A Weekend in Corsica

L’île de beauté.  The beautiful island.

If I had to choose one word to describe Corsica I would use rude (French for rugged or rough).  From the first glimpse of Cap Corse, all rugged mountain peaks, rude was the word that kept repeating in my head.

We landed at Bastia’s Poretta airport on Friday evening, picked up our rental car, and headed off to find our hotel.  The drive north from the airport was uneventful and by the time we’d reached our hotel the sun was beginning to set.  Our first order of business, after checking in, was to spend a few minutes on the balcony of our hotel room.  The view was lovely and with the sound of the waves against the rocks below us we wished each other a happy anniversary before heading for a leisurely dinner.  We lingered over fresh fish and gambas and toasted each other with Corsican wine.

We woke early on Saturday morning with the sun.  From our balcony we watched as the sun rose, the clouds changing from purple to blue, to pale puffs in the sky.  By 8 am it was already 24 C and we needed our sunglasses while having breakfast.  I don’t normally start my morning with meat but I indulged in a few slices of melt-in-your-mouth ham to accompany my usual croissant.  Everything was perfect in its simplicity and D and I could have sat there all day.

We checked out and we headed to Bastia’s old town.  The city was slowly waking up and we had the fort to ourselves.  Bastia didn’t take my breath away in that how-beautiful way.  What I liked, and what we found in the cities and towns we visited, was that the beauty wasn’t obvious.  Instead, the combination of Mother Nature’s work and what man created centuries ago impressed me.  My favourite spot was the citadelle and the Musée de Bastia.

From Bastia we headed south, first crossing the famed Patrimonio region of Corsica before a stop in Ile Rousse before reaching our destination: Calvi.  The drive through Patrimonio was like being on a rollercoaster.  The road climbs and descends, twists and turns, taking you through villages and communes.  Sadly for us most of the domaines were closed so there was no dégustation (wine tasting) that day.  I don’t think drinking wine would have helped the drive either.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant where a group of 65+ cyclists had also stopped for lunch.  At some point, an accordion came out and all the men were singing old Corsican songs.

The rest of the drive to Calvi passed with lots of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’; we couldn’t believe how beautiful the water was.  We stopped several times to take photos and were amazed at how clear the water was, and how many shades of blue we could see.

Our hotel in Calvi was a few minutes walk from the pedestrian area of the old town.  Before hitting the restaurants and stores we decided to walk to the top of the citadelle.  The walk wasn’t easy-going (for me) as I was wearing the worst sandals possible for walking on the most uneven cobblestone streets ever.  From the top the view was gorgeous:  the beautiful Mediterranean Sea; the port in Calvi; the old town.  All was at our feet.

I also learned that Calvi was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  Yes, Columbus was Italian; from Genoa to be precise.  Corsica, at the time of Columbus’ birth was part of the Republic of Genoa.  We saw what little remains of the house in which he was born.

That night, we had dinner by the port.  Calvi is a city where you can eat and drink well.  At the entry to the pedestrian area, from Place Christophe Colomb, you are greeted by at least 4 reputed restaurants including one where the live entertainment features Corsican singers.  There are additional restaurants within the old town as well as a string of restaurants by the port.  Well fed and giddy from the champagne, we headed back to our hotel.

On Sunday we hit the road.  Direction Ajaccio.  We had saved the best for last and our drive from Calvi to Ajaccio had us on the edge of our seats.  Okay, maybe I was the only one on the edge.  Several times I found myself gripping the door frame like a lifesaver.  The road, barely a ribbon of asphalt cut out of the mountain, wound its way up and down.  The views were breathtaking.  The colour of the rock along the coast was a beautiful shade of orange and rust.  There was no finesse, no subtlety.  It was right there, in your face, look at me gorgeous.

The other noteworthy thing about the drive were the mountain cows.  Yes, mountain cows.  I don’t know if that’s what they’re called; that’s what I called them.  Cows, along the roadside calmly eating the grass.  They were the skinniest cows possible who seemed to belong to no one.

Back to the drive.  In terms of kilometres, Calvi and Ajaccio are separated by 150 gut-checking kilometres.  The drive, including stops for photos and lunch, took 4 hours.  By the end of the drive D and I were exhausted but feeling great.  We found our hotel, located along Route des Sanguinaires, checked in before making our way to the beach.

That night we had dinner at L’Altru Versu to cap off a wonderful weekend.  With dinner we enjoyed a bottle of white wine from Domaine Antoine Arena.  And wow!  We had planned on visiting the domaine on our drive north but quickly realized that our schedule would not permit such a detour through Patrimonio.  Luckily, L:Altru Versu had some of their wines on their menu.  We were especially interested with this wine producer mainly because they produce their wines without sulphites, without yeast, promoting a total biodynamie (organic) wine.  The wine was good, very good making us rethink our schedule.  It wasn’t to be.

As we had planned on driving through the centre of Corsica, stopping in Corte for lunch, we figured that we’d pick up some wine and other goodies to take home.  With our wines and goodies packed snugly in our suitcases we headed to the airport.

We arrived at home in time to watch the sun set with a glass of rosé from Corsica and slices of coppa for apéro.  We’re already planning our next trip to this paradise.

Life is beautiful…and so is Corsica.

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Categories: Corsica, getting away, weekend

Author:Tanya in Transition

I am a woman in transition. I left my job of 13 years to find happiness and self-fulfillment...in France!

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7 Comments on “A Weekend in Corsica”

  1. September 28, 2011 at 2:07 PM #

    This is a great travel diary. Yummy fine sliced meat and croissants ain’t a bad way to start the day at all!

  2. Sinead
    September 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM #

    I’ve said this before, but DANG girl! You should be writing for a travel magazine! Every time I read one of these kinds of posts from you….I want to go visit the place you’ve described. So beautifully written in my opinion. 🙂

    • September 28, 2011 at 10:52 PM #

      You made my day Sinead. Such sweet words, thank you. 🙂
      It’s easy to write about such a beautiful place though. It was hard not to write about everything we saw/did.

  3. October 3, 2011 at 6:45 PM #

    Oooh sounds wonderful! I have never visited Corsica but would love too. I would have loved to see some photos of the hotels and the food you enjoyed!!! Lovely holiday…

    • October 4, 2011 at 2:52 PM #

      I’d thought of that (taking photos of the hotels and food, esp the food) but I was more blown away by the island. While we ate some really good food — dinner at L’Altru Versu was the highlight — most of our meals were just really simple food made with fresh prodcts. We ate a lot of fish (plus the piles of coppa that we inhaled). It is truly a beautiful place and we only saw a small part. We can’t wait to go back.

  4. Tuula
    October 13, 2011 at 9:37 PM #

    Sounds like a really great time Tanya – glad you got to experience Corsica…think we’re both probably planning the next time we can go back. Plus, now I’ll have to check out Calvi too 🙂 Such a beautiful island indeed !

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