In honor of today’s start of the 100th Tour de France on the Mediterranean island of Corsica – I am reposting my last feature on this beautiful and favorite island of mine. Enjoy! – BTH
A trip most memorable was when our daughter was three months old, we were living in Italy and we took our first family vacation to the beautiful and natural island of Corsica.
We (and our car) hopped a traghetto from Savona, Italy to Bastia on the island of Corsica, France. (Today’s Tour de France stage begins in Bastia.)
Heart pajamas were a good choice that day, as they smoothed an unfortunate and unnecessary encounter with police at a routine traffic stop on our drive down, due to a mix up with our car maintenance papers. (Even armed Italian policemen won’t resist a cute baby.)
We loved Bastia, with its surprisingly urban city feeling on an otherwise natural island. There we got a great feel for the unique Corsican character which is sprinkled with a little Italian and a little French, due to a history involving both countries. Corsica was under Genovese rule until 1729 when the Corsicans revolted and enjoyed independence for a short 40-year period, later ceding to France in 1769 . They still have an uneasy relationship with mainland France and Bastia has been the target of bomb explosions by Corsican militants.
We drove down the Eastern coast of the island to Santa Giulia. There, at the recommendation of friends, we rented a villa at Les Toits de Santa Giulia and every morning went for a swim in the nearby bay. The beaches there and nearby were beautiful in September, and the sparkling water and red rock formations were breathtaking.
La plage de Palombaggia was the most unforgettable beach (and likely the coolest place I’ve nursed a baby.)
The nearest town, Porto Vecchio, offered a delicious bakery and creperie, just in time to remind us we were in France, as it’s easy to forget with so many reminders of Italy. Porto Vecchio has always been a “remember when?” moment, when we purchased a much too expensive International Herald Tribune to satiate my english language news craving, and driving off, watched each of its pages fly off the top of the car, where I had left it. (I blamed it on new mom mushy brain).
A highlight was the drive down to Bonifacio, at the southern most point of the island.
The reconstructed and renovated citadel was originally built in the 9th century along with the foundation of the city. Bonifacio is known for its chalk-white limestone, sculpted in unusual shapes by the ocean. Not a stroller-friendly town, baby was put in the carrier and we explored this town on foot. Standing on the cliffs, we could see Sardegna.
This year we won’t make it back to Corsica, but we are researching islands not far from it, closer to the Italian coast and in the Tuscan archipelago. Whatever the weather when we arrive, my first order of business will be to jump in and take a swim in my most favorite sea of all.