As agreed, today we lounged. Robert woke before me and took a stroll through Calvi. He also took in breakfast, without me....so sad, but honestly, I would rather sleep. And, after missing lunch yesterday (damn that 2 hour window for lunch), Robert was determined not to miss a meal in France again.
Finally, I dragged myself from bed and that beautiful view from bed and joined Robert strolling through Calvi. We decided it was time for lunch. Since we were already at the port (us and the yachts), we opted to stay here. But, as you can imagine, there were tons of little restaurants to choose from (ok, really like 7 or 8). How to choose, how to choose??? Yep, Les Palmiers, the one with the most comfortable seats won out. Robert had also spied a menu item he was particularly interested in - salade du anchois or anchovy salad. But, when he ordered it, the waitress said "no more, it finished with the summer." This really got under Robert's skin. He was like, "why didn't they take it off the menu then, I mean the menu is in chalk, why didn't they do that? Why did they just tease me...it was a bait and switch" Barring the anchovy incident, the meal was pretty good (I had the chevre chaud (hot goat cheese) salad which was awesome). And really, the setting could not have been more ideal. I think we were there for about 2 or 2 ½ hours.
For desert, I ordered the Royale Palmiers. It promised lots of fresh fruit, ice cream and chantilly (yummmmm, whip cream), but I had no idea how humongous it was going to be. I mean it was seriously LARGE! When the waitress brought it to the table, heads turned and the many comments of "C'est très grand" ensued. It was a little embarrassing, but didn't bar me from totally enjoying it!
After lunch we went to the Calvi beach. This is a beautiful beach about 2 miles long with super soft sand. The water was a little cool, but by no means unbearable and it was such a beautiful clear aqua color. Even though I went out pretty far in the water, it only came up to my waist. Floating on my back in the sun with the mountains surrounding me was utterly sublime. Meanwhile, Robert relaxed on the chaise lounge under the umbrella, with the serving wench bringing him Pietra (an organic Corsican beer brewed with a blend of selected malts and chestnuts) and reading the book my friend gave me on the Bayeux Tapestries and the history of the battle of Hastings. This is Robert's version of Heaven on earth -- for sure.
We ate dinner at the Aux Bons Amis and it was awesome! It is this small family owned restaurant that and each customer that came in (besides us) clearly knew the owner like he was an old dear friend. We decided we had had enough wild boar and opted for seafood instead. This was also my first dinner of the trip without foie gras... a girl just cannot get enough foie gras. The owner was delightful and fashioned himself quite the humorist. When I asked where the toilets were, he said, totally serious, "Il n'y a pas" (we don't have any) and I totally believed him. He just started cracking up. For desert, I was torn between the series of 3 crème brulee or the pear and chocolate dish. Asking the owner was no help, he said they were both good. I opted for the pears. After I ordered, he came back and said in English "you know it is pears, right" and I was like yes...about 10 minutes later, I saw him walk through the restaurant, motorcycle helmet in hand with a small grocery bag. Ummm, I think it was my pears. A few minutes later they brought out Robert's desert, which looked really yummy. I waited, and waited and the owner came out with this huge white plate, I couldn't see my desert, but I was excited! He set the plate in front of me and it was completely empty except for one small chocolate covered coffee bean. The owner burst out laughing and I saw his wife, daughter and chef peaking around the corner, laughing as well, as was Robert. It was really funny and I was laughing so hard I started tearing up. The desert was divine and well worth it! We asked for the check and the owner was like, "no café or liquor?". We said no. But, he said the liquor was on him and he brought over this bottle of liquor and two glasses. I asked him to drink with us, so he brought a third glass and the liquor was fantastic. It was called Chataigne and is chestnut liquor...totally makes sense in Corsica.
After dinner, we walked to the hotel Robert wants to stay at next time we are in Calvi, the St. Christophe. It has an amazing view of the citadel and its own swimming pool. From that vantage point, we could see the entire rugged coastline and the waves were crashing into the cliffs...it was a beautiful night.
I am going to be so bold as to interject a brief bit of Corsican history into this log. Apparently, there is evidence that people lived on Corsica 8,000 years ago, and as far as I can tell, they have been fighting over control of the land ever since.
The Romans took it in about 250 BC, it became Christian in about 400 AD, then was invaded by barbarians, the Vandals and Ostrogoths in 500 AD and ruled by the Lombards in the 700s (all three Germanic tribes). The Franks came in on behalf of the pope and defeated the barbarians. Pepin the Short (father of Charlemagne) gave Corsica to the Papacy in the mid 700's.
Because the Corsicans were plagued by clan fighting and vendettas, they did not have the military strength to defend themselves against Saracens (pirates from the east, and Muslims). There were mass conversions to Islam and mass exodus of Corsicans to Italy. So the Pope asked the Genoese and the Pisans to go in and sort things out. They ousted the Saracens, but because Pisa had closer political ties to the Pope, in 1077, the papacy granted Corsica to the Pisans. This just created loads of fighting.
The Genoese went around building Citadels like the one Calvi and eventually gained control of the island, sort of. Parts of the south remained true to Pisa and there were many revolts by Corsicans in a bid for independence. The leader of the Independence movement, General Paoli, was able to gain control and independence for about 14 years.
The Genoese's decline in power led them to ask the French to go in and take control in the 1700's. This is when the Genoese just kind of gave up and gave Corsica to the French. The French exiled Paoli, but he returned with British help and for 2 years, it was Anglo-Corsican rule. But that all ended 1796 when a young Corsican officer named Napoleon sailed in and took control of Corsica for France. Yeah, for loyalty :-).
Even though the French took control, constant revolts for independence continued with acts of violence up until 1991 when Corsica was granted regional control by France. There are still some rumblings about Corsican independence and we saw some graffiti to that effect. All of the road signs are in Corsican and French and apparently Corsican is taught in school along with French. Ta-da... my v. brief history of Corsica.