Sunday, 27 June 2010


One of our neighbours has an apricot tree, and this year there are so many apricots hanging from the branches that he told us it was ‘weeping with fruit’ – what a lovely expression. Of course what it means is that we’re all now eating apricots with everything, for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Fortunately, I love them; baked, caramalised, straight off the tree, in jam or under crumble, it doesn’t matter to me! In fact, this morning I came over all ‘Nigella Lawson’ and even had a bash at making my own croissants. They didn’t come out quite as well as the ones from the bakery, but the warm buttery taste went so well with the sweet, juicy fruits that it didn’t matter.

It got me thinking though, because I found out an amazing amount about strawberry trees (Arbouses) when they were in season, and a quick Google search threw up lots of interesting facts. Apparently, as early as the year 502, apricot seeds were used to treat tumours and later in the 17th century, also ulcers. I tend to think of fruits as being quite acidic, so I was surprised about the ulcer part.

Sadly, scientists declared them to have no effects on cancer but they are packed full of Carotenoids – more than any other food – and these antioxidants are thought to help with heart disease, ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, and protect against cancer. Obviously you can have too much of a good thing, but it sounds to me like a few more can’t hurt!

Bonifacio Citadel

Today was one of those days when work and pleasure mingle indistinguishably, as I had to go to Bonifacio to visit the Apartment l’Eglise – what luck!

I absolutely love Bonifacio. Like Calvi, it has a huge imposing Citadel overlooking the harbour lined with colourful restaurants, bars/cafés, interesting boutiques and even a tiny aquarium!

What’s great about the citadel in Bonifacio is that unlike any others in Corsica, this one is like a mini-village not only filled with ramshackle sunbleached houses, but also artisan craftsmen making knives and wooden/wicker goods, jewellers offering the exceptionally deep red coral that is indigenous to the area.

I parked at the very top of the citadel close to the Marine cemetery. There is free parking closer to the apartment I was visiting, but as I was a little early and the sun was shining, I’d decided to park a bit further and take my time wandering through the narrow streets.

I headed straight up the Ciazza Doria (rue Doria in French). One of my favourite shops is along here – Casadoria – where I always manage to spend rather more than planned on all manner of kitchen impulse buys and nice little trinkets.

The shop is almost opposite the chapel of Saint Jean the Baptist. Bonifacio is filled with interesting places to visit and often their simple exterior belies a fascinating interior. The Sancte Joannes Batptista as it is called is home to a beautiful wooden sculpture depicting the beheading of John the Baptist which is paraded through the town each year on 29th August.

I headed on up to the church of Sainte Marie-Majeure at the heart of the citadel. Medieval in style, this is the oldest religious building in Bonifacio and has an interesting loggia at the front. In times gone by, this was where the Genoese would discuss town issues and dispense justice, but today it had an altogether calmer ambiance with just a single nun selling little wooden figures in aid of the church.

Just a few steps away was my destination, the Apartment l’Eglise. The houses in Bonifacio are all huddled together with steep staircases climbing up to the upper floors. This apartment was on the top floor, so I was expecting a lung-bursting climb, but surprisingly there were just two flights of stairs to conquer.

As the owner opened the door, I was amazed at the size of the place! For some reason I was expecting a studio-sized apartment with a couple of bedrooms tacked on, but this place felt open and spacious which is probably in part to do with the impeccable taste of the owner who has chosen key pieces of quality furniture rather than trying to overfill it.

We sat by the windows overlooking the church, and admired the views from the upper balcony. The sun was streaming in, and I felt that I could have stayed the whole day, but sadly all too soon it was time to head back.

There are a couple of restaurants within just a few steps of the apartment, and I was worried that this might make the apartment noisy, but apparently not – perhaps the proximity to the church invites a more respectful clientele!

I took a slow wander back to the car via the third church in the citadel, the Gothic church of Sainte Dominique which dates back to the 13th-14th century. The church is especially distinguished by its octagonal bell tower and the perfect accoustics of the building mean that it is often used for the performances of Corsican polyphonic singing.

In Bonifacio, even the car parks enjoy fabulous views and I was treated to the sight of a huge yacht making its way out of the harbour into the open waters of the Bouches de Bonifacio

Although it seems obvious why someone would buy an apartment in Bonifacio Citadel, my nosiness took over and I ended up giving the owner the third degree. Surprisingly, the answer was the variety of diverse beaches in the area.

From the red hued sand of Tonnara just a few minutes drive from the town, to the super pretty white sand of the Porto Vecchio beaches and the silver white sands of Sperone, there is something to suit every taste.

Personally, I’d head to Tonnara as I’d be slightly concerned at the proximity of the golf course to the beach at Petit Sperone - after all, who can tell the difference between a snoozing sunbather and the unconscious victim of an over-ambitious golf swing??

Sunset over the bay

What a gorgeous sunset – no words needed for this one!

Friday, 25 June 2010


What to do with a free afternoon when the temperatures are close to 30, there is not a cloud in the sky and hardly a breeze – head to the beach of course!

We’d decided to head down to Tizzano for a change. We headed down to the port area and although the restaurants filled with colourful flowers lining the water front were busy, there was hardly a soul by the water.

We walked along the new port area ogling all the boats. I was amazed at how shallow the water seemed (although it’s true that the bigger boats were moored further out). My favourite was an old wooden fishing boat right at the end with an array of rods perched against the back

It wasn’t long before our attention was caught by the line of fishing nets drying in the sunshine. We wondered if there would be any treasures to be found trapped amongst the lines, but the most impressive thing was the huge spider crab we saw floating closeby.

The little beach here was bordered with a line of tiny broken shells washed up against the shore, which made it look almost dirty from afar, so as we are so picky about our photos, we decided to head back to the other end of the town.

We settled ourselves on the sand but the sun was scorching so it wasn’t long before we were dying for a quick dip in the briny (doesn’t sound quite the same when you’re talking about the southern Mediterranean, does it?).

Unfortunately, there was a cluster of tiny jellyfish. Although I know the remedy for jellyfish stings, we didn’t have any men/boys with us so as my directional aim is not quite so good (and I didn’t have a handy bottle of vinegar in my beach bag), I decided to stay in the shallows where I could see what was in there with me!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Domaine San Michelli, Vigneron Sartenais

Pretty much the only thing I know about Wine is that you should drink what you like, so I am struck dumb almost with fear when I have to choose a bottle to take to dinner at friends (particularly one in Olmi Cappella who shall remain nameless!).

Fortunately, a couple of years ago I came across a bottle of the red from the Domaine San Michelli and thought we’d give it a whirl. Well, what a resounding success it was, so red wine crisis well and truly over – hurrah!

We’d been to Tizzano in the afternoon, to get back to Propriano we have to pass almost right in front of the door of the ‘cave’ where you can buy the wine direct from the Vigneron, so it would have been rude not to stop.

Although I knew the red, I’d never tried the Rosé which was equally impressive, so I found myself with 6 of one and half a dozen of the other as the saying goes! White is not really my thing, but I have it on good authority that it’s also fab...

La Grande Corniche - the beaches around Propriano

Are the beaches in/around Propriano sandy? This is one of the questions someone posed to us as this week, and the easy answer is ‘yes!’.

As the weather was so nice, I decided to walk the Grande Corniche to demonstrate just how many beaches there are in this area, and how easy it is to flit from one to the other.

Propriano is on one side of a huge bay – think of an ice cream cone with two huge scoops of ice cream spilling over the edges. Baracci beach is, metaphorically speaking, the bottom of the cone. This is a much under-rated beach but perhaps more for the adults as it can shelve quite steeply in places

Up the hill (or the side of the cone!) from Baracci is the beach below the Roc e Mar hotel. Although not a private beach, this one is pretty much inaccessible to anyone who isn’t staying at the hotel or arriving by boat or is secretly a mermaid, as nature has provided privacy in the shape of huge granite boulders jutting into the sea.

There is an excellent paillote here where you can eat right on the beach even if you are not staying at the hotel. Next along the Grande Corniche is the Plage de Sampiero Corsu. The parking is restricted here, but pedestriatians have free and easy access. Not only is it very pretty, but it’s relatively easy with little ones and a pushchair.

The next beach along is perhaps one of the most photographed, and it's from the road above that I managed to recreate the almost iconic shot of Propriano at the top of this post. The Plage Mancinu is small but perfectly formed as the saying goes; shallow areas, beachside restaurants, windsurfing and jet-skis on offer for those who want them, and amazing blue/green water with two huge crescents of golden sand.

Mancinu is located at the northern tip of the town, so from here visitors experience a bit of a change of pace with colourful shops selling beach paraphernalia as well as a whole host of waterfront restaurants lining the harbour.

Where there was once a small fishing quay with buildings built into the sand, Propriano pleasure port has now been updated and upgraded, so although the original stone quay still remains, it is now bordered on both sides with pontoons to cater to the mix of huge yachts and painted fishing boats.

I followed the same road right through the main street to the lighthouse. This is a beautiful spot and one I absolutely adore as there are basically three beaches all together like three petals of a flower. At the edge of the pleasure port is the Plage du Phare. This is actually one end of a huge crescent, with the Plage du Lido at the other end.

This is a great spot with kids because a) it’s easily accessible with a car and/or pushchair, b) there are nets set up for tennis/volleyball if you bring your own stuff and c) perhaps most importantly, there is a snack bar/ice cream place right on the sand!

Just behind the Plage du Lido (which is basically a promontory surrounded by sand and rock) is the Plage Arena Bianca. Another gorgeous spot, the access is not quite so easy but if there is no wind, the beach is shallow for kids and there are little rocks pools where they can search for fishes.

From here, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can go up and over the rocks to the series of small coves that leads to the huge stretch of sand at the Plage Casabianca. The road is actually called the Chemin des Plages and is also a popular walking circuit that we often do.

The Plage Casabianca stretches for miles and if it wasn’t for the estuary, you could walk right round to Portigliolo which is about half way round the first scoop! Casabianca is a great all seasons beach; in the winter we collect shells and driftwood here, and in the summer the colours are just amazing.

In fact, although it doesn’t show much of the sand, the photo that I use as the screensaver for my laptop was taken here last year, but it is an almost constant temptation to close the computer and leave work behind!