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Corsica – Jun 29, 2010 (Tuesday)
We looked forward to ending our holiday trip on an island, as we often do. Corsica is located in the south of France and it is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean. Historically speaking, from the 11th to 13th century, Corsica was a colony of the old Tuscan republic of Pisa. Corsicans had enjoy 14 years of independence before being “sold” to France in 1769 for 40 million francs. During our trip, we have encountered locals who prefer to speak in Italian than in French. Road signs that display both languages only with the French words spray painted. We read that there has been strong separatist movement in Corsica, which indirectly helps to preserve her natural beauty. Cynthia and I do not look like French (in fact, we have not seen any Asian during our two days of stay). Suffice to say, the locals are to the least looking at us with curious eyes.
On the first day (as seen in the map above), we drove from (a) Ajaccio to (b) Sagone, and then (c) Cargèse, (d) Piana, and (e) Porto.
Arriving at Ajaccio
The memory of the French going on strike was still fresh in our mind. So, to catch the 9am flight from Nice to Ajaccio, we woke up at 5.30am. We arrived at the Nice airport ridiculously early. Most airports in Europe are not as entertaining as the ones in Asia. There was little Cynthia and I could do but to sit and wait and eat our overpriced breakfast.
Landing on Corsica is like arriving at any resort island. The sun, the sea, and the breeze. The people in Corsica hardly speak English. Still, we managed to find our rental car, hopped onto it, and drove off to our first destination: Ajaccio.
Ajaccio is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1769. Napoleon never returned to Corsica after crowning himself emperor of the French in 1804. I wonder why. Napoleon is a strange man. I have visited some of the museums dedicated to him. The way he handled love and his root still puzzles me. Till today, Ajaccio still celebrates Napoleon’s birthday every 15 August. In the photo above, behind Cynthia was the statue of Napoleon.
Driving out of Ajaccio
Driving along the coast, we stopped frequent when we came across scenic spots. Corsica is beautiful. And the island is huge. Because the roads tend to be windy and narrow, we have scaled down our ambition.
On our way to Cargèse, we have encountered a scenic spot with huge gathering (turned out to be a funeral). We found a pier near to that home and we had ice-cream inside an open space restaurant. The lady who served us ice-scream also manned the booth that sold cruise tickets to nearby locations. It was a warm day. And we saw a man swimming in the sea.
Arriving at Cargèse
Cargèse is a small town overlooking the sea with many of the people who are the descendants of 17th-century Greek refugees from Turkish rule, given asylum in Corsica. At one vintage point, we saw the Catholic Church from afar, where a wedding celebration took place. Behind us, was a Greek Orthodox Church. In the old days, we read that there was tension between the two faiths. We also read that this old rivalries have since vanished. That day, we saw a Orthodox nun came out of the Church, together with the crowd that took shade from the sun we admired the wedding at the Church opposite.
On the Way to Piana
After our brief stop in Cargèse, we made our way to Piana. The driving route was beautiful (you can see more photos in our album). There was more yachts and ocean, and more mountains and wildlife. We saw herds of goats grazing. I am a city boy. Whenever I see wildlife, I am incapacitated, staying still and lost in the moment. So many goats! Cynthia had to pull me away from the nature and got me back into the car.
On a side note, I have dreamed to be a farmer. What a life that would be.
Driving through the Cliffs
Near Piana, there were cliffs. The roads were narrow. More so than the roads at the gorges in our previous destination. It was an exhilarating drive nonetheless. The cliffs are majestic. Passing through that stretch I felt I was in a different time and space. It was not a long stretch. But enough to be magical.
Porto was the Last Destination of the Day
Aware of the time required to make it back to Ajaccio before the end of the day, Porto was the last destination of the day. The town is next to a port and it appears to be a popular tourist destination because the town was packed with cars. If we were to tour around the island, Porto would have been a logical place to stay a night at.
We have one more day of stay in Corsica. And that is the story for another day.
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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 10 too.