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Clare
Clare

Days 1 & 2: Cagliari

We had a relaxed start to our holiday in Sardinia, with our flight to Cagliari not departing until 16.20. We were flying from Stansted, which is normally quite a chaotic airport, but on this occasion everything went like clockwork. We didn't have to queue to drop off our baggage, security was comparatively painless, and because Easyjet have started allocating seats to all passengers we didn't even have the fraught experience of standing for an hour in a queue while trying to stop anyone pushing in front of us.

The flight was pleasant and we arrived in Cagliari just after 8pm. Although it was dark when we got off the plane, we could immediately feel that the weather was significantly warmer than back home in the UK. Our original plan had been to take the airport bus into the town centre, but earlier in the week I had received an email from the B&B where we were going to be staying recommending that we take a taxi instead, because the walk from the bus station to the B&B was steeply uphill and would be difficult with luggage. Personally I think that my new superduper suitcase would probably make it up Everest, but we decided to bow to local knowledge and made our way towards the taxi rank. After having recently been travelling in the Balkans, where you can't walk within a hundred metres of any sort of public transport terminal without being accosted by a whole horde of hopeful taxi drivers, we were somewhat surprised to find the taxi rank in Cagliari was empty. Oh dear.

We decided to revert to our original plan of taking the bus, but it wasn't at all obvious where the bus stop was. As we were standing around looking for it, we caught sight of a sign with a picture of a train. Hmm, that was strange, because we had a Sardinia guidebook and it definitely didn't say anything about a railway station at the airport. If it had, I know I would have decided to take the train in the first place rather than a bus. We were somewhat confused, but in the absence of any better ideas we decided to follow the train signs. They led us through numerous corridors, out doors, across a road, round a corner and into a building which looked very much like a train station. What's more, it had a timetable indicating that there would be a train to Cagliari within the next ten minutes. We just had time to purchase tickets and locate the platform before the train pulled into the station. It had arrived at least 5 minutes early by our watches but the driver seemed keen to get to Cagliari and pulled out of the station again almost before we had found a seat!

Seven minutes later we arrived at the main station and began the uphill trek towards our accommodation. It was a bit steep, but not unmanageable, and we arrived at the B&B at 9pm which was exactly the time I had said we would arrive on our reservation. It was a little disappointing then when we rang the doorbell and no one appeared to be there. It felt like we were in Belgrade all over again, particularly when Tim took his phone out of his bag to call the number on the reservation and it didn't work. We stood there for about five minutes, having pressed the button on the intercom multiple times, and then suddenly out of nowhere a man said hello and we heard the door click open. Unfortunately he didn't indicate which floor of the apartment block the B&B was on, and so we squeezed into the lift, pressed the button to go up to the first floor, got out, established that this wasn't the right floor, got back in again, went up to the second floor and luckily that was the right one!

We had hoped that checking in would be a fairly simple affair, and all was going well as the guy took a copy of our passports and we paid him the money. His English wasn't very good and once he realised that Tim spoke Italian he appeared to get overexcited and proceeded to treat us to an Italian monologue for the next 50 minutes. He described the breakfast arrangements, which were really quite simple, being a communal kitchen area where food was laid out. He demonstrated the coffee machine, the location of different items in the fridge, the toaster. Then he produced a map of Cagliari and proceeded to talk us through every sight marked on it; how we should get there and what we should see. He enthusiastically marked restaurants on the map for us and seemed terribly disappointed when Tim said that we didn't want to eat fish and that we didn't like drinking red wine. Eventually we got as far as the room and he talked us around that as well, explaining how the air-conditioning worked (just like any other air-conditioning, funnily enough!) and where the bathroom was. He culminated with an in depth description of how to use the various keys required to get in and out of the building, and took Tim away to demonstrate various key techniques to him. By the time we finally got rid of him at 10pm we were exhausted!

We had a leisurely start to Sunday, enjoying a very straight forward breakfast before heading out to explore the town. Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, with a population of around 150,000 people. The map indicated that the oldest part of the town was located on a hill overlooking the sea, so we decided to start by climbing upwards and get the most strenuous part of the sightseeing over first. A few minutes walk from our accommodation, we came to the first feature marked on our tourist map: a Roman amphitheatre.

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It was huge - significantly bigger than the theatres we had seen in Macedonia last month - but it was also securely fenced off from the public and so it wasn't possible for tourists to climb all over it as they could with the one in Bitola.

As we climbed upwards we already had an amazing view out across the sea and to the mountains beyond.

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Before long we were entering the old town. It was very hilly with lots of narrow little streets branching off in different directions, so it was hard to choose which way to go. There were beautiful gates like this...

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...enormous towers like this...

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...and pretty pastel buildings like this....

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The one thing which wasn't impressive about the old town was the amount of traffic. It was difficult to take photos which weren't full of parked cars, and somewhat tricky to negotiate the streets without being run over. It could definitely benefit from becoming a pedestrianised zone!

One area which was at least partially pedestrianised was the square in front of the main cathedral.

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The cathedral itself was beautiful, with a very intricate facade that was only built in the 1930s.

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We eventually came to the edge of the hill on which the old town is situated, and had some more spectacular views out across the city.

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We also came across the so-called "Elephant Tower" which our host at the B&B had told us about last night. He said that he wouldn't spoil the surprise of why it was named after an elephant, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. On first glance, it didn't appear to look anything like an elephant at all...

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...but when we looked a bit closer we were able to make out a little statue of an elephant on the side of it. Why it's got a statue of an elephant on the side of it, we're still not sure!

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Walking round from the Elephant Tower we unexpectedly found ourselves in the Bastion Saint Remy, an enormous monument with a panoramic terrace and impressive archways.

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There were views back up towards the cathedral...

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..and views out across the modern town and the surrounding countryside.

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This is what it looks like once you're down at sea level

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Once we explored the more modern part of town, we discovered that it had plenty of buildings worth seeing too. The town hall is extremely grand, for example.

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This was probably our favourite church, which we had seen from a distance while we were on top of the bastion and finally managed to locate on the ground.

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Some of the streets were really beautiful even though they didn't have any particular sights on them.

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Although it was only just after midday by this point we were starting to get hungry, and remembering how strict the Italians are about lunch only being served between 12 and 2, we decided to start looking for somewhere to eat. We eventually found a lovely pizzeria where we were able to sit outside and have our first proper Italian meal of the holiday.

Our plan for the afternoon was to find our way to the beach. The man from the B&B had indicated that there might be a bus, so we set off for the bus station to find it. As luck would have it, the very bus we wanted was sitting at the first bus stop we came to and after a short journey we arrived at the coast.

It was absolutely gorgeous there, but a bit windy :)

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