Tuesday, June 24, 2008


There’s no such thing as a free beach

We paid a visit to one of our favourite beaches yesterday and received two shocks. The beach is one of a collection of little jewels at Punta di Spanu, close to the busy Marine de Sant’ Ambroggio in the Balagne, but probably undiscovered by most who stay there.

The first shock was to find that the little restaurant there, Le Rocher, had closed. We often used to look at the menu there but it seemed a bit pricey to us, and, not being big midday eaters anyway, we usually passed it by. We did however visit for the occasional drink - it’s very pleasant in the shade of the little trees and it’s nice to get out of the glare of the sun for a while. Maybe if more people like us had patronised Le Rocher, it would have been open for us yesterday.

The second shock was to see the state of the beach. We’re used to seeing the beach in beautiful condition, but this time, it looked awful. The ubiquitous hottentot fig plants have been allowed to invade the sand, fighting for supremacy with bog-grass and wild bamboo, and the beach itself, somewhat reduced, is scored by gulleys from storm-water run-off and cluttered with driftwood piles, plastic detritus and bits of rotting sea-grass. There was just about enough space for a few families to sit down and to swim, but for how much longer?

It got me thinking. These beach-front establishments such as Le Rocher (and the Mata Hari (Arinella) and Pain du Sucre (Ste. Restitude) further south) play a hugely important part in keeping these lovely beaches clean. I guess we should support them a bit more if we are to keep these idyllic places as we like them.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Corsican wheat makes a comeback

Today’s item is all about wheat, and its main by-product, bread.

A friend came to stay with us in Corsica last Sunday, who made a request I have never heard before. She said she finds that the traditional French baguette disagrees with her and asks if there are other types of loaf one can buy here.

The answer is of course a resounding yes, but I don’t want to talk about the diversity and excellence of modern Corsican bread just now. Instead I am going to flag up the work of a group of wheat enthusiasts who are seeking to identify, develop and even perhaps reintroduce one or two ancient varieties of wheat which are known to have been grown and used for bread-making in Corsica in antiquity.

The people doing this have formed themselves into an association with the name “U Granu Anticu”. It was founded in December in the island’s Roman capital, Aleria. It seems that eight farmers already have 150 hectares of the stuff growing. There seems to be a coming-together of the great and the good in Corsica around this project (the University in Corte, archaeologists, historians and agricultural experts according to Corse Matin (11th June 2008).

I wish them the very best of luck. Maybe one day they will be able to overcome our friend’s inability to eat baguettes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Worst enemy of the Francophonie: Le restaurant francais

Corsica is fighting a tough battle to keep its language. However, it’s easy to forget that the language displacing Corsican all over the island – French – is also fighting a battle for survival.

To find the enemy troops that are undermining the bulwarks of the French language, one needs to look no further than the restaurants in the Cote d’Azur, France’s famous wine regions, and of course our favourite French island of Corsica. On these battlegrounds of the tastebuds, French waiters sometimes insist on speaking English. Even when you ask for your meal in half-decent French.

Imagine the plight of an English speaker who has gone to night-school for a year to learn the basics of French. He has then gone to France for a well-earned holiday, eager to try out his new-found language skill in a brasserie … only to hear the waiter ride roughshod over his attempts in well-oiled anglo-restaurant-speak. It’s hardly surprising that three-quarters of us give up, and resort to speaking English a bit LOUDER. Leaving the French language diminished.

Many is the time I have been out-languaged by an aggressive and unsympathetic waiter (note the masculine gender – no oversight) who insists in speaking English despite the fact that his English is much worse than my French. One English friend actually faced down a waiter in these circumstances, asking, in his always immaculate French “Is my French so bad that you must continue to talk to me in my own language?” He received an apology. Perhaps more of us should do this – if for no other reason than to give the French language a much-needed boost.

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