Finally we Leave & the problem with being chicken

Trip Start May 04, 2012
1
5
Trip End May 08, 2012


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Where I stayed
Hotel Piccado
What I did
Palau

Flag of Italy  , Sardinia,
Friday, May 4, 2012

After the horror of not knowing whether I would be able to go on this trip or not because my passport was still missing in action, it finally showed up on Thursday so Friday we got ready to get to Gatwick. Flying Easy Jet this time.  A new airline for us and one of the cheap ones but you have to pay for anything extra, such as checked baggage, speedy boarding (meaning you get to get on the plane first), anything to eat or drink or read, etc. etc.  I have found that often, by the time you add all the extras, it's just as cheap to fly British Airways but for this trip, Easy Jet.  I also got a parking pass through them as well.  I had the choices of far away from the airport for the cheapest price all the way up to valet parking where you pull up to the curb and get your luggage and go.  I settled for a bit less but an onsite parking lot and then a short shuttle bus to the terminal.

                So we say goodbye to our cats, feed all the birds and squirrels, check out the pond and still have no fish and away we go.  Traffic for once wasn't stop and go on the M25 and we made it in just a bit over an hour, good time from our house to Gatwick.  Then the parking lot was amazingly close so that was super and it's like pulling into a car rental place.  You stop and get your luggage and go inside to give them your keys, get a receipt, and there was the bus to take us to the terminal.  terrific.  then checking with Easy Jet which didn't take long and for once we weren't even close to the allotted weights on our luggage  Of course I had paid for one bag each as we were hauling our scuba regulators with us and my husband is of the mind that there might be a lot of wine to haul home.

                Into the departure area and didn't take us long to get through security either.  Last time through the airport, I was checked over as if I had been a well-known long time smuggler or something.  Whew, this time it was just through and then the 10 minutes that it takes to put everything back together, your shoes back on your feet, your belt back around your waist and clipping the phones to their proper place and purses back on the shoulder, etc. etc.

                Gatwick and Heathrow are massive shopping complexes.  It is a captive audience and the powers that be have fixed it so you can't really go anywhere for an hour or so.  If you have been a good tourist and come to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight like they tell you to do and have made it through check in and security without a problem, then yep, 1 to 1 1/2 hours of sitting in the departure lounge with absolutely nothing to do except watch the monitor for your gate and shop.  We just started circling the area to see what was in each shop, not that we haven't been there before, but you never know for sure if something new will show up in the duty free.  England has made it even easier to buy expensive liquors and perfumes and cigarettes and exotic food, jewelry, and watches now.  If you are coming back shortly, you can "shop and drop" They will let you buy something and they will hold it for you on your return where you can pick it up on your way home.  There might be a few more rules such as where you are going to and returning from and the time frame but it's pretty easy to spend money.  They also get you with the ole "It's only available in airport shops" or "it's only here in Gatwick (or Heathrow), or it's a special this month or this year or this Diamond Jubilee or this continent or whatever.  I won't say that we fell for it but even though it was 9 a.m. we tasted some whiskey and put it on the shop and drop scheme because it certainly tasted good and wasn't available anywhere else.

                Finally it is time to studiously study the departure board and wait for our gate to come up next to our flight.  It's up, we're gate 14 and away we go along with a whole plane full of people on the same flight.  We get to the gate and go through the gate check there and this is where it gets really tricky.  For some unknown reason as I'm usually fairly cheap on this stuff, I decided to purchase the "speedy boarded" offered by Easy Jet.  I am sooooo very glad I did.  Easy Jet works a lot like Southwest airlines in the U.S.  no assigned seats.  You take what you can find and hopefully there will be a luggage section left by the time you board.  Since you are allowed a certain size of case to carry on board (but only one, no more), a lot of people travel with small roller bags and put them in the overhead locker rather than paying to check a suitcase.  this means that the overhead lockers are soon full of these roller suitcases.  If you are unlucky enough to be at the end of the boarding process, you will have to pay to check your bag at the gate and it's going to be more expensive than if you checked it online before you came.  

                We were some of the first to board but that didn't mean that everyone didn't stand up and crowd the door when they opened it.  Luckily, Easy Jet stuck to their guns and only let the speedy board people on first.  We had to wade through the crowd and elbow people out of the way to get to the gate but we did get on the airplane first.    We chose the exit row to get more leg room.  The flight attendant was standing next to us so we chatted with her while everyone else was coming on board.  She told us that they do a two run day and then are home for the night.  So she had already flown to Hamburg, Germany that day, would make the flight to Sardinia and then turn around and fly back to Gatwick then home to bed.  Made for a long day but she liked sleeping at her house every night.  She did regret never having time at any of the ports where she flies though.  We had hoped to get the exit row to ourselves but someone finally asked if he could sit there and we lost our friendly flight attendant.

                flight fills and sure enough, no more luggage room in the overheads so people have to struggle up the aisle to the front of the plane again and hand over their luggage to be checked.  Finally we are away and when we are high enough for the seat belt sign to be switched off, my husband gets up and snags our bag of lunch.  We had purchased some food at Boots, the drugstore, and had a lunch on the plane rather than pay the prices the airlines always request.  Easy Jet had a new thing in store for us though.  They were offering lottery tickets, no, not tickets to any established national or state or health lottery but their own little lottery where you could win some money or win something from their cart of food goodies.  We bought one chance for a pound and didn't win.  ah well.

                Almost to Sardinia and I have almost fallen asleep.  Didn't sleep well the night before.  My husband is now chatting with the fellow next to him who is a wine merchant and going to Sardinia to restock and buys wine for about 96p a litter (about 60 cents).  My husband thought it quite remarkable that this man willingly paid 7 pounds each for the wine he bought on board the plane.  what a markup.  Also informed us that Sardinia is not really a British vacation spot but they go to places like Spain and Portugal.  Gee, the plane looked very full to me.

                Off the plane and didn't take us long to get through immigration which was one guy looking at each passport and stamping it if it wasn't an Italian passport.  My first stamp in my brand new passport.  I had to stop for the ladies toilet and there were only two with a long line so by the time I returned, the luggage was arriving so for me, didn't take long to get the luggage and leave the airport.  Followed the signs to the rent a car and stood in line for a few minutes for our Fiat Panda.

                We had directions to our hotel but it was a lot of "turn on this street" and then go down that street and wasn't a map so we opted to get a GPS with the car.  YEA!  I am so glad we did.  We punched in the latitude and longitude of the hotel and away we went.  It was hard at first to figure out where the heck I was supposed to be reading the kilometers.  We use miles in England so I had no feel for how fast the car was going in kilometers and I am sure that the people behind me were quite frustrated.

                We quickly drove out of Olbia, where we landed, and headed north towards the end of the island and the town of Palau.  Did not realize that a good deal of Sardinia is like driving in southern California.  there were lots of prickly pear cactus and succulent ice plants and century plants and yuccas.  OMG.  My husband called it "the sea meets Palm Springs".  Also, the speed went up to 90/kph, then down to 50, then back to 90, etc. etc.  it was hard to keep track of the speed and everything I saw a sign that made me drop it back to 50, cars would haul past me.

                The road was very hilly and twisty as well.  up and down and around curves and back and forth.  A lot of shifting and I finally started to develop a cramp in my leg so I had to pull over and get out of the car and stomp on my let for a while.  I pulled over with a lovely view of a pig farm with huge piggies in the field wandering around.  I was able to continue after about 10 minutes and adjusted everything and tried not to shift as much as we came to our town.  At this point there were signs directing us to Hotel Piccado.  We followed the signs and the GPS and found our hotel.

                Parked at the bottom and had to walk up the driveway to reception.  Very friendly lady greeting us and took our info and then says she will take us to our room and show us where to park.  The hotel looks very much to be a hotel/timeshare/vacation rental place.  We think it would be full of Italian and German tourists in the summer who come every year and stay in the same place and go to the same beaches.  Just has that feel.

                We hop into an elevator which takes us up two levels and we go out the back doors.  She says we can park here.  Then she keeps going up.  great.  another hotel where our room is on the top floor with a great view but stairs and more stairs to get to it.   Nice little room which also looks very much like a place that is a vacation share rental apartment.  We have a mini fridge and a microwave but no plates or silverware or glasses.  Maybe you bring that with you.

                Back down the stairs to the bottom of the hill to get our car and bring it up the two levels so we only have to carry our suitcases up another two levels.  Here to tell you that a Fiat Panda does NOT have a lot of power.  Started up the steep hill and someone turned the corner to come down and that was the end of me.  I couldn't get enough power then to get up the hill.  I tried four times and each time, it stalled out and rolled back down the hill.  Finally, I jammed it back in first, put on the emergency brake, put the accelerator to the floor, popped off the emergency brake, and climbed the hill.  poor little Panda.  Still barely made it but it did so we now only have to carry our bags up two flights of stairs rather than 4.  Throughout the vacation, each time we came back to the hotel I chanted "no cars coming down, no cars coming down".

                Fiddle around; fiddle around, then downstairs for a map.  Our hostess tells us that it is good to cross on the ferry to La Maddelana and drive around the island where there are lovely beaches and take the bridge to La Caprera to see the Garibaldi museum which is closed on Mondays.  We also have her show us where the dive shop is.  Marking on the map for us and then we are away into town on a walking tour.

                There is a harbor here with boats for rent and also some excursion boats to take you round the islands or over to other islands and so forth.  Looks like they will be very busy during season but for now, most are just sitting there with nothing to do.  There is a very large kiddy park too with tones of kids playing on the swings and slides and other things on the artificial turf and mothers standing around watching.  we are not sure where the dive shop is but are trying to zero in on it and head back towards the water front when we turn to go up a little side street and there it is right in front of us.

                we go in and tell them we have our regulators only and they want our info which of course I didn't bring the dive cards with me.  They say they can outfit us and we will go diving tomorrow and the water is about 68 degrees F (they used centigrade but that's what it is).  Since my husband only has an open water certification, they will only take him to 18 meters which is fine with him also as he likes to be in that depth or less but yet somehow he has managed to get down to 20-23 meters on a good many of our dives.  And this is a fairly new thing, to us, anyway as the scuba shops didn't used to stop people from diving deeper no matter what the certification so the agencies have convinced them that open water is only good to a certain depth and then you must pay more for another certification to be able to dive deeper.

                We fill in our paperwork and then they take us back to get us outfitted for tomorrow.  They give me a full wet suit which is probably a 7 mm or maybe even a 9 mm.  I go into the bathroom and work it and work it and work it and then realize I have put it on backwards and have to rip it off and try again.  I get it about half way up my legs and realize it's not going to work so I call in hubby to help and we both realize I need a bigger wet suit.  I am dripping with sweat from working so hard at this.  They hand another one to my husband through the door and I start trying to put it on.  It is very, very thick and hard to maneuver it and then I realize that I am putting it on backwards too.  usually they zip up the back but this one zips up the front because it comes with a hood as well.  yikes.  by now, I am totally exhausted from trying and not having any fun plus hubby tells me that they told him he would also need a shorty over his wet suit.  I'm thinking it's going to take about 50 pounds of weights to be able to sink into the ocean with all this buoyancy on me plus I am going to be as thick as the Michelin man and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed as I did when I was in the dry suit in Iceland so we decide to forgo the diving until the weather and water is much warmer, like August or Sept.  We trudge out of the restroom, me still dripping sweat, and tell them we will forget about it.  they were very polite but maybe somewhat relieved too that they didn't have to babysit us.

                Oh well.  we walk back around town for a bit and look in a few shops and finally find a shop with some fruit and wine.  the lady doesn't speak English much but she sells us a bottle of red and a bottle of white.  My husband conveys to her to show us her favorite so we get those two.  then we realize we have no knife with us or corkscrew so she is going to open one bottle for us there but I think that's not a good idea so we spend the next half hour wandering into shops to see if there is a corkscrew for sale.  We are directed from the electrical appliances store to the hardware store to the kitchen store where we find a corkscrew and a cheese knife and couple of mugs for wine as we don't want to transport glass.

                Now we are both fairly hungry and trying to find somewhere to eat but most places aren't open yet.  the whole town is seemingly very lifeless and vacant except for a few cars and the kids playing in the park.  the stores and such are closed up mostly.  there is a pizza place that has slices for sale but we'd rather have a restaurant.  finally we find one that is open and go in there.  we order a pizza and ravioli for me.  I like the ravioli a lot and the pizza isn't too bad but their oven wasn't hot enough for the crust.  they also bring a bread basket.  Think it is like Germany where everyone gets a bread basket on their table and if you eat any, you are charged for it.  If you don't eat any, then no charge.  Never have known a bread basket to go to waste on my table.

                finally we are done and head back to our hotel on the hillside.  now places are opening so maybe tomorrow we will go to dinner later and find more choices available.  We sit outside for a bit but the sunset eludes us because it is behind us and too many buildings in the way.  we might be able to see the sunrise though.  Into the room and to bed at a fairly early hour but we were both tired.  Then hubby wants to read for a while and then I read for a while and then both to sleep.  Good start to a nice weekend abroad.  too bad we are such chickens about the diving.  we just really like our comfort when diving.
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