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FROM CALVI TO AJACCIO – WHY WE HEART CORSICA

Corsica sits off the coast of Nice and is well worth visiting.  Like the Scots, the Corsicans consider themselves Corsican before French and the tiny island has only been part of France for a little over 200 years.   Part of the Republic of Geneo, briefly independent and even more briefly British, the question of independence still comes up.   With a tiny population and a reliance on farming and tourism, economically it would be virtually impossible for the country to strike out on its own.  But in their hearts the Corsicans remain Corsican first.

Our trip to Corsican takes us from Calvi to Ajaccio.  The contrasts between the South of France and Corsica couldn’t be more stark.

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Calvi is a gem of a port, it is more like a fishing village, with a few big boats off the coast, than a working port town.  After spending a little time meandering through it’s streets we head off for a little village perched high up in the hills.  Pigna is about 45 minutes from Calvi by car and boasts spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Our BnB La Merendella is at the bottom of the village.  Beautifully decorated with stone walls and shutters it is very simple but perfect for one or two nights.  We wander off to find something to eat.  This proves something of a challenge as the little village doesn’t have many places to eat and we have arrived so late not much is open.  Luckily we stumble across a Palazzu Pigna.  It has only just opened they have pretty much stopped serving but they take pity on us and we enjoy a sumptuous feast.  Not cheap but worth every penny.  We like it so much we head back for breakfast the next morning.

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We have to tear ourselves away from Pigna.  We are heading for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Calanche de Piana.  We drive along the coast where the winding roads take us along the top of the red jagged cliffs, sometimes 900 metres above sea level.  This is not for the faint hearted.  My vertigo starts to get the better of me.  Good thing I am not the one driving.  The views are outstanding.  The red rock cliff face is razor like.  The cliff face must have been encased in ice and forced out of the sea a long time ago.

There are a number of little villages worth a look.  But we head to the the white sandy beach of Arone.  The beaches on this coast seem to belong to the tropics.  The sea is crystal clear, the sand is pure white and there are a few of those red rocks sprinkled along the coast adding a little extra decoration.  It is heaven.

Next stop is the Hotel les Rouches Rouges in Piana.  With its arresting views of the coastline and slightly faded old world charm.  The view of the bay of Porto is so beautiful it is difficult to tear yourself away to do anything else.  I spend a few hours on the terrace.

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All too soon, it is time to leave.  As we carry along the A81 we encounter some goats who have taken over the road. That’s the thing about this part of Corsica, it is so sleepy and under developed.  Goats have probably been grazing on these rocks for 100’s of years.  We head towards Ajaccio.  It is a lovely port town but somehow my three days on the Scandola coast have marked me.  The hustle and bustle of streets, shops and cafés seem too ordinary.  I’m not ready to return to civilisation.  I just want to head back to the terrace at the Hotel les Rouches Rouges or the beach cafe at Arone.  But we have booked our passage home on the ferry so we head back to Nice. A little subdued and already pining to go back.

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