Corsica, October 2006
Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily , Sardinia and Cyprus). It is located west of Italy, and 170km southeast of France It is a country of mountainous terrain. Although the island is separated from the continental mainland by the Ligurian Sea, politically Corsica is considered part of Metropolitan France. Corsica is famed as the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte and claimed as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. It is known as the “Isle of Beauty”.
– Nice (approx 425km); Bastia – St Martinu di Lotta
decide to take the boat from Nice to Bastia.
There are several other ports on the south coast of France that serve Corsica
but Nice offers a high speed daytime crossing. The boat leaves Nice at around 1.30 pm
and arrive in Bastia on the eastern side of the island at around 7.30pm. The
other crossings were all overnight and included cabin costs and consequentially
were higher. For my girlfriend Laurence, myself and the BMW R100GS crossing cost
140 euros return. Our Bed and breakfast acommodation is only 7km from Bastia in
a small mountain village by the name of St Martin U di
Lotta. All being well we should arrive at 8pm.
the BMW without incident onto the ferry. Fully loaded the motorcycle is too
heavy to get on the main stand and the flimsy side stand is all but useless, so we strap her directly against the bulkhead
using a couple of dirty but heavy duty foam pads supplied by the loading crew.
The port of Nice and the “Monument aux Morts” in the background
weather is really beautiful; we could not ask for more. The old port of Nice is
really scenic. The crossing is relatively quick and uneventful and we arrive in
Bastia just as it is getting dark. Then it’s off the ferry and head North
leaving the main road and taking the mountain route signed to St Martinu di
Lotta. The route winds up and up and up into the mountains, the further we go
the worse the condition of the road becomes. In places it is very precarious.
Seven kilometres later and we arrive outside the auberge U St Martinu our
Auberge U San Martinu, St Martinu di Lotta, Corsica
out of our motorcycle gear, shower... thank goodness the water is plenty hot,
get changed into something a whole lot more comfortable and then head
down to the Auberge itself. Apparently the doors are
never locked to the main entrance as there are no thieves and therefore no need.
choose from the menu, and strange enough end up ordering a Paella in Corsica of
all things. I start with a place of local charcuterie which is wonderful. Then
the paella arrives and has to be just the best I have ever tasted anywhere. For
desert we have creme brulee with chestnuts....excellent. Every single ingredient
was fresh fresh fresh. Quite probably one of the best meals I have ever eaten.
The cost? A measly 18 Euros each including drinks.
St Martinu di Lotta, Cap Corse, St-Florent, I’ll-Rousse,Belgodere, Ponte
morning the sun is out and the weather looks set to favour our visit to
Corsica. We picked October as the tourist rush on the island will be over.
We shower and then head down to find where we are to eat
breakfast......on the terrace where else?
Breakfast finished it's time to head out and discover the island.
Breakfast finished it's time to head out and discover the island.
the road down into Bastia then it’s northwards to
Cap Corse. This is our first view of Corsica by
daylight. Quite franckly....stunning. There is hardly any traffic on the road.
Great country for large trailies too. Bing on your Africa Twins, your GS's and
your Tenere's. Road bikes would have a hard time here.
Although the road North out of Bastia towards Cap Corse is full of curves and
not too bad a road surface there seems to be rather a lot of sand and loose
gravel around. As we continue the corners get closer together, the road narrows
and there is even more debris on the road surface. Glad I’m riding full enduro
tyres on the GS.
the most northern point of Cap Corse and start heading south. The road now runs
close to the beach. We decide to ride off road and take the GS across a dirt
track to our own private beach. Not a soul about either; just us.....now this is
heaven. The water is warm, warm
enough to almost make us want to go for a dip. There are pebbles of pure white
all along the beach. On closer inspection they appear to be white marble.
the main road and either side are small fields planted with vines. Compared to
our vines in the Languedoc region of France they are rather frail looking plants but i’m not
going to criticise until the wine has been tried & tested.
is our next stop. So far we have only seen one tour bus and a couple of cars, at
Nonza that changes somewhat. The road has been recently widened and there are
more tourists here,sitting in the shade of cafe umbrellas. A couple of tour
buses and a couple of German road going motorcycles too. We pull over have a
quick look at Nonza and its ancient tower perched above the village on a rather
precariously a rocky crag overhanging the sea.
continue into and through St Florent a tourist town
jammed with hotels and tour buses everywhere, but still very pretty. We grab a
bite to eat sitting in the sun before getting back on the BMW and heading west on the D81 up into the mountains.
The scenery is once again spectacular. Mte Lavezzo is quite amazing and the view of the sea and
mountains splendid. Then its onwards to L’lle-Rousse.
It's about time to start heading back so we take the N197 direction Belgodere
and I am immediately glad we have chosen this small mountain road. In front of
us across the road is a herd of goats all with their bells clanging away as
they climb up into the fields above. No sheppard but these goats obviously know
where they are going. They appear on one side of the road literally jumping into
the road centre out of the undergrowth before jumping up into the brush covered
hillside on the other side; all with a total disregard for any road traffic.
Luckily there isn’t any apart from us and a few locals who obviously know what
to expect. We work our way up to the Col de Colomba,
or Colomba Pass where once again the views are magnificent. You must be able to see for a
hundred kilometres from up here.
Watch out for the cows, the pigs, the goats, the donkeys etc
etc....all wandering freely across the country roads!
our way back down the pass and the road follows a small river or stream
over the place. There are cows wandering along the roadside and every corner is
a potential hasard. Not one of them takes a blind bit of notice of the
motorcycle. They take it in their stride as we pass at walking pace so close I
could push them out of the way with my hand. At first a bit worrying but we soon
get used to it. This country road runs for kilometre after kilometre until we
hit the main road back towards Bastia.
the hotel we discuss our problem. Due to the size of Corsica (it’s
much bigger than you think it is or indeed it looks on the map) there is no way
that we can base here returning every day. We decide that we will leave in the morning for the South coast returning on
friday night, to eat a good meal at the restaurant in celebration of
Laurence’s birthday. This will put us only 7km from Bastia for the boat first
thing Saturday morning. Good choice.
U St Martin U, Bastia, Ponte Leccia, D84, Col de Vergio, Evisa, Gorges de Spelunca, Porto, Les Calanche, Cargese, Ajaccio, Porticcio,
great day is upon us. Looks like a sunny day but it’s still dark and too early
to tell. I open the shutters a little and look out. The calm is calm up here.
Not a noise. Not one...nothing. About as perfect as it can get. The sun comes up
across the bay and yes it’s going to be a nice one....... again.
is fully loaded up again and the suspension setting adjusted accordingly. The
rear shock by Ohlins is easily adjustable; a few clicks and it is ready to roll.
I have made marks using a fine bladed hack saw on the adjuster so I can put it
back to my original settings easily enough, otherwise it’s a bit hit and miss
with so many potential settings.
Todays itinerary is to take the main road back down towards Corte and then a few kilometers after take the D84 through the Gorges de Spelunca and head West to the coastal town of Porto.
D84 is probably one of the most beautiful routes on
the island, it really is something special. Don’t miss it. The scenery and the
mountains that greet you are breathtaking and as we continue it gets better and
better. The road gets narrower and enters some gorges. Cows on the route but we
are now used to that. At one point we meet a couple of logging trucks coming the
other way. We have the motorcycle literally with the handlebars against the
rocky cliff face so that they can pass, there really is that little room.
pass Calacuccia, a small village
and pretty soon we are in the forest of Valdo-Niello.
The scenery the best so far. This has to be one of the most scenic roads I have
ever ridden anywhere in the world. We pull over at a viewing spot, it’s just
us, kilometre after kilometre of wilderness and a few buzzards going about their
days hunting overhead. It’s lunchtime so we take time out to get out our
sandwiches that we had made earlier on with local sausage....and have an
improptu pique- nique sitting in the sun in Gods own land. Excellent. Then back on the
motorcycle and we continue to climb into the forest.
stop is a really scenic village Evisa. It’s chestnut season and there are
chestnuts all over the road...they’re everywhere...almost a hazard to
motorcycling there are so many. They form a carpet literally covering the
road. We pull over and whilst I am busy taking photos Laurence has busied
herself picking up handfuls of chestnuts that we cram into the tankbag. Back in
Coursan they will be roasted in front of an open fire at Maison St Georges and
kilometers further on and we enter the Gorges de Spelunca.
I can really recommend them. I have seen both the Grand Canyon and the Gorges of
Verdon as well as many other gorges around the world. These equal them, if
not in sheer size then in majesty. The route at points is riduculously narrow
and there are no modern safety barriers. At times we are riding close to the
edge, so close that when I sneak a look over my eyes can not immediately focus
on the depth of the canyon and when they do it is rather frightening. Less than
half a meter to the right of my right boot is a vertical decent well in excess
of 500 metres!!
fantastic route goes on forever before we are out of the gorges and onto the coast
road, so make sure that you have a full tank..
The view of Porto
and its beaches from the "corniche" or the coastal road are magnificent.
take the mountain coastal road heading south and several kilometers later come
upon “Les Calanche”, a spectacular mountain landscape of multicoloured
strange shaped granite peaks. This is Corsica’s most famous natural sight and
a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At around 5pm we are on the road into Ajaccio. I really wanted to visit the home of Napoléon whilst
here. But, Ajaccio is a big city. Much bigger than the guides I have read have led us to
believe. It is rush hour and there is absolute chaos and unbelievable traffic jams. It
is so bad that we have to pull the old BMW over. We are limited on our ability
to filter not only by having the two big cylinders sticking out on each side but
also by our panniers and luggage which makes the motorcycle hard to
handle at such slow speeds. The old GS is one of the last air cooled machines
which means no movement = no air = overheating, something we do not want. She is already
running hot so we pull over on to the pavement and shut her down giving her time
to cool down a little and allowing (hopefully) the traffic to die down somewhat.
We are along the bay front an area really rough looking and one I
wouldn’t want to find myself in alone at night. Mr Bonaparte may well have to
wait to another trip. We have a look at the map. There is no way I intend
staying in a hotel in Ajaccio.
A few kilometers further down the coast is the small
town resort of Porticcio. We decide to give it a go. The traffic finally
dies down somewhat, it’s still heavy but its moving. In Porticcio we find the Hotel de Porticcio. Laurence disappears to find out more and emerges a
minute later with a smile. A good clean room, a large one, with all facilities
at a good honest price. She’s happy...I’m happy!
Guys will understand........
Guys will understand........
We unload the motorcycle and haul all our baggage
inside.We strip our kit off and get into the hot shower. Then a few minutes later after
getting dressed in “normal” clothing we head out to find ourselves a
restaurant. We find one next to the beach only a couple of hundred metres from
the hotel and decide to give it a try. Good choice. Laurence takes a Lasagna and
myself a good juicy steak with a green pepper sauce. All washed down with a
local red wine followed by a creme brulée desert for both. Excellent. Then
it’s back to the hotel and straight off to sleep. Well, for me anyways, I’m
out as soon as my head hits the pillow.
D155 South, Filitosa (prehistoric site), Propriano, Petreto Bicchisano, , D757,
A good nights sleep was needed and was had. We have
decided to take it easy today. No long hauls and if the room is available for
another night we will take it, leaving
all our luggage behind which will be nice as the motorcycle fully laden is a
pain to haul around the small mountain roads. Not too bad when it is moving but stop somewhere scenic to
have a look, put your foot down on some loose gravel, cow or goat pooh...and
there’s lots of that on the roads and......you know the rest. A large capacity motorcycle is no
fun to pick off the ground at the best of time, even without all the panniers,
top box , roll bag and eerrrrr girl friend.
Breakfast is a good one and the room is free for
another night. We take it. Payment whenever.....a really nice trusting chap,
unfortunately rare these days.
We head towards Filitosa. The route is really scenic and as the road leaves the
coast and winds up into the hills it becomes smaller and smaller and more and
more scenic. Corsica has not failed to impress continually. The further we ride
towards Filitosa the more the countryside reminds me of that of Tuscany. The
weather is in our favour too. Just perfect for riding the BMW. Not too hot but
nice and warm. A little cooler in the hills but still in the mid twenties. We
are the only vehicle on the backroads which is the way I like it, and we putt
along at our own speed , harassed and harried by nobody. Just before Filitosa
the landscape changes a little. We are now in open pasture country with sheep
grazing alongside barbed wire fences held in place with hand cut wooden stakes.
There are chestnut trees in the fields, and if I were a sheep this would be not
far from sheep heaven. We follow the signs for Filitosa and finally arrive. The
sun is out and it is getting warm. Too warm for our jackets and gear, so as soon
as we are off of the motorcycle these come off. Price of admission to the site
which it appears is still privately owned is 5 Euros each.
is a megalithic site located in the small commune of Sollacaro,
just north of Propriano. The site is exceptionally
scenic being located on a hill covered with an ancient olive grove overlooking
the Taravo valley. Some of these olive trees cannot be far off being a thousand
years old judging from their size.
Back road in Southern Corsica ...totally deserted of traffic,
the megalithic Site at Filitosa...well worth a visit
site (recommended), we decide to eat a panini at the restaurant next door and sit
outside in the sun, writing our postcards. The restaurant is immaculate inside,
not a speck of dirt or dust to be seen anywhere, and that goes for the wc’s
too. The panini is excellent and really hits the spot; the cheese & garlic melted onto really fresh bread and then toasted. Perfect.
Back on the
BMW we join the main road to Propriano and start to wind down the hillside.
Continual sweeping curves . Normally it would be fun but there has
been a light misting of rain in the last few km and the road surface is just damp.....and
see oily blue, green, and black streaks of spilt diesel fuel on the tighter of
the corners. Not good for motorcycles! We carefully pick our route down the
hillside. As I change gear, I feel a sudden bit of slack in the clutch lever. I continue, but am almost positive that my clutch cable has frayed and is
about to break on us. I had checked and lubed all cables before we left and all
was fine. We turn off to Propriano and I very gently ease in the clutch lever.
There is loads of play in it and the clutch is not engaging correctly. When I
get a chance I will pull over and see what the problem is. Before I get a chance
to do this the cable snaps completely....;in the middle of town and in traffic!
Not a major problem as I can ride double shifting the BMW for short distances
but the mountain roads in Corsica would be a nightmare....and with the GS
gearbox .....hard on the toes of my left foot! Luckily, in my supply of spares I have
a brand new cable. We ride out of town along the beachfront and pull over. I
switch cables and forty
minutes later load up the tools. Job done. I clean the grease from
my hands, put my jacket back on and we’re off.
I gently try my clutch. It isn’t perfectly adjusted but it isn’t bad either.
It will do.
We take the
main road back towards Petreto Bicchisano and then
turn off down the back roads and start working our way back towards Porticcio.
It is around four pm so we still have plenty of time. The weather is a little on
the grey side but the rain has held off thank goodness. As we wind our way
upwards arbousier trees are everywhere lining the sides of the route. They are a
small tree, in season and their red and orange berries are really a sight to see.
We arrive at our hotel just as the light is beginning to fade. Another
Arbousier.....In the mountains these beautiful trees are everywhere
ourselves up to our room, and a nice hot shower is very welcome indeed. Then
into fresh clothes and where to eat. We decide to eat at the same restaurant as
last night. The quality was good, the staff very agreeable...really what
more could you want? We go for a
walk around the “town” first and come to the conclusion that during season
this must be a very busy place indeed. We buy a couple of bottles of Corsican
wine and some local produce to take back to France. We really want to get some
of the cheese we had on the first night in the restaurant in U St Martinu but it had such a
strong odor that we really don’t want to take the risk and put it in the
panniers with our clothing, wrapped or not, at this stage of the holiday. It
could spell disaster and make us socially unacceptable should the smell permeate.
However, we will be sure and pick some up later. We drop our purchases back in
our hotel room and then head over to the restaurant. This evening we both order
moules frites (mussles and chips) in a cream seafood sauce. It was on the menu last night but they had
run out. Tonight we are in luck....which also means they are as fresh as they
can be. I have some red Corsican wine with mine to wash them
down. Excellent finish to a wonderful day. We discuss our plans for tomorrow and
we decide to head South down to the famous port of Bonifacio.
Ajaccio, Petreto Bicchisano, Sartene, Bonifacio.
morning we awaken to grey skies and drizzle. So far we’ve been very lucky but
I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I hate riding in this kind of weather.
We’ve had quite a few days of glorious sunshine and even if it continues to
rain we’ve enjoyed ourselves. I would be quite happy to stay here another day
and wait it out but Laurence wants to visit Bonifacio and if we stay here then
tomorrow we have to head straight to Bastia.
on out, direction Ajaccio. There we take the main road towards Bonifacio
(N196). Today is not a long haul, thank goodness with the weather. As we leave
Ajaccio it really starts to tip it down. Laurence signals me and we pull off the
main route under some trees for shelter. Then its out with the full waterproofs.
Two minutes later we are back on track, although taking it very easy indeed. The
road is covered with oily diesel fuel. I’d rather travel at slow speed and
travel safe than risk coming off the motorcycle; so from now on it’s into the
light touch mode of motorcycle operation. Acceleration, braking, leaning are all
done as smoothly as possible to not upset the equilibrium of a loaded motorcycle
on a greasy wet road. Direction Sartene.
This hill town was recommended to me as a must see, but all I can see today is
wet and miserable.
in front looks to be brighter or is this just my wishful thinking? I’m not
sure and I wouldn't lay money on
it. Then about twenty kilometers out of Bonifacio the sky starts to clear and the odd
ray of sun starts to poke through the grey.
off the main route and work our way down to the port. What a truly amazing site,
the old port in front of us and the citadel perched high on the cliff above.
Bonifacio looks as if it will be an interesting place to explore.
pull the motorcycle over and go for a walk around. It is lunch time so we search
for a small restaurant that is open. Looks like Bonifacio is in the act of
winding down after the tourist season, many of the restaurants are closed, as
are the shops. We grab a bite to eat at a diner looking onto the port itself.
Bonifacio owes its renown to the majestic citadel that was built in the 9th century by Boniface II of Tuscany, located on a peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The views across the strait of Bonifacio towards Sardaigne (separated by only12km) from the old Citadel are as impressive as is Bonifacio itself. Its narrow old streets, its Genoese influence and the vivid colours evoke its historical and cultural heritage. Bonifacio is built on a limestone peninsula 1,500 metres long, and 200 metres wide that overlooks the strait.
trip of Bonifacio was recommended to me by a neighbour in Coursan. An old man
approaching seventy, he lent me maps and pointed out the sights not be missed so
bearing this in mind and considering the change in the weather for the better we
decide to give it a go. The tour boats are lined up in the port. We find one
that offers a 50% discount......one of the only ones operating at this time of
year. We pay ten euros each and climb aboard the boat. Ten minutes later the boat pretty full
& the skipper casts off. We chug out into the old harbour heading seaward. The
harbour here is completely sheltered from the sea and is a good half a kilometre
inland if not more, offering ideal protection both from elements natural, such as
the weather and elements un natural such as unfriendly forces. Boats moored in
the harbour are completely hidden from view from passing ships. You could have
hid a complete flotilla of men of war in the harbour and from offshore they
would have been completely invisible....masts and all.
Easy to see why in its heyday Bonifacio was so often fought over by
Spanish, French and English forces. The perfect strategic port from a military
viewpoint I would imagine.
makes a visit to several caves along the coastline, actually going inside a
couple, clearing the top by literally only centimetres. Inside one cave is an
opening to the sky above shaped in roughly the outline of Corsica. Quite
impressive. Also equally impressive is the colour of the water here, a perfect
pastel blue. Looking over the side it is possible to see the seabed some ten
metres below us quite clearly.
the Bonifacio coastline and see the steps of the king of Aragon, a set of 187
steps hewn into the sheer cliffside from seas level to the town of Bonifacio
perched some sixty metres above. We see the outline of Bonnifacio from the boat,
the picture you see on every postcard and every brochure of Corsica the world
over. I snap a couple of photographs, then after a couple more smugglers caves and a
couple of perfectly hidden blue lagoons we head back into harbour. The old
citadel is perched high above us its gun emplacements covering every angle that
you could possibly imagine, all making Bonnifacio quite impregnable during its
heyday. Bonnifacio has seen off
many seiges, including one where the
English Admiral Lord Nelson (before the Admiral Lord bit) lost his eye to a
skipper skillfully backs the boat into its berth and our tour is ended. A ten
Euros each well spent. To not have done this tour would have been to miss the
very point of Bonnifacio itself.
This evening we walk into the town to find somewhere to
eat. As we walk along
the harbour below the citadel we
come upon a restaurant all lit up. The “Kissing Pigs”. Strange name. I wipe
the rain off of the illuminated billboard so
we can at least get a look at the menu. Looks good to me. There are plenty of
people in the small restaurant, a good sign, the food on the menu offers plenty
of choice and the prices are fair. We decide to give it a go. A true oldy worlde
place with hams and sausages hanging from ceiling beams high above the guests. In the
corner is a big open range type stove and all the cooking is being done on that
open range by one girl. There are perhaps fifteen people at present in the
restaurant and total seating is maybe a mximum of thirty or so.
service is polite, quick and efficient at this obviously family run restaurant.
I finally end up choosing a Perigourdine main course salad and Laurence takes a
salad with Corsican cheese and local ham. Both arrive within minutes and both
are exceptionally good. Mine with generous lashings of foie gras and confit
d’oignons has to be one of the best salads I have ever eaten. I think it was
ten euros. It was worth twenty and I would have gladly paid that much for a
salad of this quality. I have often paid far more for far less, both quality and
quantity wise. I savour it and wash it down with a house red wine that is also
of exceptional quality. Desert is a home made Tiramisu that again is out of
this world. If you ever find yourself in Bonnifacio I recommend you eat here. I
know that if I find myself again in Bonnifacio (and I hope one day I do) I will be sure and stop by the
“Kissing Pigs”. All the ingredients were best quality local produce which is
what I want; a real taste of Corsica. So far this trip we have been very lucky
with our restaurants.
a walk against a floodlit Bonifacio, a couple of night photos and back to the
hotel where I literally collapse on the bed....alarm set....just in case. All in
all a great day and I am really glad that we took the time and the effort to
ride through the rain to come to Bonifacio, the “jewel of Corsica”. True to
Porto-Vecchio, Bastia, U St Martinu.
our last day. We have to make it back to U St Martinu for this evening. Tomorrow
we have to be down at the ferry terminal at 7.00am so we do not want to have to
ride too far; 7km down the winding narrow mountain road from U St Martinu in the
dark will be just enough. Because of this we have decided to take the main road,
one of only two or so main roads in Corsica from Bonifacio to Bastia. The weather is
against us, it is drizzling and so there is no point in hanging around and
getting wet. I walk over to a nearby garage
and buy a can of WD40. I spray all
the electrical connections on the motorcycle, all around the carb inlets, cables,
plugs and most importantly around the exposed coil on the BMW. Bad design that
one fellows! I know the french police BMW’s of this period had metal boxes
specially fabricated to protect the coil from the elements. The WD40 does its
job and the motorcycle fires up easily. I store the can where it will be easy to
reach should it be necessary.
loaded then we are off and out of Bonifacio. I really enjoyed my time here....too
short...but then that just means that you have something to look forward to the
next time. The main road is much less interesting than the roads we have ridden,
the terrain much flatter and less inspiring. We continue to Porto-Vecchio
where we fuel up before heading down to the port. Franckly after what we have
seen this is a let down. It’s nice and quaint to a degree but lacking. The
eastern side of the island is nowhere near as scenic as the western coast. So
now you know.
planned on heading via the back roads into the mountains taking the route de
Bavella, which everybody recommends. The weather is rather iffy and I really do not want to be riding in
the mountains in low cloud and rain on unknown, slippery roads with low
visibility and no safety barriers. So I think we’ll give it a skip and save it
for next time!
We continue onwards, through Bastia and take our turning for St Martin U di Lotta and into the mountains. Seven kilometres later we arrive at the auberge. We climb off the motorcycle and walk over. Apart from a couple of young girls hiking with backpacks not a person insight. The main door is wide open. We yell and eventually the chef shows up. We shake hands. The owners are not there but if we have reservations then just go up and pick a room for yourself. We thank him, tell him we need reservations for tonight around eight at his restaurant and then head over to the auberge. The door is open, we mount the stairs and pick a room. The keys are in all the doors. Room chosen we drop off all our gear, get changed and then go down for a walk around St Martin U. The sun is out and it really is quite warm this afternoon. We gather some chestnuts that have fallen on the road and add these to our collection gathered previously near Porto. Back at the auberge an hour later the chef is sitting outside in the sun preparing his menus for a large wedding group tomorrow. We ask him where we can buy some real, the emphasis being on the "real" Corsican cheese and he gives us directions to a small family run store at the foot of the mountain just this side of Bastia. We thank him go back to our room grab our helmets and jackets and jump on the motorcycle.
We find the old store and there is plenty of choice cheesewise and we choose plenty. Good job I added the roll bag to the top of the top box on the motorcycle. Looks as if we will be fully loaded, with bottles of Corsican wine, dried sausage and cheese. These are far better momentoes than any plastic trinket or porcelain souvenir stamped “Corsica” and most likely made in some third world country the other side of the globe. These are the real Corsica, the Corsica we came to find and the Corsica we found and fell in love with. When I eat a slice of strong Corsican brebis (sheep) cheese with a spoonful of figue jam; when I drink a glass of Corsican wine, or when I take a slice of Corsican sausage, I will remember this voyage with fond memories. That my friend is after all what life is all about. True souvenirs in the true french meaning of the word.
Back at the Auberge (Inn) U St Martinu in the
mountains outside of Bastia
The food in this olde worlde Inn was out of this world and typically Corsican, Happy Birthday Laurence!!
to the Auberge. We get scrubbed up and at seven thrity head on down. The
restaurant is open and we enter. There are few people as yet and it really is a
very family atmosphere, and the food as before is really outstanding. There is a
very interesting conversation at
the next table. The subject? Apparently a recent Vendetta! We try to appear totally
deaf and carry on our own conversation, albeit with one ear to the table next to
us. Some things are better not
heard. Corsica being the spiritual home as it were of the Vendetta; a part of
the culture I would rather not experience. After an outstanding desert (what
else could I order but the chestnut creme brulée), I am ready to turn in. But
the insistance of an after dinner drink with the patron and the vendetta family
at the next table sees us stay at table a little longer and sample the delights
of a strong alcoholic drink similar to a schnaps made with ....you’ve guessed
it....chestnuts. It’s very good I must admit. We pay the bill, tip their nine
year old son who has waited at table for us and then after saying our goodnights
and goodbyes to everyone head up to our room.
St Martin U, Bastia, Nice, Coursan
alarm goes off.at six thirty.It's still dark outside. We get up, get dressed
and haul our luggage down to the motorcycle. I fire her up and let her warm up,
Then it’s off down the dark mountain, keeping a wide eye for any sanglier or
wild boar that may be roaming around foraging for food in the middle of the
track. The local hunters are already out and all assembled by their battered
four wheel drives, high powered rifles slung frm their shoulders and dogs loaded
in their transport cages, all ready for a good days hunt.
down the hill takes twenty minutes and then we are in Bastia itself. We work our
way over to the port and check in and are sent straight to the front of the
queue. I always feel a little guilty about this as this always happens on a
motorcycle. One of the benefits I guess. We cut the bike engine and wait and
watch as a boat unloads it cargo of cars, vans, and trucks in front of us. Then
its green light go for loading . We get loaded and prop the GS against the ships
steel hull. They will tie it down tight....I hope. Then its off to find a place
to sit remembering what floor and what area the motorcycle is stowed on.
a table and sit down. There are people everywhere. Still I guess this is the
weekend crossing. Now just five hours to go before we hit Nice. At just after
one thirty we are in Nice. The motorcycle is fine and we put our gear on and
fire her up. Then its off into daylight as the hydraulic ramps are lowered. The
weather has cleared up.
we head out of Nice I have promised myself that if the weather was good I would
take a photo of the port from the corniche above with the war monument in the
background. It will be a special photograph as I am looking for the spot
that my late father took a photgraph from back in 1952 when he was on his BSA
650 Golden Flash and on his way to Italy from England. Can I find the spot? We
work our way up. I stop by the side of the road. Luckily the traffic is not
heavy. This looks like it may be it but I am not sure. The angle is right but I
think the photo was taken from
higher up. I look up and sure enough there is another road above with iron
railings. Back on the motorcycle and continue on the main road. Then a left turn
and we find ourselves on a side road. There it is. A small park area overlooking
the bay; This is it without a doubt. We get off the motorcycle, I walk over. On
the same spot fifty four years earlier my father stood looking over the same bay.
I take the photograph being careful to frame as closely the orignal as I
Homage paid, I’m quite sure my father would find it all a little amusing, it would put a smile on his face, no doubt about it, and I think that he would be flattered that his trip of 1952 meant that much to his son. Back to the motorycle now, I say my goodbyes and it’s back down into Nice. We follow the coast road. The plan is to then follow the old N7 heading out towards Aix en Provence. This actually proves a real pain. The road has been chopped and changed so much that it is almost impossible to do, there is so much traffic and so many roundabouts and stop lights that it is a real pain. By the time we reach Frejus I have had enough of this madness and just want out. We follow the signs to the peage and then its direction Narbonne. Just over fours hours and a few quick stops later and we roll into Coursan completely shattered and numb.
I wasn not too happy about the idea of going to Corsica. Not one of the guide
books I read before hand did it justice. To say that I was pleasantly suprised
would be an understatement. Corsica is my type of place. The things I found most
impressive about Corsica were the scenery which really is very underated in the
tour guides and the foods which were also outstanding; the cheeses, the meats,
sausages, even the red wines and muscats were all exceptionel. The Arbousier
tree should be the national tree of the country if it is not already, they are
absolutely everywhere in the back country, and in october they are ripe for
picking. Their fruits a mixture of orange and red berries are made into drinks
and confitures (jams). Then there are the chestnut trees; again everywhere in the back
country and again in season during October.
Rural Corsica strikes me as being rural France some fifty years ago, before modernisation and the European beaureaucrat got their hands on it and ruined it. All of our European countries are becoming sanitised by these regulations that pour non stop out of Brussels. Corsica gets the same regulations as everyone else, being a french departement, but the Corsican very wisely choses to ignore them. Let us hear it for the Corsican! Modern France has done what modern England, Germany, Holland, Spain etc have all done and that is to lose their identities and their very souls courtesy of this European Bureaucrat. They have been ruined by fat bureau-cats looking out for themselves each wanting to leave their mark. Corsica has not done this and it has retained its cultural identity. Corsica is often mentioned and portrayed as a poor department of France. Some French (mostly those from cities) say they love Corsica as a country but do not like the Corsicans whom they find rude and unfriendly. Personally, I have never met a more friendly, more genuine peoples. If they don’t like something they will tell you and likewise if they do like something they will also tell you. They are a down to earth good honest hardworking, proud and patriotic peoples and in my view that is to be applauded. Corsica...I love it!!