Crucifixes & Careening Curvey Corsica


Advertisement
France's flag
Europe » France » Corsica » Calvi
April 24th 2022
Published: April 23rd 2022
Edit Blog Post

And so another adventure begins….this one will take us many places in the Mediterranean, but first, to Paris for two nights. You’ve got to start somewhere, so why not Paris? Two nights in Paris is never enough but two weeks or two months may not be either. France required a “health pass” when we planned this travel experience, so the thinking was it would be simple enough to get this done in Paris and why not stay for another night before heading on? Fortunately, before we arrived things improved, and the requirement was dropped. So, instead of running around doing paperwork we were able to just run around. We were pleasantly surprised by 70 degree sunny days as the weathermen had promised us cloudy, rainy and low 60 degree temperatures. We checked out some familiar sites like Notre Dame, the Pantheon, walked along the Seine and spent a fair amount of time at the Jardin of Luxemburg, enjoying the gardens, the good weather and people watching.

From there, onward to Corsica, nicknamed the “island of beauty.” It appears to offer it all…. seaside towns, vast forests and snowed capped mountains. We read that it is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean. Corsica is the homeland of Napoleon. Long ago Corisca was owned by Italy but the mid 1700s, Genoa officially ceded it to Louis XV of France as part of a pledge for the debts it had incurred by enlisting France’s military help in suppressing the Corsican revolt. The French government then made it official by annexing the island.

On arrival to Ajaccio, the plan was to visit the National Museum and Bonaparte Residence in town before driving on. Ajaccio was packed for the holidays and our two-mile drive through town was moving at a snail’s pace. We were unable to find any parking, so we jettisoned this idea and pressed on.

The winding mountainous roads of Corsica are legendary. If you ever wanted to check your driving skills this would be the place. Fortunately, Dave is a very good driver! Check out some of the warning signs we photographed …. They do not exaggerate! Seriously curvey roads which can become quite narrow around curves. We chose our rental car wisely as the little Peugot was perfect for this adventure. Renting a car is one of the few ways to get around this island as we don’t think buses could navigate the narrow mountain roads.

As we neared Sartène, our home for the next few nights, we smiled as the town was perched on a hill. We could see the church and the surrounding buildings dotting the hillside. Sartène is a small town with a scenic square lined with restaurants, the main church and an overlook. Few people speak English, but they are friendly, and we seem to communicate effectively with a universal language.

Sartène is one of the towns that celebrates Holy Week with a community procession, and we wanted to observe the rituals. We are not religious, but are always keen to learn about the world’s religions celebrations, ceremonies and places of worship. We have respect for the beliefs of others. The Catenacciu de Sartène dates back to the 1300’s and a catenacciou (penitent) carries a cross with a chain around his leg throughout the town. It is the most famous of processions in Corisca. Sartene had processions on two nights winding through the village streets. We also spent part of one evening listening to the church choir.

We were told the procession on Thursday night would be small. We didn’t know what to expect so we gathered in the square outside the church about 20 minutes before it was to begin at 2130. Earlier in the day we had stopped in the tourist information center and were given a map that showed the path of the procession. It was an impressive two-mile circuitous route through several of the winding streets and past the small church on the other side of town and back. As they came out of the main church the children lead the way, followed by more senior members of the church. The lead of each group held a large cross and everyone else fell in line two by two. They circled from the back of the church, around the church, down the front steps into the streets. As they went down the hill about 400 or more citizens of town followed along. They were singing, actually it was more of a chant but it continued the entire time. We did not follow along. We decided to wait in the town square until they returned. We began speaking some broken French with a local woman and she was excited to explain to us what was going on and what would happen the following night. There was a great deal lost in translation until she got her husband involved in a conversation with Dave. Dave’s high school and college French paid off. We got the gist of things. From the overlook in the square we could see the procession continue to the other church. We watched for a lengthy time. As they were heading back we decided we had seen enough—actually the temperatures dropped and we were getting cold. Shortly after we arrived in our room we saw camera’s flashing outside our windows. We raced to the balcony to realize the procession was coming up our street. They were supposed to travel on the street one up from us. This allowed us a perfect vantage point to watch the end. We were on our balcony taking photos as everyone continued marching past. It was fascinating.

The following night we were stunned beyond words. When we got to the town square there must have been more than 4,000 people. Our first question was—where did they all park? This is a tiny mountain town. This was a local crowd with four generations of family gathered together to participate. Young and old alike were involved and the excitement was in the air. The procession began very much like the previous night only on Friday a man dressed in a red hooded gown carried a 60-pound cross. They also had the body of Christ chained and laying on a canopied bed carried by four men in black hooded gowns. They came out of the church and down the stairs in a similar fashion. The path was a bit different on the second night but as they wandered through town, they stopped three times to perform rituals, chant and pray. It was a sight to see. As it neared the end, we had positioned ourselves along the side wall of the church and were able to video the procession as they came up the stairs. The priest spoke to all in attendance. We could sense this was something the local families did together each year. You could feel the comradery and sense their faith.

While we were staying in Sartène we also did a short day trip to explore the seaside village of Prioprano. It is a scenic seaside village that we suspect is livelier in the summer when watersports abound. Temperatures now are not quite warm enough for the seaside. From Sartene we took the southern route near Porto Vecchio and long the eastern coast to our next destination which allowed us to experience numerous scenic overlooks.

Our destination for the next two nights was the mountain town of Corté, which besides being an outdoor sporting center in Corsica, is also home to many universities. It is odd seeing snowcapped mountains in April on a Mediterranean island, but there they were. On the drive to Corté we discussed our surprised of how green it is in Corsica. The island is heavily forested in a few Corsican pines, many birch, beech, oak and chestnut trees.

The town is chalk-full of restaurants and the opportunity to engage in whatever outdoor mountain sport you desire. Corté is pitched high on a hill and the first thing you see on approach to the town is the citadel. We visited the citadel, which dates from the 1600’s and the natural museum. We enjoyed our time walking the streets and checking out the pastry shops.

The drive from Corte to our next stop in Cargèse is one of those white-knuckle events where you hope everyone stays in their narrow lane. One of the problems with this curvey route is the rock walls along the road sometimes hang over the road you are supposed to drive on which means from time to time you may need to cross center line. It is not an easy feeling at all. When the rocks are not on both sides of the road there is often a shear drop off that we don’t want to experience.

Oh… and another hint if you decide to drive in Corsica. Drive slow around those corners as on occasion you’ll come around a mountain corner to find a cow standing in the road or a few pigs sleeping on the side of the road. There are plenty of falling rock signs and they do fall as we saw several in the road. … fortunately the only ones we ran into were small ones. If you asked Dave, he would say he wished MJ would refrain from gasping as he drove around the tight corners. MJ would let you know that her gasps are involuntary and she leans left so we don’t hit the rock walls!

Along our drive we passed many adventurers heading up the mountain for kayaking. We suspect there might be portage involved as the rivers didn’t seem to be that deep, which is strange given that it is spring and you would expect a snow melt run off from the peaks. We passed many hikers, motorcycles, bicycles and camper vans…. Indeed this is an outdoor paradise.

We only spent one night in Cargèse but had a lovely time in this seaside village. We had a lovely meal at our hotel restaurant which was on the water. Our room had a balcony and a water view which afford us a great sunset.

From Cargese, we stopped in the village of Piana to wander. We had read it was extremely scenic. It is a darling town and worth a quick visit. We can see the appeal of spending one night in town if you are in the area. This area and the town of Ota were packed with hikers. There are many trails nearby.

We paused at several scenic viewpoints on our drive to Calvi. It is always special to see the sea hug the mountains. Calvi is a lovely seaside town with large marina, beaches and a citadel. The old town has quaint shops and on our last day we saw a cruise ship pull in the bay. The treat for us was driving high above the city where we had a scenic picnic overlooking hiking trails and a sailboat in the bay. From there we drove further to the top of the hill where the church Notre Dame with a stature of the Virgin Mary. This is the most scenic view of Calvi. We sat for quite some time taking in the beauty. Corsica is lovely. We spent our time exploring the shops and sitting along the seaside mapping out our future and a few more travel plans.

Corsica is interesting in that it feels like it can’t decide if it want to be French or Italian. The island is sandwiched between both countries. Most restaurants served Corsian or Italian food. Our favorite meal on this trip was at La Boheme is Calvi. We feasted on duck and scallop linguine. We had a wonderful conversation with our waiter about Corsica. He is from Lyon France and explained to us that Coriscan’s are very proud and would like to be more independent of France. This tiny
Roast duck.....yumRoast duck.....yumRoast duck.....yum

Fine Corsican cooking
nation of 350,000 people doesn’t have much to give back to France from the French perspective. They view themselves as Corsican, not French. They don’t always like the French people but that is true of the Italians also.

On the drive from Calvi to Bastia we hugged the coast and were pleasantly surprised to find some rather straight roads. We've decided there may be seven or eight miles of straight road in the country. In one town we saw a sign for a train station and as we drove, we saw train tracks in a couple of locations but no trains.

We head for Bastia to enjoy our last precious days in Corsica. Bastia is a grungy port town and didn’t provide a good first impression but it won us over in our time there. The people are very friendly and enjoy attempting to speak English. One of our last full days we drove the Cap Corse area which is a peninsula in the north. If you check out a map it is easy to see as it sticks out above Bastia. The spring rain or in our case drizzle and fog caught up with us and what
Scenic CalviScenic CalviScenic Calvi

View point above the city where we had a picnic.
is normally an amazingly scenic drive with turquoise waters ended up be dank and foggy. None the less we enjoyed our mysterious drive and appreciated a different kind of beauty. We stopped in the small towns and admired each location. Around one corner of a very narrow road we turned to find a road full of goats. As it turns out this supposedly two lane road is about 6 goats wide. We laughed and took a few photos.

We'd read about a pretty white windmill. Once we realized we had missed it we turned around to go in search of it. After finding it we realized it was shrouded in the thick white fog and was not easy to see. We'd been told to stop in Nonza to check out the black sand beaches. The black sand beaches were topped with dark colored rocks which made a marvelous sound as the waves washed over the sand and rock. This was the only time we really missed the sun as we suspect the black sand against the turquoise waters is amazing. Nonza is a cute town we where stop for coffee and a snack.Our final leg of this adventure took us driving through Corsican wine country.

Our last day we woke up to sunny skies so we drove back to Nonza for a few photos of the black sand and rock beaches in the sunshine. It looked so much nicer.

We will miss our fresh croissants each morning as the French and the Corsicans know how to pastry!

In summary, after driving and riding around Corsica to enjoy the amazing scenery – we are looking forward to our next drive across Kansas! (For our non-U.S. friends, this is a state where the roads are flat and straight and it takes nine hours to cross.)

We know this is a long blog but you may want to take time to look at all the pages of photos.

Places we stayed:

Paris: Hotel Saint Christophe

Sartene – Airbnb in the center of town

Corte – Hotel duc de Padoe

Cargese – Hotel le St. Jean. (our favorite)

Calvi – Hotel Mariana

Bastia – Sud Hotel

Restaurants recommended:

Sartene – Le Sartene

Corte – A Casuccia

Calvi – La Boheme. (our favorite)


Additional photos below
Photos: 74, Displayed: 32


Advertisement

Trouble ahead?Trouble ahead?
Trouble ahead?

This will get your attention and you'll think about safety.


23rd April 2022

Beautiful photos of France and I love your narration! ❤️🙂
23rd April 2022

Thank you Susan
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It is a lovely island and we are glad we visited.
23rd April 2022

Thank you Susan
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It is a lovely island and we are glad we visited.
23rd April 2022

Narrow Roads
Hello to you both - really enjoyed reading your blog but I think Corsica is not for me as my vertigo would just play havoc ..... Think I would like Kansas though with mega straight roads - that sound more 'my cup of coffee' and will follow your journey with interest. Happy Travels
23rd April 2022

Narrow Roads
I can hear Kansas calling your name. The drive between Corte and Cargese was the worst for me and I was only the passenger. They have these small one or two foot rock walls in places that are supposed to make you feel safer… and I guess they do until you get to the part where it is broken because someone went over the side. Lots of crosses along the roadways making where someone didn’t make it. I don’t like the deep ravines. MJ
23rd April 2022

Corsica looks great.
Another smashing trip from the look of it. The Easter celebrations in the Catholic European countries are superb. I live the community aspect of them. Everybody joins in. We saw it in Cordoba Spain and it was unforgettable. It was much a social as a religious event perhaps. I've been to Sardinia, the topography sounds similar. My wife's day at the beach was spoiled on one occasion as she was dreading the car journey back so much, those roads are narrow and twisty.
23rd April 2022

Corsica looks great
We are going to Sardinia in a few weeks and were hoping the roads would be straighter. Oh well. Corsica is lovely and offer lots of hiking, biking and water sports. The people are so friendly and proud. We thoroughly enjoyed the Easter celebrations. As you say, as much social as religious. It was very community oriented and well worth seeing.
24th April 2022

Roads...
your description of driving the mountainous roads of Corsica reminded me of similar roads on the Amalfi Coast! My maniac driver son drove aggressively and I reacted like MJ. I did not enjoy the drive at all, unlike you.
24th April 2022

Roads…
We’ve been on worse roads in Tajikistan but these were worrisome at times. Dave is an excellent driver. Very scenic but I’m looking forward to that drive across Kansas. Smile.
24th April 2022

J'aime la Corse!
So great to see you too enjoying Corsica!
24th April 2022

J’aime la Corse!
We had a marvelous time in this lovely island nation. Beauty abounds.
24th April 2022

Beautiful Island!
Wow! I didn't know Corsica was so beautiful, and varied too! You have some amazing photos here, and the processions in Sartene must have been really unique experiences. Well done Dave on the amazing driving, and the involuntary gasping and leaning left to avoid the rock walls was very amusing - lol! Sounds like you really explored the island, and had an amazing time too! 😊
24th April 2022

Beautiful Island
We had an idea of what we would find in Corsica but it exceeded expectations. It was nice being in a place with so few tourists and…. No Americans for our two weeks there. It gave us a special feeling being the only ones. Sartene was a great experience. I am certain our lives were spared with all my expert leaning to the left!….. although Dave is an excellent driver! MJ
24th April 2022
Notre Dame above Calvi

Notre Dame above Calvi
Beautiful view, scary road ha ha!
24th April 2022
Notre Dame above Calvi

Norte Dame above Calvi
I guess they know you will want to pray before going down the hill. Ha ha.
25th April 2022

breath taking views- beautiful!
working towards taking early retirement! looking at your pics- I can't wait!
25th April 2022

Breath taking views- beautiful!
I love every minute of retirement and wish I'd done it sooner. Thanks for checking out our blog and sending a comment. You'll have to send me the home email.
26th April 2022

Ah Corsica
Sounds like you did a very comprehensive tour! We only managed to get to Calvi and then up the coast to Ile Rouse, but based on what you’ve written we need go back and see some more! We absolutely loved our time there. Very unspoilt.
26th April 2022

Ah Corsica
We felt we saw Corsica. Each town and village has a personality. We loved the small town feel and no tourists. It was a unique experience.
26th April 2022

Corsica
Corsica looks like a great place to visit. What an interesting and scenic island, and the pastries and pasta looked delicious. Those roads sounded a bit scary though!
26th April 2022

Corsica
For us Corsica turned out to be about the journey… and the drive was part of that. Go slow and you’ll be fine.
1st May 2022

Holy Cow!
Merry please tell me you gasped 'holy cow' at least once as Dave two-wheeled it around a mountain road?!?! :D Sounds like a fabulous place and we'd love to visit...I was sold even before you wrote "Corsicans know how to pastry!", so now I'm absolutely sold :)
1st May 2022

Holy Cow!
I think you would enjoy it….non stop pastry! I’ve decided the journey of Corsica is experiencing the drive. It is something.
5th May 2022

Corsica
Such a beautiful island. I can see why it is named the 'Island of Beauty'. I never knew Corsica once belonged to Italy and so has an Italian vibe to it as well as French.
5th May 2022

Corsica
It is a surprisingly lovely island. I had always been drawn to it and I'm glad we finally visited. MJ
7th May 2022

A Grand Tour
Yes folks , I feel like I’ve had a “ grand tour “ with you around Corsica. Sorry we missed each other in Paris by a few days. Those Easter religious events are quite something , I saw one in a village in Spain with the whole community involved in their traditions. And Dave is holding his nerve on the mountainous roads ...well done .
7th May 2022

Grand tour
It means a lot to us that you are reading along. Dave really is an excellent driver and has done well. As you said the entire town participated in the event. It was interesting.

Tot: 0.09s; Tpl: 0.028s; cc: 15; qc: 47; dbt: 0.0139s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb