Saturday, 31 July 2010

Filitosa - Fiera di u Turismu Campagnolu (Filitosa Country Fair)

It’s not easy to amuse yourself in the queue for the post office, but luckily I’d found a leaflet on the counter for the Foire de Filitosa, an organic/agricultural fair next to the prehistoric site of Filitosa.

As well as all the farm type produce; cheeses, oils, charcuterie (cured meats) etcetera, this fair has a real ‘homemade’ feel to it with people selling artisanal jams, jewellery, leather good and even hand made wicker baskets.

It was another scorcher today and I was glad that someone had had the foresight to put up some sail type affairs so that we could wander from stall to stall in the shade. There were a good few stalls but also, spit roast pigs and refreshments as well as some entertainment for the kiddies (and big kids) with a gyroscope and climbing wall supervised by the local firemen.

As you’d expect from a countryside fair, there were animals pens with sheep and horses, but what really caught my eye were the ‘vache tigre’ (tiger cows). I couldn’t believe they would be what I was imagining, so I decided to pop along and see for myself! In fact, they turned out to be HUGE cows with the same markings as Corsinu dogs which look a bit like tiger stripes.

It doesn’t bear thinking about how M. Abbatucci created this hybrid. The bull was terrifying and I would quite see why they had put a rope barrier about 2m back from his actual pen, but the calf was so cute I almost considered getting one to stable it on my balcony…

All thoughts of cute cows went out of the window once I caught sight of the donkeys. Sadly, I thought they might collapse from exhaustion if I tried to take advantage of the 3€ tours of the fields, but they were incredibly cute.

Then I saw the babies! 3 and 4 months old respectively and they let us pet them and stroke their ears. One mad woman got a bit carried away and wanted her photo taken kissing the donkey and got rather more than she’d bargained for…

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Gorges de l'Asco

No matter how beautiful the place you live, sometimes you just need to escape from day to day life, so this week we decided to take a road trip up to Haute Asco, Thelma and Louise style (but with less murders obviously!).

In the winter, Asco is better known as a ski station rising from 1400m-2000m altitude, but in the summer, the high peaks and gorges take on an altogether different feel, with glistening emerald green rock pools and pebble ‘beaches’ where you can soak up the sun before a refreshing dip (and I do mean refreshing even in the height of summer!).

Unfortunately for tourists and those not used to driving in Corsica, there is no indication that the narrow access road down to the Genoese bridge is basically a dead end, so the parking is a bit of a free-for-all, but the upside is that there are hours of entertainment to be had watching smug looking 4x4 drivers realise that they’ll either have to attempt a 53 point turn on a windy mountain road, or reverse all the way back up again – a victory for the little people!

After picking our way down the track and wading over the river, we decided to settle ourselves on one of the pebble beaches so that I could take photos while the others swam through the rock gorges to the next set of interlinked pools. It wasn’t long before we were joined by a random dog.

This always seems to happen in Corsica, and they generally attach themselves to small children who will play with them (or me!) until they have worn themselves out. This one wanted to catch stones as we were skimming them across the water. She was surprisingly successful, so I was slightly concerned that we might have to mount a daring river rescue if she ate too many and sank!

Further along the gorge is the ancient Genoese bridge for those who don’t fancy wading across the river as we’d done. This is a fabulous example, and my imagination soon ran away with me so that I could almost see the mules and old woman shrouded in black crossing back and forth. A big ‘plouf’ brought me back to the present day and I realised that people were jumping off the other side – how exciting!

So there I was with my camera, ready to take my action shot of either a jumper or alternatively a nasty broken leg. I could hear the conversations between the jumpers which worryingly were going something like this;

‘Is it deep enough to jump from here?’
‘Hang on, I’ll check … I can’t touch the bottom so I guess it’s maybe 2m deep’
‘OK then I’ll try, should be OK’

EEK! I must be getting old because all I could see was the accident waiting to happen, but fortunately my worst fears proved to be unfounded. PHEW!

We’d had lunch at the Auberge E Cime which is just a few minutes from the gorge. The view from the terrace over the high peaks of Asco is absolutely stunning, and I blame the altitude rather than the wine for the giggly afternoon that followed.

The food was ok but a bit ‘interesting’ if you know what I mean. I’d chosen the Civet de Sanglier as it is one of my absolute favourite dishes, but I strongly suspect that the ‘Plat du Jour’ might have been lasagne or Spaghetti Bolognese as I pretty much got the stock sauce with some lumps of wild boar in. Not quite what I was expecting, but tasty nonetheless!

The afternoon’s refreshments were from the café opposite the Tortoise sanctuary at Moltifao. It turned out that this it was actually a campsite with a pool, pretty stone buildings and all sorts of amenities – amazing as we were basically in the back of beyond!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cascade du Voile de la Mariée, Bocognano

I really wasn’t on form this morning, and honestly the last thing I wanted to do was to sit in a car for 4 hours in the soaring heat, so we decided to treat ourselves with a little stopover on the way…

I’d never been to the Cascade du Voile de la Mariée which is only a 10 minute detour from the main road at Bocognano. The waterfall is very high so it’s a bit of an uphill climb through the trees and rocks but it only takes about 10 minutes. At this time of year there isn’t much water but that didn’t bother me as it looked almost like lace tumbling over the rocks, and you can really appreciate the colours in the rock pools.

At the start of the trail is a panel to explain about the cascade and photos from all different seasons, so we decided then and there that we’d have to return in the spring when the waterfall is basically a gushing torrent.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Restaurant La Crique, Abartello

When I first came to La Crique, it really was just a little shack – one of three that sit above a two fabulous sandy coves. How things have changed in the last 15 years!

It’s been a few years since I have eaten here, and to be honest the last time probably doesn’t count as I have been reliably informed that huge ice creams decorated with fruit do not constitute a proper lunch! Anyway, the food has always been good so as soon as I spotted mussels on the menu, I knew we didn’t need to look any further.

We decided to take two different dishes so that we could swap and enjoy double the flavour sensations, so we went for a Moules Marinières with chips (naughty) and a Carpaccio of dorade with a citrus and olive oil dressing and green salad. Both dishes were super tasty and we finally had to admit defeat as we couldn’t finish the huge mountain of mussels between us.

So all in all, fab food and I thought excellent value for money. We had two aperitifs, two main courses, glass of wine and two coffees, and the bill came to 41 euros. No wonder the restaurant was busy, and Franck (the owner) told us that you have to reserve in advance for the evening if you want a cool spot out of the sun. Must bear that in mind…


We had a free afternoon and desperately wanted to go off and do something a bit different to divert ourselves. After a quick discussion, we decided to head down to Bonifacio on the basis that there is always wind there so it would be a bit cooler. Of course, we never made it that far…

OK, so it was the afternoon and it was already 34 degrees when we left, but as we headed down the west coast the temperature was creeping up and up so that by the time we arrived at Pianotolli-Calderello, it was up to 38 degrees and we had to stop and buy water before we were dry roasted in the car!

We decided there and then to abandon ideas for a walk along the Falaises at Bonifacio as it was just too hot. By chance, there is a little turning just a few metres from the shop where we’d stopped, that goes down to a series of beautiful crescent shaped sandy beaches. Decision made!

I have only ever been to these beaches out of season and I was surprised by how busy they get in the summer. That said, it’s no surprise really; shallow turquoise waters, golden sand and some stunning rock formations for anoraks like me who like that sort of thing!

We paddled out to the flat rocks and sat there with our legs in the water. There was a lovely cool breeze and although we’d put sun cream on when we left the car, I probably should have topped it up every 15 minutes or so as I didn’t notice until it was too late that my ‘bronzage agricole’ (t-shirt shaped suntan) is now worse than ever – drats!!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Petit Niagra Waterfall

Back in April we’d been to get to the Petit Niagra waterfalls, but to get to flat rocks and really appreciate the fast moving water gushing over the smooth rocks, you have to cross the river.

Last time the water levels were too high, but today they were just perfect. I completely forgot to pack my rock shoes – d’Oh! – but luckily the water in the top pool wasn’t too deep with a sandy bed, so I just scooped up my flipflops and waded over accompanied by three random dogs.

The views from this side are absolutely incredible and we were lucky enough to have the place almost to ourselves. My new toy (Canon SX20 camera) also takes videos so you can hear the roaring of the water.

The rocks are pitted with pools – some deep enough to completely submerge yourself in and others shallow enough just to paddle. Although the sun was roasting, the water was refreshingly cool (perhaps a bit too cool!), and it was actually a welcome relief to lie on the rocks which were still cool from the drop in temperature over night.

We stayed a couple of hours which was enough to top up the tan and de-stress, and definitely enough to do my back in! As we were getting changed, I spotted some tadpoles in one of the little pools at the edge by the vegetation. Where there are tadpoles there are invariably frogs...

I was just quick enough to snap this little guy before the cries of delight from the teenagers using the rocks as an impromptu water slide scared him away. What a fabulous change from the beach...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Plage Campitellu

We knew it’d bee a hot one today and we weren’t wrong – 37 degrees by 11:30am – so we chose a beach on a headland where we hoped we’d find a little bit of a breeze.

Against my better judgement (I was all for a nice ‘grasse matinée’ lie-in), we were on the beach shortly after 8am to stake our claim to a nice spot. At that time of the morning, the amateur fishermen are out in the bay casting their rods, as much for the peace and solitude as for any real hope of catching something to pop on the BBQ for lunch.

It was already hotting up nicely, so we settled in for a snooze on the sand, but it wasn’t long before our secluded little corner of paradise was invaded by others with the same idea – who could blame them! Luckily even in July and August there is still room for everyone without feeling like Sardines as you do on the cote d’Azur.

We watched as the huge yachts that had been moored overnight in the bay made their way one by one out into the open waters. There was some serious money on the water today, and we agreed that it was probably just as well we didn’t have a yacht as the petrol alone for some of these huge beasts would set you back a small fortune.

It was another victory for the new canon with it’s 20x zoom though, as we were able to be nosy paparazzo style and really get a glimpse into how the other half live. However, having taken a couple of identical shots with both cameras to test the quality, I have to say that the little powershot certainly held its own.

The plan was to stay on the beach until lunchtime and then eat at Chez Angele which is a very rustic beachside paillote. The only slight disappointment of the day was that they seem to have tried to upgrade it to a proper restaurant so that it no longer fits the simple surroundings, so we decided to head just a couple of minutes round the bay to ‘la Crique’ instead...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Restaurant at the Hotel Incudine, Zonza

Today I had to pop over to Porto Vecchio to visit the Apartment Memona, so as the temperatures were edging ever nearer to the 40’s, I decided to head through the mountains which I hoped might be a bit cooler than via the main coastal road.

After a quick stop at the source just outside Zonza, we’d timed it just right to arrive in the village in time for lunch – result! We often eat at the Auberge du Sanglier when we stop here, but today we fancied a change so as we spotted Gerard as we passed in front of the Hotel Incudine, we decided to stop and eat at the hotel.

What a delicious treat! I can honestly say that it was the best meal we’ve had at a restaurant in a very long time. We started with the Terrine de Veau which was amazingly meaty and came with salad and a scrummy pepper and tomato chutney style topping. Next I’d chosen the Sanglier (wild boar) with olives and polenta. The meat was perfectly cooked and the flavours made my mouth water before I’d even tried a bite. We couldn’t leave without checking that the desserts were up to scratch, so I chose a homemade lemon cake with tangy lemon sorbet. Absolutely perfect.

A couple of coffees, and we were on our way again. We stopped briefly at the Lac de l’Ospedale which is a huge man-made dam, and then a little detour past the restaurant Le Refuge to the hamlet of Cartalavonu. There are some beautiful authentic houses up here with sunbleached shutters and oodles of character

It was while photographing this tiny abode that the owner wandered over and asked if we wanted to look inside. What an experience! It was almost like stepping into a time warp and as the nice lady offered us water and told us that she’d grown up here, and we were amazed to find that they’d been six people in this small one bedroomed shack.

It was the first time that I have ever been invited in off the street like that, and we were so grateful to have been taken on a tour of her past. Something I shall treasure forever.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bastille Day, 14 July

I love fireworks! Here in Propriano we get them twice a year on Bastille Day (14 July) and the Fête de l'Assomption (15 August).

This year I was extra lucky as Olmeto had their celebrations on Tuesday night so that for two nights running at 11pm, the night sky has been illuminated by bright red and blue kaleidoscope patterns and bright white patterns of falling stars.

Lots of the neighbours and their kiddiwinks headed down to the port to get the best from the atmosphere, but as we have such a fabulous view from the balcony it was just too tempting to relax with a glass or two of rose and enjoy the show…