Friday, 26 September 2014

Corsica - Bonifacio, Porto, Les Calanache

They grow kiwifruit in Corsica, at least that's what some tourism blurb told me. I didn't actually see any. Olive oil, cheese and sausages are the order of the day in this Italian-flavoured part of France. It seemed every day at almost every lunch or dinner we were served charcuterie. This is an antipasto plate of cold, raw, dried and smoked types of pork. I tried it but didn't really like it. The texture was stringy and, well, raw meat muscle-like and the spices didn't always hide the fatty flavour, so I resorted to bread and butter. That's the funny thing; normally in France bread is served alone, not accompanied by butter, yet here in Corsica knobs of butter were added to the antipasto to spread on bread.

JC likes to take guided tours as holidays. That means everything is comfortable and easy to manage. Normally. I hadn't counted on the rugged, winding, mountainous roads in Corsica.

All my life I have suffered travel sickness and boy did I suffer in Corsica, all week. Especially day two. I was so ill I couldn't look out the window and could barely walk when we stopped off at Porto, a picturesque town on a rocky bay. We had 30 minutes to wander and recuperate.  The sea air revived me a little and I bolted down a chocolate ice-cream to line my tum.

A man in our group must have noticed my body language and asked how I was feeling. He said he is always travel sick and takes pills constantly for it. He and his wife kindly gave me some to tide me over till I could find a pharmacy. It helped slightly, for which I was grateful, but I was always exhausted by the physical effort and the French immersion, since I was the only non-French person on the trip.

Too ill to get out of the bus to photograph rocky outcrops, I sent JC off to take the photos for me. Les Calanques or Calanche de Piano are sea and wind-eroded granite rocks. They are impressive, more so with the naked eye than in photos. While JC was off doing that I contented myself watching the Corsican pigs; wild boar, wandering the road, having dust baths and looking very  at ease with tourist buses. Then it was on to what would be a sejour of two nights in Bonifacio, southern Corsica. So be warned. Bring medication to offset travel sickness if travelling  in Corsica as there are hills, and boats, everywhere.

Bonifacio is located directly on the Mediterranean Sea separated from Sardinia by the Strait of Bonifacio It is a city placed on the best and only major harbor of the southern coast of Corsica. It's an unusual and pretty place.

The town is on two levels. The top has a citadel which is quite ancient with fascinating covered walkways. Yes, the stone walls have steps and they are quite covered from the weather by stone 'tunnels'. The houses look extremely precarious and are best viewed from the sea. The ocean has eroded the limestone cliffs which are 250 feet high. One day, those houses will tumble into the sea.

We took a boat ride out into the Med to see what they looked like. The coastline is white and deep blue. We saw Bonifacio in summer but it must get bitterly cold in winter. back at the town we took a little train from our hotel at the top of the hill to a restaurant at the bottom. It was basic but the waiting staff were jolly.

I bought a Corsican vendetta knife as a practical souvenir. It was really useful for slicing up fresh mangoes in my hotel room. Fruit was  non-existant on the menu all week and I was desperate for some roughage since vegetables didn't appear often either, other than the ubiquitous salad with corn sprinkled over. It was all fish, fish, pork and fish. Creme brulee featured frequently as the dessert. Imagination was in short supply but that often happens with packaged trips.

There is only one tour operator for Corsica, that's Ollandini. The French folks on my bus made disparaging jokes about Hollandini (pronounced ollandini) for the French President. He certainly isn't liked and it happened that this particular week the president's ex-girlfriend published a show and tell book Merci pour le moment on their relationship. Well, he did deserve it - lying cheat. Two-timing with a young actress and having breakfast trysts on his scooter. Now THAT following relationship has gone the way of all of his previous. He just can't get anything right.


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