June 26, 2007

Olbia Monkey's Uncle

Sardinia was, without wanting to brag excessively, blissful – and almost certainly far better than whatever you were doing between the 21st and the 25th.

We arrived at the house there on Thursday afternoon, just in time to stroll down to the beach, then stop for a beer at the village bar and buy a few things for dinner at the local market. Food in Sardinia is ridiculously cheap, especially the stuff grown on the island: a bunch of impossibly ripe tomatoes was only 75 euro cents; a decent bottle of red wine only 3.50; and (and this is definitely my favourite part) the garlic is so abundant that they actually just give it away (well, it's 6 euro cents per kilo, but practically that means that if you're buying it in the sorts of quantities that any normal person would need, it's free).

The rest of the trip was spent doing much the same. A typical day went like this:

Noon: get out of bed.
3pm: eat lunch.
4pm: go to the beach.
9pm: eat dinner.
2am: go to bed.

In between all of these things, of course, were squeezed in a number of very taxing chores, events and outings such as "go to the gelateria" or "play cards". I also spent a good deal of time drilling Adrienne on some simple Italian phrases to use while on the mainland without her handy interpreter (ie. me) this week, which usually went something like this:
Me: Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano. [I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian]

Her: Mi dispiaci, non parlo italiano. [You displease me, I won't speak Italian.]

Me: D'oh!
On Monday, Adrienne had booked a flight out of Alghero (west coast of the island), while I was meant to be flying out of Olbia (east coast of the island). However, my dad helpfully informed me that because of the timing of the flights, I would have just enough time to drive the two hours to Alghero and then hightail it back across to Olbia.

Driving in Italy, if you'll permit me some slightly tired material, is quite unlike driving anywhere else. Although the roads look like your standard two-lane affairs, that line down the middle (that one might presume marks the boundary between two lanes) is in fact meant to mark the centre of one, single lane – a lane which you must doggedly stay bang in the middle of, especially when taking blind corners at 120 km/h. I got the hang of this after just half an hour or so, at which point Adrienne seemed to develop a mysterious case of narcolepsy.

When we got to Alghero airport I abandoned the car directly outside the terminal building at an angle of about 55 degrees to the kerb. Nobody told me to move along, nobody told me there was no stopping, and nobody, indeed, even seemed to work there. One guy actually congratulated me on a great parking job, but I think he had just come from the vineyard next door.

Back on the road to Olbia, I was lucky enough to stumble on to a rare occurrence in Sardinian motoring: a four-lane highway! It only lasted about a mile, and the difference is sort of academic anyway because all you need to pass a slower car in Sardinia is a steering wheel and a well-tuned sense of whimsy, but what a mile! The blood had very nearly returned to my knuckles by the end of it.

Anyway, another hour and a half later I was safe and sound at Olbia airport, and another few hours after that back in the rainy clutches of southern England. I paid the equivalent of half a case of wine (or an infinite amount of garlic) to get from Gatwick back to my flat and that pretty much erased all goodwill that had built up over my five days off.

More Italian reflections tomorrow.

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