Friday, June 26, 2009


The Fango - a precious Corsican environment

We spent a great afternoon on - and in - the River Fango a few days ago. If you don't know where this is, go to Galeria on Corsica's west coast and you'll find the Fango delta on the outskirts of the town.

We hired a bright yellow canoe to explore the delta. It is a wilderness of grasses, bamboo, water lilies and a myriad of little inlets and a canoe is just about the only way you'll get to see it. Try walking round there and you will get bogged down very rapidly. We knew there were turtles in the delta but in all honesty we weren't expecting to see any, so we were delighted to see not just one but nine or ten, quietly sitting on logs in the sunshine as we paddled slowly past (Click on the picture to get a better view of them).

Later in the afternoon we went for a swim further up river at the tiny village of Tuarelli, a few kilometres inland. The river is quite deep here and unlike many other river bathing places on the island you can really swim here rather than just splash about. Even though there were still patches of snow on the mountains, the river was surprisingly warm for June. I didn't see any trout in the river while we were having our dip, but I've seen plenty in recent years and I know they are there.

The River Fango is a very precious environment and a nature reserve. If you have had your fill of the beach and can't face a mountain walk, I can recommend the Fango as a very special place to visit where you can relax and enjoy a few hours of total peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Porto Vecchio revisited

The last time we spent any time in Porto Vecchio was in 1993, so I felt it was time to take another look. We were camping then with our teenage lads and the chances to go exploring in the old town were few and far between.

In 1993, we spent most of our time on the beaches of Palombaggia and Rondinara (amongst the best on the island) but last Sunday we visited for a short weekend near the centre. This time we stayed at the stylish and elegant Hotel Le Tilbury on Rue du Général LeClerc.

The ancient citadel (one of the ancient gates of Porto Vecchio is pictured right) was a big surprise. We took a gentle stroll round the walls of the haute ville. Although it was a Sunday evening in June the place was packed. It’s full of intriguing little streets with lots of boutiquey shops and a restaurant, it seemed, every five metres.

We chose the restaurant A Merendella in Rue Borgo. They offered set-price menu from as little as 17 euros – a price which included the fabulous views over the Port de Plaisance and the bay beyond.

The medieval haute ville was built by the Genoese in the 1530s to bolster their fortifications in the east. But it was a much smaller invader that got the better of them – the mosquito. A bit of history that I’m happy to say has now been lost to us.

Monday, June 22, 2009


A walk in the Balagne

When we were here in March we discovered that we could walk from our apartment in Quartier Salduccio to the old chapel of St Peter and St Paul just south of Lumio (illustrated). Today, we decided to explore further and created our own 10km walk which I can recommend to you.

Turn left off the Balanina road just south of Lumio and go towards Quartier Salduccio. After the first crossroads, the little road turns very sharply left after a few hundred metres and comes to a halt altogether in another 100m. This is where the walk starts.

We followed the footpath that continues north along the same direction as the road through shady woodland. The path is well marked. In spring, the ground near the path can be a little damp and is covered in spring flowers and delicate pink orchids; in June the grass (and the path) is bone dry and everything is golden.

In about a quarter of an hour the track becomes a paved road again, and we enjoyed a welcome coffee from our flask on the wall of the little cemetery surrounding the ancient chapel of St Peter and St Paul – a building dating from the 11th century.

After a welcome break we turned right towards the vineyard of Etienne Suzzoni’s Clos Columbu, which we reached in another 15 minutes. Here we enjoyed a glass of one of the best rosés in the Balagne (and weighed down our rucksacks by buying two bottles!) then returned the way we’d come along the lane back to the chapel.

On reaching the chapel we turned right, and where the road turns sharply left to rejoin the Balanina, we continued straight on along a track towards the village of Lumio. We had an excellent sandwich and some liquid refreshment at the Café a Mossa in Lumio, then retraced our path past the chapel and back to Salduccio.

The countryside is a riot of green and gold at this time of year. The bright green of the trees contrasts with the burnt gold of the dry grasses that line the paths. Butterflies of all imaginable hues, cheeky lizards, grasshoppers and tiny red and black beetles were talking points. Otherwise, all was quiet, sunny and peaceful - what a wonderful way to spend four hours on a warm and sunny day in the Balagne in June.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


In praise of L’Ile Rousse

L’Ile Rousse simply doesn’t convince as a Corsican Town. more in common with the French Riviera. artificiality. unbearably popular.

These are the unkind words that the Rough Guide to Corsica uses to describe one of my favourite Corsican towns. I profoundly disagree - and to prove it you can take a look at me enjoying a coffee in the town square with my wife Chris.

I will admit that L’Ile Rousse lacks city walls and does not have the same brooding presence that we find in Calvi, Bastia and Corte, with their massive citadels. With the exception of the granite masif on its rocky peninsula, it is pretty flat. And its sunny square, lined with plane trees and busy bars and restaurants, offers the visitor a charming rather than a historical prospect.

But history it has. Pascal Paoli, Corsica’s hero and one-time president, built L’Ile Rousse in the 1750s as a port to rival and outwit Calvi while the latter was still in Genoese hands. The Balagne was then (as now) a major producer of wine and olive oil and he needed to link it with its export markets. It’s interesting to note that Calvi’s arms bear the Latin words Semper Fidelis (always faithful). I wonder whether this powerful motto was a bit of Genoese PR drafted to oppose Paoli’s upstart town 20 km further north? A few years later Calvi’s Genoese protectors left for good, selling the island and Calvi with it, to France.

So I think of L’Ille Rousse (which by the way means “red-head island”) as Corsica’s first post-Genoese town. And with its proud links with Pascal Paoli, the town can think of itself as very Corsican indeed.

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