When I first came to Corsica many years ago, I fell in love with a little studio in the heart of Ile Rousse, so this bustling little town has held a special place in my heart ever since.
I was ‘oop north to visit some friends in one of the Balagne villages, so I decided to take the opportunity to stay overnight. At this time of year the parking opposite the café des Platanes is normally free, but I noticed the barriers were still down so I headed out towards the port where there are a couple of free car parks behind the 'Mairie' (town hall).
One of the greatest pleasures for me is simply wandering through the streets amongst the huge sun bleached Italianate style buildings, and I have nearly been run down on more than one occasion whilst paying more attention to the balconies than the cars!
I also like the shops here. OK, so they are a bit touristy, but mixed in amongst the postcards and ‘Corsica’ souvenirs, you can find some real gems like the little shop selling Moroccan style lamps, incense and ceramics, and the artisans who transform olive wood and various other natural resources.
Years before, I’d eaten a delicious meal at the Osteria so I set off to try to track it down. I vaguely remembered it was in one of the back streets so I headed up through the maze of alleyways and eventually stumbled across it by chance. Sadly, it was all closed up so I had to assume that they were no longer offering their delicious authentic dishes.
These days, the most popular restaurants seem to be down near the ancient market place, but the temptation from the market is always too strong; fragrant clementines, cheeses so strong you won’t feel your tongue for a week, locally cured meats, fruit and veg, fresh fish, and plump olives – delicious!!
I wandered across the main street where the huge church is surrounded by mauve bouganvillia, dainty blue flowers and a peach coloured hibiscus that reminded me of Caribbean climes – not difficult when the sun is beating down and there is hardly a cloud in the sky.
So what’s the downside? Well, the beach is perhaps not as picturesque as the ones in the south, but the sea is amazing – virtually every shade of blue from pale turquoise through to dark indigo, so that more than makes up for it in my book.
If you take the time, Ile Rousse is also full of hidden gems. There is the huge ships anchor tucked away just off the promenade, the bronze statue of Ondine, Madonna and child, other statues here and there, and of course, the bust of Pascal Paoli ‘Babbu di a Patria’ surrounded by palm trees.
So after a spot of sightseeing, the only thing left to do was to grab a hot chocolate at the Café des Platanes while I watched the world go by.