19 November 2007

Belated Postcards - Corsica

Corsica lures the traveller with its beautiful clean beaches, celebrity mansions (or yachts!), panoramic limestone landscapes, tales of bandits hiding in the treacherous maquis, of wailing women in black... and the soulful, haunting sounds of traditional polyphonies. Corsica fascinates the romantics with its menacing family vandettas and its famous Corsican knife, perfect for a stab in the heart, hence the island's name of "cor" (heart) "sica" (cut).
But I'm sure you can read all about this on Wikipedia.
Or you can read Mérimée's tragic "Colomba".

Corsica is practically run by the Mafia. Just kidding.
Honestly, based on my experience, Italy and Corsica have much in common.
In addition, this island certainly relies greatly on tourism for its income and the transport infrastructure doesn't leave much to be desired. We took a total of 3 1/2 hours to travel by bus from Ajaccio to Bonifacio, travelling through capricious, mountainous scenery and spiralling dangerously close to the edges of cliffs on the one-lane road. I was fine but Jason suffered from motion sickness. I've never seen him so fragile! He looked as though he was going to swoon in my arms in a sigh.

I loved the food in Corsica.
Yes, you can still gorge on the standard 'French' treats, like those we bought from a street vendor in Ajaccio: gauffre à la crème de marrons (my very very favourite) served with laddles of chantilly (even better!!) and Nutella filled crepes. If you insist on all things French, you can order Salade Niçoise and all that standard mainland fare. Nothing new. But then there's some lovely Corsican treats like the broccio cheese, made from goat's milk. Incidentally, I had some tangy, broccio filled cannellonis once. But overall, Corsica, like Kensai in Japan, is chestnut paradise. And I LOOOVE chestnuts.

You can also find some great paninis in Sartène. For example, they have this monster of a sandwhich called the "American panini". It's basically a 30cm toasted panini with pan fried chicken, melted cheese and a sinful mustard/ketchup sauce. Jason discovered this treasure in the market square but I forgot what the actual place was called... Anyway, we sat there, in Sartène's market square, watching as the entire village congregated, watching as the older generation waddled about in their doomsday clothing and whispered in each others' ears, watching, as the Sartène locals socialised and gave meaning to an otherwise lifeless old village.

Surrounded by this depressive gloom, we, the tourists, munched on a very 'American' panini. If only Dali had been there to capture that on his canvas.

Nothing is chirpy in the very Corsican Sartène. Our lovely hotel was perched on a hill overlooking the maquis and its garden gave way to a splendid Corsican cemetary. I must say this. To me, it felt as though the cemetary was the heart of town and that it was anticipating... something. That's how it feels to be in that village, but it's truly memorable. A very Colomba experience...

Another dark presage...during a long walk from Sartene to Propriano, we saw a large writhing snake skirting a stone wall not far from the only service station en route.

The walk to the relaxed Propriano beach took over 3 hours under a ruthless sun. But the clean, quiet beach and its breezy lane of ice cream and crepe shops was a refreshing delight. If I remember clearly we were also stalked by a happy dog all along the beach.

The taxi back from Propriano to Sartène was VERY expensive.

The Mafia runs Corsica remember...

Now on to Bonifacio...

Bonifacio is a blur. I honestly don't remember much of it except for the awe inspiring beauty. After all, Corsica is also known as l'Île de Beauté.

By the way all these photos were taken in May 2002. You'll have to excuse the poor quality! I have taken great pains to scan each film negative. What can I say, I belong to that truly unique generation who ditched analog for digital only to find themselves sadly contemplating a lifelong album collection of imperfect photos.

Actually I lied. I do remember something. The staircase of the King of Aragon ou bien les escaliers du Roi d'Aragon comme on le dit en français. What a historical delight that story is. Or legend.

According to the legend which delights tourists such as myself, these 187 steps were carved into the stone during a single night by the King of Aragon's troops. This was in 1420 during the siege of Bonifacio.

Unfortunately, there exists a more practical, cynical side to every legend. So common sense has it that these stairs were probably created over time by Fransiscan monks who needed to gain access to the potable water.

I liked the legend better...

Check out the near perfect 45 degree incline. I bet those Fransiscans were good at maths. Here we were in a boat on our way to the Sdragonato cave.

Aside from Corsica's rocky coastal beauty, you can also find treasures in the mountainous center of the island where hikers take to camping and exploring the center's many trails. While in Ajaccio, we took a train ride to Vizzavona and enjoyed an easy trail to the "Cascade des Anglais".

Cooler Vizzavona makes for a welcome respite from the assaults of the sun elsewhere. We had a picnic at the Cascade des Anglais and spent the afternoon trailing about before catching a late train back to Ajaccio. Expect train delays...


Anonymous said...

hey..pls can u add me on yahoo?i need some more info about corsica ...arixa10 .thanks a lot!!!

Laura said...

Hi Angellyne,
I don't use Yahoo but will gladly answer all your questions if I know the answers. :)
Let me know...