Fun-packed Vacation In Corsica
If you’re up for an international vacation experience minus the long lines at the airport, pick a remote tourist destination like Corsica. Me and five of my travel buddies are backpackers who blog all about our travels, the food we eat and the amazing things we discover along the way. We chose Corsica because we want to explore a non touristy attraction where we can be on our own and learn how to exist and survive living in a remote island. It was the summer of 2011 when we toured its untamed beaches, rugged mountains and scenic beauty for seven days. Honestly, Corsica was all that and more.
First we travelled from Chicago to Nice, France and from there we boarded a CCM Airlines to get to Ajaccio, the main city that lies along the Corse-du-Sud region in Corsica. Upon arriving we rented an eight- seater Nissan Urban at the airport to easily move around because we have been advised by friends who have been there that transportation is not easily accessible on this beautiful island. I was the designated driver and it was fun driving along its winding paved coastal roads. After an hour we reached the pier to catch our boat ride at the Nave Va Promenades en Mer. The boat (Capo d Ortu) offers a seven hour boat trip to tour the underlying islands along Corsica like Ajaccio, Porticio, Saggone, Cargese, and Porto. We drank beer at the bar while it sailed the rough seas. The skippers explain the history of the island as we passed on each one.
The first stop was at Scandola Bay, where the boat tried to get closer to its shores despite the big waves rocking our boat. We had luck spotting some whales, they were enormous! Along the way dolphins rush to the side of our boat and gave quite a show, sprays were all over the top deck. We stopped for lunch at the Girolata Bay and visited a small village on this remote island. The Piana Bay was awesome even from afar. The final stop was at Bonifacio Bay, where we stayed for three hours to tour the town on our own. Before we left the ship, the skipper and his crews were kind enough to give us valuable tips when we asked information about how to best enjoy the island of Corsica.
The second day was spent touring the Musee Fesch, an art gallery museum that features Italian and French painters during the Renaissance Era. The Bonaparte exhibition was the best in my opinion. After viewing paintings we visited the National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence (Muse de la Maison Bonaparte. We had a better understanding of Napoleon Bonaparte’s life and his family when we toured this museum. It is very informative and has clear audio walk thru narration of his birthplace in different languages. It has a complete memorabilia of the life and times of the famous hero from Ajaccio. After here we checked out the Bonaparte marble monument at the Place Foch. Just across from this statue is the Ajaccio Market, it is a market filled with all things fresh and wonderful. We had a great time taking advantage of the free taste offered by food shops and stalls. We bought fresh produce and preserved sweets sold on this open air market. We dined al fresco at one of the French restaurants lined outside the market. We also stocked up on its famous Corsican wine, fresh herbs, cheese, bread, and nougat. Before the day ended we had a quick two hour tour of the whole town of Ajaccio on board the Le Petit Train de Ajaccio. It is a good way to see the rest of this charming island.
The following day we travelled early morning to visit Calvi which lies along the Haute-Course region of Corsica. We started our early morning hike from the coastal road to reach this magnificent chapel on top of a hill, the Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Serra. The cold breeze and the great view overlooking the whole town of Calvi inspire us to keep going until we reach the top. We tread on its designated footpaths and endured the long hike for three hours. The view from the top was amazing! At the opposite side of this chapel we checked out the Calvi Citadel, this fortress was so inspiring and provides a panoramic view of the town. There was not much tourist and locals when we visited these attractions. Inside the citadel we found shops, little alleys, old dungeon, small cafes, and restaurants. It has a nice view of the huge cruise ships passing the bay and the mountain peaks as we enjoyed our late lunch. From the top I could see the harbor is beautifully lined with private yachts. After lunch we availed of the Colombo Line Boat Tour where we get to see the other islands from this region and visit its villages and other attractions. We had a brief stop over at an island but we choose to swim and enjoy the waters. We snorkeled and swam for more than two hours while the other tourists opted to visit the island and the village inside it. We even climbed one of its rock formations and took a dive from its cliff.
The next day we drove off to the other side of the island called the Porto-Vecchio. First we checked out the unexplored beach named the Palombaggia Beach. The beach was so secluded that no other people were on this island but just the six of us. We admire its pristine white sand and its inviting crystal clear blue waters. This was the best part of our tour of Corsica! I photographed the orange rocks and the lush pine trees protecting the sand dunes along the shore. The cold water and the peaceful beach scene make it an ideal getaway from our tired souls. We immediately pitched our tents for an overnight stay. We prepared food from the stuff we bought in the market, and light a bonfire while we had dinner.
The next day we drove along zigzag roads to get to the southern part of Corsica, in Bonifacio. We climbed the mountains of the Aiguilles de Bavella or more popularly known there as the Bavella Needles. It was a long and tiring trek but the view from its peak was all worth our efforts on hiking along its steep trail. We were rewarded with breathtaking views and the scenic Mediterranean Sea from the top. When I reached the top I realized this was the mountains that we see from our plane seat. What surprises me too was there is not much wildlife around this island. The trails on the forest were marked and there are stop over the huts and stores that sell food and drinks. On our way to the summit we stopped and prayed when we passed over a statue of Mama Mary. We also get to admire Corsica’s rich biological diversity as we photograph every flora and fauna that we see. I have seen few migratory birds along the shores, but none of the wild animals.
The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting the attractions at the Bonifacio Citadel. This huge structure has narrow streets but breathtaking views of the Corsican valley. Inside we visited its famous marine cemetery and a guided boat trip to its cave. We also found a little church on this walled fortress. Inside we walked on little sidewalks that go all the way up to the hill. Lots of medieval houses rest along its cliff as well as fancy restaurants with great outdoor setting. To end our tour we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of fresh seafood and dined with the great view of the Corsican skyline. It was a marvelous experience to be here and enjoying the food and the kind people of Corsica.
We were truly delighted having explored every corner of this city. Its pleasant walks, serene beaches, delightful food and charming people are the magic of Corsica. A definite must see place!
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