A Sardinian September

Booking a holiday during a pandemic is fraught. Will I have to cancel? Will I get my money back?

We had booked Rome for March. Obviously we couldn’t go. We booked France for June and that also wasn’t an option, as my boyfriend can’t isolate with his work. Then we booked Sardinia for September. Third time lucky?

The company, Much Better Adventures, kept us updated with the Covid rules at our destination and we were able to go.

I was so excited. How had we managed to escape England in the middle of a pandemic?

We didn’t even need to get a Covid test as there was an outstanding appeal on the rule. Surprisingly there were no controls at the Italian airport at all. We appeared to be the only passengers around and the arrivals hall was empty.

Sardinians were very relaxed. They didn’t really bother to social distance, they could still spend time in large family groups, laughing at chatting. Although they were supposed to wear a mask outdoors, most of them didn’t bother. We only saw two policemen, one was on his phone and the other was more interested in us crazy tourists than any crime.

It was a refreshing change from the panicky Brits, dashing about and glaring at anyone who coughed.

We arrived a day or two before our scheduled activity in Alghero and went swimming at a lovely local beach. Unfortunately it was so popular that the only spot to stop at was a bit of rock in the sea. The snorkelling was pathetic after The Philippines (which is said to have some of the best snorkelling in the world). I only saw a few brown and grey coloured fish. Then a massive dark cloud raced towards us and soon enough it emptied its contents, leaving the sunbathers sprinting for the car. Of course as Yorkshire folk we saw it coming and were nearly home and dry before any of the Italians even moved.

We went on a delightful boat tour round the islands. The snorkelling was rubbish again, it was hardly worth bothering. I really want to return to The Philippines to see the kaleidoscope of rainbow coral, fish and the giant clams. One day.

We were going for a sea kayaking holiday with Much Better Adventures. We had a lovely American guide who had made the island his home. We stayed in a lovely hotel that did dinner, on a farm. The kayaking mostly got rained off, but we got one day of good weather where we could try it.

Unfortunately I had just been diagnosed with Graves disease so I was pretty tired, but I could sleep for an hour or so before dinner. The doctor had said I could go if I took it easy, as I was still on medication to keep my heart rate low. The guides were great about it and told me to let them know if I was struggling. I managed to kayak out and then had to kayak and rest, kayak and rest to get into the nearest bay to be picked up. Luckily we had a double kayak so my boyfriend did most of the work with his ex-rower biceps.

The scenery was beautiful – sun sparkling on bright blue waves, cliffs with scrubby bushes and trees everywhere, the odd beach or 16th century watch tower. The island to the left of Italy was covered in mountains and trees. There were no queues for anything and the “main tourist street” was empty.

Bosa castle

We explored the town of Bosa, where all the houses were painted bright colours and they had a small red brick castle on the hill, built in the 1100s. It had some fantastic wall paintings from around that era that they had found in the chapel. The colours shone depicting angels, saints and apostles.

We also explored some of the towns and had ice cream almost every day, as they make such great flavours with their Mediterranean fruit. Our guide said it was sad how the main tourist street in the town was now empty, and that many people were going to lose their livelihoods.

We marvelled at museums full of ancient artefacts, dating from 4000BC, from before the Iron Age. They had the Nuragic people, unique to Sardinia, who built spectacular sacrifice monuments out of dark big stone blocks. They also knew how to cast in bronze, fashioning lots of warrior, shaman and mother and child figures and statues. The island had then been conquered by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Vandals.

We visited some vast ruins near the sea. One, Nora, was established by the Phoenicians as a trading post and still had towering white Greek-style pillars and mosaics and the ruins of Roman temples and baths. The Romans had abandoned it when they were attacked from the sea, during the period where the empire was crumbling.

Another was originally a Nuragic settlement (tribes who lived on Sardinia for 600 years around 4000BC). You could tell where the Romans had built on top with their paler stone and bricks, and it still had a Roman road. Both sites were still being dug up by archaeologists.

A Nuragic animal sacrifice monument from 4000BC, complete with an obelisk (out of shot on the left).

We returned refreshed and victorious that against all odds, we had made it abroad, with no quarantine being imposed in our absence.

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