Corsica and Sardinia, two islands separated by the narrowest of gaps: just the 11 km wide Strait of Bonifacio.
So strange that Corsica is part of France and Sardinia is in Italy. Corsica was originally Italian as well, but was signed over to the French as part of a debt repayment agreement between the two governments.
This little piece of historical trivia would take on more significance as we traveled further south through Corsica's twin sister.
It takes us no time to hop from Corsica to Sardinia. And we don't get very far on this new island. Santa Teresa Gallura is the town right at the ferry dock
Since it's getting late in the day, we're going to stay here for the evening and then venture further south first thing in the morning.
We haven't been here very long, but we're noticing a lot of differences between Corisca and Sardinia. The buildings in this port town seem a little run-down, and the roads and pavements don't seem as well maintained as the French island that we just left. It may just be because it's a port town... don't know yet.
Another big change is Neda's mood. For the last three weeks, we've been slowly making our way through France and she doesn't speak the language at all. Being so multi-lingual, Neda is used to understanding and communicating effortlessly with everyone around her. But not in French. For the past few weeks, she's had to rely on my Grade-9-Quebecois-tinged Franglais to get the both of us by. Quite the role reversal. Because normally I'm the one standing around not able to understand or talk to anybody - which I'm totally used to, since that's how I've spent pretty much the last half decade of my life...
But she hates it.
Now that we're in Italy, she takes over the reins con gusto (ugh, mixing up my languages here)... con piacere? *shrug* Back to being deaf and dumb for me...
We check into our AirBnB room near the beaches, it's in a very quaint and homey guest house. The lady who runs it is an old Italian nonna and she's delighted that Neda speaks Italian! She must get a lot of English and French tourists coming through. She natters away merrily to Neda, treating her like a long-lost grand-daughter, explaining where all amenities are, things to see and do around Santa Teresa.
The only thing we have time for before sunset is a quick stroll along the nearby beach
Just like Corsica, the sands here are devoid of sun-seeking tourists. A few die-hard souls brave the waters - I suspect they are locals - as a cold breeze whips off the coast. It's definitely sweater - not swimsuit - weather.
Watching the waves smash against the rocks just off the coast
Despite it not being beach weather, it's still quite pretty and we're very much enjoying having the place to ourselves
The sun sets behind the hills overlooking our neighbourhood in Santa Teresa
Longosardo Tower overlooking the beaches of Santa Teresa
These islands have changed hands many times. Before the Italians ruled Sardinia, the Spanish were here and built fortifications and towers along the coast to defend against pirates and other sea attacks.
Avant-garde sculpture of the Virgin Mary at sunset
We walk to the old town square to score us some fall weather snacks - ice cream!
While we were walking past the ice cream store, Neda spotted a pale blue-coloured flavour. When she inquired about what that was, the server replied, "Mirto". "Oh, Mirto! We have those plants in Croatia, it's Mirta! I never knew you could eat the berries that grew on those bushes. I'll have to try it!"
Being uni-lingual, I had to Google what Mirto/Mirta is. It's Myrtle. The berries are blue and are used to make liqueur on both of the islands. And apparently they use it to make ice cream here, which seems to be a uniquely Sardinian thing. Neda says Mirto/Mirta/Myrtle berries are very Mediterranean and remind her of home.
What with all the familiar language and foods, she is loving being back in the Nedaterranean.
The next morning, we're all packed up and ready to explore the rest of Sardinia. But first, we feed the local dogs!
This guy was so shy. He wouldn't take the snack from my hand, and I had to leave it on the road and back away for him to pick it up. I think he's been bullied a lot by the local kids and is now wary of all people. Sad.
Off we go!
The road south-west from Santa Teresa shoots inland and we're treated to the typical curvy mountain roads in the northern region of Gallura, just like the ones in Corsica.
The windy road takes us through some small Italian towns. This is the Commune di Nulvi, just outside of Sassari
Sa Essìda de sos candhaleris ("The exit of the candlesticks") is an annual Catholic ceremony where three huge candlestick holders are walked through the streets of Nulvi to the parish church. It seems to be quite a huge celebration that draws a lot of people from all over to this tiny village.
It's held every August 14th, so we've missed it. That's a shame, it looks quite interesting to see in person.
All the buildings we've seen in Sardinia have been given fresh coats of pastel colours, but it can't hide the fact they haven't been renovated in a while. We've seen enough of the small towns here to draw a conclusion that France is definitely richer than Italy. There's noticeably more funding in Corsica for buildings and roadways than in Sardinia.
How do you pronounce windy? We race down windy
roads with huge windmill farms taking advantage of the windy
English is funny.
How do you pronounce lamb? Like this: "om nom nom"
Up ahead, the town of Osilo is perched on the side of a hill. The square medieval tower of the Castello Malspina rises up above the town
Getting lost in the cobblestone streets of Osilo
Between Osilo and Sassari, the road climbs to give us a great view of the plains and valleys below. That's the windy road we just took!
Sassari is the biggest city in the region. We get off the bikes to walk around the old historical centre and to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch
More narrow cobblestone streets in Sassari, clothes hanging out to dry
Government buildings at the Piazza d'Italia (main city square)
Sassari is a lot prettier than the smaller towns we've visited. More tourist dollars pour in here.
Then after lunch, we hopped back on the bikes to take a quick 45-minute ride from Sassari to the Stintino peninsula in the north, which we've heard was one of the top tourist spots in Sardinia.
Rocky coast, sandy beaches and wind-swept trees at the Spiaggia La Pelosa (Pelosa Beach) in Stintino
Fisherman in front of another defensive tower - Torre della Pelosa
Walkway to the beach
This couple is dressed appropriately for the weather
Looking out into the waters surrounding us, I've realized that a pattern has emerged from the places we've visited over the last 7 months of travel:
Koh Samui, Koh Phangun, Koh Lanta, Penang, Singapore, Phuket, Brac, Hvar, Santorini, England, Isle of Skye, Isle of Man, Ireland, Corsica, Sardinia.
We've taken so many ferries and ridden over a lot of bridges, we've now got quite an Island Hopping theme going! What other islands can we ride?
Damn. Why am I so tired all the time?!?!