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Monday, 14 September 2015

Project Sardinia & Corsica



It’s been nearly 7 months since our flight from Alghero back to Bucharest. Andra and I had made it through our first trip together. And I must tell you that it’s been one of the best this year.

Day 1
On Sunday, with a full plane, and only one officer to check the papers, we stood in line for about one hour and lost the bus to Fertilia. Impatient at the prospects of waiting for the next one, we started walking towards the village that would host us for 2 nights. The sun and springish/summerish scents were a delight after sub-zero temperatures and snow in Romania. That is, until the rain came.
It was cooler now, but we still made it on foot to Ostello Hostal de L'Alguer (EUR 52/twin room/2 nights, en-suite, (frugal) breakfast included). We then packed and went out to eat, choosing a terrace in the sun and enjoying our bruschette gigantesche [as I liked to call them], together with our tiramisu and cappuccino at Cohiba.
It was time for a walk to Nuraghe Palmavera (admission fee: EUR 3.50) following a rather scenic trail. We got there, explored for a bit, and then the very nice curator of the museum offered to take us and a couple of Polish travellers to Alghero. We gladly accepted. The wind had intensified and there were signs of rain. Still determined to walk the narrow and picturesque streets of ‘small Barcelona’, we did roam for a while [as I expected to get a wow, which sadly never came in this town] and then crashed at a waffle place – Café del Corso –, savouring the local beer – Ichnusa.
Trying to catch the bus back to Fertilia, we got locals offering to take us, but we stubbornly waited. In the end, it arrived and we were all smiles when our driver offered our rides ‘as a gift of his island to us’.
It was cold and the Wi-Fi did not work; still, we were happy to be in Sardinia and marvelled at our hosts’ kindness at the end of a day when we did not pay a single cent for transportation.    

Day 2
After breakfast, I did try to call my contact from the pre-booked scuba diving session. Unfortunately, later on, as I managed to get in touch with him, he told me that the visibility was not that good because of the rainy days that had ended a day before and that we could only go on Thursday – we would be in Corsica then.
Fertilia
A bit disappointed, yet relieved [I dreaded the cold water], we started walking around Fertilia, trying to change a large note into smaller ones [make sure you bring small money, especially if you travel off-season!], then enjoyed the sun on our hostel deck, a cappuccino and a hot chocolate keeping us company.
We had delicious pasta and salad for lunch at ClaMar, topped with local seudas. At one o’clock sharp, the owner of Sea Kayak Sardinia was waiting to take us on a half-day sea kayak tour (EUR 45/pp.). We had a peaceful and azure bay as our starting point and paddled all the way to Porto Conte and back, happy at the waves, the wind, and the flamingos we saw.  
The day ended with a bit of shopping and dinner at Cohiba – the crema catalana was even better than the giant tiramisu that I had the previous day, though I still consider the latter as the best of the entire trip.

Day 3
4:30 was our wake-up time. We had many means of transportation to take and change, because it was the day on which we were supposed to reach Corsica. First, we took the bus from Fertilia to Alghero (ticket: EUR 1.50), but the driver left us at the train station instead of the bus stop in Alghero [we had to continue to Sassari], messing my plans up. We adapted to our new train ride (ticket: EUR 2.20) and got off at Santa Maria. We walked to the intended bus stop with the help of the conductor and of a very nice lady from Szeged, who was very happy to be near somebody who spoke her language. With the bus tickets to Santa Teresa di Gallura (EUR 7) bought, we could finally relax and enjoy our ride in the very colourful north of Sardinia [I especially liked Castelsardo and I made it a goal to head back there someday].
On top of our list in Santa Teresa was the purchase of our ferry tickets to Corsica (return ticket: EUR 35.20, with Saremar), finally changing that big note into smaller ones, and then we were off to the centre, where – although most of the places were closed – we enjoyed breakfast in the laid-back piazza, getting to know facts about the large, yet very respected Romanian community there. We walked afterwards, had a delicious gelato, fought the wind and the cold, spotted the Corsican mountains [only one hour away by ferry!], and unwound on the beautiful Rena Bianca beach, then stock up on sweets and prepared for Corsica.
Rena Bianca
We were soon there, after a bumpy ride with huge waves and powerful wind. Entering Bonifacio harbour remained my favourite moment of the entire trip – I would see the old town above and instantly fell in love. Our more expensive, yet turquoise and charming hotel room – @Hotel Royal (EUR 51/double room, en-suite), was perfectly located in the heart of Bonifacio, which allowed us at least to go out and stroll along those superbly mysterious old alleys.

Day 4
Remember the sweets that we stock up on in Santa Teresa? They served as an excellent breakfast! Enough to keep us going through that morning’s trek au Phare de Pertusato. The trail was vivid and revealed some impressive views, ones you would hold on to during your years. It got so warm, that I even took my jacket off... while my history-buff side was happy because I had also found an old coin.
On our return to Bonifacio, we had to have lunch and chose LeStDo, one of the only two restaurants in town open off-season. Best meal of the trip, worst service. Struggling to find postcards and two bottles of water, we indulged in the medieval air of Bonifacio once more, had a look at Sardinia from afar and head back into lower Bonifacio, where – to our surprise! – we found many-many shops open. On our ride back to Sardinia, as I watched the whitish cliffs of Corsica turned pink, I realised how happy I was and that I did not miss a single thing in my life. Yes, sometimes travelling does help you reach these ultimate conclusions!
We stopped for sweets and cappuccino in Santa Teresa, at the cosy family-run Muita di Mari, and we were offered delicious pizza on the house and straight from the oven.
A very nice bus ride to Olbia followed (ticket: EUR 6), full of precious information provided by our very helpful and kind driver. Another very nice Sardinian helped us find our accommodation – Bibiebo (EUR 42/double room, breakfast included), where we were warmly welcomed by our cheerful host.   

Day 5
Breakfast was followed by a morning sprint to buy our bus tickets to Nuoro (EUR 8) and then by a surprise of our previous day’s driver, who showed up to instruct his colleague to take great care of us. :)
We had nearly two hours in Nuoro and – although the town did not make a huge impression on us –, we did manage to find a wonderful place to spend our time – Cioccolateria Due Archi and still catch our bus to Macomer (ticket: EUR 4.50), then change to Oristano (ticket: EUR 4.50). Our arrival at Sa Domu e Crakeras (EUR 40/double room, en-suite) and our welcome were both special, as we were recommended where to dine and promised a ride to Tharros the following morning by our extraordinary host.
We walked around Oristano, searching for historical monuments and watching the Sartiglia preparations – due to start after our departure, sadly. This made us hungry, so we got into the fantastic Il DriMcafé and had – due to the fixed lunch/dinner schedule – only toasts, tiramisu, and cappuccino.
In the end, after some well-deserved shopping, we got to the recommended Trattoria Maria Neve’s, the only vegetarian restaurant in Oristano, which served us an exquisite dinner full of local dishes and drinks. And I think that the second glass of Vernaccia di Oristano was a bit too much.    

Day 6
As promised, our host took us to Tharros (admission fee: EUR 6, tower included). We walked along the peninsula and we were then given a guided tour of the ruins, completed by a climb into the tower. We got to stop and immerse into the vibe of the oldest church in Sardinia, 6th century, and then walk to Cabras while trying to spot flamingos on the nearby lake, which we did!
Tharros
We managed to have some cold beers while waiting and waiting for the bus back to Oristano (ticket: EUR 2.20). Here, we barely had time to get our stuff from the guesthouse, grab a snack, and get our tickets to Cagliari (EUR 7).
Arriving in the capital of Sardinia was a totally different story – crowded and at times dodgy, Cagliari is still charming in a very special way. No clubs or restaurants for the night, we were just happy to make it to our accommodation safe and sound – Ladybird (EUR 32/double room, breakfast included).      

Day 7
It had been one of the coldest nights, but we had to get to the central bus station in time: the beaches of Villasimius were waiting. Consequently, we had our self-catering breakfast, caught a bus to the station and patiently waited for our bus to Villasimius to arrive (return ticket: EUR 6.50). With the risk of getting to Alghero later than planned, it was worth it simply to laugh our hearts out on the way to this fishing village turned resort, to enjoy the sun, the sea, and the sand on its Spiaggia Lunga, to marvel at the tangerines on our stroll back to the centre/bus stop, and to enjoy a very sweet and tasty breakfast [tilicas and pardulas among others] at La Perla.
Spiaggia Lunga
On our way back to Cagliari, the rain started. We managed to get our train tickets to Sassari (EUR 15.75) and, as the restaurant recommended in Oristano was closed, we ended up having pasta at La Gobbetta.
Our train was significantly delayed, so we missed the connection train to Alghero. We were accompanied to the (connection) bus stop (ticket: EUR 2.20) and waited with a couple of Dutch travellers, watching the carnival – already underway.
It seems like the clouds had plotted against us all day, because Alghero welcomed us with a violent thunderstorm and we could get to our accommodation (S’Istella; EUR 25/twin room) and to our lovely host [who brought us merendine for the following day even if our stay didn’t include breakfast] relatively dry only with the help of a local bus driver who took us as close as possible to our end-point and didn’t charge us a thing.   

Day 8
We woke up really early, glad to see our clothes dry in spite of the dreadful storm that they had gone through. We had our merendine and started walking to the bus stop. It was still pitch-dark and we realised that we had definitely missed our airport bus when we managed to see the bus schedule on the high-hung board with the help of our headlamp.
Kind as it had already been proven, bus drivers would stop and interrogate on our destination, then reassure us that the airport bus (ticket: EUR 1.50) wouldn’t be long. We did make it in time: enough to buy pecorino and fregola and to take a small part of Sardinia home.  

P.S. Andra envisions a sequel. :)


© Olivia-Petra Coman (text & pics)

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