SarCorsiParis? Mais oui! Grazie!
Welcome to the first of several special installments of TourAlongWithTodd. If you’re a past reader, you know my blog comes to life when I’m on a music tour. This time around I invite you to join Natalie and me as we make our way around the islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Paris. Yes, I know Paris is not technically an island, but it sure looks like one on a map!
I’m writing this first edition from our room at Domus Yenne in the heart of Cagliari, Sardinia—the capital of this Italian island and located way down south. So how did we get here? Natalie is on a well earned sabbatical from her work at the Idaho Conservation League and this trip has been planned as a part of her time off for quite a while—10 days on Sardinia, 10 days on Corsica and 10 in Paris…plus some transit days.
Getting to Cagliari has been an odyssey of sorts. It started a week ago in Boise by flying to Frankfurt and then to Marseille. After a quick view of a modern art exhibit featuring works by Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Magritte (Picasso who? Andy who?), we picked up our Peugeot 200 rental car and hopped on the overnight ferry to Ajaccio, Corsica. No time to waste, we drove to Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island and made another quick ferry hop to Sardinia. Then, just to top it off, we drove down the western coast of the island for a two-night stay in Alghero.
During the travel push, we used my guaranteed “no jet lag” method of trans-oceanic travel by staying awake from 8:00 a.m. Tuesday in Boise until 10:00 p.m. Wednesday in Marseille… a total of 30 hours. Thursday was great! Our internal clocks were pretty much on local time. What we didn’t anticipate was the generally sleepless night on the 12-hour ferry trip to Corsica. When the floor is more comfortable than the seat paid for, you know it’s going to be a long night.
|Natalie and the Peugeot 200 in queue at the Marseille Port|
What we’ve seen of Corsica from the car has been wonderful: snow-capped peaks near Ajaccio, super green mountains everywhere else and magnificent coastlines. We’ll be back there next week.
|There's snow on that mountain way back there! - Corsica|
For now, Sardinia has been the island du jour. It’s super as well. Maybe not as lush or as mountainous as Corsica, but it’s still beautiful in spring. Our two-night stay in Alghero was highlighted by scrambling down steep seaside cliffs, seeing the ancient (5,000 BC) Nuraghe Palmavera dwellings and taking in the old city on a clear Saturday night. As a note, the old city on a Saturday night is something like a quaint European village invaded by hoards of crazed smartphone toting teenagers. Quite frightening at times. Beer helped.
|Saturday evening along the outer wall of the old city - Alghero, Sardinia|
Sunday morning and we’re off to Cagliari in pouring rain. It’s at this point in our trip that we are reminded how road maps of Italy and Italian road signs are like beer and tequila. They do not mix! Maps show roads that don’t exist and road signs indicate points that pop in and out of existence as quickly as subatomic particles. Even the latest downloaded maps are of questionable value at times. Case in point: Yesterday we made it to the Roman ruins at Nora with just one or two wrong turns. With a false sense of confidence, we decided to venture farther along the southwestern coast. On one occasion, we followed road signs that took us from the town’s piazza and delivered us back to the same piazza. They apparently were sincere in their desire for us to stop and enjoy a café latté. On another occasion we followed the map to take us to the island’s southernmost point where rumor has it one can see Tunisia on a clear day. It was perfect until the road ended abruptly without warning at a barb-wired military installation. Apparently the Italian military wants to be the first to see the inevitable Tunisian invasion. At another southern point, the map showed a major road, but we found ourselves along a two-track dirt path with huge prickly pear cacti threatening to decorate our car’s finish in a way that Europcar may not fully appreciate! And just to cap the day off, we drove into the center of the small town of Iglesias. That’s “center.” As in streets so narrow that we had to fold in our side mirrors and at times Natalie had to get out of the car to guide me between a stone wall on one side and parked cars on the other… maybe four inches to spare on each side… tops. Oh Italy! You’re so funny sometimes!
|A building wall mural near the coast in southern Sardinia|
After a day like that, today was a day away from the car, and a perfect one too. Cagliari’s fun to walk around, but more on that, our visit with Federico (our Sardinian exchange student from 2012) and the rest of this island later.