Friday, June 30, 2006


An idyllic lunch

We had an invitation to a barbecue lunch last week at a B&B owned by our friends Isy and JP. This is one of the nicest and most relaxing places you could possibly want to stay on this blessed island – let me paint a picture for you.

Casaloha is on the outskirts of Galeria at the southernmost point of that part of northwest Corsica known as the Balagne. You get to it by taking the road to Porto, and it’s on your left a couple of kilometres beyond the Tourist Office.

The B&B is set in a garden of considerable size with lots of shady trees and fruit bushes, and you can walk through a rickety gate at the back to the banks of the Fango just beyond. Our friends planned this chambre d’hote with meticulous care and although there are only four bedrooms (each with its own balcony overlooking the Fango valley), each of them has its own character and personality. One is called Kent; one is called Hawaii and another is called India and there are hangings and furnishings to match each theme. It’s a rambling, comfortable place full of fascinating corners and terraces and if we didn’t have our own place close by I guess we’d stay there pretty often.

“Aloha” is Hawaian for “welcome” but one of the interesting things about Casaloha is its location. It’s one of the last few islands of civilisation on the west coast road as you head south towards Porto and Piana and if you are heading that way, it’s a great place to stay to fortify yourself for the (quite appalling) road ahead of you. It will cost you 50 euros a night for a room for two in all but the peak months, and you get breakfast included.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


The Puerto Rican Connection

I have had a very exciting invitation. I am to meet some representatives of the Puerto Rican Corsican Association, who will be visiting Corsica at the same time as I am.

I have known about the Puerto Rican connection for a while now, and it fascinates me – and now I will be able to find out a little more about the links between these two intriguing islands at first hand.

Most of what I know is written on Corsica Isula ( and it goes something like this… When the Genoese handed Corsica to the French in the mid 18th Century, a number of Corsicans decided they would be better off elsewhere and decided to emigrate to Puerto Rica (Why there? I’ll try and find out!) and this was followed by mass migration to the Caribbean in the 1800s. There are now reputed to be around 400,000 people of Corsican descent on Puerto Rico – more than there are in Corsica itself.

It seems the newcomers settled down well, and were a key influence in establishing Puerto Rico’s thriving coffee industry. Since then, many Puerto Rican Corsicans have returned to the land of their fathers, and live in large, American-size houses in Cap Corse.

A happy ending? Yes, but there’s a corollary that I find rather sad. Visit one of the main information sites about Puerto Rico ( and there are eight densely pages of history about the island – but not one mention of Corsica.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Travel vibes

I spent part of the day yesterday with a senior executive of a travel company that sends a lot of people to Corsica each year.

It’s always interesting to talk to people like him about the destination in general and the state of the travel business there in particular. Because as well as going to Corsica, his firm goes to lots of other places as well - and he can see things in a sharper perspective than, well… me.

His opinion is that sales of packages to Corsica are down a little this year. Why? Because people like and, with their direct flights, are giving travellers other options. Options like buying a cheap flight on, then finding a villa, hotel or Chambre d’Hote and doing the whole thing for themselves. I’m sure he’s right.

There will always be room for UK companies offering all-in packages to destinations like Corsica, but I believe the DIY holiday to Corsica is set to rise as a phenomenon. Brits like to holiday in Spring and Autumn and Brits could nicely fill an income gap for the landlords and hoteliers on the island. It can only be good for Corsica that its critical dependence on France is loosened a little.

And it’s thanks to the Internet that all this has become possible.

Saturday, June 03, 2006



We're planning our next visit to Corsica (15-29 June) and I am greatly looking forward to it. The early part of the season will be in full swing and I am sure that some time during our stay there will be a polyphony concert somewhere. If so, it will probably be in the Auditorium in Pigna.

Maybe there will be a concert by one of my favourites like A Filetta, A Cumpagna, Tempus Fugit or Isulatine. Or maybe there will be a concert by someone completely new that I have never heard of before. I will say this about Corsica: I have yet to visit the place and come back without finding out something new and delightful and surprising. So maybe I will "discover" a new polyphony group that will delight me - and leave me wanting to write something about it in this blog.

One evening some years ago I drove to Pigna in the expectation of hearing an all-female group (Not Isulatine). There had been a misunderstanding and only one of the group turned up, so the people who run the Auditorium sent out a search party around the village and found most of the members of A Cumpagna enjoying a quiet evening in Casa Musicale. They were dragooned into performing. The concert was fantastic, perhaps helped by the fact that it must have been spontaneous. And it was free... but of course we all left donations.

As I have said in a previous post, this music is not for everyone, but do give it a try. Whether you like it or not, it's part of Corsica's proud tradition and heritage and it deserves every visitor's attention and respect.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Getting around

I have just been looking around one of Corsica's most useful websites - A great site - but the experience reminded me why it really is a good idea for holidaymakers to hire a car here if they can afford it. Corsicabus features all the bus and train timetables on the island and it is kept up to date by an English lady who deserves a medal for her efforts

I was on there this evening trying to help a young family coming to Corsica with a four year old. Should they hire a car? If they stay somewhere like Calvi or Ile Rousse, at either end of the Balagne's little beach train, they will be able to use the train to go to a different beach each day and see some of the Balagne's pretty coastal villages like Lumio and Algajola. And provided they don't miss the last train back, they can be back to their self catering apartment or hotel in time for a stroll down to the town for dinner.

But for most of the other places in Corsica, you really do need a car. The bus services are infrequent, and leave some villages isolated. There is one bus a day, for instance, between Calvi and Ile Rousse and it leaves at 6.45 in the morning, Monday to Saturday. This is not my idea of fun.

What is the point of coming somewhere as beautiful as Corsica if you can't travel around a bit. I'm all for public transport, but not at the expense of missing the very best of this beautiful island.

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