Nice, Corsica, Sardinia and Bologna 2016 travel blog

Cathy was successful in finding her coke!

Fishing boats and cruise ships, Ajaccio harbour

Mariners' church - note the hanging boats

Pork and ham feature strongly in Corsican cooking

Gorges de Spelunca

View from our lunch restaurant, Ota

Gorgeous stone building, Ota

Impressive cliffs, Scandola

Lunchtime, Girolata

Red cliffs, Scandola

Spectacular granite, Piana

Greek church, Carghese

Fresco, Greek church, Carghese

It will be challenging to do justice in either words or photos to the amazing mountain and coastal scenery of Corsica, but here is my attempt.

On Monday 12 September, we had a 50 minute flight from Nice to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica and Napoleon's birthplace. Our hotel is the Hotel Napoleon, the Main Street is Rue du Napoleon and as the photos show, Napoleon even features in ads for coke (he is probably turning in his grave). We were delighted to feel the cool sea breeze in Ajaccio that made the still high 20s / early 30s temperatures pleasant. On our first afternoon, we explored the town - very easy to walk around. The harbour is dotted with tiny fishing boats, which are dwarfed by huge cruise ships and the ferries that travel from Ajaccio to Sardinia, France and Italy.

Serendipity strikes! Cathy spotted a sign about a concert in a local church and half a block later, we stumbled upon the church where two men were setting up for the concert that night. The church was the church of the mariners and fishermen, so it was quirkily decorated with all manner of boats suspended from the ceiling. After an early dinner, we headed back to this church for the concert of Corsican music. One of the two musicians sang and played the guitar, while the other played two types of saxophones. The church was lit by candlelight, so it was beautiful to sit with eyes closed and just take in the lovely haunting music and Corsican songs.

Next day, Tuesday, we had a magnificent 11 hour excursion by minibus and boat to the mountains and coastal cliffs north of Ajaccio. Truly STUNNING!!! Many of the places we visited deservedly have UNESCO World Heritage status. Red granite cliffs plunge into the deep blue waters at the Scandola Nature Reserve. Our boat edges forward into a narrow opening in the rocks called the Cathedral, where we can almost touch the rocks on either side. The edges of the rocks at the water's edge are crusted with algae, while small fish dart around in crystal clear water. Our boat also stopped at the tiny fishing village of Girolata where cows ambled along the beach.

During the bus part of the tour, we see the Gorges de Spelunca, and the very impressive rock formations of Piana. They remind me a little of the formations called the Needles in the Dakotas, USA. Our bus climbs to about 1500 metres, but everywhere, I feel like an ant, overwhelmed by the scale and grandeur of the mountains. If you look carefully at the photo of the rock formations in Piana, you can see tiny cars and people. Our lunch stop was an equally gorgeous little village called Ota. Beautiful stone houses and mountain views to die for. It is said that the heart of the Corscian people is in the mountains, rather than the coast, and I can see why. The final stop on this trip was to the Greek church in Carghese, richly decorated with frescoes.

As it is early autumn here, I have missed out on two experiences - the aromas of the maquis (the wild herbs and shrubs) that flourish everywhere in Corsica, and the local famous cheese, brocciu. However chestnut trees are in bloom.

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