Thursday, March 10, 2011

Corsica, an island of enchantment

It was really cold in Denver this morning and the roads were icy. On days like this it is easy for the mind to drift to faraway, warm islands in the sun. I can’t think of a better place than Corsica. Corsica is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and only 100 miles south of the French Riviera. Balzac called Corsica a “French island basking in the Italian sun.” The island has been occupied by Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, and the Genoese of Italy for five centuries. Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica. Join me for a tour of this amazing and enchanting destination.

Corsica is a short flight from Paris or Nice. The scenery at first seems wild and untamed but a closer look leaves you spellbound. I want to dive from the rocks into the warm, azure sea.

It is fun to explore the many small medieval hill towns in your rental car. The mountains rise jagged and majestic.

On the northern tip of Corsica Calvi’s citadel rises boldly from the sea. The citadel is fun to explore and is home to a garrison of the French Foreign Legion.

We spent a week in Corsica in the middle of September. I was surprised how warm and sunny it was, and the water was warm for great swimming in the sea.

Exploring the citadel.

The L’Eglise Santa Maria, or “Pink Church” in Calvi.

We based out of the beautiful La Signoria, a Relais & Chateau property, outside of Calvi. The climate is semi tropical but the mountains can get snow in the winter.

Palm trees sway in the warm Mediterranean breezes.

The stylish hotel rooms are decorated in an exotic mix of bold colors. If you love color this is the place!

After dinner we met friends in the bar for a nightcap of sweet Corsican Muscat desert wine. The zinc topped back bar was purchased at the Marche aux Puces in Paris .

Marla loved this room with purple chairs.

We drove to the medieval hill town of Saint Antonino. The view of the coastline and the sea was incredible!

While exploring the town we came upon a cobblestoned alleyway. The turquoise ceramic pot and the wood window shutters were wonderful.

You feel like you can touch the sky from up here.

Time for lunch at the Café Casarella. The cuisine of Corsica is a great mix of French with touches of Italy. We enjoyed fresh fish, local cheeses, olives, and assorted grilled meats. Sanglier, or wild boar, is especially good, along with Pullenda, a variation of Italian pollenta.

Kathy and Philippe joined us from Paris. A good lunch and a bottle of local wine at Casarella were delightful. I could have stayed for hours, blissfully hypnotized by the symphony of cicadas and the mesmerizing view of the sea below.

Quaint churches of Saint Antonino.

Philippe shared one of his secret beach restaurants down a sandy path not far from Calvi. We swam in the warm sea and then sat under the trees for a lunch of wood grilled local fish.

Bonafacio sits at the southern tip of the island. The ancient buildings hang precariously on the cliff. Corsica was a huge surprise for us, and I hope to return soon. It is meant to be explored slowly to seek its beautiful visual riches. I hope you will put it on your “must see” list! How about a cycling tour of Corsica? I’m in!

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