Saturday, 23 May 2009

Spiaggia - it might sound like a cheap wine...

I have a new Peter Pan Happy Place - you know, that spot you go to in your mind when the world around you is just sucking monumentally and your only other option involves tears and the foetal position (Hello: my name is Trying To Find A Dissertation Topic). Anyway, it's called the Mediterranean, specifically spiaggia della Pelosa on the north west coast of Sardinia. It might sound like a cheap wine (or something you do after drinking excessive amounts of said cheap wine) but spiaggia is in fact Italian for beach and in my version of Italian, ahhhhhhhhh.

So yes. It was a pretty bloody fabulous holiday. So relaxing and so stress-free I didn't even miss or feel inclined to check my email for five days. Weird, I know. Getting to Alghero was a bit of a mission, thanks to a dodgy fucking 6.15am Ryanair flight that meant a 2.40am alarm but I have to say, having now flown Ryanair, Easyjet feels like first class, with a foot massage thrown in for free, which is saying something people. We did leave on time though and landing in Alghero, LB and I were greeted with lovely warm sun and blue skies - and not the predicted 19 degrees and thunderstorms we'd read about. It wasn't (yet) blazing sunshine but after miserable London, to stand and ponder this:

Well, it was pretty bloody fabulous. Despite being thoroughly exhausted and a bit dazed we passed those bothersome hours waiting to check in wandering around the Old Town and along the beach.

Initial picture postcard fantasies were completely squashed by the presence - and smell - of enormous mounds of seaweed but the further we walked the better it got and a lengthy nap after finally getting to our room meant it was dark when we ventured out again for dinner. This time it was raining but obligatory spaghetti bolognaise out of the way, we were then left to contemplate the exhausting list of naps, swims, cocktails, scenic drives and sunsets that lay ahead of us.

With an actively expressed desire for zero culture on my behalf we gleefully and shamelessly ignored the fact that we'd arrived in Alghero the same weekend the city had opened all its monuments and historical buildings to the public for free and instead opted for bouts of promenading, sunning and reading. Oh and did I mention the cocktails? Our only avid tourist moment was a boat trip out to these incredible caves called Neptune's Grotto, discovered by Spanish sailors in the 15th century and now one of the island's major highlights. I fell asleep on the boat trip out there (what?! It's exhausting being on holidays...) but it was worth what little tourist energy we could muster:

Ridiculous to think that these stalactites grow at a silly rate of something like 2cm every 100 years. Talk about patience being a virtue. It was extraordinary though.

For our last two days we hired a car and traversed the north west coast of the island, starting with a trip to the famed spiaggia della Pelosa aka Peter Pan Happy Place. LB drove - which I was more than happy about given the small fact we were driving a manual car on the opposite side of the road. That's just taking the piss out of multi-tasking in my book. Anyway, with LB at the wheel he bestowed upon me the title 'satnav' and I have to say, I didn't do too bad a job. And well done to LB on those seamless U-turns....

Spiaggia della Pelosa is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places I've ever swum, if not the most spectactular. It was so stunning I could only laugh for the cliche of it all:

Oh. And for the abundance of posers and in particular this fetching set of his and hers yellow swim suits. Hot.

Heading further north we got to a little coastal town called Castelsardo. Very hilly with delightful hues of peach and yellow announcing the old town surrounding the old castle. We didn't visit the castle (see: zero culture rule) but I did take the opportunity to introduce LB to the delights of swimming off the rocks, North Bondi style.

After another evening of sunsets and cocktails......

We took to the road again, this time heading south, along the famed coast road from Alghero to Bosa.

It was such a beautiful day and the scenery was just breath-taking. It was the first time we really had a moment where it felt like we were in Italy. Alghero is a funny little town, definately not bereft of charm but kind of scruffy, with lots of lingering building sites around the city. We were somewhat surprised by this until I read about how the EU had pumped bucket loads of money into the island 10 years ago to improve its infrastructure and basic services only to then demand it back in 2004 after the government fat cats failed to meet any of the spending targets. So yes, it was great to experience what Sardinia is really famous for, and that's the stunning geography.

Bosa is a sweet little town set just back from the coast along a river. More quaint cobbled streets and mozzarella-heavy salads. Heaven. On our way back to Alghero we stopped off at another little beach, had ourselves some lying in the sun (me with my factor 50+, my hat, my sarong, my sunglasses, my cotton shirt. The War on Freckles is at defcon5 people) but it was just so peaceful and with both our phones locked in the car we had no clue of the time - and really, no great need to know it anyway. So we read. And we swam. And we sighed.

To be honest I was a bit nervous about going away on a holiday with my lovely LB, I'm not sure why - perhaps I was worried that my odd but deeply ingrained neuroses, normally marketed to the world as charming idiosyncrasies would be revealed for what they really are, or worse, that we would find ourselves bereft of things to talk about but of course I'm an idiot and it was just lovely, lovely, lovely. It is funny though what you learn about people when you spend 24-7 with them for five solid days. Good things - like how gracious a loser they are when getting trounced in UNO. Quirky things - like when they're happy they hum the ditties to obscure television ads from the early 1990s. Bad things - well, no, no bad things. I don't think snoring counts - but even if it did he brought me earplugs so that has to count for something....

Notwithstanding these sorts of discoveries, there are some other unavoidable realities to travelling:

This being one. Another being the return to said reality...

I was resolutely and pleasantly head in the sand the entire time we were away about what was waiting for me when we got back but even I was surprised by how quickly I dissolved to tears and I kid you not, literal hair-pulling over this whole dissertation scenario. I have a 1500 word proposal to submit in a week, a 30 minute presentation to give in 10 days time and then 15,000 words to write between now and 5pm, October 30th. And I have no idea what to write about. Well no, that's a lie. I have about 12 half formed vague notions of what I consider "interesting" and would deign to write about. No structure, no actual artists, no real thesis for my thesis. So I am largely screwed. But at least my Peter Pan Happy Place is going to get a solid work out.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Yes it is.

Slide test done, Sardinia imminent, passionfruit martinis in the afternoon sun. Life could be a lot worse right at this minute.

Oh - and in case you didn't believe me about the stuffed toy koalas...

See you in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The art of irony

There's something delicious about irony. Exploring my new neighbourhood over the last fortnight I've encountered all sorts of grotty-but-fabulous graffiti and poster art, none of which quite compares to the tree full of stuffed toy koalas I also discovered, but it's been anything but visually dull. Last week I spotted a poster for a charity auction called "Art Against Knives" that features the self-portrait of Vincent "sunflowers" Van Gogh. What I love is that also last week two crazy German art historians emerged from the library to claim that it was in fact Paul "travel to Tahiti and shag the natives before dying of syphillis" Gauguin who actually lopped off Van Gogh's ear with his fencing sword - and not Vincent as the story historically (Van) Goghs. Maybe I'VE been spending too much time in the library but hey, it made me giggle - and I prefer this kind of irony to a room full of 50 girls discussing Freud and penis envy.

Speaking of envy though - LB and I are off to Sardinia on Friday for five days and I. Cannot. Wait. Sunshine, Mediterranean seaside, sleeping and as many trashy books as our crappy Ryanair bag limit will permit. Happy happy days. My final essay went in today and after my slide test on Thursday the only thing left to do is come up with a dissertation topic interesting enough to stave off four and a half months of torturous procrastination that would then become two weeks of absolute hell. And there is definately not enough diet coke in the world to see me through something like that.