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September 24, 2012

Corsica

We`re off to Corsica in a few days! We are flying from Montreal to Nice & return (Sept.30 - Oct.15, 2012), then taking a 5.5 hr ferry from Nice to Bastia. Our normal travel pattern is to stay in one place for at least a week, but we are dividing our time on Corsica among Bastia, Bonifacio and Cargese - 3-5 days in each locale, with a couple of days in Nice.

In a perfect world our stay would be longer, but there are family responsibilities back here in Canada. The same comment applies to the choice of our time of year to visit Corsica.

Other flight options include flying to London or Paris, then taking a short flight directly to Corsica. We have only been to Nice once, on a day trip back in 2005 from the Luberon to visit a friend of one of our children. My wife liked it a lot - “I’ll stay here. You can go home. Just send money” was her comment. We are looking forward to a couple of days on the Cote d'Azur.

P.S.I bought the map below on a visit to Drôme Provence in 2008. Corsica has been on my list for a few years

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September 25, 2012

10 reasons to visit Corsica

1. Corsica is part of France - and in the Mediterranean.
2. It`s nickname is "L'Île de Beauté" - Isle of Beauty.
3. Piana & St-Antonino, two of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (see the map).
4. A new wine region!
5. Lotsa goat cheese.
6. Napoleon was born there.
7. Mountain driving!
8. Swimming in October?
9. 2013 Tour de France - first 3 stages on Corsica.
10. Recommended by Kevin Widrow, Marta Rojas ... and everybody else who has been there.

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October 1, 2012

In the south of France

A long day - arrived in Nice via Air Transat flight from Montreal at 7:30am.- took a bus into Nice - 4€ and it was a day pass for the whole Cote d'Azur bus network. Hey, maybe we can check into our hotel early, get a few hours rest & head west (Cannes) or east (Monaco) in the afternoon. BUT, our hotel has a 2:00pm check-in time, and we were able to check in at 2:00pm, not a minute before. No way we were going to be able to do much without some rest. We left our luggage at the hotel, got some breakfast at one of several options at the nearby and inviting Place Magenta (see pic below), then walked about 5 minutes down to and along the Promenade des Anglais, then walked through the market at the Cours Saleya. This day, at least, the Promenade and the Cours Saleya are dominated by cruise ship group tours. Also, the weather was cool and drizzly until the early afternoon.

But now the sun is out; the temperature is rising; I'm in a hotel on rue Maréchal Joffre in Nice; there's an Intermarché around the corner; I'm getting ready to visit a recommended restaurant this evening; and we're off to Corsica tomorrow. If you want to trade places ... uh ... no thanks.

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October 2, 2012

On Corsica

Arrived in Bastia at 8:15pm - 5.5 hr. ferry crossing from Nice (see pic below of exiting Nice harbour) - lots of open water, but the highlight for me was seeing Elba in the near distance at one point. Eight years ago my wife & I took a day-trip from Tuscany to the island of Napoleon's first exile, and today we are landing on the island of his birth.

I planned on hiring a cab at the port in Bastia to take us to our hotel - but no cabs around - many passengers drove off the ferry & most of the rest were met by friends or family - so no line of cabs looking for an easy fare. We walked about 1km to our hotel, and in case your wondering, nobody walks downhill from a seaport.

We're here on Corsica - the adventure begins tomorrow.

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October 3, 2012

Around Cap Corse

Very warm today with bright sunshine.

We walked back down to the port area after breakfast at the hotel, picked up our car at Europcar - a brown Peugot 308 - then headed over to St. Florent and the start of a west-to-east journey around Cap Corse. The trip is reputed to be hair-raisingly stressful in places, but its not so bad - I've had scarier drives in the Vercors, for instance. However, there is evidence of recent and on-going road improvements, so perhaps the driving experience is somewhat tamer than in years past.

The main road around Cap Corse is the D80. At one point, and for reasons left unmentioned, we drove several kms on the D33, much narrower and less busy then the D80. The main traffic impediment we encountered on the D33 was a herd of mountain goats on either side of and in the middle of the road.

We stopped several times for photos, twice for a break and three times for wine purchases. Our first stop was at Nonza, partway up the west side, where we had a drink in the small village inundated with German tourists. Our second stop, for a late lunch, was at the very pleasant seaside town of Macinaggio, with its impressive marina.

There are many wine producers in the area around Patrimonio and St. Florent. We stopped at one - Domaine Gentile, recommended in one of our guide books. Our other two wine stops were at Clos Nicrosi (see photo), which produces some unique and popular white wines and Domaine Pieretti for a sample of their excellent red wines. Both of the latter two producers are within a few kilometers of Macinaggio.

Many people recommend a west-to-west transit of Cap Corse because you will always be driving on the inside, away for the steep drop-offs, but I would recommend it for another reason.The scenery on the western side is much more dramatic and spectacular than on the east. Also, the west is much less-developed and more interesting.

Our trip around Cap Corse took six hours - a reasonable time to allot, if a visit to Corsica is in your future. We saw some people putting on hiking shoes at one stop-off for a short climb to the top of a hill, and we saw a very few people on some of the black beaches below, but there really aren't a lot of places to stop for an extended period of time on a day trip like ours in early October.

In the evening, we walked down from our hotel over to the Vieux Port area and the marina ringed by restaurants. We stopped at Trattoria al dente, a restaurant with a good rating on Trip Advisor - had an enjoyable time.

One thing about Corsica that we have both noticed - it's more difficult for non-French speakers to communicate than on the mainland - and I am sure that Corsicans would not be pleased with my commenting on how French they are.

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October 4, 2012

Into the Balange - L'Ile Rousse, Pigna, Sant'Antonino and Calvi

Much of the north-west side of Corsica is called the Balange. Today we ventured over to the region, paying scant notice to its largest community and enjoying a memorable experience in one of its smallest. Details later in my Trip Report on Slow Travel.

Our unforgettable lunch setting at a small restaurant in Sant'Antonino, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, is shown in the photo below.

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October 5, 2012

In Bonifacio

Like a very warm summer's day in Canada here at the southern tip of Corsica in the first week of October. Stunning setting, lots of boats, and a 2-storey hotel room at the water's edge! We noticed the weather getting warmer as we drove south along the east coast of Corsica, which will make up the first stage to the 2013 Tour de France. Our trip from Bastia took about three hours, including a refreshment break in Porto-Vecchio, which will be the starting of the first stage - already signage announcing the town's coup.

We toured Bonifacio's marina area and, after climbing several steps through a commercial street, we also toured part of the Bosco, a wooded elevated area, which provided some great views of the Bonifacio's dramatic landscape (see photo). Later we took a boat tour of the nearby area - again very impressive & stunning views.

A mix-up in hotel reservations on my part means that we are only staying here for two days, instead of three - will work in the 3rd day's activities on the way to our studio apartment rental in Cargese on Sunday. Tomorrow will likely be my last posting until next Friday.

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October 6, 2012

Bonifiacio - Haute Ville and L'Escalier du Roy d'Aragon; Pietra and Dorothy Carrington

Bright, very warm, sunny Saturday here in Bonifacio.

This morning we walked from our hotel on the marina up into the Haute Ville, the oldest part of Bonifiacio with many buildings precariously perched on the edge of the cliff. After a brief tour we descended L'Escalier du Roy d'Aragon, the Staircase of the King of Aragon, a series of 187 steps (about the same as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) cut into the side of the cliff. We had noticed the staircase from our boat yesterday (see photo). Like much of Corsica's history, the staircase has a fair amount of myth, i.e. lies, about it. Suffice to say it has absolutely nothing to do with the King of Aragon. The walk down was more of a challenge than expected - the steps are quite deep - but at the bottom there is a walking area about a quarter of a mile along the cliff face. The walk back up was done in stages.

We paused for a pleasant lunch in a tourist restaurant in the Haute Ville, before walking back down the hill, arriving at our hotel mid-afternoon. What to do? A bit late for heading out in our car on an even-abbreviated day trip, but too early to hang around our hotel room. So we headed out, each with a book, looking for a park or public spot to read and take in the beautiful weather. We ended up sitting outside at one of the many bar/restaurants that ring the marina, ordered a beer (Pietra, a Corsican brew) and read for more than an hour.

I took along Dorothy Carrington's Granite Island, an acknowledged classic work on Corsica. The first edition of the book appeared in 1966 and is an account of her time on Corsica since shortly after World War II, along with a lot of Corsican history. I tried to read it in the months leading up to our trip, but found it a tough slog. I was especially turned off by accounts of mythical Corsican figures like the mazzeri, the signadori and the evil eye. Maybe part of Corsican folklore and of some significance in understanding Corsican culture, but pure bunkum. However, I do enjoy her book as a traveling companion, now that I'm here.

A final comment on Bonifacio. It has a stunning setting, but there not much to do here. A full day would do justice to most of it highlights.

Tomorrow, we head up the west coast to Cargese - likely no blogging for about a week.

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October 12, 2012

The Citadel in Corte

If you look at Corsica on a map and stick a pin in the exact centre, chances are you've located Corte. A vibrant university town, Corte owes its importance to history, in particular Pascale Paoli, an 18th century product of the Enlightenment and a Corsican patriot. If you didn't know Corte was there on your drive through the middle of Corsica, you would be amazed when you arrived.

And one of the "musts" in Corte is a walk up to the Belvedere and take a photo of the Citadel. Kinda worth the effort, though. An image I won't forget.

I commented in an earlier post about some frustrations with Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington. I would apologize to Dorothy, except she died in 2002. Her book has enriched my time on Corsica immensely. I much prefer reading her account, published in 1966, to modern guide books - actually, at least some of them quote Dorothy a lot.

Today we backtracked a bit from Cargese toward Ajaccio and followed the N193 through the middle of Corsica, returning to Bastia. That's the reverse of the 2nd stage of the 2013 Tour de France which starts in Bastia and ends in Ajaccio.

Tomorrow morning we're on the ferry back to Nice.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to To Slow Time Down in the Corsica 2012 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Cedar Park, March 2010 is the previous category.

Drome-Provence 2008 is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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