Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Alghero, Day 1 (Sardegna)

Gorgeous views everywhere in Alghero.

  When we touched down in Alghero (Sardegna) on Sunday night, we arrived to the same rainy, nasty, stormy weather that we had left in Northern Europe earlier in the day.

  Your worst nightmare is that your sunny, warm weather, beach vacation is stricken with nasty, rainy weather. Linda and I started worrying that our nightmare was going to come true in Sardegna.

  Windy, rainy weather does not make for a fun vacation, does it?

  When we checked in, the hotel concierge assured us that the weather would be clear by morning, and would steadily improve over the four days that we'd be on the beautiful Italian island. So we crossed our fingers, and turned in for the night!

  Sure enough, when I opened the shades on Monday morning, the sun was shining bright, and the winds were calm. Alghero couldn't have been more beautiful! The hotel's beach (spiaggia delle Bombarde) surely had two chairs with our names written all over them.

Alghero - the old city
  Before we could hit the beach, we had to find Linda a swimsuit (she left hers in the US!). So we headed to the old city center of Alghero to get a quick lay of the land, and more importantly, find a swimsuit!

  Luckily Linda wasn't picky, and found a suit fairly quickly. Since we were in the old town, we figured we'd walk around for a bit, and see a few of the sights before we headed back to our hotel, and out to the beach.

  Like any city situated on a body of water, the promenade/boardwalk is one of its most significant features. We explored the narrow stone streets hidden in the ancient city walls for a bit, but it was only a matter of time before we made our way out to the water.

Hanging out on the rocks!
  As we were oohing and ahhing about (and snapping pictures of) the gorgeous views that followed us everywhere we turned, we came upon a older couple about to have a picnic down on the rocks below the promenade.

  The beaches that immediately surround Alghero were mostly of the rocky variety, but the sights were just as amazing as those on the sandy beaches near our hotel.

  Linda and I climbed around on the rocks, finding fun pictures to take and enjoying the views and sun. When the couple asked us if we wanted our photos taken, it gave me the perfect opportunity to start brushing up on my seldom-used, already-shaky Italian.

  We chatted for a couple minutes (they asked if we were basketball players -- shocker!, they were from Alghero, and I told them I had previously played basketball in Italy). Once we got our picture taken, Linda and I left them to their picnic on the beach.

Beautiful boardwalk views.
  As always, I had a pretty easy time understanding the language. But when it came time for me to spit out a sentence, I had a rough time! As our vacation went along, the words slowly made their way back to me. But not nearly quick enough!

  We walked to the end of the boardwalk, admired the views (and snapped even more pictures), and decided it was time to head back to the hotel for some fun in the sun! We knew we would make it back to Alghero in the coming days, so we were anxious to get out on the beach.

  The weather was perfect. No wind, and in the 70s. It was the first 70 degree weather I had enjoyed all spring, so the warm sun was a welcome feeling on my skin!

Rocky beaches of Alghero.
  Even though the water was a little on the chilly side, both Linda and I made our way into the Mediterranean Sea. We eased in slowly, and eventually were out there floating around!

  The salty water made floating pretty easy, but not as easy as I thought it would be. The water was definitely saltier than anything I had ever been in. When I got out, I could immediately see the salt dry on my skin, and my hands were all sticky!

  As can happen in sunny locales, I got a little more sun than I anticipated in the morning hours in Alghero. Linda and I were both cognizant about wearing sunscreen, but the sun got to us while we were out walking on the promenade! There's nothing worse than getting burned, so we wanted to make sure we avoided that.

A find on our hike.
  One thing you think of when you mention Italy, is the awesome food they have! But instead of eating out every meal, we decided we could handle a lunch or two from the grocery store. So we grabbed some meat, cheese, pita bread, and some fruit and veggies and had lunch on the beach at the hotel.

  Don't worry, we'd have plenty opportunity to enjoy the yummy Italian food that was in Sardegna!

Above Lazzaretto. The hillside of Sardegna.
  After our scrumptious homemade lunch, Linda and I decided to go exploring in the area immediately around our hotel. We were staying in the gorgeous Hotel dei Pini, several miles northwest of Alghero.

  Once outside of the city, it was somewhat 'in the country'. I thought the scenery was reminiscent of Maui, with deep green hillsides, the vibrant blues from the water, the terrain and of course, palm trees. Though I don't remember ever coming across any vineyards in Maui, like we did in Sardegna.

  We headed out on foot towards the other beach in the area called Lazzaretto. Our exploring turned into a pseudo-hike, as we weaved our way through inlets and treed-terrain (there were established trails, so don't think we were doing anything too crazy!). This is exactly the occasion where it was nice having a travel partner. I doubt, if I had been on my own, that I would have been out there exploring the countryside.

Lazzaretto in the distance.
  Once we reached Lazzaretto, we stopped at a tiny bar right on the beach where I enjoyed my first espresso of the trip (and Linda had an ice cream bar). I dare you to find something better than a real Italian espresso (maybe a true Italian gelato is the only thing that beats it)! Nothing beats the flavors of the tiny cup of Italian coffee, I love it!

Lappe, post-ice cream.
  After our short break, we continued our 'hike' for roughly another mile. We were on and off trails, and at some point obviously made a wrong turn because we somehow ended up on the wrong side of a private property sign and fence. Oops!

  At the same moment we were approaching the gated driveway and contemplating our 'escape', a car drove up!

  Just our luck, we thought, the owners were returning home right as we were trespassing on their beautiful property. Linda and I stood there looking, as the man parked his car outside the gate, took a glance at us, and proceeded to walk in the other direction, towards the beach. Phew, disaster averted! I guess it was just a beach-goer parking his car.

  We opened the unlocked gate, and walked back to our hotel.

Sunset in Alghero! So pretty!
  For our first real night in Sardegna, we wanted to to be sure to see one of the amazing sunsets we had previously seen pictures of. The Alghero promenade faces the water, and to the west, so we headed back to the city for the rest of the evening.

  Surprisingly enough, the promenade was relatively empty around sunset. This was the first time it became obvious to us that May was the perfect time to visit Sardegna. There were very few tourists, yet we still had a wonderful weather. I'm guessing that's why the promenade was quiet at dusk. And the locals have that sunset every night -- so it's no big deal! Lucky them!
Sunset over Capo Caccia.
  We grabbed a table at a cafe that had tables on the promenade, ordered a drink, and waited for the sun to go down.

  Linda and I were the only ones paying the sunset any attention. The group sitting next to us were playing on their iPhones, and had their backs to the water the whole time! They actually sat down right in front of us, oblivious to our awesome setting, and blocked our view when they first arrived (so we moved tables).

  We watched the sun drop down over Capo Caccia (a place we would visit later in the week) in the west. Nothing like an incredible sunset to make you feel like a tiny tiny part of the enormous universe.

Linda and her calzone!
  And for dinner, I finally got the Italian pizza that I had been craving for weeks while in France! It was well worth the wait too, as no one does pizza like the Italians. I'm not talking about those deep dish, thick crusts either. I love the thin crusts where you can taste each ingredient. Sooooo good! Linda had a giant calzone. If you've never seen a calzone in Italy, they take a regular pizza and fold it over. It puffs up in the oven, so when it comes out, it's huge! Needless to say, both of us devoured our dinners.

  I noticed a Sardegna-specialty after dinner liqueur on the menu called Mirto. I had always liked Limoncello when I went out to dinner in Como with my teammates years before. So I had been looking forward to that. But Mirto was something I was going to have to try as well. There would be no Limoncello or Mirto for me that night, as Linda and I had our fair share of one of the local wines.

  Day one in Alghero was as perfect as you could imagine: gorgeous weather and views, a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, relaxing on the beach, an amazing sunset, and Italian espresso, pizza, and wine!

  Our vacation was off to a great start, and we still had three more days in Sardegna. Amazingly enough, as great as our first day was in Alghero, we managed to top it later in the week -- stay tuned! More pictures below!


Driving into Hotel dei Pini the first, stormy night.
Looking back into Alghero from the promenade.
Linda checking out Lazzaretto.
Alghero behind.
Linda on the boardwalk. Ready for the sunset!
Alghero sunset!


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