Thursday, 24 June 2010

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!

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