Monday, December 15, 2008

Eight Questions for The Most Interesting Person I've Met in an Airport: Jill Simpson

A few years ago as I waited to check my baggage at the Rome airport I struck up a conversation with a charming young woman in line ahead of me.  That young woman was Jill Simpson of Island Spirit Adventures , a travel company specializing in travel to Sardinia.  Jill's enthusiasm and passion for Sardinia truly impressed me, and we have the same ideas about travel, small groups, and the joy of all things Italian.  I thought you might like to meet her, too.  

Tell us about your first trip to Sardinia.
The first time I went to Sardinia, I actually had no idea where I was actually going. I didn’t even know that Sardinia was a part of Italy. I went there with a friend of mine whose roommate was Sardo. (I was living in Florence at the time.) The family totally welcomed us, fed us, washed our clothes; totally made us feel at home. I experienced my first “Sardinian barbecue” where they grill pig and lamb. I had no idea that the little pig I saw earlier that morning would be the same one we ate! They played a joke on me and put the pigs head on my plate to eat! I later learned that actually the cheeks are considered a delicacy.

What do you miss most about Sardinia when you aren’t there?
I miss the closeness, the proximity to friends. When I am there, if I go out for any reason, I am sure to bump into someone I know. It’s a small town and very familiar. That usually leads to a quick espresso and chat or an “aperativo” (before lunch or dinner drink).

When did you start doing trips to Sardinia? What are your favorite trips to do?
I have been going to Sardinia for the past 11 years, but I started leading hiking and sailing trips almost 4 years ago. I really enjoy our Wines, Hikes and History trip. It has a good overall flavor of the island. We visit ancient archeological sites, wineries, get in a few easy going hikes and naturally eat incredible food the entire time!

For someone who has never been to Sardinia, when would you say is the best time to visit? 
I am certainly biased on this one, because I like to be there and organize trips for people to go when there are few to zero tourists. This includes the months of April, May and June and then again in September and October. The touristy season is in full swing mid-July through August which means you won’t lack any services but you will share the beauty with loads of European tourists. The weather is almost always sunny, very hot in the summer and pleasant the rest of the year.

What is your favorite hidden place in Sardinia? Why?
Hmmm, I have many. Many of our trips follow ancient trails into the mountainous wilderness and there are some great outlooks overlooking the sea along with hidden caves and natural tunnels. I once “stumbled” across a cave that was enormous with at least 5 different rooms in it. One room was full of water. Thank God I had my flashlight that day!

Tell us about the foods of Sardinia. What are your favorite things to eat there?
I could talk weeks about the food! Basically, in Sardinia you eat what’s in season. It is so fresh and delicious! Fresh fruits like peaches, plums, apricots, strawberries and oranges. The vegetables are just as flavorful. There are lots of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and beans. The island is full of sheep and goats, therefore some of the best cheese made with their milk is found on the island. Each region has specialty pasta dishes and one I like in particular is called “Curlurgionis.” The are ravioli-like filled pasta with the filling made of this magical mixture of potato, pecorino cheese, parmesan cheese, a hint of mint and a few other ingredients that is kept a secret. They are to die for. The fresh pig and lamb roasts are divine and the seafood and fish platters are out of this world! So fresh! Did I mention the wine? Their native cannonou grape makes this hearty full bodied red that goes perfectly with everything!

What books about Sardinia would you recommend?
My first response to this question is “the one that I haven’t written yet.” I have so much to say about Sardinia and the experiences with the people and their rich history and culture. I haven’t found a book already written that engulfs it all. The most famous book that I know of Sardinia however is D.H. Lawerence’s “ Sea and Sardinia.” There is also a famous Sardinian woman author named Grazia Deledda. She has written several fantastic books and also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926.

What does the 2009 travel season hold for you?

We have added a Trek and Sail trip which is gaining a lot of popularity. We spend the entire week on a 50-foot Beneteau sailboat and sail up the eastern coast of Sardinia. We do 3 days of hiking which consists of our Captain dropping us off at one beach, in which we hike up into the mountains and down to the following beach where our Captain and sailboat meets us there. It’s getting the best of both worlds; land and sea. And of course the culinary experiences are unbeatable. We are also opening some doors into Corsica, France for some sailing and hiking.

Thanks, Jill! 
Jill chose book #5 for the 12 Travel Books of Christmas -- D.H. Lawrence's classic, Sea and Sardinia .  She also took all of the photographs for this story.  

So, who is the most interesting person you've met in an airport recently?

Update: January 12, 2010
For more information about Sardinia and a guide to driving around the island, check out Exploring Sardinia by Car

1 comment:

Mudslide Mama said...

Beautiful photographs. Unfortunately for me, the most interesting person I've met in an airport recently was Ben Stein (Beuller? Anyone? Beuller?).

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