We had a slow start, after our rather disturbed night in our budget room, vowing to research accommodation better next time. Online reviews, only looked at subsequently, should have warned us to avoid this place. Comments such as ‘damp and musty’, ‘frayed at the edges’, ‘dirty sheets, black hairs everywhere’ (thank God we didn’t look!), the swimming pool ‘like primordial soup’, ‘patched up bathroom’, and compared to ‘time travel Romania circa 1980’, all would have alerted us to avoid this hotel. Never mind – a lesson learned. Next time I will pay more heed to Trip Adviser!
We were both feeling pretty tired after our busy few days of socialising, so decided to take the day at a slower pace than usual. Thankfully, we had declined the offer of a 10 euro breakfast at our ‘hotel’ – a sixth sense perhaps, as the reviews of that culinary experience passed an entertaining half hour’s reading later in the day! Instead, we opted to eat our breakfast sitting in one of the many harbourside cafes in Saint Florent – very pleasant, watching the world go by.
After doing a few administrative tasks, we decided to explore the coast a short distance from the town. St-Florent is blessed by a beautiful sandy beach, La Roya, just west of the town itself. From the beach, we gained a wonderful view of the town itself, it’s pale buildings and citadel standing out against the background of dark hills. After a wander along the shoreline, I was unable to resist a paddle in the warm waters. Howard declined getting his feet wet, but then decided to make up for it by ‘Dad dancing’ on the way back to Oscar, just to prove that he wasn’t a party pooper.
West of St-Florent, the road winds upwards and looks out over the expanse of the Desert des Agriates, a 35km stretch of uninhabited wild and rugged coastline, which looks like a rocky moonscape, and hills covered in maquis. Inaccessible by road, this once fertile area of the coast, used by Genoese sheep and goat herders, over generations was reduced to desert by soil erosion and forest fires. Today, it is a protected area, and home to many rare species of birds. Boat trips from St-Florent run excursions out to it’s beautiful sandy beaches, but it’s interior remains barren and inhospitable. From the road, there were several viewpoints, where you could stand in the maquis and look out at the strange rock formations. As yesterday, the fragrant smell of the maquis pervaded the air, as you brushed past the undergrowth. One of the shrubs had small, bright orange fruits, like mini-clementines. I wondered if this was the plant used to make the liqueur drink that I had purchased earlier in Bastia for my cough.
Eventually, we headed towards Calvi, our campsite destination for the night. We stopped at a wonderful viewpoint looking out over the glimmering Ligurian Sea. A narrow sandy path, littered with lizards basking in the warm sun, led you to the best vantage point. Originally, we had planned to stop at L’Ile Rousse, a smaller eighteenth century port to the north of Calvi. However, our plans changed when we were confronted with a massive traffic jam, due to a serious road traffic accident a few miles beyond. The queue was at a complete standstill, and backed up for miles, so we joined the locals in taking a diversion inland, along narrower winding roads. All was well until we started to meet traffic driving the route from the other direction. The narrow road really did not have the capacity for this amount of traffic, and in many places it was not much more than single track. Consequently, it took an age to negotiate our way through, with frequent stopping and starting to allow the counter-traffic to pass.
By the time we reached the outskirts of Calvi, the sun was setting, casting a magical red glow across the sea. When we eventually arrived at our campsite and set up on pitch with Oscar, it was dark, so it will be a surprise in the morning as to where we are actually situated. We grabbed a quick supper and fell into bed. What a relief to be back in Oscar, after our run of nights in hotels. Despite it’s small size and lack of facilities, this little blue van really has started to feel like home to us after all these months on the road. The upstairs bed is truly comfortable, and for some reason, we often sleep better in the pop-up, cocooned within its canvas, than in a real bed.
Tomorrow we plan to explore Calvi, before continuing southwards. But for now, sleep awaits.