Cagliari, Sardinia

We stayed at a b&b in Cagliari that was run by and old woman who, according to the website, speaks English. She spoke almost no English. She recommended restaurants that advertise “tourist menus” — here are three courses for one price and you don’t have to think at all, tourist! We were offered breakfast for a fee, but “breakfast” was knockoff twinkies you could buy at the supermarket, a dozen for a Euro. It was 20 minutes from town on foot. But town had gems like this polka-dotted mini.

Here’s the cathedral

In the crypt there’s a naked angel

(Forgive. I have a thing for intricate ceilings)

Cagliari has a beach called “Poetto” and it’s empty during the weekdays and supercrowded during the weekend. I had a nap and N went for a run.

After a day or so of Cagliari, we went further, to a different beach, where the fuzzy sea buddies were with us again.

Here, we found ourselves a mission: there was a pond of stagnant runoff water blocking the path.

We dug a canal. Using only sticks and other trash found on the beach

(Our public works project from another angle)

But most of the day looked like this. I think I managed to get sunburned for the first time in ten years.

Okay, I’m leaving you here for today with this picture of fries wrapped in pizza dough. It was probably called the “Americana”. I eventually asked a local about this obsession with putting fries in things and blaming it on America (I had seen it several times throughout Sardinia: in sandwiches, on pizzas, even inside kebabs!) Did they think Americans put fries everywhere? She said “No, no. We LOVE fries. It’s a Sardinian thing to put them everywhere.” Good to know.

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Sassari and Alghero, Sardinia

Obviously, there has to be a beach stop along the way.

We stayed at a b&b that was in an old building on the main square. This was the ceiling in our room

And the entry hall

View from the room, before (or maybe during) a rainstorm

This is one of the largest cities on the island, but there isn’t much of anything there. There’s evidence that this was once a wealthy city, but things have been left to ruin. Not entire neighborhoods — just a random building here and there, between well-maintained others. Who owns them? What happened?

But there were also interesting modern touches. Like an overgrown planter, a Buddhist fountain, a door perch for cats, various important men…

There was a dramatic cathedral. This is when we started seeing poor people (usually women) begging at the church door, often using a baby or young child as a prop to get more sympathy.

We took a day trip to Alghero, which has a long history of different rulers (Arab, Spanish, etc) reflected in its architecture.

This may have been the famous rice sand beach. It’s covered with tiny, rubbed-smooth pebbles of quartz.

Or maybe this is the rice sand beach. In retrospect, I should’ve taken a closeup of the sand. Maybe next time…

Next, on to Cagliari!

Porto Pollo and La Maddelena, Sardinia

The ferry from Corsica was quick and painless. We arrived at our residence with enough sunlight left to visit their private beach. It was protected by gates and signs warning of security cameras, but no actual cameras. The receptionist told us, apologetically, that there would have been lounge chairs and umbrellas and lots of people during the season but we were early. We found the completely empty beach quite all right.

Here’s a view of the sunset from our porch

The next day we took a little ferry to the island of La Maddelena. I think it’s a tourist island, but mostly for Italian or Sardinian tourists.

We spent the first part of the day exploring the island. It has tiny beaches everywhere — so many that chances are great you’ll find a private one. We did.

One of the first Italian words we learned on the trip was spiaggio (beach).

This white-sand beach was just for us

But eventually, we felt obligated to see other things, so we drove around more

The island has a bridge to an even smaller island, on which there was a botanical garden or archeology museum. But it was closed. As we would soon learn, everything in these Italian islands is closed during the hours of 1pm-5pm. Everything except maybe a cafe or tourist trinket shop. Even the gelaterias!

So obviously, there was nothing left to do but find another beach to lounge on. One without other people, of course.

We stayed until dinnertime. Yes, hours of beaching. Dinner was pizza, of course. The Italians make perfect crusts — thin and crispy. But the sauce is plain tomato paste with no seasonings. No garlic, no basil or other herbs, not even salt or pepper. And they skimp on cheese. Oh well, not every pizzeria can be Delfina.

Out the window, we watched the owner of the “ethnic store” scrub the flagstones in front of his store while his little daughter danced around. If only everyone were so civic minded.

Sardinia wants to be the next big tourist destination. Our free guides (provided by the residence) included a book written in flowery language about the beauty and cultural richness of Sardinia. It was over the top and sort of cute. I think it will be hard to maintain much character when everything is driven by tourism. They don’t know what they’re wishing for.

Road to Bonifacio

Did I mention this was a road trip? Corsica has some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen. And hardly anyone visits in the off season — that is, anytime other than August, when the French have the entire month off and flock to Corsica.

Well, there may have been a beach stop along the way…

This was across from the town of Bonifacio, which is, itself, perched on a big cliff.

The sea is so calm

And these are views from the ferry, departing. Yeah, we didn’t spend much time actually in town — there is almost nowhere to stay! We did learn something useful though — don’t settle for the first gelato stand you see. In Bonifacio, if you park near the docks, you’ll have to go up about 100 steps to get to the town and you’ll see vendors selling supermarket ice cream out of tubs. Turn left and go up the street a bit — you’ll find artisan gelato made from local fruit. It’s worth the 30 extra steps, I promise.

Goodbye, Bonifacio

And the ferry took us onward to… Sardinia!

Ajaccio

On the road between Calvi and Ajaccio I kept exclaiming “are those the Alps?” Obviously, these were not the Alps, but when I saw the real Alps, I still thought these looked more Alp-sy.

We intended to stop in Corte for lunch, but had no luck with parking. Instead, we set up a picnic in the wooded area on the outskirts of town, right in the middle of a river. We did have to trespass just a little (skirting around a dilapidated toolshed and behind a house).

More views along the road to Ajaccio

Just outside Ajaccio is the Iles Sanguinaires “the bloody islands” — named for their color, not for any actual blood spilled. It was nearing sunset, so not that popular. There was no way up to the tower, sadly.

In Ajaccio proper, we stayed around the corner from Napoleon’s birthplace. There was a woman seated at exit to the building, minding her stand of tourist goods. Here’s the beach that was about two blocks away and never had people. I guess the tourists come for Napoleon and the locals have better beaches.

Our host left us a table full of Corsican food, including specialties like blood sausage, a hard goat cheese and a lemon. True hospitality. (I was going to show you some pictures taken from a restaurant meal but they’re not beautiful. The lamb tagine was amazing, but looked like brown goop.)

We had a few days to wander, and found that even the cats ride scooters.

The library housed not only ancient texts, but also current students. I didn’t get a picture of the latter, but I like the idea that historic libraries can still be used today and not just for tourism.

We went to the Musée Fesch, which was the right size for a museum. I was impressed by their Leda and the Swan painting.

I am a little obsessed with beaches. Always chasing the ideal, which is probably Lanikai on Oahu, minus the people. This beach came close. At least the “minus the people” part!

Calvi, Corsica

We ferried over from the French mainland (Nice), and N drove hours in the dark to get us to Calvi. Terrifying windy roads with no lighting. The ferries forbid passengers from staying in their cars. For safety reasons, so they say. But they also don’t just give you accommodations. No. Renting a single bed in a room that’s barely large enough to move in will cost more than the average AirBnB in Paris. So we slept on the floor, amongst barking dogs (yes, everyone and their mother had a dog on the Corsica ferry) and inconsolable babies under florescent lights. My personal hell.

Calvi appeals to the type of person whose country is too young to have seen much history, and whose cities are full of buildings that are blank and modern. This is the cathedral in the citadelle. It looks abandoned — like something from a ghost town.

This is a still-occupied building, also inside the citadelle. See the greenish door on the second floor that just opens into thin air?

We had lunch on this patch of grass near the fortification wall. This cat was friendly, but had ulterior motives. He kept us company until we finished eating and there were no more scraps for him.

View from the wall

We wandered the town a little, but there wasn’t much there.

Following a delicious smell, we found a tiny bakeshop selling cookies — canistrelli, a Corsican specialty. Think, a crunchy rather than sandy shortbread with flavors like lemon zest and salted caramel.

The cashier pictured here chatted with us on her smoking break. She said she felt like a failure, working at a cookie shop at the age of thirtysomething. But people work and work hard every day so that they can go to a place like Corsica for two weeks out of the year. She gets to spend every day there. It’s too bad that everyone has the same basic image of success: the person who has a well-respected career, makes tons of money, owns lots of stuff.

The beach was covered in brown fur balls. We never figured out what they were, exactly, but we saw a woman collecting a plastic bag full of them. We asked her, and she shrugged. “I just like using them to decorate.”

We stayed at a “residence” — basically a wooded area full of self-sufficient cabins with fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms, showers, etc. This is a view along the walk home.

Our place was also close to the sea, so we went for a sunset. On the way we saw this shell pink house that looked like something you would find in California. There were also half-built structures with no evidence that work was continuing. Maybe illegal coastline development is a problem.

Some backstory — at the supermarket I insisted we get a can of tartiflette for dinner. A large can. I had such nice memories of it that I sort of forgot how crappy canned versions of things usually are. This was sour and not at all like real tartiflette. Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. We were eating it outside our cabin and this dog came sniffing around, looking hopeful. So we wiped down the tartiflette can with all of our remaining bread and gave it to her. She was so happy that she followed us down to the sea for our evening walk. We pretty much thought we had a dog. Permanently.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. On the path home, a fluffed-up, aggressive pomeranian barked at her, blocking her way. She turned back to the sea and we never saw her again. I hope she didn’t starve to death out there.

This was the sunset from our little sea cove.

Kitten season at Animal Care and Control

I volunteer at San Francisco Animal Care and Control with the cats, and it’s like a free spa day. Nothing’s more relaxing than having a purring kitten in your arms. Interested? The next orientation is on June 14. More info on the SFACC website. It’s getting into the height of kitten season so we could sure use your help.

If you don’t have time or live far away, you can help out by donating something from their Amazon wishlist.

If you’re interested in adopting, you couldn’t have chosen a better time! Next weekend, May 31-June 1 is a special annual event in San Francisco: Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days, when all adoptions are free.

When I volunteer, I can hang out with fluffballs like this:

 

 

You may think that a volunteer has to do things like clean cages or mop floors, but it isn’t true. All you have to do is come in and cuddle with kittens like this:

 

 

Otherwise they just hang out in their cages all day and are very sad. And bored. Look at those eyes. How can you resist?

 

 

Many are cuddlebugs…

 

 

 

 

… who will literally fall asleep on you

 

 

And many are models, who like to lounge close by and bask in your company.

Of course, there are also older cats. They’re calmer, everlasting purrboxes. Here are a couple who wanted to curl up in my lap forever

 

 

 

And of course, I can’t forget to mention, my very own kitten came from SF ACC just about a year ago. The little weirdo purrs when she gets her nails trimmed and lays down only where it’s inconvenient for you. You want a cat just like her don’t you?

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