I’d planned a tour of the picturesque villages nearby starting with Oletta. I’ve seen photos many times but I have to confess to being slightly disappointed. The village was quite small and I’d managed to do my military style sightseeing in about 10 minutes flat without finding any artisans, but maybe it was too early in the season.
The church is impressive and the ochre/orange colour makes it even more so, but even the local bloke who accosted me in the street and tried to tell me how beautiful it was really didn’t do it for me. I did make friends with an over exuberant border cross puppy who was absolutely gorgeous, but his owner appeared before I could entice him away! One thing did give me pause for thought which was the old general store. Nowadays it has been converted to a souvenir shop selling gifts made from organic local materials, but the sign above harked back to days gone by and read simply ‘Telephone number 6’!
Olmeta-di-Tuda was next on my list and I almost missed it. It was interesting to see that many of the churches in this area (Bastia, Oletta and Olmeta-di-Tuda) do follow the same style of a triangular support above the door topped with two distinct turrets, but I didn’t stop. At Murato, I got a bit lost and took a long but pretty detour through the countryside before I eventually arrived back at the Col San Sabastianu.
This time I took the D82 passing the pretty church of San Cesareo and San Pieve, heading towards San Gavino di Tenda. The tourist office in Saint Florent had given me a tourist map showing the picturesque villages in the area, but when I got there, I realised that the photo for San Gavinu di Tenda was actually Santo Pietro di Tenda opposite! That said, the church was quite interesting and the views of Santo Pietro di Tenda framed by Lauriers Roses was lovely.
By now I really didn’t have much idea whether it was quicker to carry on along the tiny village roads or try to head back the way I’d come and pick up the main(ish) road from Murato. In the end I decided to carry on, and I am really pleased I did as the Church of Sainte-Maria-Majeure in Santo Pietro di Tenda is well worth a deviation. There were restoration works in progress when I was there, but it didn’t detract from the stunning setting at all.
The D62 eventually links up with the D81 which is the road across the Desert des Agriates. This is an area of wild maquis and rocky outcrops, which is also home to two of the most stunning beaches on the island; Loto and Saleccia. I had intended to do the boat trip to the Plage du Loto and then maybe the horse drawn carriage which takes you on the Plage de Saleccia where the John Wayne film ‘The Longest Day’ was filmed. Unfortunately, I am a terrible cowardy custard where boats are concerned so even a slight draft is enough to put me off.
Along the way I came across some friendly looking donkeys. As well as a fear of boats, and I also terrified of large animals (large being anything bigger than a sheep). That said, I am fascinated by donkeys so I stopped for a photo opportunity. One of them thought he was getting dinner, and I ended up having to wipe donkey slobber off the camera, but I also got really brave and fed him some grass through the fence.
The end of my tour was to be Lozari Plage, but I hadn’t counted on cabaret being laid on for me. When I arrived, I could see someone kitesurfing but as I got closer I realised he didn’t have a surfboard. It turned out that he was trying to land, but every time he got two feet on the ground another gust of wind came along and off he went again! He was nearly in the car park by the time I reached the sand!!
It was amusing to watch at first, but after a while two sunbathers came to his rescue with one grabbing his legs and keeping him grounded and the other grabbing the kite next time it dipped onto the beach. He looked ever so grateful…