2019-The Year in Travel

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One way or another, this year we’ve indulged in seven trips, which seems, on first reading to be self-indulgent [a view that is certainly hinted at by some]. I don’t like to call our pieces of travel ‘holidays’, because holiday is an ambiguous term that means different things to different people. A holiday to many [myself included when I was a proper working person] is simply a break from work, lolling on a sofa in pyjamas watching movies. To others it is somewhere hot, lolling by a pool in swimwear. For us it is a foray into learning about places-their history and geography, the art and the culture.

The first 2019 trip was in January-to Scotland in our camper van, which may appear a strange choice to some, but the weather, though cold [-6 at Loch Ness] was mainly crisp and sunny, ideal for seeing the dramatic scenery of The Cairngorms or the grandiose architecture of Glasgow.

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Next, in February, we made a self-indulgent winter sun visit to Barbados, a tiny, laid-back, friendly island, where we self-catered in a modest ‘apart-hotel’ and enjoyed the company of our fellow guests, jovial Canadians, most of them.

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In the spring we trundled off along the [extremely wet] north coast of Spain, a spectacular journey following the pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela. This rugged coast includes many cliffside towns that would rival the Amalfi Coast, if only there was sunshine and dry weather. We continued on around the corner to Portugal, which defied our experience of always being warm and sunny to be cloudy and windy. There is not much left of Portugal we haven’t seen but it remains a favourite destination.

northern spanish coast

We undertook an early summer jaunt to Brittany, to cycle some of the Nantes-Brest canal. This was a spectacularly successful trip, the well-appointed, municipal sites along the canal cheap and conveniently placed by the towpath. But the temperature soared into the 40s, making cycling tricky even in the evenings. It was, however scenic, memorable and pleasant and we are likely to cycle some more French canal paths.

Brittany cycling

Later in the summer we stayed locally in a New Forest site by a small, handy railway station and a large pub, hosting a small granddaughter who had requested to come camping with us and fell in love with it all immediately, especially riding around on her bike, being surrounded by wild ponies and cows and eating outside in the fresh air.

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This was followed in the autumn by a visit to the outrageously gorgeous Italian lakes, starting with Lugano and continuing on to Como, Iseo, Garda and Maggiore-all very different but all breathtakingly beautiful-and new to us as a destination. The return drive over The Alps via the Simplon Pass was spectacular and I’ve no doubt we’ll return to the lakes at some point.

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Our last outing, in October,  was to visit Norwegian friends where they live overlooking a fjord near Aalesund. We were gifted with cool, clear sunshine and our hosts’ hospitality was lavish.

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So a brilliant year of travel; but where to in 2020? Well-weather permitting we’ll be sampling the delights of the Lake District, UK in January, then heading for long-haul sun in February. After that, who knows? Will European travel even be feasible? We can only wait to find out…

Corsica- the Last Gasp

When we get back to the south of Corsica from Sardinia we head towards Propriano, slightly to the west, although en route we’ve a plan to see a startling outcrop of coastal rock called the ‘Rocher de Lion’. It’s more wiggly, mountainous terrain but worth it, as the lion rock is amazing. We’re lucky to be able to stop for photographs in a small lay-by which houses a cafe, closed when we arrive. It’s also a convenient place for us to make a coffee.

There’s an ancient, neolithic site we’d like to see, inland at Finistola. We’ve left it until now as it’s not too far out of our way. It’s on the outskirts of the village and has a roomy car park, empty when we arrive. There’s a modest charge for tickets but once we’re through the site is extensive and has a wow factor, huge, mossy boulders framing cave entrances, stepped pathways and standing stones everywhere. The Corsicans have done a good job restoring and preserving the site and there’s an excellent visitors centre, too.

There are carpets of tiny, pink cyclamen everywhere, reminders that even here, in the Mediterranean, Autumn is hovering.

Then we’re off again, making for a site around the bay from Propriano. There’s a descent down to the coast before a long strip along by the beach. Again, the site is away from town in a residential area opposite the sea. It’s wooded and very, very quiet with only a handful of vans and one or two tents.

The weather has turned truly autumnal now and begun to be wet and windy. The ground in places is waterlogged too. End of season is upon us! There’s a longish walk to the nearest bar or restaurant, not tempting in a squally gale. A walk along the road in the opposite direction takes us a short way before the footpath peters out. In addition to this, the campsite bar and restaurant seems to be closed, meaning we’ll be thrown back on our own resources once more. I’m full of admiration for those who’ve pitched tiny tents on the soggy, puddle-ridden ground. We’ve brought our half-dried laundry from the previous site, which I hang out between the trees in a dry spell in hopes it will dry.

Two nights is enough and we move on again, this time near to Ajaccio, Corsica’s present capital, to a site near Porticcio, just around the bay. The pitches are a little soggy and the services antiquated but it will do until we depart. A tabby cat takes a liking to us and makes himself at home on our groundsheet but we’re not inviting him inside!

This time we’re in walking distance of the small seaside town so we take advantage and go to look. And it’s just that- a seaside town, with beachside bars, restaurants and shops. Ajaccio can be seen across the bay. It’s tempting to book a table for the evening but the walk home is quite long to be doing late at night. There is also a small bar outside the entrance to our site but it closes in the evening.

Our ferry from Ajaccio to Toulon does not leave until late evening, leaving us a full day to explore the city. It’s not far to get round to the outskirts but finding somewhere to park for the day seems impossible. There’s a car park on the way in, although the town is miles away around the bay. We drive through the centre, which is completely jammed with every kind of traffic. All car parks are full. We drive to the other side, beyond a long strip of cemetery and find a seaside car park, again, a long way from town.

After a coffee we try again, travelling back through the snarled-up streets, parking in a space near the port for a short time, just to have some lunch then noticing the railway station car park is opposite! Hooray! We’re off to explore the town!…

At Last! Return to Corsica

We’re aware that we must pay up for our stay at the site near Santa Theresa Gallura the evening before we leave, while reception is still open, as we’ll need to be early next morning to catch the ferry to Corsica. Feeling noble, I volunteer to make the descent down to the gate and pay, negotiating all the levels then flogging back up all the slopes and steps to our pitch at the top. Getting to the door of the van, I see Husband talking on his phone and once he’s done, he shares the news that our ferry for next morning is cancelled due to inclement weather and we won’t be departing for another couple of days.

‘Your turn’ I tell him. And he makes the steep descent back down to reception to re-book for two more nights. It leaves us with the knotty problem of how to occupy two days here in relative wilderness without beach weather. But it’s true that the skies are overcast and the stiff breeze is strengthening to gale level. Later, squally rain is added to the mix. I’ll admit to disappointment that we’re not leaving for Corsica just yet. There are a few places there left to see and not a lot besides reading or internet we can do here in the middle of nowhere except beach, which is not tempting in the wind and wet. Hmm-

With a day to fill, we opt to secure the van’s interior and go for a look at Santa Theresa Gallura, where we’ll be leaving from when the coast is clear. It’s only a couple of miles down the road. The town is hilly, with narrow streets but we find a car park that will accommodate the van and walk towards the beach front area. It’s very windy though not raining and when we reach the sea, we can see the strip of limestone cliffs that is the coast of Corsica across the choppy waters.

If you cross the sand into the corner of the small, sea-front beach there are steps up to a cliffside walkway. It doesn’t go all that far but is fun to walk round, especially with choppy waves splashing up, although the only option is to return via the same route. After this, we wander the town a bit. It’s pleasant enough, with some attractive squares and plenty of gift shops. Then it’s on to have a look where we’ll be getting the ferry and to ‘Eurospin’ for groceries.

Next morning we’re up early to prepare for the crossing, arriving at the port to join a queue for the ancient ferry, which is already waiting. We get a coffee and pastry from the portside cafe then I’m told to vacate and board as a pedestrian while Husband waits. Soon I can watch while he turns the van and reverses into the mouth of the boat whilst being shouted and gesticulated at. We’re learning, by now, that this is the way of Italian ferry workers.

There’s not much sun, but I can’t help standing to watch as our vessel approaches Bonifacio, the white cliffs growing larger, the medieval buildings on their overhanging ledge. I’ve already taken far too many photos of this picturesque city! Then we’re rounding the cliffs into harbour and as Husband descends to the hold to get the van, I follow the pedestrian walkway out to meet him. There’s just the steep ramp of road up from the quay to negotiate- thankfully without obstacle or need to pause this time. We’re back on Corsica!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novelist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Isuledda? Yes we is…

In a typical episode of senile dementia fog memory lapse, neither Husband nor I remember the Costa Smeralda site of Isuledda until we’re about half a mile away, then bells begin to ring and once we’ve turned off the road and up their driveway we pass a spot with a hosepipe where we’d washed our [previous] van prior to departure and I’m certain. Yes. We stayed here in 2016, on our way up from Sicily.

But wow, has it changed! Their reception building is familiar, but that’s about all. Last time we chose our pitch, down by the water on a terraced section. This time the waterside pitches are ‘premium’, meaning you pay more. We’re taken on a zooming golf cart ride to view available pitches away from the water, round some bends, up a hill and along some lanes. There’s been an explosion of chalet installation and the entire place has expanded, spreading over far more land. We choose a place and get returned to reception, where we check in and we’re soon installed among the German vans. This trip, as well as the last excursion to the south-west of France, has been dominated by German tourists. We’ve no problem or complaint with this. They are always friendly, chatty and pleasant. But we’d have liked a more cosmopolitan set of neighbours- for variety.

In the next aisle there’s a bus. It’s there for a group of Czech cyclists, who are camping just down the lane from us, have their own caterer and pile on to the bus each day with their packed lunches, followed by a trailer carrying their bikes. They are brave and fit to be cycling the roads here in Sardinia!

We’re on a kind of hillock, almost overlooking the sea. If it felt like end of season was approaching in one or two of the previous sites, here there’s no sign of it. The place is full to bursting. There’s a waterside cafe and a new bar area, besides the restaurant that was here before, also some kind of performance arena- not in use this late in the season, for which we can be glad.

We spend our first day walking along to the nearest town, Cannigione, to get lunch. We’ve been before but it’s a pleasant walk with lovely coastal views. There isn’t a lot to the town but we find a pleasant cafe on the front and afterwards it takes next to no time to see the rest of the place.

We can access the beach near our pitch but an attempt to spend time relaxing there next day is thwarted by a strong, cool breeze so we opt to walk instead, falling foul of the billowing drizzle that begins to fall. It all lends more ‘end of season’ to the days, especially after all the heat.

It’s time to move on to our last Sardinian destination, a couple of miles outside Santa Theresa Gallura, where we’ll be getting the ferry in two days’ time. The site is steep and terraced, the road curling up and up. We opt for a pitch at the top, near the bar and restaurant where wifi is available.

There’s beach access down a steep and rocky track but it’s worth the walk and the climb back up. The coastline here is rocky and characterful, although there’s a stiff breeze again.

Our neighbours on site are a couple from Luxembourg, very proud owners of a brand, new VW van. They are new to touring but enthusiastic. We show them our https://www.acsi.eu/en/ discount card and campsite book and they discover the savings they could have made!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novelist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Two Sites and a Funeral

With all avenues having been explored at the Tortoli site on the Sardinian east coast, in other words a short, hot walk along the road as far as it goes and back again- we up sticks once more and ready the van for another hop north, this time towards Siniscola. There’s a site at Santa Lucia, a small seaside village. I look at the map. The road is ominously wiggly, heralding more mountain road terrors.

You’d have thought I’d be getting used to staring dizzy drops and horrific hairpins by this time, but rather than finding it all thrilling [as, admittedly. does Husband] I continue to perspire and grimace. But I’ve perfected the art of taking long, slow breaths as we approach bends or vehicles career towards us. This time, the journey is not aided by the scores of motor bikers who roar up behind us and swerve away at breakneck speed, sometimes enhancing the thrill by zig-zagging across the road. It’s clearly a favourite for motor cycles, also the one and only road where we spot three- yes, three British vehicles- all in one day; and having not spotted a single Brit during the entire trip to this date.

On this route, though there are some short stretches of respite, semi-tunnels where the outside edge is guarded by columns, and by the time we’re dropping down towards Santa Lucia it’s all become much more sensible. A search for a suitable place to stop for lunch gets tied in with supermarket shopping then we’re good to go to the site.

While we’ve been in Sardinia, our own, home, UK news has been full of the Queen’s death- a momentous event for many in our home country. And while any death is sad for those involved and close family of course I can’t help feeling relieved not to be saturated in the details and outpourings all day every day.

We pull up at the gates to our site. The woman in reception is pleasant and welcoming. ‘But you don’t want to watch the funeral?’ she asks me. For a moment I’m not sure what she means. ‘We’re showing it in the bar’ she tells me. I thank her, but say no, thanks, we didn’t know the Queen. [We still haven’t watched any of the ceremony/pomp/footage in spite of it’s remaining on YouTube], which the woman appears to find amusing.

The site is large and wooded with beach access via a woodland path. Getting into pitches is a little tricky, the first we choose being hampered by a gargantuan, Italian motorhome protruding into the access lane. The occupant makes a sudden appearance as Husband begins to manoeuvre into the space, gesticulating and waving like a banshee on speed. As I’m the other side of our van undertaking my own, usual, time-honoured signals, I find this frantic takeover annoying, as does Husband, so we roll across to the next space, away from the hyperactive, oversized-motorhome-owning Italian and his panicky signals.

Again, the site is ideal for beach lovers. This time, we can walk along the road into Santa Lucia, although it is tiny and while it’s attractive and has a relaxing, seaside holiday feel it has nothing of particular interest.

It’s on again, then- this time only a shortish hop north and to the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia’s famous millionaire playboy playground which was developed in the 60s by the Aga Khan, who poured milions into the area. Lucky for us it still has campsites!…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novelist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Close Encounters of the Polizi Kind

After a few days at the site near Tharros, we decide to ditch the plan to go south to Cagliari and drive across the island of Sardinia to the east coast at Tortoli. We’ve seen nowhere on our site to empty the grey water waste from the tank under our van, so we ditch it on the dirt track that leads to the road. We need to shop for groceries. A quick sweep via SATNAV tells us there’s a ‘Eurospin’ at Cabras, ten miles down the road, so we head there, following the directions. Upon entering Cabras, a somewhat nondescript town, I spot the ‘Eurospin’ sign, its tall, blue, star-studded emblem standing in front of a bulldozed building site.

We turn around and head back towards a brand new shopping centre up a ramp, where I catch sight of ‘Conad’ [renamed ‘Gonad’ by us on a previous occasion]. As we move to the access lane I notice a vehicle pulling level with us, then see it is a polizi car and worse, the window is down and the police officer is screeching something at us. Horrors! He points to our waste outlet, now dribbling a miniscule drip on to the road. ‘Es una problema!’ he shouts at me. ‘It’s nothing’ I say, ‘it’s just water!’ He continues to shout and we turn off up the ramp. I look behind and offer thanks to some unknown deity that the polizi are not accompanying us to Gonad.

We strike out across the countryside, soon beginning an ascent on a mountain road which feels too narrow to me, the passenger sitting on the left with vehicles hurtling towards me round hairpin bends. It’s up and on up, winding high until we enter one of those villages that clings to the mountainside as if a giant has thrown armfuls of toy houses down the hill. It’s pretty as a picture but with nowhere whatsoever to park a van we’re obliged to drive through to the other side- where at least we do find somewhere to stop and photograph the views. But they do not do justice to the panoramic vista stretched out below, a snaking series of hairpin bends and, incongruously, a football pitch halfway down.

We continue on the mountain road, stopping for coffee at almost the top, by a sign warning us of stray cattle- not a worry that had preoccupied me on the white-knuckle drive. At last we’re following the road through a quarry, the entire plant occupying both sides of the road and drop down towards the sea and Tortoli. We find the site we’ve chosen, as usual a good way out of town and away from any village or community, which appears to be the norm in Sardinia.

It’s one of those swish, ‘village’ type sites with pool, loungers, beach access through a swathe of palm trees and what looks like a creditable restaurant. This is lucky, as we’re not anywhere near the town of Tortoli although we can see the port, way around the bay along the huge, breezy beach.

The site is half empty. Our neighbours are two young Italian couples and a small boy. The women wander off with the child while the young men set to pitching the tents, stringing up the fairy lights and installing hammocks between the trees. Once the hammocks [four] are in place, the larger man, who clearly enjoys his pasta, tries out a hammock, instantly stretching it to the ground where it tips him out. The fact that we’re watching with interest places no constraints on the pair’s activities. They’re delighted to have caught our attention, especially when the two light bulbs they’ve inserted work and we applaud.

In spite of being way out of town and the only place to eat, the restaurant is excellent and I select a fishy carbonara which is simply delicious.

With nothing other than beach we decide to make the next hop up the coast, working our way up northwards towards the Costa Smeralda…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Alghero to Tharros via the Nuraghi

We’re keen to get a close look at a Sardinian ‘nuraghi’. Sardinia is littered with the remains of these circular, stone buildings in various states of preservation. Many are simply piles of stones lying around in the countryside or in the fields. Others have been preserved. They are ancient megalithic buildings and were constructed during the nuragic era from between 1700 and 730 BC.

So, on leaving Alghero we strike out into the interior with the intention of stopping somewhere near Tharros but taking in a nuraghi en route. The landscape is rocky and barren. Nuraghi Losa seems to be on our way and in fact is only just off the main road we’re taking, providing not only a cultural, historic experience but also, with a spacious car park, an excellent lunch stop on the way. Sardinia, we’ve found is not overrun with picnic stops and rest areas.

At the site there’s a ticket counter and also a small cafe and gift shop. The two women running the enterprise seem a little disorganised, but we do obtain tickets and manage to avoid too much of a lecture, preferring to read the texts at the site for ourselves. We are almost alone as we walk up the track towards the imposing nuraghi and begin to explore. It’s impressive, the central structure surrounded by further, circular rooms and there are two ‘floors’ accessed by haphazard, stone steps. Inside the gloom of the main part it’s cooler, with small recesses like cupboards around the walls.

We ascend to the top, from where a panoramic view over the surrounding countryside can be seen. Then it’s time to press on towards the coast at Cabras, where we’ll check into another site. Relying on our ACSI campsite book, we find our preferred site, but for the first time we’re out of luck and it’s full up. We move to another one. It’s right out in the middle of nowhere, with beach access down through a field- a huge, windswept expanse of beach, the sand consisting of fine grains of quartz.

The site is basic, the showers containing nothing except the shower hose- no shelf, no rail, not so much as a hook! My ‘bag-for-life’ has never been more essential and has to go on the wet floor. The water supply, once we’ve found it, is brackish and unpalatable. There is allegedly a restaurant, although it all looks as if it’s been packed away for the end of season. There is a rudimentary bar, complete with live, dancing parrot, but internet is non-existent.

It’s around 7.00pm when some women appear and begin flourishing tablecloths, cleaning chairs and bustling about in the kitchen area behind the bar and in an astonishing metamorphosis the covered platform is converted into a thriving restaurant where people begin to gather up. Soon most of the tables are occupied so we hasten to join them. The menu is limited to half a dozen dishes, a great idea- I’d much prefer a few delicious options than dozens of mediocre offerings. The Sardinian pasta dishes are quite specialised and our food is great.

While we’re in the middle of nowhere here, the ancient site of Tharros is about 10 miles away. This would be a good cycling distance, but unlike our Swiss neighbours here on site we haven’t brought our bikes, there being few opportunities on the tricky roads and mountain passes [although keen sports cyclists are everywhere, of course].

The weather remains stiflingly hot but turns overcast and breezy- not beach weather, so we opt to take the van out to Tharros and to the tiny village of San Giovanni Battista, which has a 6th century church. Once we’re there I remember visiting the charming old church and the village before, although I don’t think we toured the archaeological site last time, which we do now. There is a mere handful of fellow visitors as we follow the path around the [mostly rebuilt] ruins. It’s a fine view, then we walk up to the tower on the hill behind and clamber up the steps- to be told we’ll need to buy a ticket to peer out of the small window at the top. Needless to say, we descend without looking. The view from outside the tower is adequate!

Back at the site, we deliberate long and hard about getting down to Cagliari. The fact is- our leisure batteries aren’t holding their charge long enough for us to use an aire and the wifi is too poor for us to find a site near Sardinia’s capital. There isn’t one in our ACSI book. Reluctantly, we give up and decide we’ll cross over to the east coast, to Tortoli.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Alghero and the Wonderful, Watery Caves of Neptune

The boat to the Grotte di Nettuno, off the quayside at Alghero, Sardinia is just about to leave when we make a spontaneous decision to buy tickets and get on board. There’s just enough room inside the boat’s seating area, although when we choose a seat a couple across the aisle shoo us away, which is a mystery, since nobody else takes the seat. It’s a forty-five minutes or so trip, the first part simply going out to sea but then it becomes much more interesting as we near huge limestone cliffs with interesting formations and caves.

The boat begins to pull into a bay, which has us wondering where on earth the caves can be, but it is merely stopping to pick up more passengers. Once they’re on we round a gigantic rock and into a rocky inlet. Along the cliff side there’s a tiny walkway with people clambering along it, up and down- another way to access the grotte.

Once we’re off the boat there’s a mass of tourists to buy tickets- because of course, the boat trip does not include entry to the caves. There are a lot of visitors, and very little in the way of orderly queuing but we get our tickets [and with a concession for old age. I ask the ticket seller how he knows we’re eligible and he tells me; ‘because you are nice’…]

Even in this outer part of the caves the sight is other-worldly. But as we climb the steps and begin to make our way around it’s clear these are no ordinary caves. They are magic! The stalactites and stalagmites, the columns, the pools and the reflections are extraordinary and breath-taking. And it’s extensive, the path winding round and round and sometimes we must duck and walk bent over as we wind around the caverns and pools.

We eventually emerge and there’s a boat to meet us, stopping as before to disgorge some of the passengers.

Back at Alghero, there’s little time to explore the town as we need to get our bus back to site. We’ll return next day.

In the event, the following day we wait at the bus stop opposite the site as before and wait…and wait. It’s hot. We’re on the point of giving up when a bus appears and pulls up. Hooray! But then the driver gives us a stern look and points at his face, which is partly covered by a mask, of course- masks being still obligatory here on public transport. We are wearing our masks. I point to mine, in case he is mistaking it for my face. He shakes his head. Apparently we are wearing the wrong sort of masks. Who knew? Certainly not yesterday’s bus driver. He pulls away without opening the door. We wait.

A kind Irishman, also waiting, gives us the ‘correct’ masks. Another bus comes, eventually. In the town we find the phone shop the lady at tourist info told us about and get a replacement memory card for my camera plus a SIM card for our mobile wifi device.

The old town of Alghero is quaint, though not extensive and we feel we’ve done it after an hour or two. The historic area is behind substantial walls by the port. We get our bus [without incident this time] and return to site. I have the tricky task of getting the damaged memory card out of my camera and downloading the photos into my laptop, which goes fine until I need to remove the card from the computer, when it leaves the broken part inside the slot. I do manage to remove it but clearly the slot is damaged.

Then again, the Italian SIM card does not work. Hmmmmmm…………

Sardinia, Sassari and Sightseeing

After leaving Villadora, our first Sardinian site, we make for Alghero but schedule a stop at Sassari as it’s worth a look, according to Rough Guide. On this Sunday the roads are quiet and when we reach Sassari we follow signs to ‘centro’, finishing up by parking in a street, although we can see no sign of a meter or restriction of any kind.

After grabbing a quick lunch, we wander out to explore. The old city is quiet as a grave, shops and cafes closed, few people about. There’s allegedly a spectacular Duomo but we’ve no clue to its whereabouts in spite of the tiny map of the town we’ve ripped from our guide. I spot an unsuspecting woman and decide to try out my amoebic Italian linguistic skills. I clear my throat. ‘Scusi’ I begin, ‘dove duomo?’ I ask her, eliciting an eruption of speech and gesticulation. She pauses at our mystified expressions then collars another passer-by and persuades him to take us, which he does, leading us through a network of narrow streets and even solicitously avoiding one with dustbins in it because it isn’t good for ‘touristas’! ‘Capito Italiano?’ he asks us, and I tell him I can do ‘grazie’ and ‘per favore’.

We get to the small square housing the Duomo and he leaves us- I wonder if he expected a tip, but Husband thinks not- he was just being public spirited. The church is every bit as beautiful as promised but surrounded by tall buildings which do nothing to show it off. There is just one other couple visiting, a pair from Florida who are as surprised to see us as we are them in this tourist desert.

Other than the Duomo, there’s a grand square with a ducal palace and some characterful streets. We drift back to the van and press on to Alghero- not far. But the site we’ve picked, while near to the centre of town, is packed to the gunnels with vans and motorhomes, with barely a hand’s width between. The woman at Reception shrugs. We can stay if we can find a space. We can’t. We give up and go a couple of miles out of town to ‘Laguna Blu’, a large camping village opposite the beach. We decide it will do and queue up to check in, during which I actually meet a Brummie man, who is as surprised to see another Brit as I am! ‘We’re a rare breed!’ he says and I agree.

It’s still extremely hot, having not dipped below the low 30s for weeks now. We set up and go across the road to the beach, where there’s a friendly, welcoming beach bar with cold beer and excellent internet, which we prefer to the vast, corporate bar/restaurant at the site. Here in Sardinia we’re now unable to use our mobile wifi device with its French, Orange SIM card and are having to rely on campsites for internet, which is not always successful. At Laguna Blu we can access it at the bar, which has to do.

We can also get a bus to Alghero from the stop outside the site, which we do, next day. We’re suffering another tech glitch in that my camera’s memory card is displaying a worrying split. This prompts a dilemma- should I go on taking photos? If so, will I leave some memory card behind in the camera when I want to remove it? I’m not into using my phone’s camera for various reasons, not least that I can’t hold it still!

In Alghero we find the tourist information, where a jovial lady shows us where to get our bus back as well as a phone shop. We wander along the quayside and spot a couple of boat trips to ‘Grotte di Nettuno’, a trip that should not be missed, according to our Rough Guide. One of the boats is about to leave. We make a spur-of-the-moment decision and buy tickets. Quite apart from anything else, it will be cool on board!…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Arrival to Sardinia

Arrival from Corsica to Santa Theresa Galluria port in the north of Sardinia is less dramatic than the other way around but is pleasant and simple enough and Husband only needs to drive off [without the shouty instructions this time] and wait for me to catch up. Then we’re off, out of town on the Sardinian roads. It’s a pleasant surprise that they are quieter and more spacious than in Corsica, which is relaxing for me, the passenger, travelling in the centre of the road where the opposing traffic swooshes past, often centimetres away. This is the curse of the left-hand drive vehicle! [But this assessment of Sardinian roads is to change later on!]

We are heading for a pre-selected site, at Villadora. First, though to a supermarket, and we happen across a ‘Eurospin’ on the roadside en route. It’s perfectly adequate for our needs and much like a Lidl. Recalling Italian supermarkets, we remember a few big names, including the Tesco-like ‘Conad’, which- in a typically puerile moment we’d renamed ‘Gonad’- a name which has endured…

The days are still blisteringly hot, stepping out of shade or the van feels like walking into an oven and I’m in a queue to check into our site, but it’s spacious and shady under the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees next to the site’s pool. We’re one of just 4 units as we pull up and plug in, Czek, German and Italian vans being our neighbours here. We’ve still to spot a single British vehicle among the tourists in either Corsica or Sardinia. The electricity is unreliable and we must try several sockets before one works.

The site is on a lagoon which leads out to the sea via a channel and there’s a free ferry service to the beach. There’s a restaurant with a view so we opt to eat there, dining in the open when it’s cool enough to be hungry. I select melone con prosciutto for a starter but when it arrives it looks like a sharing plate for about 6 people, with huge slices of melon and what seems like an entire pack of ham. I’m consistently mystified by Italian meals, since you are expected to consume about 6 courses, one of which will be pasta! I wade through as much of my starter as I can, bearing in mind that I’ve a seafood spaghetti coming. Help! In the end I eat the monster prawns and the mussels and some of the pasta. It’s all delicious and a shocking waste!

There’s a comforting breeze next day as we decide to try the ferry to the beach. It’s a cute, flat-bottomed boat which goes backwards and forwards all day. The ferryman also has a small boy to look after and it’s clear he becomes bored stiff with all the to-ing and fro-ing as he whines and grizzles throughout the 5 minute voyage.

This is a popular spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers and the sky is alive with them, such that you wonder they don’t become as tangled as knitting.

We can’t hang around at Villadora, lovely though it is and after 2 nights it’s time to move on. We’re keen to see more of Sardinia than we had a chance to last time. We’re heading off down the west coast to Alghero, via Sassari, which is said to be worth a look. We’ll see…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Calvi-Solenzara- and Au Revoir for now-

We spend three nights at Calvi, spending our first day wandering the old city, which means more climbing in extreme heat, although near the top of the citadel there’s a strategically placed ice cream shop with shady seating. The views are worth the effort, the harbour full to bursting with some of the most expensive boatage to be seen on the Med.

We’re less ambitious on our second day, opting to do a late afternoon stroll on the boardwalk that runs along the railway line. A tiny train putters back and forth around the bay. In the evening we go and find a harbourside bar for a beer and a people watching session- always a pleasant way to pass an hour or two.

We leave Calvi in the morning to head south via some ancient excavations, a journey which becomes frustrating. The ruins are next to a Basilica- elegant from the outside but tickets are required for a glimpse inside- tickets from some museum or other located elswhere! I wonder how many visitors the church receives! Likewise, the remains of the ancient village- medeival perhaps-who knows?

There’s an annnoying search for a site after this, and we end up checking into an enormous ‘beach village’ with 3 or 4 pools, huge bar, restaurant and ‘entertainment’ area with gift shop etc. I’m interested to see that their FB page is telling everyone to cut down on electricity use when their multiple pools and splashparks are fully functioning! It’s ok for 1 night though and next day we pootle on south to a site near Serenzola on a beach, which couldn’t be more different- a ramshackle bar/reception and choose pitch where we like. It’s bohemian and we spend an afternoon on the beach, although when I attempt entry to the sea I’m stymied by my feeble water skills on the steep ledge and have to extricate myself by shuffling backwards, thus filling my cozzie with gritty sand; then I have to remove it by pulling it out of my pants area- not a dignified look, but one that entertains Husband, of course.

We’ve only one more night on Corsica for now so we head on down towards Bonifacio where there’s a site near the port city, in an old olive grove. It’s still too hot to do much but we attempt a walk along a footpath towards the town which quickly becomes overgrown and impassable. There aren’t many people daft enough to attempt walking into Bonifacio. But we’ve already visited. If you haven’t visited, reader I heartily suggest you do. I’d put it in my top 10 European cities and Number 1 most beautiful harbour!

It just remains for us to get to port next morning and get on the ferry, navigating around the narrow streets and down a very steep road to the marina. I’m glad we’re going down, not up, but we’ll have to on our way back! We get a coffee and settle down to wait, discovering later that we need a barcode for our tickets- not something we knew. I go to the ticket office then a battered, ancient ferry comes wheezing around the limestone cliff. We, the passengers must get out of vehicles and Husband has to reverse into the hold, being shouted instructions at. It may be as well that he’s so hard of hearing on this occasion. Then we’re off! And just across the water, Sardinia awaits!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.