Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Calvi and Area

Family holiday -- Andrew and his sisters Penny and Clare
Calvi was the last stop on our McKinlay family holiday and probably the place I've liked the best so far in our Corsica travels. First, it was warm! However, that was simply due to the weather improving and had nothing to do with place but it definitely made things more comfortable and more like what we had expected for temperature.

Our driving tour in the area was once again along extremely winding narrow roads, some with very sharp cliff drop offs, and usually with a great ocean view. Luckily there were a few viewpoints where we could stop and get a better look around.

The town itself is smaller (than Bastia or Ajaccio) and very walkable around the downtown and port area. Our hotel was just outside the downtown area, close to the train station (Penny and Clare continued their journey from here back to Bastia), close to the waterfront and to places to eat. In the other direction it was close to the supermarket where Andrew and I bought supplies for our upcoming hike.

We spent a day driving an artisans and wine route. Being fairly late in the season, a lot of the artisans were closed and we only found one winery. However, the little town of Pigna, known for music, was a pleasant surprise. And the woman at the winery was very informative.
The Citadel in Calvi, also referred to as the "Upper City" -- as opposed to the rest of the town, or "Lower City"
The harbour area from the Citadel
Vines on the Citadel wall

The vines taking over!
Andrew taking photos from the wall of the Citadel. This give some perspective of how wide they are.

Inside dome of one of the cathedrals.
Christopher Columbus outside the Citadel. Calvi claims to be the birthplace of Columbus but apparently there is some dispute about this.
Our beautiful Hotel L'Abbaye in Calvi

Clare at our lovely lunch spot, with a view out to the ocean, in the little village of Pigna.
A walkway in Pigna.

Pigna is known for being a musical village and this little store had both classy and humorous music boxes.

Look at those tonsils! Humorous . . . 
A change from the usual blue doors and window shutters, this church in a hillside village had an old worn red door.
A hazy fall day in Galeria.

Andrew and I are now looking forward to starting our hike on the Mare e Monti trail tomorrow! 

Ajaccio and Area

From Bonifacio, at the southern tip of Corsica, we headed northwest towards Ajaccio. Also a port city, it's the capital of Corsica and a much bigger centre. While we weren't thrilled with the city itself, the drive there and the surrounding area didn't disappoint.

It's interesting that each area of Corsica is always beautiful but somewhat different than the last.
Along the coastline on a cloudy day and looking into the sun. Photo was pretty much black and white to begin with but I completed it that way through processing. 
One of the nicest overlooks we stopped at was Roccapina. We noticed the rock that looks like a lion right away, not realizing there was a story behind it. "According to legend, once upon a time there was a powerful lord who was suffering from unrequited love. 'Your heart is made of stone, you'll turn into a stone lion!' Science provides a different explanation, evoking tafoni, rocks hollowed out by the element, then transformed by humans who used them as places in which to hide, to live and eventually to die." There are a couple short hiking trails and a museum (that was closed when we stopped) that would have been really interesting and explain more of various legends of the area.
"I am the lion's daughter. I know all of his secrets, all of his mysteries. Shall I reveal them to you?"
Cemetery and one of many hillside towns along the way.
So many churches and bell towers. Often more than one in each town. 

Back alleys and small walkways are often the most interesting and provide
a little bit of insight into what it might be like to live there.
The Ajaccio daily market had many cheese stalls. I really miss buying cheese at the Saskatoon Farmer's Market. 
Olives, dried tomatoes and other interesting items. 
Corsica is known for its nougat. This was very fresh!
Ajaccio port

Our main excursion while in Ajaccio was to visit A Cupulatta (which means turtle/tortoise in Corsican). The purpose of the facility is "to breed, study and protect turtles and tortoises from all over  the world. The park is home to 170 special and more than 3,000 animals." We really like turtles (used to have one as a pet) so it was really interesting.
Giant Galapagos tortoises
Why just sample the buffet when you can just chow down in the middle of it?!? 
Love the colourful stripes.
A hillside fortress from the 1700s when the Independence movement didn't want to be affiliated with France.
(Some things never change!)
Arriving back at the coast; almost at Calvi.

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.