Musing with Max

Musing with Max

September 8, 2014

The Corsican Adventure

I remember a conversation from many years ago. We were visiting some friends at the guy's father's lake house when the tenant who lived in the first floor of the house came by to say hello; he had just returned from vacation, a jaunt through several European countries. I don't recall which ones he visited but what I have never forgotten is that when asked which place he liked the most a soft smile spread on his face and his eyes just started to gleam - "Corsica"! While starting to plan our vacation earlier this year we started out a bit clueless with not much in the way of ideas- --anything we brought up was met with a shrug of the shoulders and little or no enthusiasm. Then all of a sudden a flicker of memory came into my head, Corsica! soft smiles spread on our faces and our eyes lit up, Corsica it would be.

We already knew that Corsica was an island between France and Italy just north of Sardinia, 

that it had gone back and forth between the two countries for years and has been owned by France since the 1700's and that Napoleon was from there and they have their own language, Corsican, which is an old Tuscan dialect; it sounds like a bit of French and a bit of Italian. However, very few people actually speak it, most speak French, some also speak Italian. We also knew that it was basically a big granite rock in the Mediterranean with a very menacing interior and beautiful beaches- What we didn't know was how not much fun it is to get there. From where we live it is either Newark to Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, then from Paris Orly airport to Bastia, Corsica. The problem with that scenario is that every combination we saw gave you one and one half hours to get across Paris from one airport to another on a shuttle which you had to pay for yourself even though it was the same airline and recheck your baggage, in Paris traffic this seemed an impossibility and principle told me we should not each be paying 25 euro to get from one airport to the other when the airline was demanding it. So the other option went like this: Newark to Paris, Paris to Marseilles, Marseilles to Bastia and this is the way we went. We arrived in Bastia somewhere in the early afternoon and picked up our rental car, no GPS, they don't offer it. Thankfully we had our piles of printed Google Map directions so off we went on the N193, which we were relieved to find was a good and picturesque road on a busy Saturday afternoon with a bit of traffic.

All our research indicated the roads were bad, rugged through windy hair raising mountain turns, this was not that at all -----at least not for now. What was supposed to be a one and a half hour drive to our destination, the mountainside village of Feliceto, turned into a nerve wracking two and a half hours of white knuckle driving and stopping frequently to ask the locals who don't speak a word of English (and my French being high school crappy at best) for directions- We finally felt better when in the village of Costa we spoke to a shopkeeper of gourmeish looking stuff and he very decidedly said "12 kilometers"! 12 kilometers is 7 and a half miles, it took 40 minutes. Here is where we arrived:

Luckily we had had the foresight to email and ask for a dinner reservation for that evening at the bed and breakfast's restaurant which is next to the pool

underneath the grape vines that go over the pergola.

The adventure had begun! 

We went to bed exhausted in our utterly charming room with open windows letting in a cool soft mountain breeze and slept like logs. I woke up in the morning to what would become my daily alarm,

eight bells coming from the village church, my window view to the left, my window view to the right was a neighboring mountainside village

and the granite mountains of northern Corsica. After breakfast I took a walk around the gardens

and the village

in search of the famed Mediterranean maquis of Corsica,

which consists of a fragrance coming from the wild rosemary, lavender, myrtle, honeysuckle, cyclamen and pines that just permeate the air with a sweet soft aroma.

In Paul Theroux's "The Pillars of Hercules", his grand tour of the Mediterranean, he writes how Napoleon left Corsica as a young man (undoubtedly to conquer the world) and never returned. He was exiled and spent his last days in the Italian island of Elba but when the breeze flew East he could still smell Corsica, so can I.

1 comment:

  1. I've read about that maquis smell, but always thought maquis was a plant. That combination of plants is so glorious to read, I can only imagine how intoxicating it must be. Corsica is on my dream list, and it looks so charming and untouched. In my experience, the places that are hard to get to are worth it. Hope you had a great time.