Corsica

For  long while I have been living under the impression that Corsica is an expensive destination. However, this time it was a good deal and after some deliberation Corsica won upon Mallorca– bigger island, why not get frustrated over not having the time to visit it all instead of overdoing it :).

Day 1 — the drive to Porto-Vecchio

It was a very long day.  We had a very early start (3AM) and an equally early arrival. We basically had the whole day ahead us to explore the south-western coast. After a short flight of merely 1h15, we landed on the small airport of Ajaccio, got the car and off we were!

The first stop was not even so far from the airport, but straight on the coastline, in the small town of Porticcio. I met here the local boulangerie and my first local food store. Amazing! felt like a child in the candy shop. There was an amazing variety of chocolates local and foreign, fresh and dried fruits, local honey under all possible packagings and the later on regular gems–figs, chestnut, clementines, cedrat, myrtle and many more.

To my delight, I discovered the local cream soups sold in jars. I love them so I grabbed one off the shelf, right away: a green pea cream soup –Delicious!

The local pastry shop offered a large variety of backed products, but I just got some canistrelli; like cantuccini in Italy, but in the typical Corsican version — less hard, with almonds, raisins or figs. I must say, I fell in love with this place, right from the beginning!

proprianopropriano 1The show went on, next stop of the journey: Propriano. It is a decent sized town, bigger than the previous, yet not a killer of the small town spirit. Here we had our first proper introduction to the local cuisine. Of course the usual souvenirs couldn’t be missing either. One should not expect the cleanness of Switzerland around this place, instead a cosy corner on the little island.

lidoThis was equally the first beach stop: Lido. Was an amazing feeling to get into the emerald green, crystal clear water, right in the middle of the splashing waves, with an amazing scenery painted by the irregular coastline. The beach was not crowded, it was not yet vacation time. The sand was quite coarse grained, just perfect to not get going everywhere… you know what I mean!

 

RoccapinaroccapinaThis was a short swimm-sunbath-dry stop. After this stop, we switched driver and continued towards south. The original plan was to stop in Filitosa, Sartene– an archeological sites with monoliths and other historical vestiges, but in the end we somehow missed the right exit, so we skipped straight to the next two beaches for the day. We wanted to make a stop at Roccapina but unfortunately it was not approachable by car, we were tired so walking was not an option. We still had some distance to make; there was still some consolation in the view.

sartene1 sartene On the way to Roccapina, we had a short visit in Sartene. Very neat little town. It conserves the local craft of pottery and olive oil pressing. We stumbled upon evidence for this statement, while walking around the town.

SarteneAs confirmed later on, Sartene offered the firs image of the typical Corsican villages– houses clustered on hill sides or tops, tightly arranged.

lecceWe made it quite on time to our residence close to Lecce. We checked in on time and had yet another pleasant surprise. The place was a domain of villas of the size of a studios and maybe bigger, equipped with all the necessary facilities –bathroom, kitchen,  porch with a cute yard, and its own zoo: we had a cute rusty cat, then it became two and then a 3rd one appeared, a grey one + a couple of turtles!!! :)

dinner11 dinner12The culmination of the day is the surprise which later on is reinforced– no matter where one would go, the food would be always good! The day finishes with an escapade into Porto-Vecchio’s old town. I make the mistake to encourage Ludek to drive into the city center. Well, good that we were on vacation, cause as small as the old town is, we spend a fair amount of time driving through it… im Stau. Finally we get rid of the car and make it for a nice italian dinner: Rabbit and aubergine in Bonicafian style.

Day 2 — Beach hopping

breakfast1The day started with a copious breakfast from the local food that we bought the night before. Typically in the southern part of Corsica, one would find local grocery stores with artisanal products and fresh veggies and fruits, but there is the Casino store chain. Surprisingly enough, the two share the range of gems and pastry products to an impressive extent. At first I was reluctant getting products from the Casino, but then we ended up getting a pretty collection of gems, cheeses–the tomme was very good–bread and juices. PLUS the BEANS!! very very nice beans! I wish I could have imported a few jars…

Santa GiuliaLake next to Santa Giulia beachA good breakfast was followed by a good drive down direction of Bonifacio, to our first beach for the day — Santa Giulia. Amazing beauty! Wonderful water, idyllic setting. A tiny, but well defined winding trail takes the lucky tourist on a short but pleasant stroll along a very peaceful lake, straight to on the beach. The beach is very well separated from the rest of the area by walls of reed, so there is only that much one can guess about the beautiful sites awaiting.

Santa GiuliaThe beach is basically a gulf, surrounded by hills, thus perfectly sheltered from the strong waves of the open coast lien. The waves are very weak and the water has just the right depth for chilling either standing of swimming. There are no real waves like on the Lido beach were. All in all, it really feels like vacation.

 

After a good noon grilling session, we decided that it is time to go. The next stop is Palombaggio. The drive is pretty exciting since the roads are narrow, not too far from the water, so that it gives an amazing overview of the shores and the villas built on the hill sides. The landscape is pretty torrid, not too much vegetation, maybe pine trees and some small vineyards, but mostly leander bushes, delighting the eye with spots of beautiful flowers.

We make a spontaneous stop before reaching Palombaggia, at the beach slightly south from it, just in the golf under the initial destination. Parking the car is not a problem– what I really much enjoyed at this chapter is that people are very relaxed about driving, no speeding — the most was maybe 60-80km/h. Since the roads are narrow and very windy, it is basically not possible to go too fast, at least not for the non locals, since the locals do!

PalombaggiaWe settle for short swimming session, just ot try the water and some more sun bathing. As it is getting late, we decide to not stay until too late, so that we continue to the last two beaches for the day.

 

 

San CiprianuSan Ciprianu– very small settlement, calm and relaxing atmosphere. As usually, I go and check on the local product store, which is selling the same products as more or less Casino and the other similar stores from the region. I cannot stand buying another couple of little jars of gem. As it is going about the end of the day, we spend only little time here and soon find ourselves driving up to Pinarellu.

 

PinarelluThe ride leaves the coastline for a little while and takes us on a neat rural road through orchards, but dominantly olive plantations. Olive oil is another typical product of the region. After like half an hour we arrive to Pinarellu. Parking as usually improvised, and we stop just long enough to admire the early sunset and to snap a few pics. We don’t spend time here unfortunately, since it is getting late. Instead we decide to return home, shower and give dinner a try in Porto Vecchio.

menu Porto Vecchio Church day Porto Vecchio Church night Porto VecchioVictory! Don’t know what happened , but Fri evening was crazy, while Sat evening is …empty! There are plenty of parking places and the streets are almost empty. All worse for the best, we find easily a place to eat, actually a quiet place, with its own charm. The waitress at first seems to be grumpy, but she quickly loosens up after a little chat and we get yet another delicious dinner.

 

So far I haven’t mentioned WiFi… because there was none! The whole time we spent in the south was wifiless. There was no connection, and I have to admit, it made me a bit anxious to get back online… but in the same time it was a good self control practice.

 Day 3 — Bonifacio

Bonifacio bonifacio1 Bonifacio2 cliffsI have to admit that I was very much looking fwd to this day! And it was fully worth it. I am having a hard time labeling my favorite day on this island, but I am inclining towards this one. The city on the cliffs. Few words to describe the feeling when approaching the old town. The view opens up slowly. First you pass narrow passes through stratified cliffs as the road climbs towards the fortress. It is maybe like, remember when you got a kinder egg–the old times– and you open it, then you start assembling the toy and then the final joy of seeing a beautiful tiny masterpiece. Well, the road to Bonifacio was something like that to me. The fortress is as expected, narrow tiny streets, buildings alike, with cute little cafe, pizza and crepe places to the delight of the not so numerous tourists around. The view over the cliffs is stunning! An immense of blue, with quite a few cruise ships every here and there, and then the emerald green water contrasting the white, stratified structure of the high shores. A little like Ireland’s shores as shape and white as the Greek hills. I.m.o., both the old and the new parts of the town have their charm. We get on the cruise not too long after we descend.

Lavezzi1 LAvezzi2Besides the stroll through the old town, we decide to take a boat ride to the Lavezzi islands. Now this is a less exciting part of the day. It cost about 35EUR, we get on the speed boat–fun!!– and landed on the islands. We spend only a good hour on there before we take back the last boat. This is more of a snorkelers heaven. The seabed is pretty rich in vegetation and sea life, thus the beaches are not that nice as on the main island.

way back1 way back2On the way back we get a nice tour of the southern coast of Corsica, with all the little details about the vacation mansions of rich people from the Island of Cavallo. We snap a few pics of Bonfacion as seen from the sea, with a very impressive positioning of the fortress on the enge of the cliffs. The boat drivers show off later on their skills, when they get the boat into one of the small lagoons. Impressive! both their skills and the views!

For the evening we stay in the harbor and enjoy a great dinner –my first moulles avec des frittes in Corsica, along with a REAL lemonade– I think she squeezed like 2-3 lemons in that glass, no water, no sugar added! At first I thought I’d get a hole in my stomach! So did the woman next to us when she ordered the same drink ;)

Ah, and I almost forgot. I got some lovely lovely soaps down there! Just like the ones from Provence. Wonderful scent, I even feel now the soft scent of lavender.

Day 4 — Corte

road1 road2 road3 As sad as it is, we have to say good bye to our dream location and head back to the civilization. We decide to take a small detour from Lecce, down to Porto-Vecchio and then follow the road up to Corte through the heart of Corsica. This is yet another surprise. I am driving and Ludek is the copilot. He never said or seemed to feel sick, but the road was super windy, through the forrest. I definitely had a lot of fun driving there!

On the way we made a stop in L’Ospedale– yet another neat corner. Had a coffee on a wonderful terrace, and according to my good old habits, I increased my collection of gems, but this time I got a contact as well, for future shipments.

lunchNext a quick one in Zonza to post postcards and then the surprise in Zicavo. Here I got impressed again. We are again talking about a super tiny village, in the middle of the island, yet the brasserie is fully equipped with a great toilette — as nice as in Lausanne ;)– and D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S menus. The owner I guess is very very welcoming. Very neat lady, who cares to give us a little insight on the topic of why do corsican road signs  mention destinations in 2 languages. So she tells us a bit about the origins of corsican language and at the end I beg her to let me take the pastice beautiful blue bottle as a souvenir with me. I get it! :)

road5 road4The road continues up until Corte in through a pass and following the slowly usual windy pattern. The views are gorgeous; I particularly enjoy the rides through the chestnut orchards.

 

CorteCorte if I am not mistaken was the old capital. The town is little bigger than what we have seen so far, but the new part is … ugly. We go directly to the old town. It is built in a similar manner to Bonifacio, only that this time it is on a hill in the middle of a valley, surrounded by mountains. The view is again not disappointing. On the way down from the belvedere point, we stop on a terrace, very charming spot—and yet another pleasant surprise–the tiramisu that I order leaves me speechless– I think Italians would raise their hat for it as well.tiramisu

 

way back 3Towards the end of the day we make our way to Ajaccio, descending passes and slowly observe the mountains as they become shadows in the light of dusk.

 

Day 5 — Porto statt Ajaccio

marketAs the previous night hides it, we observe in the morning that Ajaccio is quite a disappointment compared to the beauties we’ve seen before, so after a short visit to the local market, we head out of town, direction of Porto.

 

 

Old habits die hard: on the way, we find a last beach where we stop, not far from Tiuccia. It is less hot than it has been over the past days, but the beach stroll is still enjoyable. The water is slightly colder on the west coast than in the south, similar to what we had in Porticcio. We don’t spend more than 1h here, then we continue the journey to the next surprise. On the way, the great thing about rental cars is that you have space and you gladly take hitchhikers. This is how we meet our ex-geologist friend, who keeps us company until Porto. On the way, we have a very nice chat about the origins of the rocks forming the island, as well as the wines from Corsica and favorite vacation destinations.

Today we have also our first last rain here. Just when we make it into the pass through the amazing red rock ‘canyon’ the rain starts falling. It is a summer rain, so impossible to take pics, therefore we carry on.

canyon Porto porto1Porto is a small settlement– I even wonder how come they actually gave it a name and not just left it as a relay. In any case, we finish our tour quite fast, I get my pair or nacre perl earring and then start the way back to Ajaccio. The weather is with us, because contrarily to our friend’s prediction, the rain stops and we manage to snap some great pics of the canyon. One last stop in Cargese, to admire the shoreline and soak in a bit more sun and we return to Ajaccio.

Overall the trip was wonderful. Getting a car and driving around seemed to be the way to do it. We basically covered 2/3 of the island and must say I enjoyed every single second of it! I would love to return once– the food, people, nature=> wonderful!

More pics here.

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