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…………

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.