The Corsican MoorDwight Peck's personal website

Corsica in the Off Season, 2007

Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the off-season rates, late November and early December 2007.


After devoting some days to sampling Corte's ample hikey charms, we've Kangooed over the pass and down the course of the River Golo, following the line of the scenic railway on the map below, to emerge at the coast at the Ramsar wetland site the "Etang de Biguglia" and then turn north to Bastia. It's 28 November 2007.

Here's our Hotel Posta-Vecchia, seaview room! and inexpensive (off-season) and with its own restaurant just across the alley (closed, off-season), but a little hard to find at first. The highway passes through this part of the city in a tunnel directly underneath it, so naturally on a two-dimensional map we didn't have a chance of just turning left and pulling into the carpark. Besides, there isn't any carpark. What there is, I'd guess, is a serious city-wide parking problem.

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.

But the room (seaview!), once found, is fabulous.

The minibar's out-of-service and the TV's showing mostly derivative French detective crap, but we do red wine in the evenings, which doesn't need chilling, and we've got our own DVDs (Jeeves and Wooster, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry), so we're set!

With a superb view of the Jetée du Dragon of the old port

There's the reliable Kangoo, just below us.

We're off to buy the IHT and Guardian, if we can find any, and scope out the dinner menus.

The Vieux Port, or old port, the heart of the lower city. Bastia is Corsica's second largest city after Ajaccio but, with its industrial zone sprawling down the coast to the south, it's the economic cynosure.

The view from the Môle Génois back into the old port. We love the Mediterranean practice of employing weapons of war for tying yachts up to (as in Tunisia as well). This was originally the fishing port of a hillside village called Cardo dating from before God was born, but the Genovese bastiglia-ized the place in the 15th century (bastiglia=fortress=Bastia, get it?), and old Cardo was left behind.

The Corsica-Sardinia ferry "Napoleon Bonaparte" dwarfs whole neighborhoods of the city. And pays for its share of the civic improvements.

Once more, from the Môle Génois, with a view over the backing mountain spine of the Cap Corse, over which we will drive for a hike a few days hence.

The famous carpark. And, behind that, the church of St-Jean-Baptiste, Corsica's largest, built in the 16th century and baroquified a century later.

Along the Old Port, this is the Quai of the First Battalion, a bit too touristy for us, even in the almost completely deserted off-season. Nonetheless, it argues for a relaxed and leisurely enjoyment of life that many of us from northern New Jersey need to grasp at when we can.

This is a different famous carpark, but it has also got the St-Jean-Baptiste rising above it.

Typical family residences on the way up the hill from the Old Port, looking much the worse for wear. Tourists visiting here from the USA will feel a special tug at the heartstrings here, because it wasn't the Romans or Visigoths, Genoese or French occupiers who did this -- it were we.

"Shock and Awe", as Our Decider, Mr Bush, would say.

The German army -- pressed hard by the Maquis resistance coming down out of the mountains at them, with Free French forces snuck in from North Africa by Général Girard (the fascist De Gaulle's leftist archrival) -- re-enacted its own Dunkirk and evacuated some 27,000 troops and 100 tanks out of here, and this last German stronghold was liberated on 16 September 1943.

The population of Bastia, men, women, boys and girls turned out to celebrate the liberation of their homeland and danced in the streets for days on end. And some weeks later, whilst the townies were still dancing in the streets in joy, the American air force senior staff decided that it was high time to get those Germans out of Corsica.

So on 4 October 1943 the US bombers flew non-stop daylight bombing raids over the city and utterly destroyed 90% of the historic Old Town. Killing many civilians, of course, "collateral damage", as it were, but since like the Israelis in Gaza we didn't actually INTEND to murder all those innocent people, it doesn't count .

Reminds you of the Marvelous Disappearing WMDs in ex-Iraq. As a national group, the US does seem to have a long tradition of throwing the most awful bombs around pretty casually. Probably makes Cheney's face light up in a broad, zesty smile.

But the Corsicans are picking up the pieces as they can, and this is the renovation work in progress on the Citadel, built by the Genovese in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Genovese governors lived here, in the "Palace of the Noble Dozen". That may be a shaky translation.

You're wondering how I know all this.
Kristin's reading it all out to me from the guidebook.

Ferries that dwarf neighborhoods. The Napoleon Bonaparte in an idle moment.
(That odd building along the sea wall on the lower right is actually a set of ventilators for the highway tunnel that passes underneath.)

John the Baptist out of a window

Lower Bastia in a panorama, with Sardinian ferry

The cathedral of Ste-Marie, early 17th century

From the farthest city bastion out into the sea, with the upper citadel and Ste-Marie cathedral above.

Fortifications along the city wall.

Part of the upper town

Bastia's Flatiron Building, now a croissanterie. Kristin's in the shop getting her eyeglasses fixed, so I'm wandering about out here taking pictures of skinny buildings that I'm not sure I could even fit into.

The view from our hotel at night

The citadel from near our hotel. The light on the left is on the Jetée du Dragon, and the light closer in to the right is on the Môle Genois that we visited earlier. This is probably all-a-bustle in the summertime.

St-Jean-Baptiste from the back side. This forlorn and empty square (with parking garage underneath it) erupts into life on certain days as a pretty neat farmer's market.

Get your Fast Food and Kebab, here!

A last view of Bastia, after several days and several exceptional hikes, for tomorrow we need to Kangoo down to Porto Vecchio to catch the monster ferry home the day after that.

Base map:

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 December 2007, revised 15 June 2012, 25 September 2014.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009