Thursday, 25 November 2010

Walking in Corsica – Les Orii I Canni et Chera

Years ago, we stopped off at the Oriu I Canni years ago on the way back from lunch at the Cala Rossa beach at Porto Vecchio, and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but somehow just never found the time.

This Oriu is perhaps the most photogenic and it’s easy to see why local people used to believe it was haunted. It’s also much bigger than it looks on the photos, so when Florence climbed up onto the roof so that I could take a photo of her as a ‘Lutin volant' (flying pixie), my heart was in my mouth and I could barely look through the lens!

Fortunately, even when I managed to fall in a hole, we didn’t need to call the emergency services, which is a stroke of luck really as the chances of getting a mobile signal up here is about the same as Statler and Waldorf from the muppets being elected to government. Oh no, wait a minute…

The other amazing thing about this particular Oriu is the doggie guide. Yes, there is actually a dog who guides you up through the maquis to this amazing structure because from below, you’d never know it was there. Today he seemed more interested in a quick pat on the head before going back to his sunbathing, but luckily we knew roughly where we were going and the path was well marked with cairns.

The views are amazing, and once we’d amused ourselves with a spot of escalade and a photo shoot in front of the Oriu, we decided to carry on to Chera where we knew there was another one. The downside is that we had to refer to the unreliable walking book to find out where…

Amazingly, we managed to find this one with no trouble at all (mainly because you can see it from the road!). There wasn’t much walking involved here, and the Oriu itself is nowhere near as impressive as I Canni or Monaccia d’Auddè, but we did find a rather enthusiastic puppy along the way.

So after nearly knocking me over by laying on my feet for a belly rub, and then causing the onset of tennis elbow from all the stick throwing, she accompanied us back to the village to where we’d seen a plaque commemorating GHJUVAN 'ANDRIA CULIOLI.

Known as the Corsican Bard, Culioli was a storyteller, poet, and singer. Throughout history, the bard has been associated preserving the history of a culture, genealogy, poetry, praise, satire and blame in particular for those who generally govern society. Resident of Chera, he continued to improvise on local life, the small rural society that surrounds it, and politically remained a staunch supporter of the ROCCA SERRA family.

Chera really is a bit of a ‘bled’ (a dead and alive hole in the back of beyond), so it was no surprise to find that the signs were only in Corsican. Luckily, our basic Italian stood us in good stead and not only did we find out about Culioli, but we also knew that the sign for Ghiesia Sant'Austinu would lead us to a chapel.

The chapel itself was just a ruin, but it was a nice walk through the woodlands which wwere covered in a carpet of mushrooms and leaves of every shade from bright yellows to burnt reds. It’s a shame we were starting to loose the light, but what a fabulous day!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Plage Roc e Mar

After waking up to snow capped mountains opposite yesterday, it’s amazing that today the weather was absolutely glorious, and whilst not really hot enough to sunbathe, there was no wind at all, so it was lovely and warm sitting on the beach in the sunshine.

During my recent walks along the Grande Corniche, I’d spotted a little path leading down to the beach next to the hotel Roc e Mar. Ordinarily, this is private access for the residents of the hotel, but as it is now closed, I thought I’d explore a bit...

What I’d forgotten was that section of the coast is basically a cliff with sandy coves at the bottom, so not ideal with my gammy knee, but the views through the pines was stunning, and it wasn’t long before I’d settled myself on the sand below.

It’s amazing that from above, the water here looks green rather than blue, but down at sea level, the beach isn’t quite so impressive as some of the others in the area. That said, it was deserted and with hardly a ripple across the water, I could have quite happily stayed for a couple more hours. Sadly, work was calling...

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sunset over the Tour de Campomoro

I was so disappointed when we took the dog down to Capolorosa and I hadn’t thought to bring my camera, so when I came down the hill from the supermarket this evening and the sky looked like it was on fire, I knew that I had just enough time to get to the best spot.

There were lots of people on the beach; fishermen, those wishing to catch the beautiful sunset on film and those who were happy to just sit on the rocks and watch the sun slowly sink behind the rocks

The reflections over the river at the Estuary were just amazing, and I even managed to catch the silhouettes of three fishermen walking back along the sand with the days catch

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I needed a spot of exercise but it was so lovely that the beach was calling, so I decided to combine the two and take a little road trip to Campomoro.

The sand here is fabulous for walking because it’s very fine so it compacts down and makes a really comfortable, low impact base to walk on. Despite the cloud over most of the Valinco, this little corner was gloriously warm and sunny.

I followed the beach all the way through the village and headed up towards the tower. I knew it would be closed at this time of year, but it’s a nice walk with plenty of steps so it gives you a decent bit of exercise.

Along the way I amused myself looking at all the flowers still in bloom; gorgeous morning glory - even though it was the afternoon! - Arbousiers (strawberry trees) which not only had fruits but also still had flowers, a testament to the temperate climate.

There were also all manner of berries and even roses in the odd sheltered spot. Quite amazing for mid November.

From the top of the lotissement, there are several paths you can follow. One leads up to the tower and grounds with fabulous views over the surrounding coastline and countryside, one leads to I Pozzi along the Sentier littoral, and the other leads in the other direction to Punta Bianca, also along the Sentier Littoral.

I know that out of season the tower is closed, but my inner trespasser told me to try the gate anyway, and I was amazed when it opened. The tower itself was closed up for the winter, but I still managed to get some great shots through the holes in the ramparts.

I also found lots of delicious olives that were ripe for the picking!

The walk up hadn’t been too challenging, so it wasn’t long before I found myself back on the track heading down towards Punta Bianca. I have walked the Sentier Littoral in both directions. But I particularly like the rock formations along this stretch

The best bit was actually discovering a natural granite heart shaped into the underside of one of the rocks. Aahhh!

I spent a bit of time scrambling through the taffoni which are rocks that have been sculpted by the wind into weird and wonderful shapes. It’s even possible to climb inside some of them which given my propensity for freak accidents, probably wasn’t a great idea.

After the recent storms, some sections of the path were impassable, so eventually I had to admit defeat and start my ascent back up to the tower. The combination of sun and rain meant that the wooded areas were covered in a carpet of mushrooms. It’s just a shame I didn’t have a bag with me...

I made it down onto the sand again and it wasn’t long before I came across what looked like an ugly branch but was in fact breathing. There was no way I was going to touch the slug like creature, but I also couldn’t leave it to die on the sand, so eventually I (hopefully) saved it by nudging it back into the water with my shoe. I am such a wuss.

I walked the full length of the beach up to the coach car park at the entrance to the village and then back along to where I’d left the car. Amazingly, the whole walk had only taken a little under two hours but by the evening, it was beginning to feel more like 2 weeks!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Corsican Clementines

When it’s 20 degrees and sunny outside, it’s sometimes easy to forget that technically this is autumn, so I was slightly surprised to see the crates and crates of local clementines in the doorway of the supermarket yesterday.

The Clémentines Corses are the only clementine produced in France. They are hand picked and hand-picked and sold with the thin, deep-green leaves still attached, which not only look pretty, but also show that the fruit is fresh. Apparently, it takes its name from Father Clement but was introduced to Corsica by Don Philip Semidei who planted the first common clementine in 1925 at Figaretto on the eastern plain where production is still centred today.

Clementines are rich in carotene, provitamin A pigments and antioxidants, helping to promote healthy skin. They are small, juicy and easy to peel, plus they are only 46 kcal per 100g but unfortunately I had other plans for mine and I suspect that they are now considerably more calories per portion than they started off as!

For 4 people;
- 5 clementines (tangerines or satsumas work just as well)
- 140g of golden caster sugar
- 4 slices of cake to serve (and vanilla ice cream if you like)

Peel and segment 4 of the fruits. Juice the last one. Stir 4 tbsp of water in with sugar in a microwave bowl. Microwave the sugar on High for 4-5 mins until everything is bubbling and golden. Using a cloth or oven gloves, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in the fruit juice - watch out, it will splutter. Stir in the segments and serve alongside the slices of cake.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Walking in Corsica - l’Oriu de Monaccia d’Auddè

Todays excursion was a victory for common sense and willingness to wander off into the maquis with no compass, no phone signal and not much of an idea where we were going, over the stupid guide book which was no help at all!

We’d decided to hunt out the Oriu de Monaccia d’Auddè which is one of the Orii Satenais’. An oriu (plural Orii) is shelter/cave under the rocks which have been sculpted by the wind, and whose entrance has walled up with dry stones. They generally look like the witch’s house in ‘Hansel and Gretle’, or even Gargamel’s house from the smurfs!

What is most fascinating about these shelters is that no one really knows what they are for or why they are there. They could have been ancient troglodytic dwellings, but in that case you’d expect to find more than the odd one scattered here and there. They could be ‘bergeries’ or shepherds shelters for when they are moving flocks from the coastal planes to the mountains in the summer, but most of them exist in places that are not really suited to animal grazing so that doesn’t make sense.

The book told us that the path started from a hairpin benda few hundred metres from the village of Serraghja. In fact, after a fruitless hike up to the relais, we discovered that it was actually 2.3km from the cemetery to an unmarked dirt track! The views from up here are spectacular, but we could have done without having to don our Miss Marple hats to find the way.

Fortunately, once we found the little path, there were cairns to show us that we were on the right track if you’ll pardon the pun. It took us up through the maquis to woodland where we came across all kinds of mushrooms which we thought might come in handy if we couldn’t find the way back!

We eventually came out at a mass of rocks, and a quick squint at the guide book told us ‘go towards the nearest rock pile and the Oriu faces east so you can’t see it until the last minute’ – yeah, that was really helpful since a) we didn’t have a compass and b) it was cloudy so we couldn’t tell where the sun was!

Eventually through trial and error and a spot of seriously dangerous rock climbing even in proper grippy walking shoes, we spotted some brick like bits amongst the rocks and came across the Oriu. What a truly stunning place.

As we rounded the structure, the come came out, so we amused ourselves taking photos of the views over the l’Omu di Cagna (a very famous huge rock balancing on the top of a mountain at about 1200m) and the village of Monaccia d’Aullène below.

We sat in the sunshine and ate our picnic and all that was missing were two flasks; one cold with G&T for our aperitif and the other full of hot strong coffee to fortify us for the descent.

Monday, 8 November 2010

An introduction to the Corsican Countryside...

This morning I was shouted at by a very irate Corsican for not keeping control of my dog. OK, so it's a hunting dog and has no road sense which is how it nearly got run over (it laid down in the middle of the road when I shouted at it). To be fair, he did have a point, but the only problem with his argument really was that IT'S NOT MY DOG!!!! 
I did try to protest my innocence, but I was too distracted by the rather over enthusiastic arm waving and gesturing that could have passed for Mediterranean style voguing, so in the end he just jumped back in his van and roared off, narrowly avoiding the sheep dog that was also wandering down the middle of the road…

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Plage du Lido

Who’d have thought the temperature would be up in the 20’s in November? Not me, that’s for sure, so I was slightly caught out this morning when I went out walking in a long sleeved t-shirt!

Luckily, today is my day off, so as it’s so nice, I decided to head to the beach. We are still suffering from the petrol refinery blockades on the mainland – no diesel and unleaded rationed to 30 litres – so being sensible for once, I decided to stay close to home and conserve my fuel.

The nearest beach is the Plage du Lido. In the summer it is busy with families as well as those looking for a bit more going on as there is a beach volley ball ‘pitch’ as well as an area for football and a smattering of beach bars with Caribbean style parasols selling delicious homemade ice cream. Today, I had the place all to myself...

What I love about this beach, especially in the mornings, are the colours. The waters are relatively shallow and so clear that you can see all the barnacled rock plates just below the surface, so the combination of rock and sand gives a beautiful turquoise sea (‘turchese’ to show off, as I have been learning some Corsican!).

After a while a strange 'person' arrived and started digging through the sand with what looked like a soup ladle. It did seem rather odd behaviour, but then he/she was also wearing a parka jacket in the heat so I decided to move myself behind the hotel to another beautiful little cove.

In the summer, no matter what time of day you arrive, this bit has always been bagged as it’s so pretty and protected by the rocks on which the hotel is built, so even when there is a breeze, it is quite calm here.

Today I sat in the sun and fully intended to read my book but I just shut my eyes for a moment...