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Report 2028: Two Travellers on Corsica

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2012

Trip Description: Two of us, Liz & Doug Phillips, enjoyed eleven days traveling around Corsica and three days in Nice. We flew from Montreal to Nice on Sunday September 30 2012 and returned on Monday October 15. We had a great time.

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Corsica, Provence

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Beach; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 14: Introduction and Planning

photo by Doug Phillips

Corsica

You probably already know that Napoleon Bonaparte was born on Corsica. Here are ten additional things you should know about Corsica from the start.

  • There are not many flat bits, except for the east coast. Corsica is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean.
  • There are two main population centres – Bastia in the north and Ajaccio on the west coast. Well three, if you include Corte in the middle, but even it’s not very big. Most other places are quite small. The total population is around 300,000.
  • It is a very popular holiday destination with Europeans. It can get pretty busy in July and August.
  • It’s nickname is L'Île de Beauté.
  • Two of the villages classified as the Most Beautiful in France are on Corsica.
  • There are a lot of beaches on Corsica.
  • It is the least developed area of France.
  • Corsican wines are pretty good – and, oh, so are the beers. Pietra is the best.
  • There are a lot of chestnuts trees on Corsica. Chestnuts are found in everything from desserts to beer (see Pietra, above).
  • The best book about Corsica was written by an Englishwoman. It was published in 1971.

Why Corsica?

I know Corsica has been on my travel radar for at least four years. I bought Michelin map #345 - Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse - on a visit to the Drôme in June 2008. Corsica is part of France, my most frequented travel destination. It is also in the Mediterranean. As a Canadian, French is not a completely foreign language and I like to visit places with a more pleasant climate than the one I am leaving behind (not very difficult except for a few months of the year). I was a history teacher and, of course, I knew that Napoleon was born on Corsica. I remember thinking many years ago that Corsica seemed so remote. I didn’t know anybody who had been to the island until Kevin Widrow described a family visit to the island, and a couple of others on Slow Travel mentioned being there a few years ago. All reports were positive.

But what finally encouraged me to go to Corsica this year was learning that the first three stages of the 2013 Tour de France would take place on the island. With the exposure provided by the Tour, I suspect that the island will become even more popular in the future. Besides, next year I can relive my time on Corsica as I follow the initial stages of the Tour on television.

Such are the reasons why I chose to visit Corsica in 2012. They may not sound convincing to you, but there they are.

Planning

There are many options on how to get to Corsica. From North America, you can fly to a number of cities e.g. London, Paris – then transfer to a smaller airline and fly to either Bastia or Ajaccio. If you are already in Europe you can take a ferry from a number of ports in France and Livorno in Italy. We chose to fly to Nice, then take a 5.5 hours ferry ride to Bastia, because we wanted to spend at least a couple of days on the Côte d’Azur. We had been to Nice once several years ago, on a day trip from the Luberon to meet a friend of one of our children for lunch and a brief tour. My wife fell in love with Nice – “I’ll stay here. You can go home. Just send money.”

We booked an Air Transat flight direct from Montreal to Nice ($1793); then booked ferry tickets. There is a choice of two ferry companies - Corsica Ferries (an Italian company) and the SNCM (French national ferry operator). We chose Corsica Ferries on the advice of Kevin Widrow, but we likely would have selected the company on our own. Corsica Ferries appears to offer much more frequent service. Our return ticket total on the ferry was €90.20. We could have opted for Pullman-style seating or even a cabin for an additional cost. I also booked hotel rooms - three nights at a Best Western (€105/night) in Nice, three nights at the Best Western Bastia (€75/night), two nights at the Hotel Centre Nautique in Bonifacio (€75/night) and a week in a studio apartment 2kms from Cargese on the west coast (€270/week). I rented a car from Europcar for our time on Corsica, using AutoEurope as the broker.

And off we went, flying out of Montreal’s Pierre E. Trudeau airport on Sunday September 30 and returning on Monday October 15.

Read on...

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