I am off to what I think is becoming the part of the world I like best – the Mediterranean and the countries there. As usual I plan and prepare and ponder about large suitcases small, missing the connecting flight, losing the luggage all the things that after spending a week agonizing over, just happen regardless, exactly how I first plan…one would think I would learn in all this time. But every time it is the same, at least I have stopped stressing and running around heedlessly, yelling and screaming like when the kids had to go to school.
My trauma was, my connection in Paris was just an hour and I knew checked in baggage would have likely got delayed under that circumstance (notwithstanding that I may have got delayed too), so I needed to carry on, which is what I have done. Not so difficult, considering I travelled all over Europe with just the one too.
The flight into Paris was early, I made it through immigration and security and onto the Rome flight in plenty of time. While I was boarding the nice looking Italian man ( the whole crew is stunning looking) handed me my boarding pass for the Alghero flight ( which is what my current stress was, because the lady in Delhi had been unable to book me all the way) – so that smoothed out too, except it is not the seat I wanted but I am sure that will flow too…now, I am sitting waiting for these remarkably good looking men to give me some coffee, looking forward to meeting Maya in Rome, and waiting for what more this trip will bring…
I was meant to call Maya in Rome, but she wouldn’t answer her phone, so I wandered to the gate where our flight was to depart, but no Maya…and here I was thinking we had at least four hours to kill, we could go into Rome. Eeeks, how am I going to find my daughter?…that stressing self that I believe does not exist…..So I went looking, up the escalators and right in front of me she sat, the pretty girl in a pink scarf. We didn’t have time to go to Rome, but we did go and get the driving gloves and have a conversation with the lady. Funky ones for Maya to wear on her scooty and my signature pink ones, plus one… Who knows when I will come to Italy again for replenishments.
We landed in Alghero, Sardinia, found a lovely tourist information guy, who very promptly told us how to get where we wanted: the bus is leaving in 2 minutes from outside, get off at the last stop and walk around the shore to the Marina St. Elmo. So we did just that. The Marina is part of the old port which abuts the walled city, utterly charming and we found our boat the Sunday with Gary and Sonah waiting for us. We got a tour (few steps in each direction) of their lovely, compact boat, our home for the next 10 odd days. We have a tiny aft cabin, there is a very adequate closet into which we unpacked our clothes- one shelf for maya one for me, and one for communal stuff. There is so much storage on this tiny boat and all so ship shape. I like this. We settled in and then went roaming the town. Like all old cities the world over, cobbled streets winding up and down the hill. Catapult canons on the fort walls, tiny restaurants one of which we found in a side street with two tables outside and lovely food. Came back and sat on our deck for nightcaps and chatter. Tomorrow we sail.
28 June 2013: My first adult sailing day. How much I remembered of wind, water and the craft amazed me. We sailed out to sea and hit the swell, oh! that was delightful and so needed concentration to keep the body centred so it didn’t rebel and feel I’ll. It did feel kind of dodgy for a bit, but settled. We had a short sail, just 20 miles up the coast to a lovely inlet, meant to be a great snorkelling, diving bay and has the grotto of Neptune, we did not do any diving and did not find the grotto either, but we found a lovely marina and had a beautiful evening on our boat. Gary cooked dinner and we sat watching the sun set over the water drinking good wine at Porto Conte.
29 June 2013: A long sail today because there was no other spot along the rest of this wind ward coast that offered either a port or a sheltered enough bay for anchorage and it has been kind of blowy and rough. So we sailed out at 0600 hrs and almost as soon as we rounded the headland we hit the roller coaster swell, there was very little wind so we motored and took it in turns to be on duty. Made rather good time and managed to manoeuvre, very adequately, through the shallows between Sardinia and the island of Asola, which is a marine sanctuary. It was a little hairy because we were all sick with the huge swells and it was gusty and a little rough, but we were such a co ordinated team and came through just fine, lining up our markers and keeping the depth and line. Then we hit what is every ones idea of the Mediterranean, sheltered, calm, blue water, the wind picked up very nicely and we put out all our sail and played around before coming into the port of Stintino.
It’s a lovely old fishing village, we have wandered the streets, shopped for our groceries in the tiny fromageries and pasterias, eaten a very nice dinner at another lovely restaurant up a side street, served by a knowledgeable and passionate waiter who did both his food and wine great justice. It’s another lovely night on the water…. glorious pink sky at sunset, lots more people in this part of the coast, we are busy saying buona serra to all those passing to their boats. The church bell has rung across the water and it has been a long tiring and very fulfilling day.
30 June 2013: A beautiful morning, the light is spectacular, the pink and yellow houses across the water gleam. We’ve all been ablutioning in the very adequate marina loos, saving our own water and clean ship. Met some nice people, a lovely old German boat tied up here, she’s characterful and her owners have just left to fly back to Munich, obviously keep her here, this is a cheap marina, just 25 euros for a night. I guess long term stay must have a deal.
Sonah has gone to church and we will get a late start today, waiting for what the day shall bring.
knots and was most excited. We swam off the boat, got burnt
and generally had a great time. Castel Sardo is a beautiful little village, sprawled on a promontory with an impressive castel at the top. Obviously protects the northern Sardinian coast from French marauders. We wandered up and down the little alleys, ate in a great little trattoria, all home cooked including the most luscious chocolate mousse.
Lots of boats and people at the crowded marina, obviously a busy spot, we had a very tight mooring and some fun and gig getting into it, hit and miss couple of times. The English lady on the next boat was most worried that we would scrape her immaculate paint. But the marina guy motored his little dingy up and pushed our nose in finally.
This is a very special coast, and I forgot to mention that almost every promontory, harbour entrance and anywhere else strategic has these old roman towers, straight out of Rapunzel, you can picture the whole fairy tale looking at them. I guess they were fortifications and or look outs for marauders et al, they certainly add flavour and drama.
1/7/13: We sail for Bonifaccio in Corsica. Set out at 10.00 hrs. Wind on the nose so powering. Leaving the castle and it’s walls.
We tried so hard to get across this water, the wind did not agree with us at all. Came straight on the nose and after valiantly tacking for a number of hours, we finally decided we did not want to be heroic and do an 11 hour sail day, getting into an unknown and meant to be difficult port after dark, with no time to explore the place.
We turned back to the Sicilian shore and found a great berth at Isola Rossa. A tiny little fishing village, nestled behind a large rock, so a beautiful sheltered bay with a great swimming beach.
We have only been swimming off the back of our boat so far, and so Maya and I decided to go do some beaching. It was lovely and hot, the water was delicious and we had a great afternoon. Then went and wandered the town, which is precisely three streets deep, with holiday homes, some small fisherman homes, cafes and bars. It is obviously a happy family holiday destination. Anyhow, we had a pizza dinner served by a fun waitress and are back on the boat nightcapping with wine, the usual beautiful sunset and the amazing light on the water.
2/7/13: We left Isola Rossa at 8.30 hrs and it is a still, calm, hot day. The sea is like a pond. Wind still on the nose so we are motoring, it is a beautiful shore, green and gentle hills, with few small settlements, mainly resorts and tourist spots now. Today we should make France and the town of Bonifaccio, let’s see, for the moment we are putting out a fishing line to see what we might catch. It is a golden morning.
We motored into the wind along the coast of Sardinai and then across to Corsica, we got a great wind and went under sail to the beautiful town of Bonifaccia. You see the white cliffs from way out, and then have to tuck yourself in behind them to find the entrance to the port. It is obviously a very busy place, there were a number of boats that came in with us, it was a tussle, like a traffic jam and then the parking was another chore, so many boats, we were churning butter – going around and around waiting for our turn while the boats kept coming from right and left of us. Big ones, little ones and monster ones all needing to be evaded while we circled waiting to dock. The boat before us took forever to park and then move their dingy out of the way. We did rather good, our team rocks, except that we are rather more than jumping distance from the pier. Another two boats came in after us and one muffed it hugely, but the poor chap was too embarrassed to accept any help and so we left him to it. He had a passenger crew and he did not brief them to help him so it was a many time round effort for him. However the boat to the left of us is full of lovely young people who helped us greatly and even offered us the use of their ramp to get on and off our boat. Which was a great help, because else it was becoming a climbing move to get off!!
This is a large castle town, old and lovely, crawling up the hillside, there is meant to be the house of Napoleaon somewhere, but who knows true or false. We have had a marvellously huge, tasteful dinner and just come back onto our boat. It is a very very busy marina and there seem to be mosquitos too. I must admit I am not sure I like this place as much as a lot of others. It is very touristy and though a lovely old town – just a little bit twee.
3/7/13: We stayed two nights because we found the most awesome restaurant with a delicious owner and a lovely waitress. The owner: a little, rotund, old man with a large moustache and smile. He danced around on tiny feet and hugged all who came as old friends. Including Maya, but that was because Gary asked our waitress Constance to tell him that our Bollywood star truly wanted a hug. So down he came to the exclusive table by the window, with the magical view of the sea and cliffs, and gave Maya a big hug. She was embarrased and greatly pleased.
The food was extraordinary, every last bit of it. They had a small menu and I think in our two nights we managed to eat almost all of it between us. It is the restaurant ‘U Castille’ if any one ever goes to Bonifaccio, go there and ask for Constance if she stays.
The Marina, like I said was a pain, gawkers walking past the boats, huge rich yachts with crews scrubbing decks and cooking dinners. Lots of designer shops, posh people and at night it was noisy and not fun.
However coming into that port with its tricky entrance and the huge number of small and large boats going in and out was a piece of exciting business, the cliffs were spectacular and the town itself was quite lovely.
4/7/13: Sailed from Bonifaccio and anchored off one of the nearby islands in a beautiful cove, there were a number of others with the same thought, we swam and ate a great lunch, courtesy Sonah. The island was a marine preserve so the day tripping boats kept coming in and out too creating swells and excitement. Gary got a sea urchin and butchered it only to find it empty… It was a great day of sea and sun, and a short sail across to Santa Theresa. A very nice port and Marina, friendly port people who helped us park, a marina that we can climb on and off with ease, a very helpful ‘Monica’ who initiated us into the wifi and told us where to go and what to see. Lovely, small and pleasanter by far than yesterday. There were three boats next to ours on the pier, there was a wooden bridge with a little pool below where I met two friendly dogs and we explored the woods.
Santa Teresa: Multi hued small pastel houses of the old fishing village. Little old ladies standing in theirs doorways smiling. A big piazza, with the usual bars and cantinas all around it. We got suckered by a very entertaining, charming man into a terrazzo pizzeria which turned out not so good, neither for views nor food, the pizza was adequate and the wine poor. The only good thing was the guy on the street – who did a marvellous job, because it was a packed place. But we went after and had dessert and grappa y Mirto, I must say I like the Mirto much better than the grappa, which I find rather rough. The Mirto is made from myrtle berries and tastes tart and delicious. Poor Sonah got a tiramisu in a plastic bowl and did not like it all. So the food was a bit of a disaster.
However, the square came alive with some sort of performers and then all the local artisan stalls opened, Sonah and Gary left earlier, Maya and I took our time floating and catching every thing and then wandered back to the boat for a lovely restful night in the quiet, quaint marina.
5/7/13: It is a lovely sailing day, we are heading past Isola Rossa and on our way to Castel Sardo. The wind is on the starboard stern and we are fairly flying over the water between 6 – 7 knots, the water is creaming off our bow and the only sound is the wind in the sails and the water below.
Castel Sardo is as nice as it was, we did not go all the way up, but found a small family run trattoria with home made tiramisu, which did Sonah a lot of good after her disaster yesterday. She has been unwell all day, luckily the Amrit dhara is working..
I am sitting on deck and savouring the sight of the lit up castle on the hill. Our neighbours are the same from yesterday. It is a strange thing that marina boat people do not become friendlier than they are, I would think you would invite some over or drop in to neighbouring boats etc, but it does not seem to happen. May be next time I will make it so.
The marina crew recognised us and it was nice to be welcomed. It is almost coming to an end our sailing sojourn.
6/7/2013: Today was Sonah’s day to be captain and the first thing we did was almost bang into the boat next door while trying to get out of our mooring. It was all Gary’s fault for releasing the bow anchor too early, however like all good men ofcourse it was Sonah doing her best and all the rest of it. Well we got out just fine, and charted our course and all the rest of the stuff that requires doing. Got our sails up and were fairly running with the wind on a good tack, when the man comes to check and decides we should tack instead of heading farther out and doing one later tack which we thought would have got us nicely going. But Sonah is a smart wife who makes her husband feel supreme so we do what he says, not that it eventually made any difference because the wind dropped and then we just parked off Porto Torres for lunch and a swim. (For Gary, who will read this, I do think you are supreme too!)
Lovely 22 ^ water, Maya decided to jump off and not catch the tow rope and before we knew it she was too far away, so we had to circle around to get her, she missed the rope again, so another time round. She was gamely trying to swim to catch the boat and exhausting herself, so we finally had to throw her the life jacket and she bobbed around like a little orange blob till we finally did manage to get her. Then we switched our engine off and just swam and loitered, Gary started scrubbing the sides of the boat and we hung a line for him. Well we all got aboard and decided time to move on towards a marina and tried starting the boat because there was absolutely no wind. But…. Our engine would not connect, would start and the moment we out it in gear it would stop, we tried everything but no go. Opened the top panel and the bottom panel, looked under every cover and hole. Tool kits all out, every last one of them, spanners to screw drivers to the works… No go. Tried raising the marina on the radio, but no one answered…finally I had to turn on my phone and call the marina guy. We were only a few kms from Porto Torres, and they sent a tug out to us immediately. We went to put a line on the bow….and what do we find? We already had a line on the bow and it was disappearing under our keel….. stuck in our propellor no doubt. Well we felt a little foolish, Gary went under and released it, sure enough wound around the propellor well and proper. The engine started and we were all fine, called the marina , but he said boat already on the way so to wait for him, which we did and then decided to just go into Porto Torres to see a different place.
So glad we did, it is a lovely little town, has an old roman history and some ruins etc which are obviously being excavated even now. We found the old church, a beautiful building, obviously having some sort of feria, people all dressed up in traditional costumes and going to put on a show. Sonah went for mass and we went looking for bars, which we found a plenty in every square. It is Saturday and a party everywhere. Bands playing on all corners and the usual market stalls. Another Sardinian town, this one not so touristy, more local flavour, people dressed for church and having Saturday dinner out. Charming.
7/7/2013: Alghero again, feels like coming home. This is such a pretty marina, right below the old town. We made really good time, left early in the morning before sun up, pretty, pink sky and the lights of the harbour, calm, millpond sea. Watched the sun come up and then waited for dolphins, negotiated the shallows between the islands like pros, the water so calm you could see the bottom. There was no wind for the most part of the day. We found a pod of dolphins a few miles short of Neptunes grotto, but they did not want to play, were feeding and there was a mama and baby, so they moved away when we got close, it was still nice to see them. We slowed down and had a swim in the hope that they might come back, but no go. So we carried on and this time found the grotto which we had missed seeing due to the huge stormy waves on our way out. There are actually two islands of the headland and the grotto is in behind them, there is also a walk from the grotto up to the headland and beyond which seemed really nice, something to do sometime else.
We caught a good wind ones we turned past the Neptune grotto headland and came racing into Alghero with speeds upto 7 knots, great last sailing day. Tied in with total professionalism, Maya’s throwing technique is mastered as are her knots, finally.
We went out for a celebratory dinner and came back to the boat for wine and more and more, it was a party evening and Gary and I, after drinking our stock, decided to run out for more wine. The girls thought we were too drunk and decided to follow, picturing us fallen in the water somewhere, but we had wine speedy feet so they couldn’t find us. Luckily the man we bought the wine from was standing outside his store and figured they were looking for us, ‘you looking for your mammi and pappi? they took the wine and whoosh!’ so they came back to the boat and drank some more wine, discussed everything under the sun and went to bed at 10.00 thinking it was past midnight.
8/7/2013: A shore day, wandering the town and buying odds and ends because all the stores are on sale. Cafe Diva is a popular breakfast spot and then we found a lovely place for lunch that served delicious pasta con pesto and bruchettas. I have to start noting the names of the cafes, but I forget. A good day, the ship chandler boy came and fixed the rope, there is a big boat that tied up beside us, like a fading diva with an old captain that has run her for 20 years and is chatty, but the owners are kind of stuck up, little like faded divas themselves.
All the boats were doing wash and clean and repair, there is a beautiful, sleek catamaran, alongside us too, with a German couple, friendly man and dour wife. It doesn’t look like having a lot of living space, but then these boats are deceptive in just how much well utilised space manages to be salvaged in them.
9/7/2013: It is feeling a little like homesick time now that we are leaving, I am going to miss Maya muchly. I wish we were flying out together, I think it might have been easier, now it is going to feel lonely for half a day. Missing Gary and Sonah too, I have dreamt of sailing the Mediterranean and the fact of having done it with an old friend, made a new friend and introduced my daughter to it is just like having had the cake, cream and the strawberry on top!
10/7/2013: After all that, my final adventure happened at the Milan airport returning from my lovely sailing trip. Last night, did what I have never done in my life before, slept on the ground at the airport!
So busy enjoying my trip that I forgot to figure that my flight from Sardinia to Milan arrived at 2100 and my onward flight leaves from a different Milanese airport at 0800 the next morning. And good old European airports all things shut after 2200 hrs. So first the shuttle bus between the airports not available so had to take a bus to the central station. An hour later get off in this semi deserted place and ask how to get to the Linate airport, and the bus driver says no way now, only taxi. One rather nice, young man escorts me to the taxi stand, saying you please be careful here at night. So luckily I get a nice cab driver who tells me, ‘but why going to airport now all shut, no flights till the morning, I take you hotel near airport’, and I decide, best, get a good night and so I say, ‘ok, decent airport hotel, do you know?’ and he says, ‘yes, yes señora good clean safe five minute from airport, yes?’ So I say ‘yes please’ and he drops me there. Doesn’t take a tip even, buona suerte and off he went. So I go in and ask for a room only they are all booked out, happy desk clerk calls the other close hotels, no room, he says, ‘best go to the airport señora, is safe now at night, I send my car to drop you.’ So good luck and bad, I get dropped to the airport for free.
The airport, all closed town, echoing halls, one gentleman walking and one senior couple sleeping on hard wire uncomfortable seats. So I plonk down next to them and try for comfort. No go, finally the other gentleman also trying the same, spreads his jacket on the floor, puts his hat over his eyes and gets horizontal. So I go to the other corner, put one scarf in the floor, bag under my head, big, flowery pink scarf over me and spread out to sleep in an all pink bundle. Got up this morning, nice and fresh, washed, changed checked in and am ready to go. All those years of wondering why the bundles of people sleep at airports, finally found out. Never again though, hurt my sensibilities though appealed to my sense of adventure.