Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Decided to Kiss the Ground In Sardinia By Accident

After a great rest after a great night we dress and we are on a mission to find a chocolate store to get some chocolates for Antonio (our host on our next let).

As I am walking and checking my phone for the route I decide my face would be better kissing the cobble stones!

Yup I take a tumble!  Banged my shoulder pretty good, but the worst is I twisted that darn ankle again - yup the left one.  

I have twisted it many times (three really bad sprains). You may remember when I twisted it on a ship a few years ago on the first day coming out of the washroom.

Today Bernie rushes to my side to help me up.  Oh right away I can see it swelling.  And the pain!  

Thankfully we are not too far from the hotel but a 4 minute walk takes around 15 as I hobble thru the pain.

As soon as we walk in the courtyard I take a seat while Bernie goes to get me ice.  The cleaners are just starting and they are concerned about me.  Oh the staff here are amazing.  They go to clean our room first so I can rest.

So looks like my day will be spent resting with my foot up and with ice.  Bernie will head out later to get me a tensor bandage so I can wrap it before we head out tomorrow.

We fly to Lisbon via Rome tomorrow.  But again it is not like we have to do a lot of walking.

Silly me - just glad this did not happen at the begining of the trip.

A Relaxing Day in Sardinia

We had a very relaxing day yesterday.  We spent the morning reading, watching Netflix, catching up with my blog and napping.  Seems we needed it.

We went out around 11 to explore. The town is not large and easy to get around on foot.  After walking around for 2 hours we found a nice restaurant whose menu was on a chalk board and in Italian.  This is usually a good sign.  Means the menu is with fresh ingredients that are in season and it doesn't cater to the masses.

They don't speak much English but they do speak French so the waiter explains the menu to us in French.

I start with a mixed green salad and Bernie has a Calprese salad and for our main dish we share a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce.  We also split a half litre of house wine and a bottle of sparkling water.  Total bill was 25 E.

We explore some more, especially the main church and end up in our favorite gelato spot for gelato.  We earned it after reaching our goal of 10,000 steps.

Back at the hotel we rest (ha as if we are tired, but it feels good) from 4 pm to 7 pm.

Tonight we are going to the hotel's main restaurant which is called Sa Turre which is located in a different building but only a short walk from our hotel.  

It is up on the top floor - and when we arrive we are presented with two glasses of sparkling wine and lead to the open terrace where we have beautiful views of the town.  Right away it puts us in the perfect mood.

We are led to a lovely table for two where we can look out at the views.

We inform the waiter we are vegetarian and if he could prepare something for us and we trust him.  This way has never disappointed us and it doesn't again tonight.

We start with a litre of their house wine which was very good and very affordable.  

We are then served a platter of roasted Vegetables with olives as our starter.

Our main course is the traditional pasta from Sardinia.  Looks like little gnocchi but it is not it is just a smaller shape and made with pasta.  The sauce is zucchini and fresh cherry tomatoes in a tomato sauce.  So yummy.  But a lot of pasta and we couldn't even finish the plate.  Plus we want dessert.

I ask about the traditional Sardinia dessert of the cheese filled pastry that is baked/or fried served with local honey.  Yes they have it and that is what we get to share!  Oh my it is so good and the honey is so flavourful.

The entire meal was 54E and the ambiance was priceless, very romantic and quiet with stunning views.

As we stroll back to the apartment we are reflecting on this amazing time here in Sardinia and how glad we are that we came.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day After the Wedding

We wake early and head outside to the beautiful courtyard for a great breakfast that is included in the stay at Mannois Albergo Diffuso.

I can't say enough about how nice the staff are here.  After so few days they welcome us by name and know what we want before we even ask for it.

The rooms are so comfortable and so charming.  Enough character from the past but with modern ammenities.  

I think the only negative is their wifi needs a stronger router as it is rather weak throughout the grounds.

If you are coming to Sardinia I can highly recommend Mannois Albergo Diffuso.  

Today is another gathering.  This time back at Laura and Franco's home.  A final meal together before everyone heads home.

Once again we are served course after course of amazing foods.  

Today a whole roasted pig is served (we did not have any but we heard it was delicious).  The pasta course was once again amazing.

I especially love the vegetable course - here they serve a plate of raw vegetables.  Usually fennel, radishes, celery, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce.  

Dessert is leftover wedding cake and cookies.

Then the liqeurs come out again.  You name it we had it.  

In the end it was a fun day, with lots of laughs and love.

It is hard to say goodbye to all these wonderful people we have just met but feel we know so well.

We will never forget our time here.  Thank you Laura and Franco for including us in this special event.

Wedding Day

We wake a little tired after such a late night.

We need to get moving.  Breakfast, shower, and dressed for the wedding.

Around 10 am people start gathering outside the hotel where Laura (the bride) is staying with her parents.

It is customary for the Groom to arrive greet the Bride and her family.

Franco with his sister and brother

Tradition is also that people greet them with a plate with rice on it, with flower petals, candy and coins.  This is then smashed in front of the couple and hoping to break in many pieces - which is suppose to bring them great luck and fortunes. 

I have video of the Mother of the Bride and the Bridesmaids doing this but will have to wait till I get home.

We all proceed to the church - a long parade of cars - beeping horns.  

The church is remote and is called Santa Maria of the Sea.  It is where seafarers would go to seek refuge and guidance and come back to give thanks for a safe journey.  Makes sense to get married here since they met at sea.

It is a beautiful ceremony - all in Italian.  Beautiful singing!  I too have video of the singing that I will post when I get home.

After the service we all throw rice as they exit the church.

We all parade down to the reception that is held at a stunning resort (that we passed when we went to the beach the other day).  Apparently Franco use to work there.

An afternoon reception starts out in the garden with appetizers and drinks.  

We make friends with some young people that are friends/relatives of Franco.  They want to practice their English.

The reception hall is HUGE and we all can find our table by an appropriate seating assignment that has Princess ships with names assigned to each ship.  

Don't look too closely as the person who did up the board was told to add Royal Princess.  They searched the web and got Princess and Royal Caribbean intertwined.  So some of the ships are acutally RCL ships.  But hey I think we are the only ones that would notice the wrong ships.  It was a cute touch.

Our table assignment is the Majestic Princess.

Now let the feast begin!  The meal lasted 3 hours.  

Antipasta to start - cheese, meats, olives, fried vegetables
Seafood - shrimp, octopus, squid, salmon
Pasta - two different kinds
Veggies cours
Seafood course - salmon, swordfish, squid, octopus, shrimp, and more
Meat course - veal and pork
Fruit course
Wedding Cake

I am sure I am missing something.  We were full, and we did not eat many of the courses as we stuck mainly to vegetarian items - plus the cheese.  

Around 5 pm Bernie and I went for a stroll around the grounds.  The site is stunning, and would be lovely to stay at.  A bit remote though, you would definately need a car.

Around 7 pm we left to rest at the hotel, but ended up not returning for the dancing as we were just so tired.   It was a very long day and I am not sure how they managed for so long.  

Others went back for the dancing and even more food.  We heard it was great fun.

Overall it was so nice to experience an Italian wedding in Sardinia with all it's customs.  We felt very welcomed and part of the family.

First Two Days in Orosei Sardinia

I am trying to catch up with the posts about our time here in Orosei.  Of course when attending a wedding it is packed with events and I have not really had time to write.

On Friday we woke and ended up finding a small laundrymat to do our wash.  While clothes were in the machines I went for a stroll.  As I walked I heard beeping but heck I don't know anyone here, again I hear a beep.  Well later I find out both Franco and his brother in law passed me walking and they each beeped.  So already I know this is a friendly place and I am running into people I know.

It is quite warm out and we decide to go for a stroll after putting the clothes away.  

The town is not large but it is a maze of street with numerous hills in the old town.  Everything looks the same and it took us a few days to get our bearings.  

Even delivery of wood closes a small street in the old town.

We stop for gelato and then back to the hotel for a bit of rest before heading out for a welcome dinner hosted by Franco and Laura at a local restaurant called Villa Fumosa.

A huge U shaped table takes up most of the restaurant and as the guest arrive I feel like I am again in a movie.  The drinks start, the pizza starts, the laughs and toasts start.  

Even though Bernie and knew no one except the Bride and Groom we soon know a ton of people.  We are welcomed just like we are family.

The next morning we decide to venture further afield.  I really want to see the beach.

We start walking and after about 45 minutes we are at a beautiful beach.  It is hot out and there are quite a few people here considering it is October.

We do put our feet in and it cool to the touch but I am pretty sure it would be easy to get use to.

There are numerous bars/restaurants along the beach area.  Many are closed for the season but there are still a few open.

We make our way back to the hotel where we shower and change for an open house at Laura and Franco. 

It is traditional to hand out cookies and sweets to the guests. The baskets that are being used are ones that Franco's Mom made and are a treasure.

Later that evening we head to a hall to have a huge dinner served by Franco's friends/family.  The place is packed.  I am guessing around a 150 people!  And this isn't even the wedding.

The food never stops, the wine never stops, and we are full and drunk - but not too drunk.

When we get back to the hotel we quickly hear the groomsmen arrive with Franco and Laura.  Laura is staying at the same hotel we are with her parents and sisters tonight.

Tradition has it that they serenade the bride, while we pour the drinks to get them to leave.  

We went thru quite a few bottles of the traditional liqeur.  I have a lot on video of this and it really should be seen but that will have to wait until I get home as I need my computer and wifi to do it justice.

Soon the men leave and we are back in bed, resting for a very long day tomorrow.

will add more pictures and videos when I get home so check back.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sardinia Here We Come

You know Sardinia was never on my radar - until.....

We met Franco Patteri a head waiter with Princess on the Royal almost three years ago.  We instantlly hit it off and then meeting his lovely girlfriend Laura on one of the legs who he then formally proposed to I knew we would be life long friends.

When it came to planing their wedding we were honoured when they included us in their wedding.  This whole trip was planned around their big day.

Our flight to Sardinia is a short one, but somehow a 1 and half hour flight takes five hours - arriving at airport, dropping bags, clearing security, waiting for gate, waiting for boarding, actual flight, waiting for bags.  I really miss the train trips.

We flew with Easyjet (our first experience) and even though booking was easy, price was so right, the actual plane is not one you would want to be on for anything longer than two hours.  So overall we can't complain, and it got us to a beautiful place quickly.

As soon as I saw Sardinia from the air I nudged Bernie and said "this feels right".  

Laura and Franco were there to greet us with hugs and kisses and soon we were on the road to Orosei - about an hour's drive from Olbia where we flew in to.

Franco proudly describes his home and the surroundings.  We are impressed.  Traffic comes to a sudden halt because a truck is turning, but after 30 seconds we are on our way again with few cars in our way.  This is not the mainland of Italy anymore.  Bliss.

We are off to Franco's sister's home for a welcome lunch.  

As soon as we step out of the car we are greeted by kisses and hugs.  We feel like family!  We meet Laura's sister and her family (including two beautiful young girls), her Mom and Day, Laura's 2nd cousin and his wife, Franco's sister and her husband - the hosts.

As we are led to the house to the long table set for a feast we are stopped dead in our tracks by the view.  I swear I could be in a movie!  

We start with wine - made from the grape vines we are looking at.  Then pasta, roasted peppers, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, radicchio and so much more.  Patrina (hope i have that right) and her husband are such gracious hosts.  Just a mention of something and she is out with it!

For dessert we have a Sardinia favorite - a cheese filled pastry that is served with sugar or honey (also local).  OMG to die for!

The after dinner wines come out (again all homemade) and well I have to try both.  The first almost knocks me on off my feet... hmm Bernie can you finish.  The second made from a bean (sorry by this time I was feeling no pain) is still strong but very nice.  Thankfully these are small servings and we can savour them, like a fine Cognac.

Then of course espresso.   

As I sip it and stare out at the view, listen to those around this large table all I want to do is pinch myself.  How lucky are we.

I am living a dream.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Day in Mestre - Mainland of Venice - A Hidden Gem

Oh my, what a restful night we had.  We slept until 8 am and entirely through the night!

I wake feeling refreshed and no sinus pain!

We lay in bed for a few hours, reading, watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix and decide we should probably go out and explore.

We could easily catch the bus right outside the hotel to Venice but we both agree that we wanted to see the town nearby called Mestre.

Our 48hr bus pass works on the manland buses so we catch the #9 bus and after a few minutes we are in the small town.

We get some coffees and proceed strolling through shops, and even a mall.  

There is a street market happening so we window shop.

We spot a nice place for lunch and excellent it is vegetarian.  Oh and it was so good.  I enjoyed an eggplant, lettuce, chick pea spread sandwich with some baked potatoes.

We strolled around some more and we really like it here.  It is too bad so many visitors only see the islands of Venice and this is overlooked.  Oh and it is so much more reasonably priced too.  

It has been a relaxing day and it is just what we needed.  It appears I am over this stomach thing and able to keep food down. 

Tomorrow we fly to Sardinia.  

Thanks for following.

Day Three in Venice - Time for A Change

After another restless night for both of us we are just not comfortable.  The dampness in this apartment is getting to us.  My sinuses just won't ease up and laying in bed feels like I am camping outside in a rainstorm inside a tent.  

Nothing we seem to do makes it better.  Not to mention the bed is so hard we wake up sore.

Even though this is an Airbnb I can't blame them as this can happen in hotels too.  The apartment overall is great but this dampness is way too much.  It may of been better if we booked someplace that was on a higher floor.  Or was totally rennovated and had better insulation.  Or maybe this is common in Venice.  You tell me.  Have you stayed in Venice and not experienced the dampness in Fall. 

We are both tired, sore, cranky and Bernie says that is it.  We are older now and we can afford it so it is time for a change.  We quickly book a hotel room on the mainland (much cheaper than in Venice and modern).  

We booked the Hilton Garden Inn Venice which is located in Mestre just across the viaduct from Venice for two nights.  

Until we can check in we dress and walk to Plaza Roma for a trip on the vaporetto to San Girgio Maggiore - the island with the beautiful church you see from St. Mark's.  

It is CRAZY foggy. In fact coming up the Canal Giudecca you can not see the land on either side.  I am sure the cruise ships were delayed today too.  

Today a warm jacket is necessary.  Very different weather than the last time we were here two years ago at the same time.

We get off the valporetto on the island and we are graced by the beauty of the church.  Which is free to enter.  And the place is deserted.

Also there is an art exhibit going on as well that we really enjoyed.

After spending around an hour here we hop back on the valporetto going the other way and get off at the Zattere stop and start walking back towards home. 

But first we need some lunch.  We find a quiet spot and take a seat.  Again you rarely feel welcomed into the restaurants.  Often we feel like we are bothering them as they put down their phones to attend to us.  

We share a house salad, and then we share a cheese and artichoke pizza.  I managed to eat a full slice of pizza and enjoyed the salad.

It is around 1400 when we get back to the apartment and we quickly pack up our stuff and say goodbye to the apartment. In my review (which you do for Airbnb) I will state how the apartment is fine except for the dampness and hard bed (although some people enjoy sleeping on a stone).  But I am glad to say goodbye and don't mind absorbing the cost of two nights at a hotel.

We walk to the Plaza Roma and catch the #19 bus that takes you over the viaduck and towards the airport.  We get off just after the viaduck and our hotel is right there.

The Hilton Garden Inn welcomes us and we are given a lovely fifth floor room that has a thermostat and a huge king size bed that is so comfortable we both lay down and sleep for two hours.

My sinuses are still bothering me but by the end of the evening they eased up completely.  

We dine downstairs as we are just too lazy to head out and enjoy a nice simple meal.  I had just a Caesar Salad and chat with a lovely couple from England beside us. 

Sure this hotel doesn't feel like Venice, but to tell you the truth we are sort of over Venice.

Maybe it was becasue I was ill.  But I am fine with saying I have seen Venice and I am okay with not coming back.  Italy has so many beautiful places to see that I will focus on.

For those wanting to stay at a hotel near Venice with easy access to the islands the Hilton is a great option.  Free wifi, comfortable rooms, large bathtub, transit right outside the door and for 1.40 E each way to Plaza Roma it is a deal.

Our final thoughts on Venice

Here are some thoughts I have about our time in Venice in no particular order
  • it is a beautiful city, with stunning views around each corner
  • a lot of history and sites to see
  • cultural activies abound and can fill your day/evening
  • easy to get around by vaporetto or walking but it will be crowded
  • food/drink is hit or miss, you can get really bad and REALLY good.  Stay away from the touristy spots and seek out the small Family Run places for the "true" Italian experience
  • don't book a room on the ground level as it can be damp feeling
  • pack lightly as maneuvering that bag through Venice can be difficult
  • you need layers, it can be cool in the evenings/mornings and then hot in the afternoon
  • beware of pick pockets - note they don't always look like thieves but more like well off locals
  • be prepared for long queues and crowds at major sites, book tickets in advance if you can
  • locals don't seem to really like the tourists but if you engage with them they are very helpful
  • prices for everything here is high - but great tip is buy your produce/food at the market stalls for freshness and best prices
  • Italians don't mess around, if you are at a counter waiting to order and you don't speak up they will serve the next person.  If there is a crowded spot note you probably will end up with someone invading your space, it is just how it is, but something we are not use to. Be forceful even if it is not your nature.
  • try to speak some Italian even if you do it poorly
  • ask for recommendations when ordering, the waiter knows what is fresh.  When I tried a spritz and they asked me which kind I said "which one is your favorite" and ordered that
  • Gondola rides are great, but note only tourists use them. They are expensive and you feel like you are on a ride on a conveyor belt.  Be prepared for traffic jams of gondolas with tourists snapping selfies. But hey, it is still romantic and it is still Venice (or maybe Vegas).
  • Get lost, some of our best times here have been when we have just wandered.  We come to an intersection of narrow streets and look and think hmm that looks interesting and go there.
  • Often it was hard to look past all the garbage in the streets and floating in the canal, and the smell of urine. Don't recall this on our prior trip here so not sure what was up.
  • Venetians love their dogs and many have them and take them everywhere, including the buses, valparettos, restaurants and even grocery stores.  It is cute, but sadly many (like at home) don't pick up after them so watch your footing.
  • Smile and chat up the locals when you can, even with our broken minimal Italian it was fun, although probably annoying to them.

In the end Venice is a must see place.  I can now say I have been here twice and I am fine with that and don't really care if I come back.  It feels sort of fake to me now.  Kind of like Disneyland.  A place you have to go and see, but it is pricey and exhausting and not real (unless you venture away from the major sites).

I know I may get back lash but I know I prefer smaller towns that are quieter and not so crowded with tourists.  

The key to travel is to do what is right for you!   

Day Two - Evening and St. Mark's Bascillica

After a little nap we are up and on a mission.  This afternoon we want to get to St. Mark's Bascillica before it closes at 5 pm.

It is 3 pm now so no time to waste.  Just picture us quickly getting dressed, brushing hair, grabbing the essentials: phone, camera, money and map.

We agree the fastest way there will be the number 2 vaporetto.  We make our way to Plaza Roma and buy a 48 hour transit pass, 30E each good for 48 hours once you validate it.  Note a 24 hour pass is 20E so it made sense to get 48 hour pass for our next two days.

We know that they stop entry to the church at 1630 so we have no time to kill.

We hop on the vaporetto making it's way passed the cruise terminal and along the Giudecca canal.  Hmm maybe this isn't the fastest way but it sure is pretty and I am enjoying the fresh air.

We get off at a stop that is way past San Marco - hmm again maybe this was not the best idea.  But no problem we get off and see a #1 vaporetto right there so we hop on it and get off right near San Marco.  

Up over the bridge where everyone stops to take a picture of the bridge of sighs, as we dodge the photo takers and the crowds.  Move we are in a rush!

We get to the Bascillica and there is a queue but it is moving very fast.  We made it - it is 1600.  Note if you have a backpack or large bag you will be asked to check it at the check in spot right under the clock tower - free of charge.

Once in the church we pull out our phones and listen to Rick Steve's audio guide all about the church.  Get the app and download the free guides before you go.

It is not busy inside and we are able to stop and enjoy the church at our leisure.  Note no picture taking inside at all!

Oh and beware of thieves here too so watch your bags.  While in the line, security pulled out a young guy who I am guessing is known for petty crime as this is the third time we have seen him since arriving in Venice.

After about 40 minutes inside we wander out and take a break on the ledge.  But a few minutes later security is telling us all "NO SITTING".  Argh, I feel sorry for those that really need to rest.  

Bernie and I are starting to feel not welcomed in Venice.  Seems we are told no, to a lot of things.  No sitting, no that no longer runs (when it does), pushing us out of the way, refusing to answer questions, speaking negatively about tourists (yeah we can understand some Italian) and so much more.  Now I am aware that Venice is a beautiful spot, and it survives because of tourists, but it seems the locals don't like the tourists.

So we are a little frustrated, especially after being in such a beautiful spot.  So we venture away as fast as we can from St. Mark's Square, away from the crowds, the guys selling every possible knock off, the waiters trying to draw us into their overpiced restuarants, all the people smoking, and then our impatience just adds to it.  

I want to explore the Castello and Arsenale area more so this is where we head and only a few streets from the bustling St. Mark's we are immediately embraced in calm.  It is a double edge sword as most tourist never get to see these areas, but then again that is why we love these areas.

Bernie kicks the soccer ball to some kids playing in the square.  A bunch of older ladies sitting on a park bench banter about who knows what, but I am pretty sure it is the same banter older ladies in Canada talk about too.  A nun strolls by and says "good evening" (in Italian of course) to us.  A mom struggles with her toddler who doesn't want to ride in the stroller.  And up above a woman hangs laundry as she sings a tune.  This is the real Venice.

After walking around for around an hour we are near the end of the "tail" of the Venice fish.  We board a valparetto and take it around to a spot where we can get on one going up the Grand Canal.

We are now on the #1 Valparetto and man is it PACKED.  So much for the peacefullness.  Thankfully we got a spot right at the edge that provides us with some personal space because trust me if there is space they will use it - and I even started to do this too as if you don't someone else will.

This long and I mean long boat ride crammed like sardines was hard and we were thankful when our stop arrived.

We are trying to go to a vegetarian restuarnat that was recommended to us today by our guide.  However when we get there - yup you got it - it was full for the evening.  And this is a Monday!

Okay the place across the way looks good and we take a table inside.  We would prefer outside but there are just way too many smokers.  

Again Bernie gets the house wine and I sparkling water.  We each order a vegetable soup, but somehow ended up with the soup of the day - pumpkin.  When we ask about it they say this is all they have.  Hmmm okay, it was good though and I did manage to eat half of it.

Bernie had pasta for his entre and I was full from the soup.  Overall the food was good, and the service fine but not really the best.

Again after eating a bit my tummy is not happy so we start heading home.