----- Corsica, France ---------------
When people asked me where I went on this latest trip to Europe, I would inform them Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Corsica. People were aware of those major cities, but almost no one surprisingly had heard of Corsica. Corsica is definitely not on the American tourist agenda as it is not well known amongst Americans. Corsica is a gem of an island which surpassed all my expectations, but how did I come to learn of this majestic island that, so little is known about on my side of the planet? Funny, but I came to see the beauty of Corsica while in Disney's Epcot. In the rear of the park are the representations of various countries. One of such countries is France. When visiting France there is a theatre with a movie they present called Impressions of France which is an aerial tour of many gorgeous regions of France. There is a scene where you are flying over the water and in the distance is this walled city perched high on the cliffs. I wondered, where in France is this place! I googled this video, and there was a listing of each location. The name of this mysterious place was Bonafacio, France. This is where my original desire to venture to Corsica started. Several years later, I finally made the trip.
Corsica as I had mentioned surpassed all my expectations. Upon flying into Bastia from Paris you were greeted with amazing views of rugged sparsely populated mountains and beautiful shoreline. In the distance you could see the Italian coast. Corsica is actually much closer to Italy than France. We landed in Bastia a smaller uncrowded airport. After getting our rental car which is a requirement here we set out on our 3-hour drive to Porto-Vecchio in the south of the island. On our way we took a longer route through the mountains for a short stay in Corte. Corte is in the dead center of the island and hosts a beautiful belvedere with a commanding view over the valleys surrounding Corte. The steep rustic streets that wind Corte are beautiful, and plant lined. There are small restaurants featuring local cuisine in gardens making for wonderful dining. I tried Veau aux olives a traditional dish of veal and olives. It was amazing! The meat in Corsica has a wild taste, that is outstanding.
Our first day here gave me the realization that this is not an island to visit if you do not speak French. Hardly anyone I found spoke English nor Spanish. Most people only spoke French or the local language Corsican. Italian was the third most spoken language. If you did not speak these 3 languages, you would have great difficulty here. Reggie my good friend fortunately speaks French, so we did not have the communication barrier. Another unexpected discovery was the apparent lack of Americans. In our week-long stay in Corsica, we did not find even one American which was quite nice. Corsica is to France what Hawaii is the USA. Corsica is where the French go on vacation. The locals informed us that Americans never come here, but other Europeans do like the Dutch and Germans.
Upon arriving in Porto-Vecchio we met Jean Noel who is a local bar/delicacy business owner across the street from our Airbnb. He helped us in getting into our apartment, and we enjoyed some drinks with him and other locals our first night in Corsica. These Corsicans sure to drink though, but they at least were happy drinkers and not belligerent. The locals were very friendly talking to us what they like and dislike about America. I would just listen to them. They would invite us to their restaurants and give us all kinds of great advice. For instance, on parking we were told you do not need to pay for a whole day to park. Just put in for one hour, and you will not be charged any fines. They just want to see that you paid for a period of time during that day… I should charge for this valuable information!
We stayed in the hilltop old town of Porto-Vecchio with views over the bay. Our apartment was amazing, and so was our host! From Porto-Vecchio we could do day trips to other parts of Southern Corsica. Since the drive to the northern part of the island was far, we had to limit ourselves to enjoy the southern part.
Our second day we went to Bonafacio which is the principal reason I came to Corsica. However, Reggie became really sick. This trip was his first time to Europe, and I think between the jet lag, and our grueling long days in Paris, his body just couldn't handle it. I felt really bad for him. When we got to Bonafacio he looked miserable. He ended up resting in the old city and taking it easy while I hiked the trails along the cliffs with views of Sardinia in the distance across the channel. The views were breathtaking as I hiked eastward away from Bonafacio. The air was cool and fresh with plenty of sunshine. Returning to Bonafacio I did explore a little bit of the city before we left. I would have stayed for sunset into the evening, dining over the cliffs, but Reggie looked terrible, so we returned to the apartment. I would love to come back and experience more of Bonafacio.
The following day Reggie was out of it, so I went to the mountain town of Bavella. The drive through the mountains was spectacular with views over the Mediterranean. When reaching Bavella I went hiking and found a nice grouping of boulders that I surmounted with a sweeping view of the craggy peaks and a long valley descending towards the coast. Bavella has many more places to explore with a series of waterfalls and pools, but time did not permit me to get there. That evening I went to a Portuguese meeting since all the others were in French. Since I speak limited Portuguese, I went and met many of the friends. Some of which Kevin and Jeremie whom I had dinner with the following evening.
We had a great time hanging out with Jeremie and Kevin. They took us around and showed us some sights and even took us to a private tower with amazing views of Porto-Vecchio and the port. Reggie and I met this local restaurant owner Chez Jojo. This guy was hilarious! He would drink wine on the job and serve us 4-year-old cheese! We met some other French people on vacation who said even his cheese was too strong for their palates. As we all conversed at his restaurant, Jojo took a live lobster and made it drink wine. So, I guess the guest how next ordered lobster would get drunken lobster. Again, Jojo was hilarious, and all of us were well entertained by him.
Another place on my list to visit was Santa Giulia beach. It was a 20-minute drive, and an absolutely stunning beach. This beach had crystal clear water, white sand and these gigantic granite boulders lining the south side of the beach. This was where we walked to. We waded through the water and found isolated pools and hidden caves and crevasses. After swimming in the cool water, I laid out on the warm boulders enjoying the warm French late summer sun. This beach was probably my favorite beach that I have ever visited. I loved the natural raw exotic beauty of this beach with the transparent waters, large boulders and green mountains surrounding the area. Santa Giulia is a must if you come to Corsica.
Our final stop on the trip was heading back to Bastia to return the car and take a ferry to Livorno, Italy. We spent the night here, but first explored the old part of the city and the citadel. On the peninsula of the old town is an amazing cliff diving spot. However, I was greatly disappointed that I did not bring my swim shorts. I had no idea that cliff diving would await me here... Next time…
Again, Corsica was truly spectacular. Corsica has so much to offer; great food, raw natural beauty, historical sights, tranquil beaches, and so much more. I do keep in touch with my friends there, and hopefully I can someday return. I yet have to explore the northern side of the island.