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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.

Cap Corse and the Last Days

The Sentier des Douaniers coastal path runs right round the northern tip of the Cap Corse, and we've already 'done' the eastern side of it, from Macinaggio village to the Punta di Agnello near Barcaggio, a few years ago. On this trip, we're threading the goat-needle road down to Barcaggio, one of the two villages along the northern coast, to pick up where we left off.

Kristin standing watch over Dieter the Volkswagen whilst her passenger checks out the nearby Men's Room.

Barcaggio -- a tiny marina, probably crafts shops in the summer, but nothing's open now. That's okay, a scrumptious lunch from the terroir is all packed up, we're on our way. Westward.

But to the east, that's the Mortella Tower at Punta di Agnello -- now we'll carry on westward and see how far we get this year.

The island of Giraglia is sitting out there 2km to the north. 'Treacherous straits' -- FYI, you yachtspersons.

A fisherman's hope is indomitable.

The only other coastal village out here is Tollare (which Cadogan Guides calls "an even dinkier collection of houses"), and that ought to be coming up pretty soon. There's not much else out this way at all, apart from this beautiful path we're on.

A confirmatory glance back at the Isola de la Giraglia as we proceed.

A village appears before us, and a great whacking hill to be got over.

This . . . is Tollare ("an even dinkier collection of houses"), but with a Genovese tower in it.

Tourists flock to Tollare, down the 10km single lane road, mainly for its charm. I can see four tourists now. Five if you count Kristin watching them. Six, if you count me. (More in summer.)

That's the Genoese defensive tower in Tollare -- distinctly disappointing, in my view, compared to other leftover towers up and down the coast. This looks like a concrete chemical or above-ground septic tank to me, and not only that, but the top of it's painted yellow with lawn chairs out on it. (When I look at a Genoese defensive tower, I want to see "blood and guts", cannon platforms, clashing swords, etc., not lawn chairs.)

Old Tollare, with its defensive tower with the yellow deck on it.

Tollare again -- we're puffing up the hill on the far side of it. It's pretty isolated out here (what do these people do for a larf?).

I should have said that "I'm" puffing up the far side of it. Other members of the party are demonstrating a welcome forbearance.

We're almost onto the coastal ridge and headed towards our next landmark, Capo Grosso.

That's the lighthouse at Capo Grosso -- the FujiZoom makes it look just round the corner.

But it's not, and all things considered, it doesn't look like we're going to get there today. Probably the lighthouse guys can get on pretty well without us. (Another old-fashioned notion. It's doubtful there are any live humans out there anymore.)

Kristin and Cairn, looking for a nice place for a lunch of Corsican specialties of the terroir.

Specialties of the Terroir

Golden Moments. But now we need to start back. (That chap's looking kinda grey, one would have thought.)

Back down towards the coast, with Capraia Isola in the background, Italy's Arcipelago Toscana National Park on it.

Tollare coming back into view
(A bit like Admiral Nelson looking down upon Calvi. But without the cannons or evil intent.)

It's hard to fathom why anyone would paint the top of a medieval tower yellow, except perhaps just for the happiness of it.

One thing Tollare has got in abundance, if not houses or inhabitants, is the peculiar seaweed stuffed into all the nooks and crannies.

Poseidon Grass, it's called. Disgusting.

Between Tollare and Barcaggio

And back into Barcaggio after a nice hike. All's well, then, is it? Errmmm.....

Uh oh! A bad end to a good hike!
Just kidding!

After a New Year's Eve (or St Sylvestre's) dinner in our hotel's gourmetish restaurant (delightful fun, but cost more than I'd normally feel comfortable paying for a dinner, or for a car), we need to pack up all this crap, except for the empties, and head for the ferry.

But no trip to Corsica is altogether complete without a visit to at least one of its Ramsar Sites, and this again is the Etang de Biguglia (in the rain) at the southern end of it, not far from the airport.

That's Elba across the way. "Able was I ere I saw Elba". As the poet said.

Cloudburst. We're out of here.

But still with a few hours of driving rain to kill before the ferry sails. So we're searching out a luncheon spot. And we found one, a restaurant open on New Year's Day in a town where no restaurants are open in the off season anyway, so we darted in and looked at the menu. No ham sandwiches, alas. We shared an hors-d'oeuvre plate of oysters for €30, and the briefly-friendly manager became chilly and dismissive when we opted for expensive water instead of a €100 bottle of white wine.

But it was arguably better than wandering round the Old Port of Bastia, just killing time in the driving rain.

Finally we gave up and went round to the ferry port, as an horrific storm swept in and rocked Dieter the VW back and forth in the parking lot, whilst we waited for someone to show up and tell us how to get onto the goddamn ship. Which, moments before sailing, they did.

80-meter stormy seas, but we made it to Marseille with only one catastrophically spilt glass of wine. Since there are only three items on the dinner menu, and we'd been betrayed by two of them on the journey out, we both settled on the third option -- lamb (what could go wrong?) -- and it wasn't entirely bad. The main point was to get us to the mainland, and they did that part of it well.

We're offloading now, after a bouncy overnight in choppy 80-meter seas, Kristin's driving us five hours back up the French autoroute from Marseille via Chambéry to Geneva, and we're agreed that Dieter the Aged Volkswagen has acquitted himself very well, all in all (except for the midnight flat tire in the mountains).

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

Corsica, Christmas 2009

Avignon, en route
Calvi and a coastal hike
Scenic drives in northwest Corsica
Another Calvi hike
San-Martino-di-Lota and the Corniche
The far end of Cap Corse

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 January 2010, revised 14 June 2012.


Corsica, 2007


Corsica, 2009