Day 261 Ghissonaccia to Bastia, Corsica.

I eventually managed to extricate the washing out of the tumble drier. Howard has been instructed, yet again, not to open the door until it makes a clicking noise. It’s a bit like ‘a watched pot never boils’. Had the thing been left to finish on its own, he could have saved himself a lot of aggravation. Next time, I am collecting the washing!

Washing drama behind us, and adorned in clean clothes, we set off for our last full day in Corsica. By shear chance, we had managed to save the best til last. There is something I have heard that implies that the joy is in the journey, not necessarily the destination. That is exactly what happened to us today.

Our plan had been to divert inland to the centre of Corsica to a town called Corte, in the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse, on our way back to Bastia. We set Boris, our stupid satnav for Corte, and he gave us two options, the main road, and what we assumed was a ‘B’ road. In fact, he had offered the main road, or this tiny winding unclassified road up into the mountains. We picked the latter, thinking that this was the ‘B’ road. It was only after half an hour or so, that we realised the error. We almost turned back to the other road, but thankfully, we persisted. The drive was sublime. It led us higher and higher up into stunning scenery, with fragrant pine woods and views across the mountains. We came to the gorgeous little village of Vezzani, with its population of only 300. I stopped to take a photo of the church, then spotted a lovely little cafe in the town square. Howard needed no persuasion to stop there for our morning coffee. Sat outside, deep in conversation, no doubt putting the world to rights, were three local men, elderly gentlemen, drinking aniseed liqueur at 11am in the morning! Howard tried to order two coffees in French, but I could tell that he was having problems making himself understood. I left my seat, and in my best schoolgirl French, had a go. The lady still looked perplexed. At this point, a cyclist who had just walked in, took over, and ordered for us – in Corsican. It is the first time, since we have been in Corsica, that French or Italian has not been understood at all.

The coffee was good, and the local lady who served us was prolific in her goodbyes as we left. We continued on up the mountain, but started to confront all manner of wildlife, mostly domestic. First we came across a herd of goats, roaming wild, and in no hurry at all the move along the road. Then there were the pigs, also left to wander. Lastly we came across sheep, happily following the lead sheep with a large bell round its neck, but again very reluctant to move out of the way of Oscar. Sadly, we didn’t come across wild boar, which our motorbiking friends had seen when they had ventured into the Park, but no matter. Yet again, the red kites were everywhere, and we also saw plenty of jays flitting into there forests.

We stopped several times on our drive. Words are totally inadequate to describe this wonderful scenery, and photos cannot convey the heady scent of pine, wild flowers and shrubs that we experienced every time we got out of the van. It was just sublime, and definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

Eventually, we joined the main road again, and made our way to Corte. This citadelle town in the heart of Corsica was at one time the capital of this island. It has been ruled intermittently between the French and the Genoese. In 1735 the constitution for an independent state were drafted here, and Corte became the centre of Corsican nationalism. It was the site of Corsica’s first university, and maintains a sense of cultural distinctiveness. Many of the students here speak only Corsican, and situated as it is in the centre of the island, it is surrounded by a spectacular wilderness.

We walked up the hill to the Citadelle. The old town has a wonderful atmosphere – charming medieval streets winding their way up the hill. Many of the buildings seem to be painted various shades of pink, as is the pretty church. We sat in the Place Gaffori, named after Jean-Pierre Gaffori, hero of the Corsican independence movement, Howard with a coffee, and myself with an ice-cream. I wondered how many more days it would be warm enough to be wandering around in shorts and T-shirts and eating ice-creams. Not many, I suspect.

We meandered our way back to Oscar, and headed on our way. The drive into to Bastia was much less exciting than our drive to Corte.

Tomorrow we have an early ferry out of Bastia to Nice, and so have opted to stay in a hotel close to the port. Sadly, the hotel’s WiFi doesn’t seem much better than the feeble campsite coverage, and so I am still struggling with photos. Hopefully, once in mainland France, our reception will improve, and I can put the rest up later.

Corsica has been an absolute revelation. It is a gem of a place – completely unexpected, but a real treat. We have enjoyed our visit here immensely. There is something about islands that I can’t put my finger on. Corsica is a strange mixture between Italian and French, neither one nor the other – a unique blend of magnificent scenery, wonderful cuisine and stunning towns. I am so pleased that we took the time to come here, and see for ourselves this amazing island.

It is with great sadness that we are leaving, and returning to the mainland. If you haven’t been here – come and see for yourselves. Simple as!

Since we are on a ferry most of the day tomorrow, there is unlikely to be a blog.

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