Corsica: road tripping & traveling with a child
Recently I spent a week on the island of Corsica which is a part of France to have a social media detox amongst other things. The other thing was to spend my first holiday with my daughter, Amélie. When me and the little one are together, we are known as #teamkiddo. Anyway, we actually went on a vacation to soak up the sun, sea and sand but also we had a car so we decided to take mini trips to some parts of the island. We were staying in a small area known as Poggio-Mezzana on the north-east coast, about thirty minutes drive south of Bastia. It’s in the middle of nowhere, the town of Santa-Lucia-di-Moriani being the closest with all the essentials like restaurants, bars, food, fuel etc (about five minutes away). Usually when we are on the road, from the moment we wake up we are usually busy with checking out the area, doing touristy stuff, going on tours, checking out the local cuisine because that is what we do best but on this trip, as it was a ‘proper’ vacation, we took our time, relaxed and chilled.
We had an ground-floor apartment at the Village Vacances La Vallicella which did the job for us. A couple of minutes walk from a restaurant on the beach as well as a swimming pool, park and beach (of course, this was essential). Staff here were fantastic and was so glad that there was a local baker who came around in her van selling us fresh baguettes and cakes at breakfast time. The accommodation had a two room apartment with a kitchen, bathroom and an outdoor terrace. We came in September just after high-season so the cost was a bit lower for us but it did the job and were very happy to stay here.
Now for the sights, what did we do. Ok, so we were glad to rent a car when we arrived at Bastia airport as our accommodation is in the middle of nowhere and we have to admit, the lack of public transport was crazy. We think we saw about three public buses in the week we were here. There are railway lines but as we looked at the timetables, there were only about four-five trains a day. So if anyone wants to get around the island, hire a car. I know but it sucks.
However with a car, you are your own person. We were (well, I was, not sure if Amélie was) very surprised about the landscape of the island when we arrived (as we done no research whatsoever!) where the coastal landscapes are mouth-watering but driving inland through the mountains reminded us of the Swiss Alps. We must have stopped numerous times to capture the perfect landscape scenes with our cameras or just to stop, look out, and reflect. There are hardly any cars in the middle of the island (or people, or villages or gas stations!) so when stopping or going for a hike away from the roadside, you will have the place to yourself. Simply perfect.
The following places is where we went to. However we wished we spent more time in the places but as they were short day trips. As we are writing this, we are hoping to come back to this beautiful island soon and you will see why. We didn’t even check out the main city, Ajaccio or see any of Napoleon’s historic sites (or birthplace as that crazy small Frenchman who went on a rampage across Euroland comes from here! – quick fact, Corsica was part of the Genoa Empire or whatever how you would like to rephrase that, but Genoa wasn’t part of Italy at this point. Anyway, Genoa gave Corsica to France the year before Napoleon was born, so if this happened a year later, Napoleon would have been Genoan or Italian etc. Would he have gone on a crazy rampage if he wasn’t French?).
The old capital of Corsica lies in the Haute-Corse region of the island and was about an hour’s drive from our village. The drive here is stunning and I think it could have taken us two hours to get there with all the stops.
What we loved about Corte is that the small city with a citadel on top of the hill makes this the ideal location to stay whilst doing hiking through the nearby valleys and mountains. Corte lies in a national park so this makes the town the ideal location for nature people and the odd-cyclist (those hills, be very wary of some of the uphill climbs).
When approaching Corte (we came in from the east) we noticed the citadel had a dramatic setting because of the surrounding mountains and with the odd low cloud or two in the autumn sunshine. It caught our eyes and it’s easy to do so but remember when one is in a car, one needs it’s full attention on the road. Parking is a little bit hard to come by but there is an underground multi-storey car park just off the high street we used and its dirt cheap. Walking around the town there isn’t much to do apart from eat at a restaurant or shop so we walked up to the citadel which is steep in places but only takes about ten-fifteen minutes (there is a road train however but the walk did us good and a good money saver).
At the top there is the tourist office and a museum dedicated to the island but for us, we carried on walking. We walked up a long slope before walking up a staircase which goes pass a lovely looking restaurant (which we want to check out next time as we are planning to come back here, reason we didn’t stop, we had food in the high street and it wasn’t that great), and then we reached the viewing platform. Oh my god! Sorry, can we say that here, the views from here are outstanding. Not just because of the citadel’s location but the surrounding mountains, the valleys, overlooking the town, we stayed here for quite a while enjoying some of the best views of the island.
An hour’s drive from our resort we checked out the small town of Aléria which is known for its roman ruins. However when we came, we went for the beach and a nice meal by the sea as the sun went down behind us.
Just south of the town is the fort (or castle depends how you see it) at the top of the hill where the building is in good shape but the views from here also, outstanding. Also there is good ice cream being sold here (a little tip).
One day we did actually do a full day trip and did the two hour drive right to the southern tip of the island. We were in for a trip and fell in love with the place straight away. The drive along the coastline was stunning but as soon as we drove into the town, we saw the castle overlooking the harbour, a beautiful seafront with stunning facades and many yachts moored up. We arrived in good time as we got a car parking space about ten minutes walk from the harbour as it was before lunchtime but during the afternoon, more cars were arriving and departing in despair as there was no spaces.
We did a boat trip first which headed out of the harbour and along the coastline where we saw small beaches, the coastline of the Italian island of Sardinia to the south but what was interesting was the fact the boat was going into inlets in the coastline. There were huge caves with crystal blue water inside which is the highlight of the tour.
Back on land we took a road trip up the hill to check out the views from the castle which is a must before heading back down. We didn’t get the chance to go inside the castle but as we fell in love with the place, we are planning to come back. We noticed there are a few hotels up here as well which we are thinking that they need checking out.
The train ride from L’Île-Rousse to Calvi
After the stunning drive through the mountains and along the northern coastline, we landed up in L’Île-Rousse. The main reason we choose to come here is that there is a train line which goes along the northern coastline to Calvi, about 24km and a forty minute journey each way. We parked next to the station and bought our tickets (about €13 each) however we turned up five minutes before the train departed and it was very crowded. The train only has two carriages and only one of them has around twenty seats. This service is not designed for a lot of tourists who want to see the stunning coastline which has beautiful beaches, crystal blue waters along the way. This service is for those who are staying at resorts along the way who want to get into either town (or for the local commuters to get to work). The carriages inside are hot and stuffy with no air conditioning. However, the views on the way, amazing. Once in Calvi we only had time for lunch and a quick walk around, so you guessed it, we will be coming back here. This part of the island looks truly amazing.
As you can see guys, we really did do a proper vacation. We relaxed and only did some sights as we went along. Sometimes we need trips like these but we were testing out the water here as we had no clue about what to do on the island. The only reason we choose this as a beach vacation at the time of booking was the amazing airfares which were advertised with Air Corsica, an airline which is well runned and we had no problems with them each way. Now we know what to expect from the island, some of the places we want to come back to, we know as soon as we get the chance, we will be back here. Corsica maybe a well traveled destination by European Mainlanders like the Dutch and Germans but for us Brits, its an upcoming destination.