Thursday, 20 October 2016


The walled "old town" of Bonifacio.
From Bastia and Cap Corse, we headed down the east coast of Corsica on the outer edge of the Biguglia (lagoon) and stopped at the nature preserve. It was a cloudy day and rained most of the way.

Penny, Clare and Andrew watching the ducks.
After checking into our hotel a short distance from Bonifacio, we headed into the town. Our first views of the harbour and the huge walls of the city had us all gasping. Lots of "wow" factor that the photos don't do justice to. 

The town is built on a high rocky peninsula. Hopefully erosion isn't too quick because many of the buildings look like they're about to fall in the water. There's a lot of history to this small but dramatic piece of land, dating back to prehistoric times 6350 years BC. It's changed hands and been fought over many times! Rome, Pisa, Genoa, Aragon, Spain and France are some of the main warriors, with France being the proud owner since 1768. The many ways the city was defended (or not) is very interesting. 

We first took an hour long boat ride around the coastline (very rough waters due to wind!) and then headed up to the city in the afternoon. There's lots of shops, restaurants, a couple churches, old abandoned barracks and much more. It's also home to about 2800 people. Several open doors showed the steep narrow stairwells leading up to apartments. Definitely close and small quarters!
The buildings look like they'll fall off the cliffs at any moment.
The King of Aragon's Stairway gives access to a natural grotto.
In days gone by, the locals used it to access fresh rainwater.
187 steps, 65m high
Almost like a ladder.
Along the bottom of the cliffs via the stairway.
Narrow residential streets inside the old city. Home to about 2800 people.
This seagull was a serious poser! He waited patiently while everyone took his photo. 
View down to the harbour from the top of the walled city.
The ramp and draw bridge leading into the city.
I liked the old shutters, the balcony railing and the plants.
The iron on the corner of the building opposite added an interesting feature. 
Another view of the city walls leading up to the drawbridge.

On the following day we went for a drive to see some more of the coastal area; checked out some of the beaches and found our way around to a plateau where we could see across to the walled city. Again, the photo does not do it justice. 

Clare, Penny and Andrew at one of the local beaches.
Penny looking like she has a definite place to go!
Andrew checking for sea life.
Clare enjoying the view.
The strong winds were perfect for wind surfing and kite surfing. We saw lots of both.
And I was happy to find an off-road trail for a morning run.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Around Cap Corse

The church bells were our alarm clock the first three mornings in Corsica, ringing at exactly 7 am each day. It was still a bit dark out at that time so we got up and caught the beautiful colours of the sunrise.
Sunrise on the buildings near our hotel.
Silhouette of a photographer with tripod also getting some sunrise photos.
There are many Genoese towers located around the island, some in better repair than others. They were built by the Republic of Genoa between 1530 - 1620 as coastal defences against attacks from the Barbary pirates. (Source: Wikipedia) This one was near our hotel in Erbalunga.
In addition to watching sunrises, I went running in the mornings but it was challenging to get any distance in safely. Our hotel was right beside a main road (all of which are narrow!). The sidewalks don't go far in either direction and are used for other purposes. 
Sidewalk or car park?
I got onto some side streets but they just went up the hill, around some apartment buildings, and back down again. However, I did manage to find a very short (~1/2 km) loop trail with exercise stations so I took advantage of those. Not the greatest workout but better than nothing!

The first day, we drove around Cap Corse, the peninsula on the north end of the island. The roads were very narrow (i.e. one lane/one direction in spots), very winding, and often had very sharp drop offs. I'm the designated driver on this trip. After a couple days I'm much more comfortable with it.

There are several areas of Corsica that are known for their wine so of course we stopped at one of or two of them each day. They ranged from friendly family-owned vineyards to very large commercial operations. We liked the family owned ones with colourful characters/owners. 

The rock really is as green as it looks! 
An interesting mix of the old and the new! Genoese towers and wind turbines. 
Mountains on the mainland in the distance.
You can see the coastal road on the opposite bank. Doesn't look as dramatic as when driving it!
We didn't have time to stop at all the places we wanted so the next day we headed back to St. Florent. Each time we came across the bottom of the Cap we took a different driving route. Again, with various types of widths of roads. The day was cloudy so not great distant views over the water but we  enjoyed the various villages and sites along the way.
Looking down on the Bastia port.

Paraglider (barely visible) soaring over the ridge and landing on a small strip of beach.
Humorous door knocker.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

McKinlay Family Vacation Begins!

Waterfront in Nice, France
For the next phase of our Europe trip, Andrew and I flew from Vienna to Nice to meet up with Andrew's sisters, Penny and Clare. We had a day there before taking the ferry over to the French island of Corsica.

Unfortunately, it rained most of the time so we didn't a chance to do much. After getting rather wet just going out for breakfast, we sat in the hotel lobby for a while to wait out the absolute deluge that was pouring down outside.
The siblings -- waiting for the rain to at least slow down a bit.
We eventually headed out despite the heavy rain and by mid-afternoon the sun came out and we walked a linear park with some very cool wooden playground equipment that my 5-year old great nephew would have loved! It was all made out of wood and was in the shapes of various sea creatures. This whale was especially impressive.
Whale playground structure with slide at the front, a climbing wall on the side . . . 
. . . and various things inside to crawl and climb on. Lots of fun to be had!
We stopped in a shopping mall to dry off during the morning and figured this advertisement banner that encouraged women to get breast exams for early detection of cancer was probably a bit more risqué than what we might see at home.
The police presence was quite high. A memorial for the people killed last July during the Bastille Day attack was scheduled but postponed to the following day due to the rain.
I was very impressive with the backing up skills of this ferry captain. A relatively small space for a very large boat!
View of the Nice coastline from the ferry. Corsica, here we come!

Friday, 14 October 2016


We started and finished the paragliding part of our trip in Salzburg, Austria. We arrived a day ahead of meeting the group and spent the first afternoon simply wandering in the area of the Salzach River that runs through the city. One of the most notable features was all the "love locks" on the pedestrian bridge.

The Hohensalzburg Castle is a significant landmark and, sitting high on a hill, can be seen from every direction.

These gardens were past their prime but still beautiful.

Part of a large bronze sculpture called "Caldera" and located in one of the parks near the river.
A display of photographs from Dieter Huber's book called "Waste." A very powerful message when you're standing on crushed plastic water bottles a foot deep. A sign on the door said "Enter at your own risk!" 
Clock/Church tower with Salzburg Castle in the background.
Gherkin statues. Supposedly the inspiration for the band name "Red Hot Chili Peppers."
Our hotel was just steps from this tunnel that led to the "old town" of Salzburg. Great location!
The next day we went to see the Castle. We unintentionally took a "scenic" route (aka got lost)
and ended up on the opposite side of the Castle from where we started. 
Lovely house at the base of the hill with Castle on top.

Large ceramic stove used as a furnace.
Various levels within the Castle.
View of Salzburg from the Castle.
We also had an overnight and half day in Salzburg when we got back but it was rainy and cold and I didn't take a single photo! We visited the Science Centre and aquarium which was very close to our hotel. Then it was back to Vienna and a flight to Nice, France, to meet up with Andrew's sisters. The next phase of our journey begins!