun. It’s a very attractive city with a high castle promontory from which you can look down at the whole city and out to sea. Of course, by the time you arrive, it’s siesta and the whole town closes down. However, the bars do stay open, so it’s good to be able to find a cool corner seat to while away a couple of hours over beer and snacks.
On the way back, we stopped at the beach at Santa Margarita. Driving in Italy involves trying not to end up being a total grouch over the antics of Italian drivers:
a) Pulling out of a side turning into a main road and then proceeding to put your brakes on and drop your speed to 15 m.p.h
b) Once the car behind overtake you, speed up and sit on their tail, so close you could share their radio broadcast.
c) See the five foot of space between the car in front and the one in front of that as an opportunity to overtake and slide in…especially if there is a line of oncoming traffic and especially if its made up of lorries!
d) Stop anywhere, at any time and without any use of indicators. Then, open your drivers’ door at the moment someone is alongside…especially if it’s a tourist
e) Overtake at 50 k.p.h. and then brake sharply and turn right into your drive
f) Always make sure you are on your phone and not wearing a seatbelt
g) Constantly ignore zebra crossings, especially if they’re populated and make sure you NEVER, EVER, give anyone the right of way. If the idiot in front (the one in the silver Micra from Budget Rentals) lets someone into the traffic, or allows a car to turn against the flow…thrash your horn, shout and wave at him as though his mother was a complete imbecile for having him in the first place.
More dancing in the main Municipio that evening. This time it was the turn of the locals. Collective land dancing and the local schools of dancing putting members through their paces.
Thursday 6th August 2015
Croissants, coffee, sun bathing, chilled white wine and freshly cooked chicken. What more is there to say?
Friday 7th August 2015
Exceptionally hot. Far hotter than previously with so little breeze. It’s easy to overdo the sun.
Saturday 8th August 2015
Some thoughts and Carbonia
It’s the last day here in the South. Tomorrow it’s the drive up to Olbia and the flight back to the UK.
Sardinia? If you want the cleanest of beaches, backed by pine trees, sand dunes and with very few large beach-side hotels of any description along with the cleanest of waters, then Sardinia cannot fail to impress. It scores highly against anywhere else we’ve sought for the same across the Mediterranean – and that includes: Turkey, the Greek Mainland, the Greek islands, Corsica, Portugal, Spain and the South of France. The water in the north is a little cooler than it is in the south. Beaches are popular but never that busy and there is a lovely period between noon and 4 p.m. when you are guaranteed to have stretches all to yourself. The mistral helps to take the edge off the heat on most days.
Roads between resorts are good and there is a useful infrastructure of supermarkets although the siesta tends to feel like its never-ending.
On the down side? Apart from the stunning scenery there is not a lot else. One or two picturesque towns – built to support the tourist industry bit the island lacks the history and culture of mainland Italy. Of the main towns, Alghero is the most interesting. Cagliari is a bit of a mish-mash of cultures and lacked the essential centre of Italian cities.
Have we enjoyed it? Yes, of course. Would we come again? There’s no need. There are a few places I’ve been to more than once and would visit again. Rome was one, Venice another. I don’t think the bucket list needs Sardinia adding to it.
Accommodation. When there are just the two of you, the irritatingly-named ‘independent travellers’, and you’re not really after the hotel experience, then the choices become rather limited. Finding somewhere small enough with a pool isn’t easy, especially if you’re also looking for something to do during an evening, without resorting to driving all the time.
Both our apartments were booked through Airbnb. In Alghero it was Pierpaolo’s beachfront apartment (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/1316484). It was modern and functional. In the south it was Juliana’s annex (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2738126). This was pretty but far older and rather quirky. Of the two, the first was the most useful and provided the greatest independence but the second was the more ‘authentic’. For someone as ‘reserved’ as I am (some would say downright anti-social – I live with one who would), the close proximity of a host family has been a negative experience. However, the issue was all mine. As ‘hosts’ they were there, but at a distance. But…they were there! However, the biggest issue in the south, and by a country mile, has been the resilience of the mosquitoes. We ran industry-standard plug-in units in the downstairs rooms and the bedroom and anointed ourselves daily with Tropical Strength Jungle Formula and they got past the defences. The memsahib was hit the hardest. She was almost carried off by them at times. I woke in the night to the noise of a squadron flypast coming into land. It’s sad to say, but it was a relief when the scratching stopped.
In the afternoon, we went for a drive out to Carbonia. Benito ‘Il Duce’ might have fancied himself as a latter-day Claudius, but he was very unimaginative when it came to place names. In the north he built a town as an agricultural centre and named it Fertilia. In the south he built a town as the mining centre for Sardinia and named it Carbonia. I suppose when you developed emphysema he shipped you off to somewhere in the middle to recuperate. Probably called that Covonia!
Sunday 9th August 2015
We left Pula early armed with fresh figs from Juliana’s garden.
Four and a half hours later we were at the Hotel Cavour in Olbia. Small but spotlessly clean. It’s right in the centre of the town and extremely handy for a short stop.
The front is pretty and you can walk the length out to the ferry terminal. At night, the town came to life. Street stalls, stilt-walkers, music and some of the grandest yachts in harbour.
The quality of the food in the restaurants is excellent. We had probably the best meal of the holiday before a final walk to admire Bernard Arnault’s yacht.
Monday 10th August
Olbia / London
From Olbia to Gatwick and then on to Bethnal Green. Tomorrow it’s the train north to Chester and back to rural Wales.
Time to look forward? Normandy perhaps?