A Corsican Break (from 2015-09-05 to 2015-09-13)

Creative Commons License
A Corsican Break, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I was drawn to a short break under a warm sky, and Corsica delivered well. I flew from Stansted airport, and I wondered how easy the journey would be from home, but in fact the trains were convenient and between London Liverpool Street station and the airport the service is frequent. Because the flight was to leave fairly early in the morning, I got there the Saturday evening to stay overnight.

The following morning I noticed a few other members of holiday groups clearly heading to the same place as I was. I had never heard of Titan airlines before, but they were very efficient getting us to Corsica a few minute ahead of schedule at the airport at Calvi in the north-west of the island.

France now owns Corsica, but that was not always so. Looking at a amp you will see taht Corsica dominates the seaways leading to the harbour at Genoa, and in fact for a large part of the last thousand years the Genoese kept control of Calvi, and Bastia in the north-east, to secure the trade to and from its important harbour.

The area around Calvi, called La Balagna or the garden of Corsica, is greatly valued, because it is only there the ground is rich enough to be suitable for cultivation. The rest is too mountainous consisting of hard granite; only the north-eastern so-called Finger of Corsica is not granite, but limestone, however, it much too dry and is know as a desrt, La Desert des Agriates. The advantage of the geography lies in the fact that the central mountain ranges catch almost all the rain, and leave the coast dry and sunny, excellent for tourism.

There was enough time the first day to look at some of the little town, for example, the water-carrier and other public sculptures, and the narrow lanes.

I was up early Monday morning to buy some bread, sausage and tomatoes for lunch, before the group caught the bus to Algojola a village on the north coast, where we disembarked and set off on foot to Pigna from where we had out first good  view towards the sea. Pigna got some help from the government to renew life there, by means of gift of a repaired house to artists conditional on them living and working in the village. Many accepted such an offer, which, I think, has made the place too touristy with commercial stalls everywhere. However I must agree that the local authorities are looking after the buildings well. Among other things an old cattle market has been converted into a small theatre where the audience sits on  steps in the open air. Each step in the picture is big enough to sit comfortably. At the side behind the wall are steps to climb to ones seat with two steps to each visible "step".

After we had climbed further we saw for the first time a typical tower – supposedly a bell tower, but I heard no bells from them –  in a village clinging to the steep hillside, and reminiscent of artworks by the Dutch artist Maurits Escher. Soon we dropped down to L'Île Rousse (The Red Island), a small harbour with a lighthouse, to which some of us walked, before meeting the bus to go back to Calvi.

The next morning we again took a bus ride, this time to Bonifatu, from where we walked at first steeply up to the well-known long distance path GR20, which we then followed back to its starting point at Calenzana. On the way we found several examples of strange shaped rocks chiselled by sand blown in the wind. The views were good, and from the lunch spot we could see Calvi from still another direction. It felt like a long way to Calenzana, which used to be the centre of organised crime. It ruled over a wide area which gave the criminals influence and power.

On Wednesday we did something else, climb on the difficult paths into the scrubland in the valley of the river Fangu. That day we left behind the coast with its olive trees and goats for the serenity of low trees and uninhabited valleys. It was the hottest day up to then, but fortunately during our steep ascent we were walking under the branches of trees away from the bright sun.  Starting near a bridge across the Fangu we passed several different trees, eg. this sweet chestnut tree, until we emerged to see in the distance a ridge. If you look carefully at the horizon in the picture to the left of the large V in the edge, you will perhaps find a tiny white spot. Our local guide told us that it was not snow, but a hole through the ridge, About 50 metres tall. He recounted an improbable tale about the time the devil got angry and knocked the hole out.

As we were returning by the river, just after passing a campsite, we noticed some vertical columns of stones. The animal was a very well behaved one year old dog, which the guide was training to help on his land. It went everywhere always exploring everything in sight.

Nothing was planned for Thursday, so I spent the time discovering as much as possible about Calvi by examining the structure of the place. In front of the Citadel is Place de Christoph Colomb. The Calvians are proud of their son Columbus, but Calvi is only one of a number of places which claim he was born there. Certainly he set sail from Genoa, and the Genoese occupied Calvi, but I think that is insufficient reason to take him as their own. However in the square stands a somewhat good monument to him, including a ship's cat when I was there. Of course has is looking westward.

The sole entrance to the Citadel is a narrow gate. Higher up one can look over the town and marina, and if you get close to the sea, you will notice that probably there is more wealth on water than on land. Even here, the Corsican rocks and caves have not been destroyed. Inside the citadel besides a small fort, there are houses and gardens everywhere owned by the locals, and also a cathedral.

In the town among the many cafes one of them had unusual pieces of art.

Friday we wandered among the villages of the area, passed the hilltop town of San Antonio, looked down on Aregno and went into the pleasant Cateri or Gatteri or Cattari (depending on which book or map you refer to). The church was bright and ornate. In the hills the signposts were written in the Corse language, but French and Italian are very similar, so there was no confusion.

Further on we came to a small chapel, and in the floor was a cover, perhaps over a tomb. No one knew what had happened nor what it meant, so we speculated about illness in the district, but a quick piece of research after my return turned up nothing.

After lunch our next stop was at the ruined village of Occi from where we had good views towards the sea. Also there information about the village was found on a plaque, On which was seen that the Corse language and French did not say the same thing. Then we moved on to Lumio, with the usual bell tower. Lumio is recognised as the place where celebrities have their holiday homes.

That evening the sunset threw a red light across the bay, and we saw why The red Island was so called from the rocks in northern Corsica under the right light.

On Saturday we set off directly from the hotel to climb to the chapel Notre Dame de la Serra from where the whole bay is visible with its 5 kilometres of soft sand. Afterwards we made our way along the adjacent peninsula, passing more amusing rock formations to the lighthouse at Revellata.

After a sunny week, the next day we came back to Britain.

Andy Pepperdine


Creative Commons License
A Corsican Break, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.