Corsica, October 2006

Background:

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”.

Day One: Coursan – Nice (approx 425km); Bastia – St Martinu di Lotta

Total 429km

I 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.

We load 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

The 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 destination.

 

                                                                                              Auberge U San Martinu, St Martinu di Lotta, Corsica

We get 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.

We 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.

Day Two: U St Martinu di Lotta, Cap Corse, St-Florent, I’ll-Rousse,Belgodere, Ponte Leccia, Bastia

Total 264km

                                                                                                                       

This 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.

We take 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.

We pass 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.

Back on 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.

    

Nonza 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.

We 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!

We work our way back down the pass and the road follows a small river or stream meandering all 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.

Back at 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.

 

Day Three:

U St Martin U, Bastia, Ponte Leccia, D84, Col de Vergio, Evisa, Gorges de Spelunca, Porto, Les Calanche, Cargese, Ajaccio, Porticcio,

Total 278 km

Again, a 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.

The bike 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.

    

            

                                                                 

 The 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.

We 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.

Next 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 fully appreciated.

A few 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!!

This 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.  

     

                                                               

We 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........

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.

 

 Day Four:

Porticcio, D155 South, Filitosa (prehistoric site), Propriano, Petreto Bicchisano, , D757, D302, D255a.

Total 142km.

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.

Filitosa 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

Aftervisiting the 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 excellent day.

                                                                               The Arbousier.....In the mountains these beautiful trees are everywhere

We haul 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.

 

Day Five:

Porticcio, Ajaccio, Petreto Bicchisano, Sartene, Bonifacio.

Total 130km

This 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.

We head 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.

The sky 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.

We turn 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.  

                                                                                                         

      

                                                                                                          

We 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.

A boat 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.

Our boat 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.

We tour 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 Corsican sniper.

The 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.

The 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.

Afterwards 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 it’s name.

Day Six:

Bonifaco, Porto-Vecchio, Bastia, U St Martinu.

Total 184km

Today is 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.

Panniers 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.

We had 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!!

Back 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.

Day Seven:

U St Martin U, Bastia, Nice, Coursan

Total: 496 km

The 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.

The ride 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.

We find 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.

Before 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 possibly can.

                                                                      

        

                                                                     

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.

At first 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!!

Total Kilometrage: 1923km