Sunday, January 14, 2007


The West Coast road improves - gradually

I gather that the end is in sight for the roadworks on that tortuous stretch of road on Corsica's west coast between Galeria and Porto. Or should I say it was in sight until a few days ago when there was a slight setback.

The road had been closed during weekdays for a couple of weeks to enable some blasting to take place about 1km north of Porto; it had been scheduled to reopen on 28th January. However, someone filed a post on one of the discussion groups today to the effect that "During work to clear unsure rockface between the col de Palmarella and the col de la Croix, about 10 tons of rock fell on the road and weakened the supporting wall which will have to be bolstered up."

Road works on the two stretches are not being undertaken at the same time in order that the villages of Serriera, Partinello etc. are not completely cut off. However, our Tripadvisor informant assures us that everything should be fine by the summer. If I get further news about this situation, you'll be the first to know.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The Queen's visit to Corsica

Lat year Corsica and the British monarchy celebrated a rather strange anniversary - the 50th anniversary of the visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to the island - a event that took place on 10th March 1956.

I was reminded of the event when I received through the post last week a copy of the March/April1956 issue of of a magazine called "La Corse - Touristique et Hoteliere" which recorded the event in some detail. Many thanks to Roger Snook - son of the Hon. British Consul to the island at the time - for sending it to me.

I rang Buckingham Palace to get the background to the event, but was told very firmly that if the event had taken place at all it would have been a private visit and therefore they couldn't provide any information. I think the folk on the island, however, regarded it as very important, unofficial or not. She was greeted by M. Marcel Savreux, Corsica's Prefect, in full uniformed splendour, and a host of other island dignitaries.

The magazine contains some fascinating photos. The reception committee, unsurprisingly, look stiff and nervous; the young Queen on the other hand looks relaxed, happy and very elegant.

Could it happen again? I doubt it. I'm impressed that Her Majesty had the good taste to choose Corsica for a prvate holiday but doubt whether either the French or British authorities could cope with the security arangements these days. But it would be great for Corsica, and would add a new twist to the development of Anglo-French relations.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Los Corsos - an explanation

Visitors to my favourite discussion group Corsicalista (see link above left) will have noted that it gets a surprising number of visitors from the Caribbean and South and Central America – many of them concerned with genealogical research.

The truth is that there are more people in this region who are of Corsican descent than there are in Corsica itself. As I understand it, this is how it happened…

At the beginning of the 19th Century, there was a sprinkling of Corsican sailors, smugglers and traders plying their trade in the Caribbean, but in 1815, the King of Spain issued a decree encouraging Catholics from countries other than Spain to live and work in Spain’s politically vulnerable colonies in the west. As far as Corsicans were concerned, the offer couldn’t have come at a better time: drought and crop-disease had ravaged their farms and the 1848 revolution in France had contributed to a feeling of great instability and uncertainty.

The deal was this: foreigners would be allowed to go and live in the Spanish colonies - like Venezuela and Puerto Rico - provided they swore loyalty to the Spanish Crown and converted to the Catholic Faith. After five years, they could become naturalised Spanish subjects. Corsicans, with little affection for their own political masters and who were already Catholics, applied in a steady stream. Hundreds applied in the 1830s; by the 1850s the stream had become a torrent.

Nobody knows exactly how many Corsicans emigrated to Puerto Rico in the first half of the 19th century, but we do know where they went and what they did when they got there. While the Spanish settlers colonised the low-lying coastal areas, the Corsicans headed for the mountainous south west. According to Wikipedia, the most popular towns were Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado, Ponce, Coamo, Yauco, Guayanilla and Guánica.

They thrived there, particularly in Yauco, and over the coming years involved themselves in the coffee, sugar cane and tobacco industries. But it was in the coffee industry where they really made their mark. By the 1860s, Corsican families dominated Puerto Rica’s coffee industry, owning seven out of ten plantations. More about the Corsicans in Puerto Rico’s coffee industry in Corsica Isula ( Some successful plantation owners came back once they had made their fortunes, especially in Cap Corse where they built large “American style” houses. Many of these houses are still standing today.

If you want to know more about Los Corsos, take a look at the latest edition of U Bullitinu, the newsletter of and Corsica Isula. Its editor, Mac McKeone (mac @, assures me that he’ll send you the latest and future issues if you’re interested.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


The sour taste of pessimism

As you know, you can tell if someone’s an optimist or a pessimist by giving them half a glass of water – the optimist will say it’s half full; the pessimist will say it’s half empty.

On this premise I have come to the conclusion that Europcar is a company of pessimists. Last year I was scurrying round Calvi on the Sunday morning of my flight back to the UK, looking for an open gas station. Fortunately, I found one open on the outskirts of the town about three kilometres from the airport, and I duly filled up with diesel until the pump switched itself off – completely full, I thought to myself, smugly. The gauge was showing full, too, as I drove towards Sta. Catalina Airport.

On returning the car to the depot, I was gob-smacked to see the Europcar representative approaching the car with a fuel line. “The car must be completely full of diesel on return” he said. “It is”, I replied. However, by inserting the hose and clicking the trigger several times, he managed to get a few more ccs into the tank and charged me 10 euros. Don’t they know what full is?

I think Europcar is letting itself down with this policy. I left Corsica with a nasty taste in my mouth for only the second time in my life (more about the first some other time). As you'll note from the post below, I usually hire my cars through Carrentals, Holiday Options or Corsica-Isula Carhire. But if I get a choice of provider next time I book a hire car here, I’ll opt for Hertz. When I apologetically returned a car to them with a slight bump on the door a couple of years ago, the Hertz rep told me not to worry about it. “Don’t worry, that was just a little present from Corsica” he said. Good for them.

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