Saturday, 28 August 2010

Plage de Capo Loroso

With the temperatures up near to the 40’s again and a gammy knee, a visit to the beach seemed just what the doctor ordered.

We didn’t want to go far and I was a bit bored with the Plage Arena Biance, so we continued on just a few metres more, and then followed the track leading down to the collection of little sandy crescents along the Plage de Capo Loroso.

This is a beach I often come to in the winter because it’s quite sheltered, but also because the huge granite boulders which form the natural barriers between each scalloped section are ideal for a spot of escalade to make my winter fitness regime a little more challenging (depending on the right footware of course!).

Today, the colours were so impressive; the water seemed to shift between green and blue, and with my polarised sunglasses – an absolute must in Corsica – I could make out every contour below the surface for a fair distance.

Amazingly for August the beach really wasn’t busy at all. There were a few people dotted along the sand, the odd snorkeler here and there, plus some small children fishing – we could hear the screams of delight when they caught a tiddler!

Soon our attention was caught by two women who’d obviously invested in a new fangled exercise device from what I suspect is the French equivalent of QVC. We watched as they attached what looked like a perforated steamer to their feet and then push against the water to create resistence. I can’t help feeling though that it might have been more effective if they’d had two each rather than sharing a pair!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Walking in Corsica - Loreto di Tallano (Mare a Mare Sud)

We really wanted to get up into the mountains, but after a recent knee injury which found me wearing a very attractive support which, because it’s black, looks like I have decided to wear half a pair of cropped leggings (not a great look for anyone!), we decided to be sensible and do a short walk down to the river at Loreto di Tallano.

Of course, 15 years can dull the memory slightly and what I’d been led to believe was a short 15-20 minute walk on a fairly flat path, turned out to be part of the ‘Mare a Mare’ hiking trail which runs from Porto Vecchio on one side of the island to Porto Pollo on the other!

Fortunately, when we arrived at the river, the spot was so gorgeous that I managed to forget all about the rock track with the steep gradient, and was happy to settle myself on the little ‘beach’ beside the river, and listen to the water cascading over the rocks.

I’d managed to get sunburnt on the beach the day before, so I was delighted to find trees lining the banks which provided me with dappled natural shade from the searing hot sunshine.

It wasn’t long before someone came up with the brilliant plan of swimming up to the shallow cascades and sitting in amongst the rocks so that the water could massage away our various aches and pains. Although the water wasn’t particularly deep, the currents were amazingly strong so faced with a choice of a spot of aerobic ‘contre current’ swimming or a snooze on the bank, it took me all of 3 seconds to make my decision!

Had we had more time and less injuries, we would have walked from Loreto di Tallano to Saint Lucie de Tallano for lunch (about 2hrs), then stopped off at the river on the way back as the track is varied and interesting, but that’s a plan for another day.

Restaurant A Madunnina, Sartène

I’d been invited to eat out with friends at ‘A Madunnina’; which is affectionately known as the fireman’s café given it’s proximity to the main fire station. On the basis that any activity with the word ‘fireman’ in it has to be fun, we soon found ourselves on the terrace faced with the usual dilemma of what to order.

Benny (11) has been practicing his French, so he gallantly suggested that he order for everyone. We all fancied pizzas but there was lots of negotiations for ‘sharesies’, so how he managed to remember what everyone wanted is beyond me! Pizzas were followed by scrummy desserts of chocolate fondant, caramel flan and ice cream all washed down with a tot of the excellent locally made liqueurs.

Luckily Benny kept us entertained by leading a scintillating discussion on the merits of Sweden and Scandinavia in general(!) before the waiter arrived and we thought we’d entered into negotations for the amount of the tip we’d left, but fortunately he told us that he found it ‘reasonable’. Probably just as well!

What a fab evening out!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


After a lively ‘discussion’ with EDF on the shortcomings of their creative billing system and a threatened sit-in over the sacred lunch hour at their offices in Propriano, we’d finally arranged for an engineer to call at the house in Sollacaro at 2pm to read the meter.

EDF in Corsica aren’t known for their punctuality so just to cover all bases, we decided to head up to the village early, have a spot of lunch, collect some fruit from the garden and hope that they turn up eventually!

It wasn’t quite time for lunch, so we wandered through the village for a little while, admiring the old stone houses and being nosy in the window of one that is currently undergoing renovation. We soon found ourselves down by the church and the school.

It’s amazing that a village of this size has its own school, which still has the old signs above the door to segregate the boys and girls schools. Something caught my eye as we were walking past and I realised that someone was drying their washing on the balcony of the town hall – only in Corsica!

It really reminded me of one of the schools I went to which was an old fashioned annexe to the main part of the school. I started to feel really nostalgic, so it was time for an apero before lunch!

We chose the Restaurant ‘U Paese’ which has a fabulous terrace at the side, complete with original water fountain, but most importantly it is just opposite the house, so that if EDF turned up during the lunch hour (unlikely) or on time (just as unlikely!) we could easily leap into the road and flag them down. The set menu at 12.50€ for three courses was superb value; a feuillette of cheese and spinach, followed by chicken in a sauce and a delicious chestnut cake for dessert – yum!

At 1:50pm, we decided to wander over and pick some of the fruits from the garden. There were so many plums on the tree that some of the branches had actually snapped under the weight. The limes weren’t quite ripe, so that’s a good excuse to pop back again in a couple of weeks…

Oh, by the way – little gold star for Philippe from EDF who turned up at 14:03. A miracle in itself, so worth a mention!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Spin'a Cavallu, Rizzanèse River

We’d planned to go to the ‘Petit Niagra’ this morning but after the wind of yesterday, it hadn’t occurred to me that the river might have turned into a raging torrent that was too deep/murky to cross! Fortunately, a few minutes downstream and we were at Spin’a Cavallu.

Literally meaning ‘horse’s back’, this superb example of a Genoese bridge which crosses the Rizzanèse river dates back to the 13th century and 15th century. Owned by the commune of Sartène, the bridge has been protected since 1976 and was classified as an historical monument in 1992.

Although there are a collection of little sandy beaches along the banks of the river, we chose a spot a little further up river where we could settle ourselves on the huge rocks and soak up the sun.

Within seconds, the kids were in the water hurtling themselves down the crevices created by the rock formations ‘canyoning’ style before plunging into the pools below and the relative calm of the river as it meandered under the bridge. It did cross my mind to have a go, but given my propensity for freak accidents, I thought it best to stay put...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Svegliu d'Isula in concert, Propriano

I’d seen the banners all over town advertising the Svegliu d’Isula concert on port in Propriano for the 14th August, but for some reason it’d been postponed until the Tuesday, so we decided to pop along, have dinner on the port and watch the free concert afterwards.

I really fancied Riva Bella but all the tables had been reserved, which is no surprise really when you consider that their terrace has the perfect view over the make-shift stage on the quay. Eventually we found a spot on the terrace of the No Stress Café which was a miracle given the number of people in the town.

It was only a week or so ago that we’d seen them perform at the Foire de Baracci, so I was worried it might just be a repeat performance, but we both commented on the fact that although some of the songs were the same, there was a really different feel to this performance.

The new camera excelled itself and I managed to get some fabulous photos of Anthony Secondi (one of the singers) and also Sébastien Tramoni (singer, composer & interpretor), but what was great was that there were obviously lots of family members in the crowd – unsurprisingly as they are all local to the Valinco-Sartènais.

This is the last concert of the summer season, and they all seemed a bit ‘demob-happy’; laughing and joking with each other, and involving the crowd. The other concerts have been nothing but professional performances, so it was nice to see them really enjoying this one. Roll on next summer!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Restaurant A Marinasca, Portigliolo

This morning was one of excitement – first, the new sofa finally arrived after the delivery van had managed to drive into the stone archway knocking out a couple of supporting stones, and then we had to do emergency first aid after I nearly amputated F’s toe whilst we were shifting the old sofa out of the way!

What we should have done is go straight to the hospital at Sartène or at the very least, the pharmacy for some steri-strips. What we actually did was go for lunch at the Restaurant A Marinasca in the hope of anaesthetising the foot with a drop of Saparale rosé wine!

We’ve been to this restaurant before and what I like about it is that the food is always delicious, but they change the menu which doesn’t tend to happen too often in Corsica. This time we chose the gnoccheti with mushrooms, red onions, cherry tomatoes and mussels (yummy!) and the dish of the day which was spinach spaghetti with a delicious home made pesto sauce, white fish and cherry tomatoes.

lthough we were chatting in French, the waiter obviously picked up on my English accent and was keen to impress us with his linguistics. Sadly, they only extended to ‘there you go, enjoy your meal’ but at least he tried bless him!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

15 August - Fête de l'Assomption

The 15th August is the Fête de l'Assomption which is celebrated all across the island. Of course, I had no idea what that actually was, except that we get a fabulous firework display – what more do I need to know?

However, I knew that my natural curiosity – some say nosiness, but I disagree! – would get the better of me, and I very quickly found myself on Google looking it up. According to the Roman Catholic faith (amongst others), ‘Assumption’ was the day that the Virgin Mary was taken up to heaven at the end of her life. Ah, that explains the candlelit church procession then…

At 11pm, the lights of the port (and more worryingly the lighthouse!) were doused, and the first huge boums were quickly followed by the twinkling coloured lights of the fireworks over the bay.

This year we were treated to three displays all on the same night, so not only could we see the huge kaleidoscope patterns over the port, but another display somewhere across the bay reflecting on the water.

The main display lasted about half an hour and just as that finished, the one at Porto Pollo started up. At first I wasn’t sure whether the ‘pop, pop’ sounds where a by product of the start of the hunting season, or something else but the deep black of the sky was soon broken again with falling glitter.

Calvi and Bonifacio have perhaps the most exciting celebrations as their displays are in the form of ‘son et lumière’ sound and light shows projected on to their respective Citadels, but the 15th August also marks the birth of Emperor Napoleon 1st, which make this date the high point of the summer season in Ajaccio…

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Sunset over the Tour de Capo Nero

Today started off a bit overcast but after an hour or two of apocalyptic looking skies and the odd flash of lightning, it brightened up sufficiently to do a 10km hike up the hill – I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?!

It also gave us the most amazing sunset, and with the new camera and its super-duper zoom, I was even able to get a decent shot of the Genoese tower ‘Tour de Capo Nero’ which is miles away!

Tonight is the start of the 15th August celebrations (Fête de l'Assomption), so at 9pm the church bells started for the candlelit procession, and then 10pm there was another free concert by Svegliu d’Isula on the port although they were drowned out initially by the over enthusiastic bell ringer from the church (or someone who forgot to turn the tape off!). Tomorrow will be the biggest firework display of the year, so I’d better start charging the camera batteries now...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cippiniello, Baracci & Vitricella - a trio of beaches!

This morning we’d intended to be on the beach bright and early, as we were going to attempt a sport of trespassing! Whilst technically there are no private beaches in Corsica, some are bordered completely by private land, making access impossible except by boat.

We’d decided to go to the far end of Baracci plage and try a spot of ‘escalade’ to get to the Plage de Cippiniello which is one such beach. Unfortunately, after a rather nasty near-amputation injury the day before, proper rock/hiking shoes were out of the question, so we quickly abandoned plan A, and headed back to the car and on to Vitricella.

We found a fabulous spot just at the waters edge and backed by trees in case we needed to retreat from the sun. It wasn’t long before we were joined by first one young family and then another, keen to make the most of the shallow waters and thick golden sand – the very best for making sand castles!

Within 2 hours, I felt like a giant in the land of midgets (not for the first time in Corsica!) and we were surrounded by toddlers of all nationalities. Some of the parents were apologetic that our bit of R&R in the sun had gone for a burton, so we decided to return the consideration and leave them to it so that the kids could laugh and scream to their hearts content with a clear conscience!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Olmeto Plage

I’d managed to pull a calf muscle climbing over a gate on private land (trespassing is not something I’d recommend generally speaking!), so as it didn’t get any better with my morning walk, I decided that as I was already halfway to Olmeto Plage, I’d see if a swim would help.

Sunday mornings are the best time for the beach in August. Those arriving on the flights from the UK haven’t yet arrived, and those already here tend to have a well earned lie-in, so there was just a smattering of people dotted along the sand.

This is absolutely my favourite stretch of beach in the Valinco – perhaps in Corsica – so after my swim I was happy to amuse myself with a spot of people watching. The bay was full of boats of all descriptions; dinghies to yachts, sailing boats to little motorboats, but by far the most interesting was the one that looked like they had a nun on board...

I’d only got the little camera with me as opposed to the one with the huge zoom, so I had to wonder in ignorance for quite a while before they came close enough to the shore for me to work out that it was actually a teatowel and not a wimple she was wearing which did make a bit more sense when you come to think about it!

There was even an ‘ahh’ moment when I caught sight of the kids fishing from the rocks. They had a long cane fishing rod that was dangling into the shallows so I wasn’t sure they’d catch anything larger than a tiddler, but they seemed content.

There is no peace for the wicked and after about an hour I heard the familiar tunes of the mobile ringing in my bag so it was time to limp back to work. It was then that I discovered that my car is front wheel drive which came as a bit of a relief as otherwise I would have been calling one of the much maligned 4x4 drivers to come and get the car out of the little ditch next to where I’d parked...