Posts Tagged ‘Chia Laguna’

On our final day at Chia Laguna, we didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn for once, so we went horseback riding on the beach with Craig and Jerilyn before heading north to Sassari.

In last place

My horse was the least interested of all of them which led to lots of snacks along the way until the other horses were out of sight and then mine would get the idea that it would be really vital to catch up at all costs. This ushered in a series of walk-snack-walk-trot fiercely-snack-snack episodes.

When we finally got back, the horse wrangler attempted to pass along some advice to Craig and Bear in Italian which is best summed up as “eat less”. (There had been some concern that they were too big for their horses. Since I had stopped eating gelato, fortunately I missed out on this lecture.)

My new best casual acquaintance

The horse wrangler’s cell phone ringtone was the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which is pretty funny when you think about it.

We drove north to Sassari and along the way passed one of the major nuraghi complexes, which is what Sardinia is noted for. In Bronze Age times the Nuraghic civilization had built these little round conical towers all over the island (8,000 are still standing and many thousands more have been lost). No one’s completely certain what the function was, but the one we went to at Losa is one of the top few in terms of complexity and scale of structure.

Entrance through the outer wall

Main tri-lobed tower with an external structure/guardhouse

Inside the main nuraghi, Bear for scale

Seconds before the little archaeologist policeman started blowing his whistle and telling Bear to get down off the wall.

The site from above, complete with the surrounding curtain wall

Upon reaching Sassari, which is the inland city formed when Porto Torres got its butt kicked too many times by sea-faring raiders, we had a small moment of panic. The hotel itself wasn’t hard to find but it was located on what can best be described as a narrow alleyway surrounded by bars, shady looking people and slot machine alcoves. The only thing missing was Harvey Keitel in a floppy pimp hat. Bear put me out to check and I found that once you got inside it was actually a nice little place nestled back in the inner courtyards with its own restaurant inside. Sure, we had to park on the public square and had some faint notion we might be mugged for our luggage on the 100 yard walk back to the hotel, but at a certain point you simply don’t care anymore.

I had in fact hit that point about a week ago but it had been hidden and blunted by staying in a really nice hotel for a week with no worries about where to stay that night (although food itself had been a little tricky and thank God that I always carry a box of protein bars). We had a nice dinner with a waitress who looked like Eva Mendes (you could do worse) and she seemed very concerned that I wasn’t eating enough. I made do on a platter of grilled zucchini and eggplant. I may turn into a zucchini before this trip is over. We did however have problems with the AC which led to Bear wrenching the window open for the entire night. (I had already gone to the desk several times about it because he claimed if he did it that he would get angry and rip the nice lady “a new one”. Something smelled manipulative about all this, but I went ahead and did it, alas, to no avail.)

“There are five mosquitoes in the bathroom,” he informed me gravely the following morning.
“Really?” I said.
“How do you think that happened?”

I professed utter ignorance and didn’t suggest that maybe, just possibly, it had to do with the gigantic gaping open window, all in the interest of getting on the road. (I’ve counted about six-seven large mosquito bites on my arms and legs as a result, but Bear doesn’t have any at all. The unfairness of this is pretty stunning.) When we made our way to the ferry port, we had a moderately successful breakfast. This is defined as getting the pastry I wanted if not the drink. (When you ask for orange juice and get carbonated Fanta instead, you should just cut your losses there.)

It was at this point that I realized how badly I just wanted to go home to England right now and wished I was on a flight to do so. Explaining this to Bear is a little dicey because he tends to think this means you don’t like him anymore when in fact nothing would make me happier than to be home with him. I had just been on the road for a long time, not really getting suitable food (which I can handle but it’s not fun) and missing my baby Juliet.

(I had actually gotten through to the cattery the day before and they assured me that she was doing very well, was really lovely, liked being stroked (duh!) and was enjoying sunning herself on her porch as well as eating her biscuits. I suggested that maybe the cats would all be off having tea for the Queen’s Jubilee on Sunday and it would be funny if they do something like that. Then I got sad because we’d missed the entire Jubilee as well and while I have absolutely no idea what an American Southern woman would do at one, I was pretty sure I could make something interesting happen if they gave me half a chance.)

I tried to explain some of this to Bear and it went down the usual paths (Aren’t you having fun? This is great. I could do this for two more weeks. I live for the open road!), all centered on how much fun he was having. It became tempting to get overly reactionary and extreme in order to get some kind of focused response out of him (it must have been the influence of the Italian geography that made me feel hot-headed) so instead I excused myself to go wait in the car until I calmed down, which actually turned out to be a good idea and we recovered the rest of the day.

I spent the entire Grimaldi ferry ride reading In the Woods by Tana French (jury is still out on how I feel about how one of the plot threads did (or didn’t) resolve). Other than that, great prose although I couldn’t shake the feeling that the narrator was a male character written by a woman who almost knew how to write a man’s mind but little things kept peeking through. Bear kept solicitously bringing me Diet Cokes and asking if I liked my book which was a reasonable sign that our earlier conversation had actually made more headway than he was letting on and that when we get home we can have a discussion about how I can have a saner schedule and he can still run around like a loon on holiday.

Next up — Roman Holiday for Bear and Munk

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It’s amazing how you can wake up after 9 hours and still feel tired. It’s a sign that maybe you’ve tapped out the tank. Or, in this case, it’s a sign that you need breakfast.

We wandered out on our first full day in Sardinia to go to the breakfast spread at the restaurant and enjoyed the luxury of not having to search for food. Bear finds this interesting, but this is a fallacy. Bear doesn’t actually do the searching. What he enjoys is the results of his wife searching for food and bringing it back for him. It’s the basic wildlife principle that guides a species (chipmunks, for example) which is a gatherer and another species (bears, for example) which are opportunists and take whatever they find lying around.

If this looks familiar, you may be married to a Bear

This is why it’s so nice to be staying at a place where all the food is prepared, laid out, no menus, no decisions, no extra charges, and the ‘munk half of the relationship is not responsible for finding and procuring it. Just walk up, open your mouth, and a waiter just might shovel it in for you. (No, wait, that was the sushi place in Lyon, France.) On the other hand, as I discovered over the course of the week, Sardinian food doesn’t really agree with me but they did try really hard.

One way in which I can prove to you how much the cuisine didn’t agree with me was the Beverly incident. You may not know Beverly personally, but if you were to go to EPCOT and visit the World of Coke exhibit you would be able to sample different beverages from around the world and different varieties of Coke, etc. One of these items is known as “Beverly”, a little innocent thing called an apertif, to cleanse the palate. In America, we just call it snake venom. It’s the most disgusting thing you could ever hope to put in your mouth and live. It’s also insanely popular at the EPCOT exhibit because everyone is dying to take their friend there and trick them into drinking Beverly, just to pass along the joy. (Thanks for that, btw, Shannon!)

Where does Beverly come from? You guessed it!

Beverly’s cousin, Wilma. Don’t be fooled by the color. I fell for this one in orange and the original puke yellow. I nearly scrubbed my tongue with sand to get rid of the taste.

The conference was slowly getting underway and we had a really nice visit with the executive director. She’s a great example of why the Dutch should run everything. Stereotypically, they have all the responsibility of the Germans and their attention to detail, but they’re happy and fun-loving at the end of the day. It’s the absolute perfect combination.

I’ve been struggling a lot with balancing work and basically everything else, and she and I had a really nice talk about that because she has a somewhat similar situation working with clients in many different time zones and trying to balance all requests and when the people expect you to be available. We’re going to talk some more this week about practical ways to help manage that and I really hope this will be a good kick in the pants for me to get on a much healthier schedule when we get back from the conference.

We left to go get Kevin, my co-worker, from the airport which is about an hour away. I’m really glad we can help out with this for our people for the conference so they don’t have to wrangle taxis and pay ridiculous fees and ride with strangers. I was also ridiculously excited to see friendly faces from the office and get re-connected.

We had made up a sign and everything for Kevin, as the official chauffeurs, but he snuck up behind us and we missed him entirely. I then managed to lose the rest of the day as we got him and the booth back to the hotel and settled in to talk work, clients, and catch up on the latest development news.

What a good looking bunch: me, Kevin, Craig, Jerilyn

At this point things began to blur. The Internet at the resort was just about the worst connection I’ve ever had the displeasure to try to use. Kevin and I worked on a training document and I spent a lot of scraps of free time trying to fill in the details and feeling guilty because I wasn’t able to help with work at home.

Jetlag vs. Craig

Our friends/co-workers Craig and Jerilyn arrived the next day and Bear was able to pick them up as well and we all got settled in to the hotel and clients began to trickle in. The conference itself is a long series of client meetings and prospective client demos plus dinners and social networking.

The menu said it was a seafood pizza. We didn’t realize just how literal that would be.

Fortunately, our client dinner was something of a stunning success as it turns out that you don’t choose between options on the menu (i.e., do I want the pork or the beef?) but they just bring it all out to you. The food kept coming and coming and coming and finally we had to ask, somewhat in alarm, if they were almost done because we were going to need stretchers to get everyone home if this kept up.

And this was “The American”…hot dog bits and french fries (not on the client dinner menu, btw)

Some of the highlights included getting to meet clients whom I ordinarily just correspond with, including Rachel with whom we had talked last year while we were in London. This was during the London riots and she spent a lot of that call apologizing on behalf of her fellow citizens. Bear was actually having a really nice time with all the excitement and hopefully she forgives him now that she’s met him.

The final conference dinner on the beach

We had a very nice time sitting with her and her colleague for some of the final dinner when another conference member decided to go around serenading everyone with his guitar. I still have no idea how he got the guitar in the first place, but he had it and he was hell bent on utilizing it. Bear immediately decided that he was going to have a problem when a Pink Floyd song was summarily massacred and they proceeded on to “All Along the Watchtower”, so the table decided to become very preoccupied with our conversation so we wouldn’t look like we needed serenading too.

“What’s the shortest song you can think of?” I asked. “In case they take requests.”

Rachel’s colleague Helen looked thoughtfully grim. “Happy Birthday?”

They never did come over to our table and that really was a perfect ending to the night.

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Another note about ferries — just because the official paperwork says you have to be there no less than 2 hours prior to departure doesn’t mean you should take it seriously. We did however which was why we came hurtling back down the mountain at 5:30 a.m. and pulled into the ferry office to find everything closed and no sign of what to do.

About 90 minutes later, after we had parked and walked out for a pastry and drink before coming back, people straggled in and we all got in a ragged line, something like “Make Way for Ducklings”. Bear is fascinated with ferries and trying to figure out the economic underpinnings of the operation. He kept asking me if I thought there were enough cars in the line to make this crossing a profitable one. I must confess that this has has never even remotely crossed my mind and I didn’t really care if SNMC collapsed into bankruptcy and economic ruin the minute after we landed in Sardinia just so long as we got there safely.

In case you were wondering, this is not exactly my happy face.

I had hit something of a wall the day before in Corsica and needed some serious downtime. Bear thinks that riding in a car for nearly 15 straight hours is great downtime; I do not agree. There will need to be some changes to the way my free time is structured once we get back from Sardinia but for the moment I settled for putting in earphones and reading an entire Rick Riordan novel on my Kindle while listening to a recording of a thunderstorm.

This is me somewhat happier because at least I’m quiet and sitting relatively still and have had a shower

After landing, we got out of the industrial Porto Torres as soon as we could and stopped at a roadside stand about an hour away for sandwiches, chips and cold sodas. I know even less Italian than I do French so the real miracle was that we got out with anything like what we had ordered.

The lagoon(ish) at Chia Laguna

Somewhere after that I completely passed out and woke up in Chia Laguna at the southernmost tip of Sardinia. Since we had been listening to The Langoliers by Stephen King, a story about airplane passengers who woke up in mid-flight to discover that all the other passengers had disappeared, this was a little disconcerting.

Bear has an apertif on the open terrace

The resort is pretty amazing — we got checked in, unpacked, and finally I felt the earth stop moving. The water was hot and after five months of mostly cold, brief, bitter showers in the UK, that was worth the entire trip. I found that the wifi in the room was pretty abysmal (even worse than Istanbul and Barcelona, if that’s possible) so I went on an expedition which was unsuccessful to find the business center, but I did find the gelato shop so not entirely a loss.

Bear collapsed and was too tired to find the covers so he made a little hut out of pillows

We had dinner on the piazza which was beautiful and I had a spaghetti with clams that had a really nice briny tang to it (hard cheese and the salted clams). Dessert was oddly bad considering how great everything else was. Note to self: don’t get the fruit tartlet. In retrospect, this was the last decent meal I had in Italy.

Still too amazed by the plentiful hot water to pass up the chance, I took advantage of the incredibly deep stone tub and soaked while Bear watched the Eurovision Song Competition results. He had been a little dismissive of the competition at first, but by the ¬†time I got back he informed me with some intensity that Sweden deserved to win and the Russian babushkas were adorable, but Moldavia was really good, the Icelandic and Danish singers were great, and that Ireland had worked its butt off but they had basically prostituted themselves and looked like “manic elves”.

(In case you think that’s too harsh an evaluation of Ireland’s entry, please witness the video link below and tell me if I’m wrong.)

“You know,” I said, “ABBA won in 1974 for “Waterloo” and that’s what launched their career.”

Bear’s family has something of an obsession with ABBA so that was all it took to ratchet up his support for Sweden this year, but we passed out before finding out the next morning that ¬†Sweden had indeed won.

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