Sardinia – Easter 2007
We meet an English couple
The first evening in our Sardinian hotel we go into the dining room. We’d eaten lunch upon our arrival at the hotel, the woman on reception said there were restaurants down towards the marina and we went into one that had some customers (always a good sign) and ate an antipasto followed by a bowl of pasta each – a sauce of ricci, which is sea urchin and consists of rather unidentifiable brown bits like the ubiquitous bottarga, tuna fish or swordfish or mullet roe, that is apparently a Sardinian and Sicilian speciality and appears everywhere. So we weren’t enormously hungry for dinner.
Who’s in the dining room? Just us, a couple speaking German, and that couple there, they must be English. When they sent their main course back complaining it wasn’t hot enough, we knew they must be English. The man was sitting with his legs folded under his chair, his feet resting on their ball, his toes together and heels apart, that’s a very unsure-of-yourself pose, even more we guessed that they were English. But we needed to find out for sure so at the end of our meal we asked them if they were here for a long stay. Turns out they’d just arrived that day as we had, having flown to Alghero from Stansted and come on down by hire car, and they were staying the same length of time as us having, like us, found the place on Internet.
The English are unhappy
We mostly did not overlap with them at dinner again, as either we or they ate elsewhere, but we did coincide one evening so asked if they’d like to join us at table. It was clear that they weren’t impressed with their holiday. Nowhere was open, which of course it wouldn’t be, since it’s April in Italy; there were no charming piazzas like they’d expected from the holiday brochures – though not the Sardinian holiday brochures presumably, maybe they’d got their brochures a bit muddled; and the food wasn’t good. Actually, in the hotel the food was extremely good, except for the meat, which was a bit disappointing the time we ordered some. They went out for dinner and the fish wasn’t good – tasted like it had been cooked that morning and re-heated, said the man. This was in direct contrast to our experience, we found all the restaurants to be good to very good. There was a long list of things they were going to mention on the Customer Satisfaction Feedback Form (what CSFF?).
An evening of dinner and tele
But they seemed, she in particularly, enormously delighted to see us whenever they did see us, and on our final evening in the hotel, when Hilary and I had been out and had rather a bizarre evening in a restaurant full of Germans eating salad for their starter, as they do at home if they’re from south Germany, and a group of German men each drinking his own individual carafe of red wine, as they do at home presumably, and ordering repeat upon repeat carafes, as they do at home, and the Italians must find this all very peculiar, while we speak to the staff in Italian and eat and drink in the Italian way more-or-less, complete with the obligatory discussion over the menu, which we’ve learned is a requirement, and which the people in this tourist resort seemed to find rather disconcerting as that’s not the prescribed pattern for Germans or English; when we got back to the hotel, we found our English compatriots watching television in the lounge area with a liqueur, and we were half expecting this and had decided it would be churlish not to join them, and it was the evening that Manchester United beat Roma 7-1, and the match wasn’t on the telly as the hotel didn’t have Sky or whoever had the contract to broadcast the match, instead there was a panel discussing the game, presided over by the inevitable glamorous lady in short skirt and high-heeled shoes, who was standing against a backdrop that said, ‘che disastro!’, while various besuited experts got increasingly agitated, one of them at one point standing up and looking like he was going to start a fight with the man sitting next to him. One of the panel looked like Jack Straw with fluorescent teeth.
We get a gift from the management
When next morning we paid the hotel bill the man on reception said, just a moment, and went to the kitchen, and we knew pretty much what was coming, two bottles of good Sardinian red wine it turned out to be. The Italians are so often so kind over this – if they like you they give you a gift upon leaving. The first time this happened to us we said to ourselves, “What have we done?”, but now we know that we haven’t done anything particularly, other than be generally not too unpleasant. We’d mostly only seen this particular man at breakfast, and had got him to smile periodically, which appears to have been an achievement and could have been something to do with his readiness to fish us out some bottles.
We told our compatriots, and now we wonder whether they were given two bottles of wine when they left. They probably were, but what if they weren’t? Bit naughty of us to tell them, but it just slipped out. Maybe something else for the CSFF.