The frantic call came in late in the afternoon “I found this great deal in Sardenia!” We can fly Ryan Air for just €50 from Barcelona and there’s this great all-inclusive resort we can get for just €150 for 3 days! Let’s go!” And then, before I could open my mouth to reply (and I would have said Yes!)… “But we have to decide NOW because this is a special offer and I have to book it today!” OK, great, sounds fine to me. So we did it.
Then work piled up and the time flew by and suddenly we were on a plane to Cagliari, with no plan. Well, except that we had discovered that the resort is 90km from Cagliari. No problem, we’ll just rent a car and then we’ll have freedom to explore the island. Then we visited our friend, Google Maps and saw that the 90 km drive takes 2 1/2 hours. Wow. Surely that’s a mistake. Even going through the mountains, that’s a long time. Then it dawned on us that we knew nothing about the island, and less about the resort. Oh well, it’s a resort and it’s a tourist place. They’ll speak either Spanish or English, and they’ll be able to tell us where to go and what to see. And besides, we have the iPad with us, so surely they have internet and we can look stuff up as soon as we land. Besides, my motto for years has been “It’s an adventure!”
We hop in our shiny new rental car, that we got at a bargain price, stick the GPS (that we also got for a bargain) to the windshield, dial in the destination and after practicing our sign language with the rental car guy — who didn’t understand us in either Spanish or English — we were off.
We start up the coast, on a narrow windy road, and the GPS points to a highway up ahead. We start to turn onto the tiny road that the rental car guy has told us loudly “UN USCITA! UN USCITA!” ONE EXIT — ONLY ONE – DO NOT MISS IT!” and standing flat with arms raised, in the middle of our ONE exit is a poliziotto (policeman) with his arms outstretched, his car blocking the road, signaling all cars to move on. Nothing to see here. No exit today.
Let the adventure begin! Now if you aren’t careful, children, this is where everything can go south. This is where all your expectations fly out the window and you realize you really are in a different world. This is where you take off that damn tourist hat and immerse yourself in the experience and find the good stuff around you — and ignore the things that could make you crazy. Well, maybe not ignore — but at least smile and let it go.
First, since we couldn’t get onto the highway, we got to experience those romantic Cary Grant Mediterranean roads first hand. You know, the ones where, if you miss the curve, you plunge off a cliff and fall thousands of feet into the sea? And where crazed Italian drivers zoom past on blind curves, narrowly missing the car in front of you (and passing so close you could reach out the window and touch their car)? That’s where we were. That’s where I had to drive.
Then we get to the resort. But it doesn’t say “resort” or “hotel” or anything similar in any language. There’s a huge white gate that says “Arbatax Park.” And there are open-top tour buses everywhere. We finally figure out that there are hotels inside the park, so we go in and discover that, in this place that was clearly built for tourists, nobody… repeat… NOBODY speaks any language except the local Sardenian dialect. English? “A leetle.” Spanish? “A leetle.” Which we quickly discovered was code for “not a lick.”
That’s OK by me — I can usually figure things out well enough with a mixture of Spanish, English, and sign language. But here’s the part that was really pushing the buttons of the guests — who were mostly Russian, trying to communicate in English:
“Are there things to do nearby? Can you recommend an activity?” To which every staffer replied….
[insert blank stares and crickets chirping]
No problem — we’ve got the iPad with us! We’ll look stuff up on the internet and make our own plan! Well, um…. the internet “eez broke.” Now I’m rolling on the floor laughing.
Turns out that on a SPECTACULARLY beautiful island with crystal clear water and mountains and rocky cliffs and, and and… you actually can find stuff to do and a way to enjoy your vacation without all that touristy stuff.