From Cala Gavetta, we raised our anchors at 9:30am and sailed further north to the French administered island of Corsica.
And yet before we even reached the marina, we moored briefly nearby at the seaside natural cliffs:
We jumped in here for a hour’s worth of snorkeling, as well as being able to swim to shores that could only be accessible by a yacht:
Our skipper freedove in the meantime to hunt for sea urchins:
’twas a success:
and ’twas a hit:
After an hour here we then raised our anchors and sailed in slowly into the marina like it was something out of a movie. Playing some background themes to “Jurassic Park” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” didn’t hurt.
Bonifacio is situated in the French Mediterranean on the island of Corsica. We’re no longer in Italy anymore.
Bonifacio is especially known for its lively marina and medieval clifftop citadel.
The Citadel, also called “upper town,” is perched more than 70 meters high on a cliff overlooking the sea.
Once we docked at the marina…
…we started exploring:
With the “pass monument” for 3.50 euros per person here, you can visit the Fortress of the Standard and King of Aragon’s Staircase:
We decided instead to take the train up to the top for 6 euros per person (round trip). It runs every 20-30 minutes.
Take your time among old town streets:
Some of us walked through the cemetery…
…and reached the edge for the views of where we had just snorkeled before:
We then headed back down to freshen up for dinner at Da Passano:
And conveniently enough walked to B52 next door, a local legendary nightclub.
We had a little fun.
This is me taking a nap
Ok, maybe a lot of fun.
We then returned back to our yachts afterwards at 2am for another impromptu afterparty by the boardwalk. A kind of party where even arms were cleaned.
- At time of posting in Bonifacio, it was 24 °C -
Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
On day 2 most of us woke up to our long awaited shangri-la, aka 9:30am where all our yachts were already sailing in open waters towards the islands of the La Maddalena archipelago. Way better than yesterday’s start.
We didn’t miss a beat to finally feel the winds at our back and the sun on our faces:
Our on-board hostess, chef, and new friend Casey prepared us this magic for breakfast:
We then stopped for a brief swim in the clear blue waters and everyone got to try out their floaties. Then it was already time for lunch:
By early afternoon we docked in the old town of Cala Gavetta, which dates back to the eighteenth century and rises to the south of the island with beautiful views of Palau.
Whether stretching our legs, parking up at a cafe, or jumping on a scooter, this city is not the place to have anything particular in mind “to do.” We just kicked back at a few cafés and watched the city go by before having dinner at Zeus Faber.
At night we then changed our outfits for a “Dockside Disco” themed party outside in the city center; but the group decided to make their own party back at our yachts where we threw down a yacht vs yacht dance off as they were parked right next to each other.
Can’t have enough opportunities for group photos:
- At time of posting in Cala Gavetta, it was 26 °C -
Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
The first day of Yacht Week’s first official voyage to Sardinia & Corsica: a frenzy of check-ins, security deposits, last minute provisional shopping, under 2 flash thunderstorms…aka the not so fun stuff.
But we already would know all this: After 3 orientations over the past month, we had managed our expectations enough to make sure we were all ready for the drama (except for the weather).
Even so, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.
Checking out from La Residenze del Centro at 10:30am we walked over to set up our temporary home base at Café Gregorio by the marina, who graciously allowed all 33 of us to hole up there from 11am-5pm (the tip helped).
Then as prepared as we could be, it felt as if Hurricane Ida back home would still chase after us and throw a wrench into our carefully laid out plans: 2 flash flood storms that struck in Olbia were so awful that even cockroaches scurried for shelter in our bags at the café. While it’s already stressful enough to coordinate the 33 of us to fly out in the middle of tornadoes, flash floods, and hurricanes back home, seeing flash floods and cockroaches scurrying for their lives here reminded us that you can’t outrun Mother Nature.
Yet we were still the lucky ones; while all of us stayed safely and dry under the café’s rain cover the whole day (while I ran over to the marina checking in with Eric’s dinky umbrella), only leaving to make quick trips to the grocery store in between storms, I saw everyone else outside The Monsoon Diaries’ crew in Yacht Week running around and getting soaked at a coverless marina.
Finally by 5pm, our homes for the next week were ready:
Dodging hurricanes and tornadoes at home, flights being subsequently delayed or redirected, 2 of us missing and rebooking flights, long lines, long layovers, 2 more storms waiting for us at Olbia, last minute ATM runs, last minute grocery shopping, and fighting off cockroaches, we finally made it:
Outmaneuvering some initial (and expected) awkward drama in choosing our rooms, we then took an hour to store our food, stock the cabinets, make our beds, and even decorate our yacht to celebrate Ann’s birthday.
…all with this sunset as our backdrop:
We then got dressed up, donned our face coverings and at 7:45pm drove up 20 minutes to Matt’s Restaurant in Portisco:
It’s all 33 of us together finally (with 1 more joining us on Monday!)…
…cheering to the beginning of the “best week of our lives”:
Let’s just say we were the pink elephant in the room and the largest contingency of any other group in Yacht Week: we’d take the largest table of the night. Multiple crews from other yachts would come to our table to say hi, and kept asking how we managed to get so many to come to the same voyage at once.
Our collective answer: it’s the monsoon baby. Get ready for us.
Throwing an impromptu shirtless outdoor dance party during dinner, we eventually returned to our yachts at 1am for even more impromptu parties on our yachts.
And yet as much fun as they would be, we eventually had to establish boundaries by kicking a few folks off one of our yachts for passing out in the back (and some even swiping a few drinks from our fridge)…which I think they all still took pretty well as without complaint they simply moved on to the yacht next door.
Thanks for not being difficult and apologies ahead that we didn’t buy enough alcohol to accommodate for outside guests; it’s only the first day!
- At time of posting in Olbia, it was 27 °C -
Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 27km/hr | Cloud Cover: thunderstorms, flash floods
From a little village by Oristano, we then headed out north towards the Punic and Roman archaeological sites of Tharros:
Climb to the top for views over western Sardinia:
There’s still active excavations going on here!
If you’re into the obscure, which sadly we didn’t have time for, namely evidence of the pre-period from the Paleolithic till the middle Bronze Age (when the Nuragic civilization lived on the island), check out colossal 6 meter tall monolith Menhir di Monte Corru Tundu — one of the largest in Sardinia — located north of the town of Villa Sant’Antonio:
Another 40 minutes north we briefly swung by Terme Romane di Fordongianus, a set of extremely well preserved Roman baths located in a river valley.
More ruins to the north at Nuraghe Losa:
Then passing through Sassari, we stopped at Church of the Holy Trinity Saccargia, built in 1116:
We eventually reached marble-lined port city of Olbia by the evening, reuniting with the other early arrivals for Yacht Week:
For 5 euros per person we headed into the city and checked into our lodgings at La Residenze del Centro:
Now having dinner at Art Academy before a night of gelatos and wine!
The next day it was like an episode of The Amazing Race as groups of our monsooners began to arrive in waves:
We’re getting closer:
One final orientation before our movie begins.
- At time of posting in Bosa, it was 25 °C -
Humidity: 67% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
Another monsoon begins, and this time in Sardinia: the Italian island between where we were only 1 month ago among the Balearic Islands and the Italian peninsula.
I finally got to redeem all the thousands of miles I accumulated over the year of the pandemic without using any of it; I decided to give SWISS Air’s Throne Seat another go despite the mid-flight emergency I had nearly exactly 2 years prior where I asked the captain to make an emergency landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a woman in distress.
This time, there was no mid flight emergency; I even got in a solid 6 hours of sleep in before arriving in Zurich!
After 2 hours there resting up at Swiss Air’s Business Class Lounge, I headed on to Florence. They have such a tiny airport here that there wasn’t even a transit option; I summarily walked out of my gate into arrivals, which was outside and next to a 1.30 euro tram that takes you directly into Florence city center in 20 minutes.
Taking that as a sign of my next step during my 4 hour layover in Florence, I did just that.
And while on the tram not knowing what my next step would be and whether I should find left luggage at the main train station in the city or carry it around with me, I got a text from Patricia — a monsooner on our Cyprus trip 2 months ago and this upcoming trip to Sardinia — who happened to have ALSO just arrived in Florence and checked into her hotel.
When I then asked her where her hotel was, she replied that it was right next to my tram stop in the city (!),
WHAT MAGICAL SERENDIPITY AND CONVENIENCE IS GOING ON HERE.
While I only had 4 hours in Florence, it was a memorable 4 hours to spend as a layover.
This is the unbelievable Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the third largest in the world:
From there then sauntered around in all directions aimlessly, notably walking across the medieval era Ponte Vecchio Bridge without realizing a few minutes later that it’s famous for the many shops built along it that have remained on the bridge since:
Once we reached Uffizi Museum, I dropped Patricia off so she could check out the museum …
… while I rushed back to pick up my bags from her hotel room and make it to my flight onwards to Cagliari.
During the 1 hour flight I befriended a girl from LA named Ani (she remarked about my keffiyeh from Socotra!), but alas the conversation would be cut short as I said my goodbyes to her and her friends after arriving at around 8pm:
From the airport I took the Cagliari Trenitalia from the airport for 20 minutes and 1 stop to the Cagliari terminal train station.
I walked over a 3 minutes to my lodging at CRAMU B&B where Nishant was waiting for me. He was coming from the UK, where he spent 14 days in self-imposed quarantine in Greece prior to beginning his monsoon with us here. I last saw Nishant in Afghanistan of June 2019!
We then headed out for a late dinner in the town (of all the food board spreads there, we chose poorly) before turning in at 1am.
The next morning we began with a lazy breakfast at our B&B before hiking uphill 15 minutes and 26m for the Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari:
In the area you can pass by Torre dell’Elefante and Torre di San Pancrazio: Two examples of Pisan military architecture and both give great panoramic views of the port and city. Both were closed for renovations at the time of posting.
We then arrived at Saint Remy Bastion, the symbol of Cagliari featuring a landmark limestone arch, pillars, terrace and promenade for public events.
Enjoy the views from here (or anywhere on the elevated hills of Cagliari for that matter):
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e Santa Cecilia further north may be worth a visit as it was possibly the only open cathedral at the time of posting.
Don’t miss its spectacular crypt underneath:
We then headed back down into the main town where after a splendid vegan brunch at Gintilla, we passed by Chiesa di San Michele, a Catholic baroque church.
Just down the street is Chiesa Collegiata di Sant’Anna:
At this point we looped back to a 3 minute walk away from our B&B (and the train station), so we returned back to pick up our bags, took the train back towards to the airport, and picked up Sabrina from her arrival into CAG airport at 3:10pm.
It then took us nearly 2 hours to finally get our rental car with no thanks to the inefficiency of the offices here, and by 5pm we began our road trip up to central Sardinia.
We also made a 10 minute detour for 360 degree views from Castle of San Michele, which seems to have been converted into an art gallery. Make sure you get the right parking lot because the first attempt landed us in a defacto junkyard, the second in a parking lot that required a 15 minute walk uphill, of which said hike led us to a third parking lot that we could’ve driven to instead.
After 20 minutes here we drove another hour north to Su Nuraxi di Barumini, an archaeological site uncovering a network of circular towers that acted as early defenses and fortifications unique to Sardinia and nearly as old as the Great Pyramids of Giza.
We then drove another 45 minutes drive away to a village outside Oristano before turning in at Agriturismo Sa Pramma, one of the homestays offered in Sardinia (search under “Agriturismo”) where you can stay with a local family and have a homecooked meal.
I need to catch up on sleep. I’m feeling the jetlag now.
- At time of posting in Cagliari, it was 26 °C -
Humidity: 83% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear