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Corsica in the Extremely Off Season, 2009


Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the seriously off-season rates, Christmas and New Years 2009.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Rendez-vous in Calvi

The old Genovese citadel of Calvi, from our balcony at the Hotel Regina, a modern hotel with very friendly staff and blessedly off-season rates -- quite possibly the only hotel in Calvi open during the Christmas season; in fact, according to the Web, possibly one of only two hotels open anywhere on the northern half of the island.

The Regina Hotel -- not a rustic mountain inn, but great views, nice people, and enormous rooms with balconies, etc. All the mod cons (incl. wifi).

The Regina's restaurant -- located in the bar and specializing in elementary and sometimes pre-packaged pasta dishes -- saved our lives, since virtually all of the restaurants in town were also closed up tight. We found a superb beachside restaurant open on Christmas Eve, Le Bout du Monde, tiresome long exhalations of Praise about the seafood dishes from Kristin, but out of our price range for too many encores. The Regina's Roquefort pasta and Corsican wines pretty much got us through the whole week with no regrets.

We're up to see the Citadel straightaway.

Calvi and the pleasure-boat port from the Citadel walls, 23 December 2009

Pleased to report there are no warships on the horizon at present. When the Genovese masters of Calvi had been succeeded by the French, Paoli and his revolutionaries talked Admiral Nelson into besieging the town in 1794. He fired off 30,000 cannon shot at the town and citadel, mostly from the mountains above, and lost one of his own eyes in the process.

Kristin on the Citadel walls contemplating the peninsula of La Revellata in the distance.

Tourist facilities in Calvi, and La Revellata peninsula beckoning to us in the distance

A dutiful look-in at the local cathedral, St Jean Baptiste, a 13th century pile mostly rebuilt after somebody blew up a nearby gunpowder storeroom in 1567. It's a higgledy-piggledy sort of cathedral, but there's a beautiful wooden pulpit from the 1750s and a 15th century crucifix on the altar that scared away Turkish invaders just by the sight of it. Whilst just across the lane. . .

. . . our omelettes and salads are being got together at the A Scola tearoom.

The view down-citadel as we dive into omelettes and rocket salads, in Christmas weather somewhat better than what's going on in the Channel Tunnel, indeed throughout northern Europe, at the moment. Not to mention North America.

Tearoom on the left, cathedral on the right, and the old Genovese governor's palace on the far left. The palace is now the HQ of the French Foreign Legion's elite 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, which has its main base just east of town.

Calvi from the Citadel. The Place Christopher Columbus lies below, and the alleged birthplace of the "discoverer of America" can be seen within the Citadelle. (Of course, Genoa's got a Columbus birthplace, too.)

A Gesture of Deterrence. When Nelson's British fleet sailed up to the walls, the admiral wisely declined to try coming in at the front door. Instead he sailed away, just around the point to the west, beyond La Revellata, offloaded all his cannons and hauled them like Fitzcarraldo up the mountain to the 15th century chapel of Notre Dame de la Serra on the ridge above and bombarded the Citadel for 51 days.

Old Calvi outside the Citadelle near the old port.

The Citadel and the coastal gate, leading out onto the ferry pier

And the marina at the foot of the imposing walls. Restaurants, bars, discos, karaoke dens, all the way down the waterfront, all of them closed until summer -- doubtless a lively place when the summer sun's upon it.

But just now the 18th century Ste Marie Majeure church is ready for the Christmas Eve bonfires. This one and another up in the Citadel were set off promptly at dusk, evidently, as we got to warm ourselves by its cheery glow on our way back from the Bout du Monde.

Christmas Eve near Calvi, 2009

It does not matter, as many have said in the Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest over the years, where you spend your Christmas Eve as long as you share in the Genuine Christmas Spirit. Dieter the VW is going to spend his Christmas Eve afternoon here on a rocky bluff near Calvi, waiting for us. That's the sole of somebody's sneaker on the pavement; poor sod.

Christmas Eve afternoon, and the Revellata peninsula, stretching out before us, with (so far) a tail wind

The peninsula's not entirely unpopulated, by the way. There's an oceanographic research station out at the end of it, and here there's a homey . . . well, this one's gone now, but, you know.

The chilly rain's no more than a minor nuisance

A comprehensive view of our blustery and rainy future

Girlfriend Kristin -- sorry, Wife Kristin -- has an admirable tolerance for hiking about in off-peak weather conditions.

So, in that case, we'll proceed.

The beautiful coast path, and beautiful Kristin, on the way out to the Punto della Revellata research station at the old lighthouse

A Fuji-zoom of the Citadel of Calvi from out on the peninsula of Revellata

Kristin on a peninsula off the Peninsula. A proper headband would be useful in this wind.

Kristin doesn't wear sweaty headbands, no matter what the weather's like.

Intrepid Kristin on the way out the Peninsula's peninsula. Windy day!

Kristin viewing the Infinite Sea. No lessons there.

Enough of that.

Kristin with a lovely green borrowed headband

A line-up of sub-peninsulas, with Calvi at the far end.

Kristin and Headband leading us onward, in "hiking sandals", which let the feet breathe

The splendid coastal path of Revellata -- rain or shine. We haven't met any other hikers yet.

Awaiting the stragglers in a downpour

Kristin's leadership skills do not diminish with the volume of rainfall.

Youthful Exuberance. Joie de Vivre. Loco Parentis. Hiking Sandals. Borrowed Headband. Driving Rain.

The oceanographic station on top of the hill, and a James Bond secret base on the near shore

Our green guide leads on in sandals.

It's seen us. Keep walking, don't show any fear.

We've just run out of trail. It's time to backtrack or improvise.

The old lighthouse and modern research station. Festooned with Trespassing signs. Boring. We're out of here.

Kristin staying upright in formidable winds on the west side of the Revellata peninsula

Kristin pleasantly surprised that the rest of the party is still keeping up.

-- Yes, we're still here. You just lead -- we'll follow.

-- Right then. Hoods down! Follow!

We're well on the way to a hot shower at the Regina Hotel, a quick drink at Happy Hour, and Christmas Eve festivities at Le Bout du Monde on the beach, just us and a nice mother-daughter couple of heavy smokers right next to us in an otherwise empty beach restaurant. What an excellent day it's been.

Base map: http://z.about.com/d/goeurope/1/0/g/Y/corsica-transportation.gif


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 9 January 2010, revised 17 June 2012.


Corsica, 2007


Corsica, 2009