Friday, May 25, 2012

Alghero: Day 2. Netupune's Grotto and Capo Caccia

At the top of the stairs at Neptune's Grotto.

  After a fabulous start to our European vacation, Linda and I were going to be hard-pressed to top Day 1 in Sardegna. Lucky for us, Alghero and its surrounding area, was filled with gorgeous/unique sights, and new places to explore everywhere we went.

  But before I could really start my day, I was in desperate need of a workout. After four or five days of no running, I was getting a little anxious to get a sweat worked up.

  Since we had done a little exploring of the back roads and trails the day before, I felt comfortable with the lay of the land. So now I wanted to get out and see a little bit more! I've always thought the best way to explore a new area was by foot, and what better way to do that than with a run?!? Linda was game for a run as well, so we headed out on the Sardinian countryside shortly after breakfast.

  It's amazing how great a run feels after you've taken several days off. I definitely had missed it! We saw lots of little lizards scampering on the roadside, and heard critters in the grass just off the road. Nothing like Mother Nature forcing you to pick up your pace!

A little chilly!
  With my workout out of the way, I was fully prepared to lounge on the beach, and soak up the sun for the rest of the afternoon.

  Amazingly enough, we had the beach entirely to ourselves that day. There wasn't another soul in sight, other than than the two hotel workers that were still clearing the beach from the storm that had passed through two nights prior.

  It may have been a little chilly and cloudy to start off, but the weather eventually cleared, and we had another beautiful day! I got back in the water, though this time it was a little too cold to go any further than waist-deep.

  We watched as a cruise ship came to port in across the water in Alghero Bay. I've never been on a cruise before, but I think I need to find one that docks in Sardegna for a future vacation!

  After another lunch on the go, Linda and I inquired about going to visit Neptune's Grotto later that evening. Because of its location on the sea, you need to make sure the water isn't too rough to visit. On a stormy afternoon, entrance into the cave isn't possible. We got the OK to go, after checking with the folks at the front desk.

Capo Caccia.
  Capo Caccia, where the Grotto is located, was only a 20-minute drive from Hotel dei Pini, so we arrived by late afternoon. We had planned to visit Neptune's Grotto, have a quick dinner, and then catch the sunset from the cliffs of Capo Caccia. And honestly, those are the best plans we could have possibly made!

  I'm not really sure how to describe Neptune's Grotto and the area around it. I don't think I have the words to properly do it justice. But here's a quick summary: it's the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

  If you ever are in Sardgena, and DON'T visit, you are doing yourself a disservice. So please go! I might even go as far to say that Neptune's Grotto alone is enough reason to hop on a plane (or boat) and visit Sardgena. It's that good!

  To reach Neputne's Grotto, you can either go by boat from Alghero, or drive to Capo Caccia and walk the stairs (there are 656 stairs, so be ready!). We chose the stairs, and I think we made the best choice. I'll let the video speak to that. If you go by boat, you don't get this view:

  That view as I turned the corner gave me goosebumps. With the sun hitting the water, the bright blue sky, and the tan/brown/red cliffs surrounding me -- it was truly an amazing place. And we hadn't even seen the Grotto yet!

Pretty awesome views.
  It took us forever to walk down to the water because we stopped every five seconds to take more pictures. It was very difficult to put the camera away and just walk because every view seemed just a little bit better than the previous one!

  Again, we couldn't have picked a better time to visit. I can imagine in August the stairs are crawling with tourists. But on that Tuesday evening, Linda and I were the only ones to be found.

  We finally reached the bottom of the stairs, and the entrance of Neptune's Grotto. What a
cool place! We paid our 13 euros, and waited for the top of the hour, and the tour of the caves to start.

Inside Neptune's Grotto.
  The entire cave system is actually about four kilometers (2.5ish miles) long, but only a few hundred meters are accessible to the public.

  The limestone stalactite and stalagmite formations seemed surreal, like someone had made them by hand. But it was actually the result of water dripping over the course of millions of years. Not something I can really wrap my brain around!

  The temperature inside the caves is always roughly the same: 16-18 C (60-65 F).

Linda checking out the sights of the Grotto.
  I wasn't sure what we'd find at Neptune's Grotto. I had seen pictures, but pictures never fully let you appreciate something like that. I constantly found myself saying wow, and this is incredible. Hopefully the pictures and videos are able to explain it better than I can!

  While you were near the entrance of the caves, you would occasionally feel a vibration in your body and ears -- a very weird sensation. That was the sound of the waves crashing into the side of the cliffs. Would hate to be inside during a bad storm! I can imagine that would be pretty scary!

  There is only one point inside the Grotto that receives sunlight  -- the back wall just inside the entrance. That spot is green, and blue, and brown from photosynthesis (so said our tour guide -- I was always terrible at science!). I thought it was cool because it seemed to resemble Earth from space.

  To me, Neptune's Grotto is just another example of how awesome nature can be.
The one spot inside the Grotto that receives sunlight.
  Linda and I slowly made our way back up the stairs, and contemplated where we were going to watch the sun drop into the water later that evening. We thought we'd be able to watch from the stairs, but the gate at the top is locked when the tour guides from the Grotto leave for the evening. They told us that we'd be able to see a beautiful sunset from the 'Panoramic Lookout' located nearby.

  We had less than an hour to kill until sunset, and Linda and I were both starving! Capo Caccia is a fairly remote place, so we weren't going to have much to chose from. Not to mention we were short on time. So we set out to find a quick snack.

Heading back up the stairs!
   We stumbled onto a Bed & Breakfast restaurant with a beautiful patio area covered in flowers. There was no one to be found, with the exception of a little old Italian lady, and an older woman who clearly ran the B&B. It looked like I was going to have to use my brilliant Italian to see if we could get something fast to eat!

  I somehow got my point across (though looking back on it, I cringe at how bad I must have sounded! My grammar was awful, wrong tenses, couldn't remember any vocabulary -- the poor woman probably thought I was insane.)! She offered to make us two panini, which we quickly ate, and hurried back to the lookout in Capo Caccia.

The sunset from Capo Caccia.
  The previous night's sunset was a hard one to beat. But watching from the cliffs of Capo Caccia was incomparable.

  The sun was so bright, and being able to watch it disappear directly into the the sea was pretty awesome. A breathtaking ending to an overall perfect day!

  Out of the eight days of vacation in both Barcelona and Sardgena, our second day in Alghero undoubtedly gets my vote as the best day of the trip. Neptune's Grotto, and that beautiful sunset on Capo Caccia are just too much to surpass!

(note: both Linda and I took 150+ pictures that afternoon/evening, so there are a TON! And 2 more videos at the bottom)


The obligatory toes on the beach shot -- relaxing at Hotel dei Pini. Cruise ship in the distance.

Lunch on the balcony at Hotel dei Pini.

Looking down atop stairs to Neptune's Grotto.
The walk down to Neptune's Grotto.
Looking down into the water from the stairs.
Finally at the bottom of the stairs!
Just inside the Grotto.
Right inside the caves.
The Dome.
Inside the Grotto.

Linda on her way out!
Time to head back up the stairs!
656 steps back to the top!
Capo Caccia from the airplane a few days later!
Wait for me!
The 'start' of the sunset.
Looking back towards Alghero from Capo Caccia.

Very peaceful.
Almost into the water.
All gone.


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