Monday, August 28, 2023

Exploring Corsica

Trip date: September 2022

The Mediterranean island of Corsica, or Corse as it is called by its country of France, is quite an unique place to visit!

Corsica is thought to be settled in about 560 BCE during the Mesolithic period. Corsicans are pretty fiercely Corsican first, French a distant 2nd! The island birthplace of Napoleon was purchased from the Genoese in 1767 and many locals still would like to see independance. They speak Corsu as well as French (and many speak Italian). They have their own very distinctive flag with an image of a (supposedly) decapitated Moor head on it, representing defeating the Moors in ancient wars. 

Corsica is also incredibly beautiful and is known for its lush mountains, pristine beaches, and postcard-worthy vistas. Forest and I flew in from Marseille and met up with our friend Nicola in the capital city of Ajaccio. We had a 3-bedroom Airbnb with some seriously fantastic views of the sea. 

We spent a lot of time on our terrace, eating Corsican cheeses and charcuterie, drinking Corsican wines, and watching the big ferries come in and out of the port. It was very relaxing and the scenery was just fantastic!

We also did a wonderful hike at Pointe de la Parata which has one of the 90 Genoese towers built in 1550 to defend the Corsican coasts against invaders. It's a bit of a steep and rocky climb to the top where the tower is but the views of the Îles Sanguinaires were a great reward!

The 2 ½ mile loop skirts around the point and has beautiful views from all sides. It's an easy hike, except for the tower!

We then drove down to Marinella beach and had a very fun lunch at KOS. The location absolutely can not be beat! It's stunning, staff was good fun, and all of our food was quite tasty. If you are around this area I'd definitely plant yourself here for a glass or two of rosé!

After a couple of days in Ajaccio, we set off for Bonifacio on the very south tip of the island. It's a 2 ½ drive so we had plenty of time for a few stops along the way. 

The first was the seaside town of Propriano; the drive through the mountains was absolutely beautiful! 
Once in town we did a short hike along the coast and down to the beach. The color of the ocean was stunning and the wind was crazy strong!
We had a quick, and not very good, lunch in a random cafe and then continued our drive to the medieval town of Sartène. I think our Airbnb host had recommended a stop here, it's a super cute tiny town built into the hillside. 

We walked around a bit and did some shopping for some local cheese and charcuterie for apero hour.

The rest of the drive to Bonifacio was just stunning! It was all mountains, cliffs, and sea!

Unfortunately that is where the day turned a bit poor. We had a hell of a time finding our Airbnb and when we finally did it was NOTHING like what we thought we had rented. It had been listed as a bungalow and apparently that means trailer home in French. Not only was it an absolute dump but the 3 rooms were so tiny I could barely walk into my room! And we were in the middle of nowhere! Luckily we had a lot of snacks and salad makings for dinner and of course a good traveling bar!
Nicola called the hosts and explained that this would not work for us, I went online and booked us a hotel in Bonifacio proper, the next day we checked out of our trailer home and checked into Hôtel A Madonetta (which was a great location and fine room but pretty surly service).

Bonifacio is a tiny and beautiful town that sits right on the Mediterranean with Sardinia just an hour away by ferry. It was super windy so we scrapped plans for lunch in Italy and decided to take the tourist train up to the citadel. Sounds very unlike me, but that is one steep climb to the top and none of us had slept well in the trailer!! The little train gave us great views of the yachts in the harbour and also the commercial boats in the port before dropping us off in the upper town, the oldest on the island.

We made our way through the tiny pedestrian only streets and found the King of Aragon's Staircase, steps build directly into the rock wall, for some more amazing views.
Because of the wind, it wasn't advisable to do the entire walk, so we decided to grab lunch at U Castille. What a great meal we had! We were seated in an old room with a stone walls and vaulted ceilings. The restaurant is known for their traditional cuisine so I had their fish soup, which was served with rouille (similarly to Marseille's bouillabaisse) but this soup was very smooth. 

I also had the wild boar stew and raspberry souffle ice cream. Yum! Highly recommend a stop here if you are in town.

We wandered around some more after lunch, exploring the little ally's and doing some shopping along the way. It's a super cute medieval town!
Nic decided to head back to the hotel for a bit so Forest and I found a little café overlooking the incredible limestone cliffs and watched them change colors in the light while having some rosé. We walked back down to the lower town at sunset and had a casual pizza dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the port.

The next day Forest and I decided to hike up to the cliffs; Nic wasn't feeling well so stayed back at the hotel. This time there was no tourist train! We walked through town, up the steep streets to the citadel and then headed left over to the trail that runs along the cliffs we had been viewing the day before. Now we could see the walled city that is perched up high.
We could also see Sardinia out in the distance. It was interesting to get closer to the limestone, it's so unique looking, and to peer down at the little coves that line the shore. There were others on the trail but it wasn't crowded at all and it took us about 1 ½ hours round trip from the port. It was really a beautiful hike! 

We grabbed some very good burgers back in town for lunch and then met up with Nicola. Forest drove us to the local Figari airport to pick up a rental car, as Nic and I had our flight out of Ajaccio the next morning.  We had a tiny Fiat which made the 2 ½ drive on the twisty roads a little nerve wracking. It also decided to dump rain for a while!

Back in Ajaccio, we had rooms at the Holiday Inn which was super close to Bonaparte airport. Nic and I went grocery shopping for some things to bring home and then had drinks and dinner on the hotel property. The rooms were very nice for a Holiday Inn!

At 7:30am the next day we headed to the airport to return the car, but really we could have gone an hour later as it took no time at all and there isn't much of anything to do at the airport except shop for local specialities which we had already done at the grocery store.

By the way, if you visit Corsica don't pass on the local Canistrelli cookies! You can find them everywhere, in both sweet and savory varieties. They are similar to a biscotti and are fabulous!

We were on Easy Jet for the quick 1 hour 50 minute flight to CDG. I said goodbye to Nicola, collected my bag, rechecked in with Air Canada for my flight home, and was in the Maple Leaf Lounge just 45 minutes after landing! 

I had booked Business Class from CDG to Montreal with points and my pod was quite nice and comfortable. Air Canada was still following COVID guidelines so masks were still mandatory which was a bit strange. They also didn't pass out any toiletry bag which is very typical on international flights. The food was great, including my foie gras! And I had a nice snooze on the 7 ½ flight to Canada. 

In YUL it took quite a while to get through customs and security; I was very glad to have Global Entry to speed things up a bit. The Maple Leaf Lounge here had smoked meat sandwiches which was very Montrealian! 

Then I was on my way home, 5 ½ hours to Seattle in Business Class on a 737, so no lay flat but still a very pleasant flight.

Corsica is absolutely beautiful so if you get a chance to go, do it! The roads are very twisty and it takes longer than you think to get around so take that into consideration when deciding where to stay. 

All Corsica photos here.

Other posts from this trip:

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