2011 Adriatic Cruise: Cagliari

DSC00651compressedUp early again this morning for breakfast before Alan’s gym session. We were docking in Cagliari at 10am, so it was a leisurely morning. I’m typing this as we enter the Cagliari harbour, bright sun shining, and flat seas. Every so often an a plane flies over us as it descends to the airport somewhere off to our left.  Then, the ship stops seemingly in the middle of nowhere in particular. The engines start to reverse and be we begin to back into the space where we will be docking – moving this big ship into very tight spaces is always an impressive feat. Slowly, slowly we ease backwards, and then ever so gently slip sideways to the pier. The ropes are tossed to the shore and we glide to a stop without so much as a bump.

There are the now familiar long line of buses lined up for the various ship tours, and some vans for private tours, their drivers chatting – although there is a gender thing at work here as the male and female drivers and guides are chatting in separate groups! There are even some soldiers here watching the ship dock but I think they are curious rather than being on duty – no guns are obvious.

This is a working port, and we can’t walk out, but have to catch a shuttle bus to the entrance – hopefully, we can time our departure to miss more long queues. It’s a beautiful day with a cool breeze, so I am quite looking forward to our day. We discover at breakfast that the quarantine on us getting our own food has been lifted – so a 5 day quarantine had been in place, when we had to be served everything. This seemed to make the flow in the cafe much smoother, and everyone seemed a little more at ease.

It turned out to hot and humid, almost 30 degrees. We wound our way around the streets, seeing too many churches to remember on our way up the hill to the Roman Theatre and the Cathedral. The Theatre was closed because of a strike, but we could see in through the fence, and it’s obviously used by the town as a music venue, and looks out over the Botanic Gardens.  Apparently there are underground cages where you can learn about its gladiatorial history, but not for us today. On the way here, there were lots of the vendors/hawkers that we see in other Italian cities, including some who helped you find a car park, which I’d not seen before.

DSC00657compressedWe passed the university on our way to the Theatre, and it seemed to spread out across the top of the hill – some impressive buildings, but also showing signs of disrepair. And, one little courtyard we found seemed to be the local home for the homeless, with swags and cardboard boxes gathering under the shrubbery.

We headed next in the direction of one of the famed towers and found our way there past what looked like some more ruins, and past a lift down to them – we discovered later the lift was an alternative to a long flight of stairs. Wandering up another hill, we found the tower, paid our 4 Euro and started the climb – only three levels, but long steep stairs – safe enough but you had to pay attention to every step. The view from the top was worth the climb, and there was one little nook with open windows that had a lovely cool breeze flowing through – I stood there for a while before we descended down the stairs, which was probably a more precarious trip than going up. Inside the city walls, the streets are narrow, but like all Italian cities, drivers didn’t seem particularly worried about sharing with pedestrians, although we had to squeeze back again the walls of shops and apartments to give them room to pass – I noticed though, that locals just kept walking.

Going down more stairs, we found ourselves in the square where we had started earlier in the morning. Wanting to see the cathedral before we went back, I tried to work out how to get there, wandering down one of the main shopping streets, finally working out that we had to go back the way we came – this realisation only came after we walked around on the outside of the city walls, when we needed to be inside.  Hmm, maybe I need map reading lessons. We stopped so Alan could get a triple scoop gelato and back we went. We found ourselves at the Bastion San Remy which was was a home to the first Viceroy of the House of Savoy and then an administrative centre, but also the most bizarre idea I think I’ve ever seen – a large flat square on the top of a hill, all cement except for one portico type structure, and which was blazingly hot as we walked across it.

DSC00684 compressedWe could, however, see the cathedral, so kept going up hill, and came to the side of it. That was nice – it was dripping sweat down the back type heat, so it was good to go inside and sit and rest in the calm. As I entered, two men (don’t think they were priests) were at the entrance, checking that women had covered shoulders, and there was a very conspicuous sign with the dress code. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Castello was interesting – less glitzy than other Italian duomos. Hailing from medieval times, it had an impressive pulpit and the requisite marble columns and statues, and a painted ceiling. The royal tombs of the House of Savoy are here as well. All of these churches in Italy have so much history in them that each of them is worth a visit.

I needed no more heat though, so we headed back downhill and to the point where the shuttle bus would take us back to the ship. First we had to get to the other side of a wide road but the crossing seemed irrelevant to drivers – so we did as we had learned – stepped out, waited for a gap and started walking – the traffic stopped – we had learned to call their bluff. On the other side of the road were a family waiting, waiting, politely and as we reached the other side, they took advantage of the gap we’d created and headed across. Crossing the road seems to be one of the most dangerous things you can do in Italy at times.

As I hopped on the shuttle bus, the driver suddenly seemed to be startled, yelling out ‘stop, stop’ and closed the doorDSC00690 compressed right behind me, leaving two other passengers behind. We stumbled up the aisle as he started for the ship and flopped into seats. As we rounded a bend, I could see another ship had docked – it was the old Celebrity Horizon, repainted but with the signature X still on the funnel. Such a small ship compared to the Solstice class.

I managed to make it walking up the stairs from Deck 2 where we boarded to Deck 14 where the cafe is, but the gym work is paying off because I had my breath back in a couple of minutes. Our waiter from QZine was on the door, so I chatted to him while waiting for Alan. Lunch was nice after such a long morning – it was about 1.45pm by then – looking out across the Horizon, we could see how far we’d walk and how high. Back in the cabin now, cup of tea and I’m typing this on the veranda, watching the shuttle buses come  back, and just behind them, coal being loaded on to a ship – brought to the dock in trucks, emptied onto the dock and then shovelled into a carrier than was then craned into the ship. At least it looks like coal.

A quick nap, then my weights session in the gym, and I returned to the cabin to see that the coal had been totally cleared, and the ship was gone. Very efficient. Time for dinner and then a walk around the deck, and back to the cabin for the now ritual movie and sleep. Early night tonight because early morning start in Palermo tomorrow.

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