Search for  Corsica  found 14 posts
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Sep 26, 2017, Tuesday
Nice to Corsica    Nice, France, Corsica Bastia  
Sep 26, 2017, Tuesday
Sep 29, 2017, Friday
Ajaccio    France, Corsica Ajaccio  
Sep 29, 2017, Friday
Sep 30, 2017, Saturday
Torra di a Parata    France, Corsica Ajaccio  
Sep 30, 2017, Saturday
Oct 1, 2017, Sunday
Oct 1, 2017, Sunday
Oct 2, 2017, Monday
Oct 2, 2017, Monday
Oct 3, 2017, Tuesday
Oct 3, 2017, Tuesday
Oct 4, 2017, Wednesday
Corsican hill towns    France, Corsica  
Oct 4, 2017, Wednesday
Oct 5, 2017, Thursday
Oct 5, 2017, Thursday
Oct 6, 2017, Friday
Oct 6, 2017, Friday
Oct 7, 2017, Saturday
Col de Bavella    Hike, Zonza, France, Corsica Cars  
Oct 7, 2017, Saturday
Oct 8, 2017, Sunday
Zonza and the GR20    Zonza, France, Corsica  
Oct 8, 2017, Sunday
Oct 9, 2017, Monday
Oct 9, 2017, Monday
Oct 10, 2017, Tuesday
Oct 10, 2017, Tuesday
Oct 11, 2017, Wednesday
Oct 11, 2017, Wednesday

Nice to Corsica

September 26, 2017   Nice, France, Corsica, Bastia

Another travel day today, though at least it didn't involve any flying. Instead we took the awkwardly-named but otherwise fine Mega Express 4 ferry from Nice to the island of Corsica where we disembarked at the town of Bastia.

There are a number of ferries connecting the island to continental France and Italy. The ferries vary in how fast they can go. I think this ferry is considered to be fairly fast, it makes the trip in less than 6 hours. The ferry from Ajaccio to Toulon will be an 11 hour overnight sailing.

Nice to Bastia ferry route      
Nice harbour from ferry      
Paul saying goodbye to Nice      

And hello to Corsica ...
Corsica & Ile de la Giraglia      
This tiny island is situated off the northern tip of Corsica. It doesn't appear to have much more on it than a light house.
Pilot boat for Bastia harbour      
As we approached Bastia this small boat raced up to our huge Mega Express 4 ferry. The pilot boat looked like it was going to hit us. Instead the small boat pulled along side and a pilot jumped from it onto our fast-moving ferry.
It was totally sucky for photos as we are facing west into the sun so the sky is blown out and the town is hazy.

To get a sense of the size of the ferry this shot shows a similar ferry (same ferry company, Corsica Sardinia Elba Ferries) parked in Bastia's harbour.

Tomorrow we begin exploring Corsica. Fortunately the weather gods are smiling on us.

Ferry docked in Bastia


September 29, 2017   France, Corsica, Ajaccio

Today was a day to explore Ajaccio. After espresso and pastries from the patisserie across the street - I quickly became partial to ambrucciata - we walked along the waterfront, hit the farmers market, ate some charcuterie, and took in some 16th and 17th century art at the museum. Ajaccio is easy getting around, everything is within a few blocks from our apartment, and the sidewalks are overflowing with cafes.

View from apartment      
Just across the street is a patisserie for espresso and pastries, and two doors to the left is the Eglise St-Jean Baptiste.
Ambrucciata, mmmm!      
Ajaccio beach      
Charcuterie, a Corsican speciality      
Olives, olives, olives      
Palais Fesch Musee de Beaux Arts      
Allegory of the church of Rome      
Two ladies looking out the window      
Paul taking a break

Torra di a Parata

September 30, 2017   France, Corsica, Ajaccio

About a half-hour north of Ajaccio is the Tower of Parata, or Torra di a Parata in Corsican. It is an old stone structure sitting on top of a rocky hill. The tower, one of a series, was built around 1550 by the Republic of Genoa to defend against attacks by Barbary pirates.

The tower and the Sanguinares      
The hill-top tower overlooks the archipelago of the Sanguinares which is composed of four volcanic islands. The largest island has an old lighthouse on its top. None of the islands are inhabited.
Torra di a Parata      

In the far right you can just make out the outskirts of Ajaccio.

If I'd been clever I'd have positioned something in the photo for size relevance, like a person or an umbrella, but in light of that omission I'll say the tower is 12 m (39 ft) in height, so about 3 stories, and it has a diameter of 7.3 m (24 ft) at the roof.

Looking northeast from the tower      
Panorama of 5 shots from the tower

Chemin des Cretes

October 1, 2017   France, Corsica, Ajaccio

While it isn't exactly the GR20 (the 180km trail stretching the length of Corsica from Calenzana to Conca), the Chemin des Cretes, or Path of the Ridges, provided a scenic hike in the green foothills above Ajaccio with glimpses of the city, its beaches, and the gulf of Ajaccio.

Stretching from Calenzana in the north of Corsica to Conca in the south is the famous GR20, a challenging 180 km trail. It takes at least two weeks and involves, among other challenges, ladders and ropes and rocky scrambles. I'm sure it's a wonderful trek but sadly we didn't do it. Instead, today we did the much much shorter Chemin des Cretes (Path of the Ridges) that starts about a half-hours walk from our central-Ajaccio apartment.

The best-known way to explore its interior is the challenging 180km GR20 one of the most famous walking trails in Europe. It stretches from Calenzana in the north to Conca in the south and is considered one of the most difficult long-distance treks on the continent (there are exposed scrambles, and at some points ladders and steel ropes to assist walkers). The whole thing takes at least two weeks, and involves staying in refuges or camping along the way.

Ajaccio itself is flanked by green foothills covered in an aromatic carpet of vegetation and herbs. Beyond them, a rocky ridgeline dramatically pierces the sky and below are beaches of golden sand.

As I headed up through suburban streets to the trailhead of my chosen route, the Chemin des Crtes (Path of the Ridges), I passed statue after statue of Ajaccio's most famous son Napoleon Bonaparte. Given the hero worship of this leader, the fighting spirit of its eco-activists begins to make sense. The route begins opposite the Bois des Anglais, a patch of woodland left over from the island's short stint as a British colony over 200 years ago. At less than 10km it's a much easier prospect than the more famous trail, but as it cuts along the peaks above the coast it offers stunning views for very little effort, and you can finish up with a very civilised drink in a bar in the seaside village of Vignola.

Who could blame them? With the full extent of the gulf of Ajaccio revealed, and the Iles Sanguinaires creeping out onto the horizon, my gaze, too, was fixed out on this tiny rocky archipelago, that breaks off from the mainland at Pointe de la Parata. They're called the Isles of Blood because of the reddish colour they reflect into the sea.

You can get a good look at the islands' wind- and spray-scoured shapes on another, shorter, walk here. Take the number 5 bus from Ajaccio to the start of the waymarked path (in the car park) and it's a 40-minute round trip to the end of the Pointe de la Parata peninsula. Come in the early evening to avoid the tour buses and watch the light play as the sun sets.

Ajaccio as seen from Chemin des Cretes      
Golfe d'Ajaccio from Chemin des Cretes      
Ajaccio cathedral      
Just behind our apartment is the Ajaccio cathedral. Officially the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio, it was built between 1577 and 1593 and is credited to Italian architect Giacomo della Porta.
Place Marechal Foch

The drive to Algajola

October 2, 2017   France, Corsica, Algajola, US Politics, Porto
So far, all signs are that it was just a guy, just one more American killer who got his hands on some collection of weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing people, and who then killed people. We know that if it was a Muslim with a foreign name, we would be in full panic mode and all we would be hearing about is the ever-greater dangers of terrorism. Indeed, the killings in France, on Sunday, which were surely terrorism, have already begun to attract that kind of attention from the right wing here. But when it happens here, what we're told by the entire power structure of American life - both houses of Congress, the White House, and now the Supreme Court, locked and loaded to sustain the absurd and radical pro-gun ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller - is that there is nothing at all to be done, save to pray. Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker


This morning we picked up a car, a small white Citroen, at the Ajaccio airport. We then headed north, to spend a few days in a beach-front hotel in the small seaside town of Algajola.

We picked the scenic route, via Piana and Porto. It is a twisty, two-lane road the whole way, except where it narrows to one lane. It took us through pink-granite canyons along narrow roads carved into rocky mountainsides, with scenery ranging from merely beautiful to spectacular. The only problem with photographing it was finding a place to park, the road being barely two cars wide in places, with a wall of rock on one side and a steep drop on the other side.

Piana to Porto      
The first time we drove this road. Very little traffic, just a few tourists like us. We didn't know that we'd drive it three more times, and always with heavier traffic. But it's so beautiful it's worth it.
Piana to Porto panorama      
A panorama from the previous photo plus a few more. Creating a panorama such as this has to wait until I'm back home. Well, unless I use the iPhone which has a perfectly nice panorama function.
Piana to Porto      
Piana to Porto panorama      
Another panorama composed from the previous photo plus a few more.
Piana to Porto      
Northwest Corsica      
Northwest Corsica      
Algajola beach      
As the sun began to set we arrived in Algajola, in northwest Corsica.


October 3, 2017   L'Ile Rousse, France, Corsica, Algajola

In addition to walking along the beach and watching the wind surfers here in Algajola we explored the nearby town of L'Ile-Rousse, a slightly larger (but still small) town. Just off shore, but connected by a narrow causeway, is a lighthouse-topped island called Ile de la Pietra.

Lighthouse on Ile de la Pietra      
Corsica coast as seen from Ile de la Pietra

Corsican hill towns

October 4, 2017   France, Corsica

Today we toured four hill towns: Aregno, Sant Antonino, Pigna, and Corbara. We spent most of our time in Sant Antonino. All are old settlements with rough stone streets, narrow passageways, and lots of steps. The granite homes and pathways are made of the same material as the hills so they seem to all blend together. And all feature great views of neighboring towns, the surrounding valleys, and the coastal communities far below.

Sant Antonino      
View to Mediterranean      
Sant Antonino      
Sant Antonino      

Two hikes and a road race

October 5, 2017   Hike, Serriera, Porto, France, Corsica, Cars

We decided to leave Algajola a day early, to get in some hiking in the Porto - Piana area. So we got back in the Citreon and retraced our path from a couple days earlier. Our goal was Serriera, a village about 10 minutes outside of Porto. After a while we arrived. On checking into our simple but roomy hotel we learned from the friendly proprietor that the road to Porto was closing in half an hour! Turns out the road was being used by the Tour de Corse. It would reopen at 19:00, she said. Since she spoke no English and we know little French the conversation took place courtesy of google translate which we used by taking turns typing into a computer. This worked quite well actually.

Of course we'd no idea what the Tour is, a bicycle race? A foot race? A car race? Turns out, well, more on that later.

We jumped back into the car and headed south to get past Porto and then onto the trailhead. The road either side of Porto, a road we'd driven days earlier, is both painfully beautiful and white-knuckle scary: it's carved into the side of a wall of granite and in places it is barely one car wide.

Within five minutes we were stuck in a traffic jam. Cars, trucks, buses, and motorbikes took turns squeezing past each other on this ridiculously narrow road, with granite hanging over us and a sheer drop to the sea below. On the bright side it was great for picture taking: while Paul sat in the Citroen's driver's seat I walked around and shot photos.

Eventually we made it to Porto where we discovered the Historical Tour de Corse is a car race. So that mystery was cleared. It also explained the cars we'd seen earlier, all decked out in numbers and stickers.

The hike was great: it overlooks the Calanche de Piana with its pink granite forest broken by views of the turquoise Mediterranean. Much of the hike follows an old stone path, what was likely an old road connecting villages.

Corsica looks to be a hikers dream as the mountainous island is covered with trails. We see many people decked out in full hiking gear. The Corsican trails are well marked plus every one I've looked for I've found in OpenStreetMaps using the CityMaps2Go app.

After the hike we headed to Piana for lunch then followed that up with another hike. We had to kill time till the road re-opened. We hiked about half of the Capu Rossu trail, which heads west out to a promontory with, again, great views of pink granite mountains, scrubby green forests, and that crystal clear Mediterranean sea.

Soon we were back in Porto where we hung out with the Tour racers and waited for the road to reopen, which it did promptly at 19:00. The drive back involved another traffic jam as cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, and Tour support vehicles squeezed by each other to get to their destinations. At this point we thought we were through with the boy racers. We weren't, though.

It was a long day with a lot of beautiful scenery topped with a taste of an old Steve McQueen movie. We were glad to get back to our charming hotel, drink a beer, and call it a night.

Hope no one needs ambulance      
This narrow road is carved into a cliff. Beyond the short guard rail on the right is a cliff side that drops toward the sea.
Golfe de Porto      
Golfe de Porto      
A bit of beach      
Road as seen from hike      
Paul on Calanche hike      
Corsica is beautiful, and the Porto area is my favorite beautiful place in Corsica.
A forest of pink granite      
Hike to Capu Rossu      
View from Capu Rossu hike      
After the hike we headed back to Porto.
Finish line for this segment      
A cool blue car      
Drivers waiting race results      
Porto sunset      
Beach near our hotel      
Traffic jam as we headed home      
A busy day comes to a close

Sharing the road to Zonza

October 6, 2017   France, Corsica, Cars, Zonza

We left Serriera for Zonza (pronounced 'tzonz') to do some hiking around the Col de Bavella, which is in the south center of the island. So another day on the road. Fortunately in Corsica the road doesn't mean boring superhighway, it means a two-laner, hugging a mountainside, and squeezing through tiny villages where the buildings are so close you can almost reach out and touch them. The flip side to this lack of superhighways is that what appears to be a short distance on a map will actually take a long while.

Driving in Corsica also involves frequent encounters with wildlife: cows, pigs, donkeys, big-horn sheep, we've shared the road with all of these creatures. My favorites to date have been the herds of big-horn sheep and the donkey that was chasing a cat.

And if you're driving in Corsica this week you're also sharing the road with participants in the Tour de Corse. Zonza, it turns out, is another checkpoint in the road race, so while we travelled today we were frequently passed by speeding Porsches and Alfas and all manner of other vehicles, each covered in stickers and manned by a suited-up driver and navigator. A bit boy racer, a bit dangerous, but I like it, it feels oh so European.

A racer passing us in the corner (Tour de Corse)      
Where's that cat?      
Passing in a corner (Tour de Corse)      
What's for dinner?      
Cool blue car on the Tour de Corse      
The road to Zonza      
Porsches at checkpoint

Col de Bavella

October 7, 2017   Hike, Zonza, France, Corsica, Cars

Today we drove to a nearby mountain pass, hiked out to an odd rock formation, then ate a delicious lunch on a patio overlooking mountains, the Mediterranean, and the island of Elba.

About 15 minutes from Zonza is the Col de Bavella, a 1,218 m pass that offers great views of the Aiguilles (needles) de Bavella. The Aiguilles are rocky spikes of red granite. The col also offers several trailheads (the GR20 passes through) as well as accommodations and restaurants. The hike to our destination, the Trou de la Bombe, starts at the Col. It is an easy hike out to an interesting hole in a rock face.

We returned to our hotel in Zonza just in time for me to catch the last few cars in the Tour de Corse.

Hotel du Tourisme in Zonza      
The trail to Trou de la Bombe      
The Aiguilles de Bavella      
Rocky landscape near Col de Bavelle      
Paul climbing at Trou de la Bombe      
Yours truly hiking in Corsica      
Paul and chapel at Col de Bavella      
Lunch in the Village de Bavella      
The Aiguilles (needles) de Bavella are to the left. In the distance is the Mediterranean and the island of Elba.
The Tour de Corse passing through Zonza      
Unlike the Porto leg this leg doesn’t feature a closed highway. So the racers share the roads with the public. By the time we got back to Zonza most of the cars in today's leg of the Tour de Corse had passed. Still, I walked from our apartment to the center of town (this took about 1 minute) where there were no spectators just a few support vehicles – largely Porshe SUVs – as well as drivers and support staff. I crossed the street and then sat on a wall where I hoped to capture a few of the laggards slower cars as they came into town.
A blue racer      
Tour de Corse' Mini Cooper

Zonza and the GR20

October 8, 2017   Zonza, France, Corsica

I like Zonza. It is a charming village set on a lush green hillside and with a number of nearby hiking trails. It has my essentials: decent patisseries (we jokingly named one Luke's and the other Loreli's, both characters in a favorite tv show), a number of nice restaurants (though half were already closed for the season), and a grocery store. I didn't see any interesting shopping but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Actually, nowhere in France did we do much shopping.

Another beautiful day weather wise. After breakfast at Luke's we drove again to the Col de Bavella to hike a bit of the GR20, the trail that runs the length of Corsica. Unlike yesterday, today's trail was a vertical rocky scramble to a high overlook. During the hike we saw a large group of student rock climbers edging their way up a granite cliff, then we saw a team of rescuers carry an injured climber to a helicopter.

After a lunch of charcuterie, a Corsican speciality, we headed back to Zonza where we did another short hike into the forest.

Walking to the patisserie in Zonza      
We referred to the town's two pastry shops as Luke and Lorelei, after two characters on a favorite tv show.
Yellow stripes mark the GR20      
Every time I hike in BC I wonder why they don't mark hiking trails using paint stripes. It's simple, cheap, visible, and it works all over Europe.
View from the GR20      
Paul hiking      
Climbers scaling rock wall      
Climbers close up      
View from GR20 to the Col de Bavella      
Paul contemplating the Aiguille de Bavella      
Helicopter ambulance      
The quickest way to hospital      
Charcuterie, a Corsican speciality      
Here we are outdoors, up in the mountains, great views, enjoying the meat-heavy local cuisine.
Evening hike

White cliffs of Bonifacio

October 9, 2017   France, Corsica, Bonifacio

We're in Bonifacio, at Corsica's southern-most tip. We arrived after a short drive down the east coast. Bonifacio is built on chalk-white limestone which has been eaten away by the ocean, leaving parts of the town precariously cantilevered over the sea. The old town, what you see in the first picture, is very charming, a warren of old buildings and narrow streets, outdoor cafes and shops.

Capo Pertusato      
Tomorrow's hike will be along this ridge. It passes a military radar station and ends at the lighthouse of Pertusato. In the distance is the Italian island of Sardinia.

Hiking to the Bonifacio lighthouse

October 10, 2017   France, Corsica, Bonifacio

Today we took a look at some of the defense and navigation aides located in this most-southerly point of metropolitan France.

In 1825 the French built 5 lighthouses around Corsica to help ships navigate, a program led by Augustin Fresnel. In addition to the one shown below, the Pertusato lighthouse, others were built in the Sanguinaires islands (near Ajaccio), Chiappa, Revellata, and Giraglia. The Pertusato lighthouse is a 21m high square tower, made of stones, centered on a rectangular building. It has been automated since 1985. Near the lighthouse is the Pertusato semaphore. It is still in use, guiding ships through the Corsica/Sardaigna strait.

Today we hiked out of town to the lighthouse which is on the island's southern-most tip and which is just a few km north of Sardinia. The beautiful hike tracks the edge of a limestone cliff. It passes the semaphore, some ruins of old buildings, and then ends at the lighthouse of Pertusato. As a bonus we were buzzed by a few French fighter jets as we walked along the cliffs. The greenery is plentiful but low and scrubby. An easy hike though there isn't any shade.

City on a hill      
Bonifacio's harbour      
On the way to the lighthouse      
The building on the right is a semaphore      
The still-operating lighthouse

Bonifacio vieille ville

October 11, 2017   France, Corsica, Bonifacio

Today we explored the old town of Bonifacio. The town is precariously perched about 70m above the sea on a long peninsula. On one side of the peninsula are ocean-eroded white cliffs, on the other side is a long thin harbour. The harbour, as one might expect, is full of yachts and catamarans and tour boats, with the occasional Moby ferry which sails between here and Sardinia. And of course the harbour is bordered by a well-maintained boardwalk fronting hotels, restaurants, and cafes. Life is good in Bonifacio.

Bonifacio reminds me of one of the delicious desserts (hey, I'm in France!) I ate today: a thin rectangle of limestone layers with a layer of buildings perched precariously on top.

Like every other town we've visited in Corsica Bonifacio is well-maintained, spotlessly clean, and good looking. Since it is fall some shops and hotels are starting to close for the season. Still, there are a lot of tourists though it's not crowded with them unlike Toledo or Venice.

Paul on Bonifacio harbour      
Typical narrow street      
Typical narrow street      
Marine Cemetary      
The Marine Cemetery (Cimetiere Marin) is on the end of the promontory on which the Old Town is built. It features ornate mausoleums and tombs as well as views of the surrounding coastline.
Marine cemetary      
Walking down to Bonifacio's beach from the old town      
Harbour entrance      
That's Sardinia in the distance      
Water's edge at foot of the old town      
Bonifacio at night      
Harbour at night      
A view of the harbour looking towards the citadel. The citadel is lit up in purple and has a rotating sequence of patterns shined on it. Purple is a popular colour in Corsica.