Finally we got in the kayak. Normally this is the first thing I want to do when I get back but the weather was not great and there was a lot to do. But on Monday we went as a group from the house, four guests, Peter, Francesco and I. It was quite sporty getting in… But none of us got very wet at the start. We kept quite far out from the rocks as there was quite a swell but it felt wonderful to be out in the fresh air at last. (See photo left in front of Su Sirboni, Marina di Cardedu)
We stayed down there at the Marina di Cardedu and Peter went off to check out one of his mountain bike rides. Our guests did the lovely Is Seddas walk, an interesting three-hour hike over the nearest hill. I stayed with Francesco chatting till Ada could get down from her job in the hospital and the three of us went out again in the kayak, the sea gradually calming as the day went on, Francesco keeping us in stitches with his silly stories.
Ada had subscribed to a course in making the traditional Sard decorative bread “Pani Pintau”. This is a bread which you can keep for some time made from semola, a type of grainy golden flour ground from hard durum wheat. The first lesson was this week so I decided to go along. The course was oversubscribed but some people did not turn up so the organiser let me join, I think she liked the idea of a Scot on the course. This week the teacher, a well known expert from Tertenia, brought the dough and we got to copy her shaping the traditional Easter breads, little circles with points and doves, with a special spot for your hard-boiled Easter Egg. I forgot to turn mine over at the correct moment so my doves were facing away from each other (see photo right). But apparently this is another type of design with a name referring to your mother-in-law I think she said…. Doesn’t sound very PC to me….
Peter has has a bad tech week, our web site became inaccessible for a while and I had to get out the tranquilliser gun. But as usual with these things, it all came right with a few hours of waiting and patient restarting all the components.
We only have four guests so there has been very little to do in the house this week but at the weekend we start to get busy and from Sunday the house will be full.
Well of course it started to rain as soon as I posted that there was always sun. It rained seriously for a couple of days, putting a temporary stop to my painting of the table on the roof terrace. My heart was not in it anyway. Last year I painted it grey to match the railings and because the varnish was all patchy. It looked fab for about two weeks, then it all started to peel off and it looked worse than ever. By then we had a full house and I never had time to do it again till now even though I love painting on the roof. So now it looks good again but who knows for how long (see photo on left).
I had hoped to go kayaking and we met up for a pizza with Francesco, his wife and daughter, Elisa and Emma, and my kayaking partner Ada but the forecast was for choppy seas for a week, and when I walked along the beach at Porto Frailis the other day, there were quite big rollers coming in, reminding me of the UK seaside, as shown in the photo on the right. There are other things to do here in the wet: there are some fantastic caves, like the Grotta Su Marmuri in Ulassai and, in the same village, if you like modern art, the Maria Lai museum. Maria Lai was born in Ulassai and left many wonderful pieces to the village on the condition they be exhibited there. The old railway station of the village has been refurbished as a gallery and her imaginative work can be enjoyed all year round. I love it, a mix of paint and fabric and thread with fables and ancient village myths, with many women and children represented, again Sardinia shows its unexpected treasures.
And what else can you do when it rains here? Well, walking around in it is not much of an option even for a Scot, it really does pour down. I took up knitting and sewing again when I stayed here over a few winters which was satisfying but now we do not have enough cupboards for all the sweaters we own. I cook of course and have spent three days this week making lemon marmalade from a recipe I found on the Internet when we first got a full crop of lemons from the tree outside. That one tree makes more lemons than you could imagine. I have just made another 7 kg of marmalade bringing my total this week to 21 kg. The cupboard is full, as you can see from the photo on the left. That will keep us going till autumn and I would make more as it is very satisfying somehow but I ran out of jars. There are still quite a few beautiful big lemons on the tree so in a month or two I will make another lot. Have to do it before mid-May though, after that it is too hot for making preserves.
Oh and there’s shopping for breakfast things and cleaning the house. This is quite a big house but it is easy to clean as it is all hard surfaces. Peter is a whizz with the Hoover (yes, really) and I do the rest of the cleaning. As well as the English couple who arrived 2 days ago, a German couple emailed last night and are arriving this afternoon. So no more long lie-in in the morning, not for months now as there will be breakfast to do every day. But new people to get to know too, that is what makes it all such fun.
So here we are back in Sardinia after 4 months away, a necessary and welcome break after the long season of being up for guests every day. The journey from Rome was uneventful, the overnight ferry the usual surreal experience with the driving test. This year it was reversing the car 100m in a narrow gap between previously loaded cars and the ferry workers pretending this is the only way. Well it is boring for them, I am sure, with only a few cars to load, in summer they do not have time for these games.
Arriving at The Lemon House with some trepidation, we discover that the winter had been kind, with not too much rain and only one room needs some redecorating. The rest are just dusty and with a few days cleaning and a few repairs we should be ready for the first guest who is due in a week. But it is quite depressing and I am hungry, that is never good. Thankfully Peter has learned this lesson and makes a sandwich and his usual cup of tea. The lemon tree is looking very shorn. (see photo below right) Our friends Francesco and Giulio have given it the pruning it so badly needed but it is just a few sticks with lemons hanging off them. I have to make some marmalade soon, there are only two jars left and we get through 30 kg or so in a season.
We make a list of jobs but this makes me sad as I cannot do the things I prefer since my knees went. I can only paint a strip around the walls at waist height since ladders are hard work now and kneeling not possible at all. So Peter has to do the painting and I just get cleaning. Still I manage to stick on a loose granite block on our outside wall (see photo) with some kind of superglue called Mille Chiodi (1000 nails).
It takes a whole day to clean the kitchen, since the walls have to be washed and inside all the cupboards wiped down. But it has a marvellous effect, the sparkling windows cheer me up and then Tonina, our next door neighbor who has been keeping an eye on the house and putting our mail inside, pops in to say hello. As lots of people stop when I am painting the front window, I realize we are part of the fabric here, the locals smiling as they see us back working, a strong sign that the spring has arrived and soon the village will be more lively. I see Rosina across the road and go over to greet her, she will be mad with me otherwise! She gives me coffee, a huge bag of oranges and shows off some of her embroidery, traditional style linen with delicate edging which is so beautiful. I ask her son Attilio to take a photo (see left). Sardinia welcomes me back, it’s surprising as ever, fine art work in the houses of ordinary hardworking people. And the sun, always the sun. It is good to be back.
The second volume of “Pietra di Luna” with 1400 multipitch and trad routes on Sardinia was published at the end of 2014. Unlike the first edition for singlepitch routes which Peter translated from Italian to English, this time he wasn’t involved, and will see the book for the first time in March 2015 when it will be on sale at The Lemon House, €48. Available in the UK from Cordee £44.95
The Lemon House’s 2014 season is coming to an end. Today we wanted to make one last kayak outing, but the surf was up and we simply enjoyed the sun at La Spiaggetta. Tomorrow the last guests of the year leave. We are already preparing the 2015 season and have updated our website with the most important new developments for walking, climbing and mountain biking on the east coast of Sardinia from our October 2014 newsletter. We will be open again for guests from 14 March 2015!
Download our May 2014 Newsletter (PDF 600 kb): The Lemon House is almost always full, and we have worked out how to enjoy some “private” space and still be available for guests. Analysis of what activities people come to stay with us to do on Sardinia (see pie chart left). Two great new guides and maps for walking and how different attitudes to walking between British, German and Italians are! Updating documentation and photos of mountain bike routes including STS-grading. We were very proud of Rebecca in her first cycling race . See you soon!
The first road race of the season was held last Sunday 4 May in Barisardo. There was no other road race on the island on this long holiday weekend, so the event attracted almost 100 of Sardinia’s best riders, from as far away as Sassari, Cagliari and Olbia. Local riders were also present, including:
- Peter, whose team ASD Bariese Marco Pantani had organised the race
- Clait of Agribike Ogliastra, from whom we rent road bikes for our guests in The Lemon House. Clait, like Peter, rides for ASD Bariese Marco Pantani
- our guests in The Lemon House Jen and Rebecca, see photo on the right just before the start.
The first lap of the 10 km circuit was “at a controlled speed” behind the “Direttore di Gara”‘s car, though 36 km/h already felt pretty fast… Then 5 laps for the men and 3 for the women. With only one local exception, all the first 40 places went to riders from outside Ogliastra. Our names were on sheet two of the results (see photo left). In her first-ever race Rebecca conquered second spot among the women and a great prize. Peter hadn’t trained at all and so was totally happy with his 55th place – many participants didn’t manage to complete all 6 laps before the end of the race was announced. In the photos below: left – supercool Rebecca with her prize, right – Peter just after finishing. President Antonio of the ASD Bariese invited us and the rest of the team to a big lunch after the race: cheese, ham, grilled pork chops, salad, homemade red wine and tiramisu . Pretty good, eh? For more information on road cycling on Sardinia, see our road cycling page
In addition to the guide published for the Selvaggio Blu in April 2013 this great 1:15000 scale map of the route is now available. GPS-Track, waypoints and the same description as in the guide in Italian and in English. €10, available from The Lemon House. GPS-file to download. Publisher Enrico Spanu from Cagliari delivered 20 of the first maps printed just in time for the arrival of our first Selvaggio Blu-ers of the year, Markus, Markus, Cyril and Sebastian in the photo below on the left. They are the first of 7 small 2-4 person groups that have booked so far in 2014 to stay with us and make use of our logistic support to tackle the Selvaggio Blu. Thanks to the publication of more maps and guides, this “extreme trekking” mountaineering route on the east coast of Sardinia is getting more popular and easier to tackle.
Today we went to leave water and food at two points along the route. At the end of March all the cyclamens are in flower (photo right).
- “We will be bringing our own bikes. We have a choice of either our Specialized Stumpjumpers 120mm and 140mm or the heavier more all mountain Specialized Pitch’s 150mm. Would we get punished too much on the climbs with the Pitch’s? Would appreciate your thoughts.”
- “Just one other thing. We both have heavier duty AM/Enduro bikes as well as lighter trail hardtail mountain bikes. Which would you recommend as most suitable for the majority of local bike trails?”
Bikers from the UK and Switzerland recently asked very similar questions. Peter answered: “It all depends what sort of riding you want to do. I am biased since I prefer AM/enduro, but I genuinely believe that what is “unique” here are the rough old mule- and shepherds’ tracks that go down to the sea, so if you like this sort of riding I would go for this (in Ogliastra, which is where you spend most of your time). There are XC rides as well, great ones, but the Alpine-like riding is the best.” Brett and Leonie (see photo right) who asked the first question brought their all mountain Specialized Pitch’s 150 mm and spent the whole of their holiday with us at The Lemon House :).
Download our October 2013 Newsletter in English (PDF 400 kb): Peter gets lots of tips from guests to (slowly) cure a radial nerve inflammation and be able to enjoy his climbing again; our bookings are up 11% compared to 2012 and we already have our first bookings for 2014; speedbumps have been installed in via Dante so our road is now much quieter; autumn road cycling and Giro di Sardegna 2014; “Sardinia is a good as the Dolomites or Lago di Garda for mountain biking”; lots of new climbing routes at Ulassai; fully-updated website in English.