Dwight Peck's personal website

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.

Calvi walks: Notre Dame de la Serra

We're just out to find a cheap breakfast on a fine day. Whilst Kristin's ordering in the café bar and the grandma is being rushed across the street to the boulangerie to buy the croissants we've ordered, I'm gazing up at still another fortress on the ridge above town. That one's not the citadelle -- in fact, it's just above our hotel, and we never figured out what was what with that thing.

Another look at the Citadelle as we're kitting out for our hike up to the chapel of Notre Dame de la Serra on the ridgeline above us.

Fully kitted out, Kristin leads up the path on a benevolent day, 27 December 2009, as all of northern Europe was in the grip of blizzards (and still is) and they were still trying to tow Eurostar trains out of the Channel Tunnel.

Calvi from part way up the hill. The Casino supermarket, with its overwhelming selections of Corsican sausages, cheeses, breads, beers, and wines, can just be seen along the coast on the right. Much of which I'm carrying right now.

- Need any help with that lunch basket?

The chapel of Notre Dame de la Serra attracts the gaze.

- The lunch is still okay? - Yes, it's fine.

The last pitch to the sacred picnic ground

The chapel itself, with a huge statue of somebody famous looming way above it

We've come round to the sunny side of it and we're ready to break out the luncheon paniers. We're not much more than 200 meters above sea level, but that's not counting hauling up the lunch.

A Corsica-Ferries ferry steaming round the point.

And entering the Golfe de Calvi. (We don't do Corsica-Ferries; we're SNCM and/or La Meridionale, which may or may not be the same company.)

Here's the big statue on top -- to me, this is clearly a replica of the Gustave Doré engraving of Virgil in Dante's Inferno, but no, the plaque insists on a lame old Marian interpretation.

The ferry's inching its way into the harbor as we break out the Corsican luncheon basket and make snorting noises. We have basically the same view that Horatio Nelson had in 1794 when he'd hauled all his naval artillery up the back way and set about destroying Calvi and especially its Citadelle. Which, over about two months, he mostly did. What a wanker. He also destroyed this 15th century sanctuary as well, using its esplanades for his gun platforms, but he lost his own eye (to "friendly fire") in the process. Calvi was a very long time coming back from that, so thanks for nothing.

A nearby necropolis -- Corsicans evidently love family tombs (the necropolis at Bonifacio looks a lot more inviting than some small towns in America). (Except that all the people are dead.) (In the necropolis.)

The ferry's making the big turn.

It's hard to believe that anyone's going to be able to manoeuvre that thing into the ferry slip. Observing the process on the patio of the chapel takes up a loaf of olive bread, a big brocciu cheese, and a big Casino salami that actually came from the Auvergne in France.

Damn, he did it. No Corsican beers or wines for lunch, since we still need to get back down, but I will seize this opportunity to point out that the Corsican beers are all to cross the street for. Pietra is worth a legend of its own, made with chestnut flour, and Colomba is a more European style of wheat beer but with myrtle in it, and Serena is a very decent malt lager. There's another called Torra but I can't speak with the same authority about that one, though it doesn't sound great.

The ladies' powder-room is on the far side of the shrubbery.

Corsica Ferries loading up the few winter tourists and commuters and empty cargo trucks for the return trip . . .

and he's off. For Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Savona, Genoa, or perhaps even tiny Galéria down the coast a ways.

The Citadelle as we hit the coastline.

We're on the luxurious beach now, just in front of the unpicturesque restaurant Le Bout du Monde, which cared for us so admirably on Christmas Eve when everything else was closed so people could spend time with their families.

That's the photographer. Ignore him and we'll move on.

An almost last view of the perfectly proportioned Citadelle (even if we don't necessarily believe that Christopher Columbus was born there), as we walk up to the Regina for a shower and some Roquefort pasta.

And as we hope to finish Robert Ferguson's enormous New History of the Vikings tonight and rise early to get our flat pneu de neige fixed, hopefully (without having to buy two new ones), and be off to Bastia again.

The nice man fixed the snow tire in a trice, a €30 trice, and we're en route. It's possible, by the way, that there are no people on Corsica who are not nice. Except maybe secessionists.

We're on a tiny road over the Désert des Agriates now -- we walked the coastline last time we were here but now we're bolting headlong for the Cap Corse to locate the other hotel that's still open on Corsica at this season.

The ladies' facilities are conveniently placed halfway over the Agriates Désert road. Now through the marina-port of St Florent and up over the Col de Teghime . . .

For a good look at the eastern coast south of Bastia, and the Ramsar Wetland of International Importance called the Étang de Biguglia (designated in 1991). Next stop, San Martino di Lota, and the Hotel de la Corniche. (No thanks to Google Maps, which placed the Hotel exactly on the coastline, when in fact it's up a one-lane road 20 minutes into the mountains.)

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 12 January 2010, revised 19 June 2012.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009