Friday, 30 April 2010

Tamaricciu beach and the restaurant 'Le Palm Beach'

It takes a lot to tempt me away from the beaches of the Valinco, but Tamaricciu has a lot; fine sandy beaches, shallow clear water, views to die for, a jetset clientele and three beachside restaurants - what more could you ask for?

We’d decided to make an early start as it takes about an hour and a half from Propriano, and I was glad we did because when we arrived, we had the beach virtually to ourselves. We settled ourselves at the far end away from the restaurants which are huddled together further up.

Building works close to the beach are strictly regulated in Corsica, but they seem to have made an exception in this case!

We’d been joined by Jean-Francois’ dog who apparently lives in one of the residences on the hillside looking over the bay. He obviously took a shine to us as he paddled with Guillaume and joined in half-heartedly with a game of ball before it all got too much and he flopped onto the sand for a snooze.

Whilst the others were playing on the sand, my attention had been caught by a rather portly chap and his wife a little further along the beach. He was in the water up to his knees with what looked like a pair of cooking tongs, flinging things from the sea onto the sand. I honestly couldn’t work out what or why but it turned out to be little jellyfish (meduses).

When we studied more closely, there were lots of the little blighters close to the waters edge, only about 3-4cm in diametre, but enough to give a sting nonetheless. By this time we were starting to get a bit peckish, so we decided to wander up to the restaurants, and perhaps explore the beach the other side after lunch.

All three of the beachside restaurants have fabulous views over the turquoise waters, and having checked on the internet for opening times (it is only the end of April after all), we’d decided to try ‘Le Tamaricciu’. However, a quick look at the menu to find that one course was close to 30 euros each, quickly decided us to try one of the others!

In the end we settled on ‘Le Palm Beach’ just next door which had a good choice of dishes and the prices were much more reasonable. We chose a Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and ham and the Octopus salad which was served with an unusual black pasta which was surprisingly tasty!

So, once lunch was out of the way, a quick snooze on the sand seemed in order! We continued on past the restaurants where there was quite a bit of seaweed, to an absolutely idyllic spot close to the rocks.

I have never seen such clear calm waters, and it was almost impossible to tell where the sea starts and the sand ends! We sat and watched as the yachts and little motorboats arrived for a late lunch. Here you can truly see how the other half live…

The other advantage to the shallow waters is that they are warmed very quickly by the sun. Today there was no breeze and the temperature was close to 30 degrees so the water was like a bath. It wasn’t long before Guillaume found some little friends and they were playing Tarzan together, running in and out of the water and jumping off rocks - eek!

So what a fabulous day; in the sea for the first time this year, nice and brown from the sun, well fed at ‘Le Palm Beach’, ice creams on the way back to the car. Just a shame that we found our feet and crocs covered in tar. Gggr!


Thursday, 29 April 2010

Woodland walk - Pont d'Acoravo

After yesterdays excitement of the beach (and a touch of sunburn), we decided to take a walk along the riverside past the ruined mill, and see if we could get to the ‘Petit Niagra’ waterfall.

This area was completely flooded quite a long time ago, so the buildings including the old mill, several houses and even an old hotel have stood in ruins ever since, so it feels almost like an abandoned village.

The paths are lined with acacia trees and the scent was simply heavenly (until it brought on bout of sneezing!), and there were bright red wild poppies everywhere. We even found two little round huts that looked like sentry posts for an old bridge.

The pathways were all lined with wild flowers almost as high as our waists, so we lost the kid a couple of times where he decided to explore and we could only see his head bobbing around!

Finally we got to a beautiful spot where the waterfalls start. We could hear the rush of the water, but we were too high up and could only see the odd spot of foam where the force of the river was crashing against the rocks.

Unfortunately, the river was too high to wade across for a decent photo, so we had to retreat down river where we found another impressive cascade. Standing right next to it to take the photo, I couldn’t help thinking that once again I was wearing flipflops on wet rocks - not one of by better plans!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Plage de Campitellu

Now that the temperature is consistently hitting 20 degrees in the daytime, I’ve started using sun cream as my daily moisturiser just in case I take it into my head to pop to the beach for half an hour at lunchtime, like today.

The plan was to sit on the sand for half an hour and read a chapter of my book, but as usual my natural curiosity got the better of me, and when I realised that there was a gap in the barbed wire fence above the rocks, it would have been rude not to explore.

I picked my way through the Maquis and found a little path that I hoped would take me to the little beach the other side of the Tour de Calanca. I was conscious that I was probably on private property so I was contemplating whether I should head back when I spotted the little beach below.

There was no easy route down without venturing even closer to the tower, so I decided to head back down again. This area of the coast is sprinkled with rocks and sand, so colours were amazing from above; all shades of greens and blues depending on what was on the sea bed.

I would seriously recommend that anyone considering a holiday in Corsica invests in a pair of polarised sunglasses. They cut the contrast and you’ll see so many vivid colours without the glare of the sun. Also, if you’re silly like me and go rock climbing in flipflops (not to be recommended), you’d be able to see the bruises actually forming in front of your eyes when you fall off!

Perhaps I should switch to Savlon instead of Ambre Solaire as my daily moisturiser...

Amazing sunsets over the Valinco Gulf

Well one of the only good things to come out of the Icelandic Volcano eruption is the amazing sunsets

I have rarely seen such intense colours and reflections, and even those covered by cloud have been pretty impressive

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Saint Florent

It was a real experience to visit Saint Florent this early in the season and I was quickly reminded that this little town is really a summer place - heaving in July and August and a bit sleepy the rest of the time, although the shops were open making it was the perfect time to explore undisturbed.

I decided to park in the free car park at the Citadel and walk down to the town and harbour. The sky was a deep blue and barely a cloud to be seen, but the prettiest sight was the carpet of yellow wild flowers sprinkled around the base of the Citadel.

I walked along to the jetty which was virtually deserted, and wandered through the streets which were quieter than I have ever seen. There was still an amazing collection of huge (and expensive) yachts moored in the harbour, with the little fishing boats huddled around them.

Mme Lazzarini at the wine shop greeted me like an old friend and let me taste her white wine that has recently been awarded the gold medal at Paris. We had a good chat and I left laden down with Muscat, aperitif wines, red, white and even rose as well as some delicious Canistrelli biscuits - absolutely delicious.


I started off bright an early as I wanted to take a leisurely drive north, stopping off in Vizzavona and Venaco on the way to Saint Florent. The weather was glorious and I was amazed that the mountains still had snow on the top - it is easy to forget that there are 3 ski stations in Corsica when it is already warm enough to sunbathe by the coast!

As I reached Venaco, I was still ahead of schedule, so I decided to take the D43 which I knew was a detour but I hoped would be a slightly more scenic route. Once again there was snow on the mountains, and as the road wound downwards, asphodeles lined the route and very soon the river came into view.

It was really beautiful, especially with the Genoese bridge, so I had to stop again. There were steps down to the riverside and I was amazed by the colours. It was one of those moments when you just know that your photos are never going to be as stunning as the real thing!

The rocks were really unusual and formed a sort of plateau where I sat and ate my picnic. It wasn’t long until I was joined by a gang of curious goats who seemed to be giving me the evil eye, so I was soon on my way again!

Centuri Port

It was the first time that I have been up to the top of Cap Corse and it is a shame that my first glimpse of Centuri Port was in the rain, as everyone had told me how beautiful it is. Of course it is early in the season, but as so often happens, by the next morning, the sunshine was back – hurrah!

We’d booking into the Hotel la Jetée, a little hotel right on the water front. The rooms were simple but clean and I had a lovely view over the port. There is a strong fishing theme running through the hotel and we were particularly pleased with the old fashioned photos lining the corridor which showed us that Centuri really has changed very little over the centuries.

The hotel also had a restaurant which was a bonus for us visiting so early in the season. The starter was superb - thinly sliced charcuterie with a lemon vinagrette and parmesan shavings - but I was disappointed with the Espadon given the waterfront location and profusion of fishing boats.

The next day I woke to bright sunshine so Iain and I made an early start with our cameras. One of the things that caught my eye straight away was the unusual cross just at the edge of the village. Crafted from driftwood, from a distance it seems to take the form of Christ.

I was pleased that I managed to see Centuri at its best. The sun was in the wrong position for the shot I really wanted, so that is a good excuse to go back again.

Rogliano & The Moulin de Mattei

We’d stayed the previous night at Centuri and it was just 16km between our first hotel and the second, so we had plenty of time to explore on the way. After breakfast, we headed up to the Moulin de Mattei just outside Rogliano.

It was fairly impressive as we approached, but I was so pleased that we decided to stop and walk up to the windmill. The guide said it was 30 minutes there and back on foot, but it took us a bit longer as we stopped along the way to read the plaques marking the route. These each told a different anecdote about the mill or the area and made fascinating reading.

The windmill itself has been beautifully restored by the Mattei family, renowned for their ‘Cap Corse’ aperitif drink which is popular across the island and tastes similar to red Martini, as well as other fruit based liqueurs. The views from the terrace were amazing and reminded me a bit of Switzerland with the snow covered mountains in the distance.

We also visited the village of Rogliano which was a few kilometres away on the opposite side of the cap. It sounded much more interesting in the guidebook than it actually was, and we managed to see everything we wanted in just a few minutes! The most interesting things were the large family tombs with lovely views over the surrounding countryside - one was so big I thought it was a villa!


We wanted to see Barcaggio which is as far north as you can get to by car. The drive down to the village from the main road was a fair distance but quite lush. There were lots of little bergeries dotted along the way and the spring flowers were really pretty and colourful.

The little marina was really picturesque and it was quite sheltered from the wind. Unfortunately it was also a little more sleepy than we had imagined! Jan and I were happy to wander along the water front with Megan the dog desperately trying to find a way down to the water, but Iain wandered off in search of sustenance.

Finally he came across what looked like a tiny café with a few mis-matched chairs on the terrace. Unfortunately, it was just a private house where the little old lady was spring cleaning, so she was quite shocked when he asked her to make him a coffee!

We walked a little further inspecting the little fishing boats bobbing gently on the water, and then sat for a while in the sun, but as it was so early in the season and the village was effectively closed, it wasn’t long before we were making tracks.


We headed for Macinaggio where we planned to stop for the night. We wanted to visit the Domaine Nicrosi which we had been told was THE place for Muscat and White wines but after nearly an hour following signs though the countryside, we discovered that it was actually opposite the hotel where we would be staying in Macinaggio!

Unfortunately, it was closed and the hotelier told us that the quality of the wines were not what they once were, so we stopped at another vineyard but were unable to taste the wines before buying. In the end we decided that we would probably be better off stopping on the way home at Mme Lazzarini's domaine in Patrimonio.

We had lunch at the Osteria di u Portu on the waterfront at Macinaggio which seemed to be popular with the locals - always a good sign. I chose Spider Crab Pasta but then had to spend most of the lunch trying to extract my food from spindly legs, but it was very tasty, so well worth the effort. Iain decided to have a dessert and his Fiadone (Corsican cheesecake) was one of the best I have ever tasted.

After lunch we strolled along the harbour looking at boats and then took the dog for a walk along the beach and then up the start of the Sentier des Douanier (Customs officers path). The track started to climb quite steeply and there were steep drops so we decided that it wasn't really practical with the dog, so we re-traced our steps and took the inland track instead.

I really enjoyed the circuit which took us about an hour or just over, and we discovered some intriguing ancient dwellings nestled amongst the undergrowth. The bit of beach nearest to the hotel where we were staying (u Ricordu) was a bit seaweedy, but that might have been because of the bad weather they had had the week before. However, as we were walking, we saw quite a few cars passing us that seemed to be heading nowhere, but it turned out that they were going to the parking area for the Plage de Tamarone - a clean sandy beach just about 2.5km from the town. Apparently, this beach is the start of the Site Naturel de Capandula which encompases the northeastern tip of Cap Corse and some of the peninsula's most beautiful beaches.

The hotel itself looked fairly simple from the outside, but was clean and comfortable and the staff were really friendly and helpful. I also managed to connect my laptop from the bar/breakfast room but I'm not sure whether that was a bonus or not as it meant I could see all the work waiting for me when I got home!