Tuesday 29 July 2008

Porto Liscia-Porto Pollo, Gallura, Sardinia

A couple of kilometers of sand cradled in a curvaceous bay, Porto Liscia is a haven for wind-surfers, who criss-cross the water against a picturesque backdrop propelled by the steady breeze. If you wander west you will find plenty of space, but the sand is quite coarse. As the countryside around the beach is virtually undeveloped, Porto Liscia attracts a bohemian crowd, many of whom congregate in the small wooden bar pumping out chilled music. At the easterly end of the beach is a road, which is lined with cafes and shacks renting water sports gear, balanced on a narrow spit of land leading down to a camp site at L'Isuledda. On the other side of the road is the smaller Porto Pollo beach, where the sand is finer and the shore serves as a launchpad for dozens of petit sailing boats and the odd catamaran. 8/10

Monday 28 July 2008

Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

The de facto capital of the Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo is a smart, but sterile, seaside town perched on the hillsides overlooking a marina often sheltering an eyeopening flotilla of huge, state-of-the-art yachts. These vessels, which look more like spaceships than sailing ships, and their wealthy passengers are the main attraction. The town itself consists of salmon pink modern villas, luxury hotels, upmarket boutiques and cafe-bars clustered around a couple of unremarkable paved squares. A rickety wooden bridge, near the shoreline, is the only feature of any character. 5/10

Sunday 27 July 2008

Liscia Ruia, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

To reach this fashionable beach you have to drive down a very bumpy and dusty track and, perhaps, queue outside the car park (1.5 euros per hour) for 30 minutes or so waiting for someone to leave. Don't be tempted to park in any of the laybys that line the road - you will likely get a ticket. The large beach itself is a breezy arc of fine sand studded with sturdy umbrellas and padded sun loungers (8 euros each), lapped by gentle waves and backed by green scrub. The limited parking space ensures there is plenty of space to pitch your own umbrella if you don't want to pay up. Your fellow sun worshippers will mostly be prosperous Italians spanning the generations and a handful of luxury yachts are often parked in the bay. Like many Sardinian beaches, Liscia Ruia is patrolled by half-hearted hawkers, many from west Africa, selling clothes, bags, jewellery and other trinkets. A snack bar offers mediocre paninis, expensive salads, drinks and ice cream. This is not a great beach for young kids as the sea gets quite deep quite quickly, but it is a picturesque spot with some cachet. 6/10

Saturday 26 July 2008

Cannigione, Sardinia

A modern, but restrained holiday resort strung out along one side of a scenic bay on Sardinia's north-east ione has several small beaches, attractive coves and a substantial marina. From a picnic table shaded by a clump of trees, you can watch the yachts sailing in and out of the channel against a backdrop of green hills and granite mountaintops. Or you can take a pleasant stroll along the paved promenade, which winds past a row of shops, a couple of well-watered village greens and a long line of villas with verdant gardens. With a bank, supermarket, pharmacy and other amenities, Cannigione is also a handy pitstop for the steady flow of cars travelling between Palau and the Costa Smeralda in high season. 7/10

Easyjet, London Gatwick to Olbia, Sardinia

At seven o'clock on a Sunday morning, the queues at the Easyjet check-in counters and Gatwick South security can be surprisingly short, propelling you into the terminal's full-on shopping and eating arcades. Breakfast at the shiny new Pret a Manger is much better than Easyjet's limited on-board fare. The two-hour flight provides good views of Corsica's rocky terrain and the beaches and yachts shimmering seductively in the sun around the north-end of Sardinia. Olbia airport is light, airy and modern, but the sluggish passport control, often manned by one bored officer, is something of a throwback to another era. The car rental offices are all in one place next to Arrivals, but you might face another lengthy queue if you have hired a vehicle with one of the bigger brands. For the return leg, you can get through check-in and security pretty swiftly, giving you plenty of time to mingle with the rich and the beautiful holidaymakers wandering around Olbia airport's chic boutiques. Easyjet's turnaround schedule is so tight you might suffer a slight delay on either leg, but the airline is pretty good at keeping you informed. 7/10

Friday 4 July 2008

Goodfellas Delicatessan, Lamb Conduit Street

At gaudy Goodfellas, you can load up a large plate from the buffet counter for just over a fiver or a smaller plate for a tad over four quid. The warm food might include an innocuous minced beef roll wrapped around a hard-boiled egg, small, but tasty roast potatoes and nicely-cooked broccoli in a creamy cheese sauce. Not a bad meal, but the food will likely be tepid. If you can find room, you can also add some finely-chopped salad into the mix. On a sunny lunchtime, aim for one of the four small metallic tables on this stylish street and watch the world go by. Alternatively, there is a window bar in the brash orange counter area, a basement room or a rudimentary backyard. 6/10

Pu's Brasserie, Gate Street, Holborn, central London

Hidden away behind bustling High Holborn, Pu's Brasserie has a handful of outdoor tables on a dour paved suntrap overlooking a bike stand. The interior is a bit cramped, but the big windows compensate. On the lengthy menu, there is everything from green curries to taramind duck to pad Thai chicken noodles, plus a handful of set meals. Among the chef's specials, the lamb curry (£10.95) comes with plenty of chunks of slightly tough meat in a flavoursome coconut sauce enlivened by some zingy Thai herbs. But the boiled rice (£2) can be stodgy. Drinks are also fairly-priced - a large glass of orange juice is a couple of quid. Solid, but not spetacular. 6/10