2012 - 02 SPRING TOUR - CAGLIARI - SARDINIA - March 22nd - 26th
(Or a Gastronomic Tour of Sardinian Ethnic Cuisine)

[ Videos from YouTube referenced in this log will be shown in a new window]

This tour was not planned as a culinary experience, but thanks to Franco Staffa and his assistant Virginia, it turned out to be so. Contact with Franco - an English language teacher based in Cagliari, was made via an old friend from previous trips - Chris Dove of the British Council.

Thursday 22nd Mar. For once we had a civilized departure time with Easy Jet from Stanstead in the afternoon arriving at the Hostel Marina in Cagliari mid evening. Ken met a couple of girls at the airport who were staying at the same hostel; they promised to come & watch us dance.

Not much time left that night except to stagger to the local Pizzeria for a platter and copious red wine plus a brief sing-song. And so to bed.

Friday 23rd Mar. A better look at the Hostel Marina in the morning & ready to be off.

One of the benefits of working with a local contact on these overseas tours is that it is possible to engage and perform to / with local groups. Franco, through his education contact with the headmistress Gisella Caddeo, had organised us to visit & perform at a local school - Scuola Ugo Foscolo. Off then through Cagliari streets to a local bus stop & on to the school guided by our lovely Virginia.

A "green room" had been set-aside for our use at the school where we met with members of the school staff including Headmistress Gisella Caddeo. Rapper rehearsal for some, and a more technical distraction for others.
The school had embraced the occasion - turning out all the pupils to watch in the playground, but moreover, had enhanced the festivities with performances of their own school orchestra and a drum band from a nearby school. Then, "With a noise & a din comes the Morris Dancer in"
First on, the school orchestra.
Then ESMM - including a Rapper dance.

Then the Drum Band. Could do with some of these people in ESMM to keep the musicians in-time!

Afterwards, there was real warmth & enthusiasm from the pupils & staff - it's touching!
Back to the "Green Room" and a most magnificent lunch of traditional Sardinian dishes prepared by Giulia Carboni (who had been at it from the early hours). this was the first "course" in our education into Sardinian cuisine, and we were well fed up indeed! Thank you.
Service bus back to the hostel and a rest before the evening events.
The evening was billed as a dance for the local press and TV at a new shopping plaza. On arrival, pretty deserted, but at the appointed hour there were more people about and more still attracted by the dancing. We never saw the TV clips, but the newspaper article is shown below.
Then off to supper courtesy of the Press & TV at a local restaurant. It was closed when we arrived before time (staff dining), so a wait outside gave us the opportunity to watch the local girls plying their early evening trade roadside. The meal was billed as seven ante-pasta courses, pasta, then a main course. What was not then said was that all courses were "fish" to the delight of most but the horror of a couple. Such a banquet at the hands of Efisio Mameli the restauranter was most appreciated, and warmly accompanied by Franco and his partner Marie.
The first course included octopus, tuna, swordfish, two varieties of mussels, squid and battered scampi with fried fish fillets. The pasta was small round balls in a tomato sauce and clams. The main course was tempura mixed fish with a salad of tomatoes, celery, fennel & radishes. Second "course" in our education into Sardinian cuisine - yum!. The walk home for most of us did us good (missed the last bus). The sticks went by taxi.

Saturday 24th Mar. Our free day until evening engagements. It was an opportunity to explore & dance around the town. That meant a wander up to the cathedral & castle though the old town of Cagliari.

Then to the piazza which was accessible by lift for those more perambulatory challenged. It was hot and bright here, but an opportunity for a dance & great sights over the city.
Next stop was to have been the Cathedral, but sadly there was a funeral in progress so a pause at a small cafe in a local square. After a few minutes a group of about 80 schoolchildren passed through & spotted us (possibly from the press coverage) & since the coffin had then passed though, we obliged.
On to a bar overlooking the town & harbour for a dance and brief drink.
Then downwards via the castle portcullis to lunch at tourist square (poor service) then optional rest, or beers at the bar next to the hostel.

This evening was billed as a night with the local dance group. To get there, a bus trip guided by Virginia - our trusty minder & met by by Franco, at a suburb - Quartu where the main street had been "predestrianised" for an ethnic street Fayre and spots to dance. Our initial touchpoint with the Sardinian group "Citta di Quartu" and their leader Gianni Orru was brief as we were directed to dance at different stands along the street.

The street was lined with stalls selling Sardinian produce, an excellent opportunity to buy local cheeses, pasta and crafts between dances.
Finally we came together in the middle of the street to dance with Citta di Quartu. Their musical instruments were very interesting the piped sounded like bagpipes, but without a sack - circular breathing kept the drones going.
Some dances had an athletic quality...
... but the centerpiece performance was a ballet telling a tale around a Nuraghi (an ancient building type found in Sardinia - see the visit to Su Nuraxi at Barumini on Sunday below) which was ceremoniously "cut down" & burned with a tale along the lines of "out with the old & in with the new". During the ritual dance the tower burst into flames and became the source of many lights carried by dancers. A most spectacular show.
After the dancing off to a local restaurant hosted by Efisio Mameli the proprietor accompanied by representatives of the Sardinian Group. Another Sardinian feast. After the fish extravaganza of last night this was carnivorous based but with delicious vegetables included in the ante pasta - broad beans, aubergine, chick peas with croutons, braised chard then mixed cold meats and two cheeses - one of which was declared delicious but entirely unknown to us. The pasta & ravioli was followed by main course of: veal, lamb, suckling pig (possibly wild boar) and donkey. Then sweet biscuits & grappa. A few songs & dances (including some from the Sardinians), then back home courtesy of our hosts with a dramatic display of Italian driving.

Sunday 25th March. We had been encouraged to spend this day on a couch trip to one of Sardinian archaeological sites - Su Nuraxi at Barumini. The journey to the site gave us an opportunity to see something of the Sardinian countryside - at least those of us who could stay awake.

Su Nuraxi is a very old site - iron age which means that the sheer size and complexity of these fortified houses at that age is very impressive. Apparently there are about 8,000 of these buildings, many not yet located, and none so well preserved as this. With the help of our guide, we discovered a fascinating glimpse of Sardinian history. We even blessed the site with a dance.
Lunch at an adjacent cafe - and another Sardinian gastronomic experience. We asked Virginia if Sardinians always ate like this - no! This meal introduced us to new Sardinian breads - one like an Indian nan - but with olive oils drizzled, and another like a pompadom (we were given some like these by Franco to take home). These were eaten with cheeses, pickled chard, olives, chick peas and a mixture of braised hearts, livers & sweetbreads. The pasta included vegetarian ravioli and pasta twists with sausage / meatballs. The main course was pork and braised goat; delicious. A sleep on the coach homeward.
After all that, it was a late siesta then a top-up at the pizza house before a last fling at a a local bar - which had been very encouraging to us. There song and dance & a late grappa before bedtime.

Monday 26th March. Not much to say here, back to Blighty, but a very warm thanks to:

Franco & Virginia for their help in Cagliari,
Scula Media Froscolo for their hospitality - and brining other groups into our visit,
Videolina for their hospitality (we never saw the TV coverage - but I'm sure it was there).
Citta di Quartu and Efisio Mameli for their spectacular dancing & hospitality,
... and not least to Mick Reeve & Kenny Polland for organising the tour.

Dick Thornborrow
March 2012

Those who went...
Tim Huggins (Squire), Mick Reeve (Bagman & M), Kenny Polland (assistant Bagman), Des Herring (Billy the Horse), Ken Simmons (Cakeman), David Tydeman (M & D), Bill Johnston (M) Dick Thornborrow (M), Peter Dodd (M), David Dolby (M), Martin Frost (M & D), Dave Brewster (M), Mike Garland (D), Rob McDermott (D), Ian Meigh (D), Mike palmer (D), Lawrie Aitken (D), Peter Kay (D), Brian Prettyman (D), Keith Graham (D), Roy Page (D), Kevin Blatch (D),

VIDEO CLIPS (on You Tube)

At Scuola Ugo Foscolo
Informal Dancing around Cagliari
With dance group Citta di Quartu