Off course, on Corse, of course

Corsica from the ferry.

Corsica wasn’t originally on our itinerary, but we figured it might be an interesting way to get from North Italy to South West France with an unusual stop on the way. So that’s how we found ourselves on a ferry on our way to the town of Bastia – not quite where we’d originally intended to be.

The ferry was a sizeable ship carrying cars, coaches, trucks, and a few foot passengers like ourselves. It’s actually quite comfortable and there’s a good cup of coffee available – which is refreshingly civilised. There’s even a small indoor playground.

We only had one evening in Bastia. We had a quick look round and found a pretty port-side town with an enormous square where we had dinner. The boys also ran into a Corsican bandit. They were chasing around playing with a bit of wood, pretending it was a sword when a three-year-old local came up, demanded the bit of wood, grabbed it and calmly walked off. The boys, to their credit, let him get way with it – but did a remarkably good line in looking nonplussed.

In the morning we took a walk down to the port past the local markets  thriving with produce sellers and buyers. But really Bastia was only a means to an end. We were soon on the tiny train heading South and West to the town of Calvi.

The first part of the journey was disappointing with views of factories and wastelands. But then we swapped to a coach and continued on through some amazing unspoilt countryside. We drove along beside a lovely deep river that twisted through a canyon. The water was perfectly clear for all its depth. Upwards, rocky crags loomed above us and off into the distance there were hillsides covered with gorse and scrubby trees. A huge mountain provided a further backdrop looming like some huge dragon’s spine, its tips still covered with snow.

After about an hour of driving through the hills, we descended towards the sea. The landscape changed dramatically to cliffs and sandy beaches with sweeping views over the Mediterranean. The beaches are yellow sand and looked so much like Australian beaches that Declan commented that they were making him feel homesick. The occasional stands of eucalypts reinforced the similarities. The similarity ends with the towns though, which are all cream walls and orange roof tiles and in little clusters on headlands.

Calvi beach - Citadel and super-yacht in background.

We finally made it to Calvi and decanted from the coach, which had lacked any air conditioning, with a great sigh of relief. The relief was slightly short-lived as we realised that Calvi is spread over the ridge of a headland and while we were at sea-level on one side our hotel was on the other side – a problem with looking at a map without contours and assuming that a short space necessarily means close. Some chocolate saw us through the climb and Calvi itself is pretty enough to make even the walk interesting.

After a rest at the hotel we walked back down to Calvi to find some lunch. The town is centred on a busy port filled with boats from tiny runabouts to the largest super-yacht I’ve ever seen. Small fishes crowded though the clear, green waters near our feet as we ate

Exploring at sunset.

sandwiches sitting on the sea-wall. We then walked round to the main beach and paddled through the water which feels quite warm, at least to knee level. The boys did some exploring on a breakwater but a bit of brisk wind discouraged any idea of actually swimming.

Back at our hotel we did go for a swim – the highlight of which was the boys pushing me in the pool – before sitting around on the terrace. Then once agin into town for dinner – crepes as we’re back in France. Finally we explored a little cove under the Citadel and skipped stones into the setting sun.

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