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Trip Report September Days in Nice, Corsica & the Italian Rivieras

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The Backstory:
Last summer we had a sensational time with friends driving around four Greek islands in a three week trip. We especially loved the small villages in Crete and Naxos. Being in sight of water nearly every day we found to be tremendously soothing.
So for our summer 2012 trip we were thinking islands with culture. I researched Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica and Corsica won. I was drawn to what I’d read of the simple life there, the abundant scenic beauty, the distinctive culture (geopolitically they are French, in their souls they are Corsicans), the modest amount of tourism in September and, of course, the food and wines.
After our Burma, Northern Thailand and Southern Laos trip (December 2010) we admitted we were no longer inclined toward three week trips involving long drives on dusty, potholed cow paths in search of this mountaintop ethnic village or that sacred ceremony. This is no disparagement to our great adventures down pot holed roads and up mountainsides; we have relished each and every trip we’ve taken to so many wonderful places in Southeast Asia. But our bodies (ages 74 and 66) and minds were steering us toward new priorities and locales.
So the itinerary took shape: a few days in Nice before flying (fifty minutes) to Corsica, a week driving around central and northern Corsica and then a ferry to Italy. From the ferry landing in Livorno we’d drive north and east visiting several Italian Rivieras. We’d end up back in Nice and fly back to Los Angeles from there. In retrospect, three full weeks in Corsica would have been even better, enough time to visit most of the island.
(I promised myself I would get out some report within a month of our return, I’ve come close.)
Nice
Our British Air flight took us from LAX to Heathrow and on to Nice. We had comfortable seats that made into comfortable beds. I wanted to be seated upstairs but would have had to nab the seats ten months ahead and pay $50 per person for the perk of choosing seat months in advance. Fortunately the ones they automatically asigned us were fine.
As many may know, flying in and out of Heathrow is a pricy proposition, so much so that there are petitions going around in London to review the exorbitant fuel charges. For our routing LAX- Heathrow- Nice and return, the fuel charges were over $1200. However, I’d be labeled mal eleve to claim outrage when the Business Class tickets were procured with frequent flyer miles, which in turn came free when signing up for a BA Visa card. Thank you Bob (RHKKMK) for spotting that great deal.
Arrival at Nice’s International Airport was hassle free. The bags were unloaded promptly and we grabbed a bus to the Messina stop, the closet to our hotel. We had heard and read so many stories of bad experiences with cab drivers and ugly disputes over charges that we wanted to avoid that kind of welcome. Although those who know us would not think us folks who take buses, many “mature” tourists, some well heeled, with more luggage than us, were our seat mates.
I had wanted to stay again at the Hotel La Perouse but their rooms were twice the price they were eleven years ago, when I stayed there for a week. So we stayed next door at Hotel Suisse. The hotel (like La Perouse) offered all the room amenities we needed and our balcony had an expansive view all the way along the Bay of Angels. The hotel is set into the base of Chateau Hill, at the edge of the Old Town and a ten minute walk to the port.
After settling in we took a pleasant evening stroll through the old town to Oliviera (8 rue du Collet) where we had pre-booked dinner. The charming eatery is on a narrow street with outdoor seating from many cafes spilling into the alleys, pedestrians left to wend their way through the “aisle”. The owner of Olviera was a cheerful and welcoming host. Can’t recall what I ate but the warm air and outdoor gaiety made me forget about jet lag.
We slept in on our first morning and by 10:30 am, we were more than ready for croissants and espresso on Cours Salaya, the main thoroughfare of the old town. This day and the next meld into each other so who’s to say what we did when. Mainly, we did in Nice what we like to do most, walk, eat, people watch, window shop, eat and walk.
One of the hotel attendant’s gave us a recommendation for lunch down by the port, a fifteeen minute walk from Hotel Suisse. Le Local was a real find. Its on a side street just beyond the church that faces the port t 4 rue Rusca. The wait staff are friendly and the crowd very local. Within half hour of taking seats at an outside table, the locals poured in and every table, inside and out, was occupied. Our appetizers and platters (one seafood, one charcuterie) were so fresh and tasty we pledged to return for another meal but it didn’t happen.
Time to stretch our legs and walk (female code for shop). Some years ago I discovered a shop in Auxerre that had stylist clothing that fit me perfectly. I learned that its actually a chain, with branches throughout France. So Fred and I headed over to the Armand Thiery main store. I’d brought a very small extra carry on piece in case I hit pay dirt....and I did. We’ll leave my new fall fashions in the hotel’s storage until we return there for our final night of the trip. Each evening I enjoyed sitting and reading on our balcony, taking in the beauty of the changing light toward sunset.
The title of today is: being on vacation means never caring what day it is, except.... Before heading out for our last day we gave the hotel staffer our flight details so she could learn if the departure time was still as indicated. When we returned from the Chagal Museum in the afternoon, we got the news that the flight had left on time. But without us. Being in vacation mode we really lost track of the days. She bought us new tickets for Ajaccio for the following morning. It is really remarkable how two seniors with 19 years of post bachelorette education can lose their heads once they hit France.
Since we both neglected to look closely at the beautifully laid out itinerary I’d prepared, finger pointing was out of the question and brief self censure ensued. After Isimmered down (contacted car rental and hotel on Corsica), it was c’est la vie. Although this tiny (?) oversight on our parts cut short one day in Corsica, we really enjoyed having three full days to hang out in Nice.
While, we were busy missing our flight, we took a bus up to the Cimiez neighborhood to visit the Marc Chagall museum. It is really a gem. We toured it slowly and thoroughly awash in his vibrancy. In a small auditorium, there was a continuous showing of interview excerpts with Chagall. He comes across as such a spirited man, grateful for every day.
Our last evening we’d booked (so we thought) a special restaurant, Luc Salsedo. The walk was much further than it appeared on the map and then actually finding the place was a further challenge. Having reached our goal, I was ready for a great meal. Oops, our hotel had made the reservation for two nights earlier. C’est dommage, not one available table all evening. The hostess was very apologetic and helpful. She was able to get us a table at Le Tire Bouchon in the old town, 19, rue de la Perfecture. Very fine food and and appealing outdoor ambience.
Next morning the cab got us to the airport in twenty minutes; Sunday traffic was light. The hotel had arranged it and the cost was 30e. While unloading luggage at the airport, the driver demanded 55e from Fred. He demurred; we paid the 30e we had agreed to and went to check in amid the grumbles from the cabbie.

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    Hi,
    I just joined Fodors forum after lurking on it forever to tell you how much I'm enjoying your trip report. We will be spending 5 weeks in Nice this winter so am waiting to find out more about your shopping expedition. Sadly won't be going to Corsica as not the best that time of year. Loved reading about your laissez faire attitude upon finding out you had missed your flight!

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    Keep this great report coming. There is hardly anything on Corsica.. I am going next June so desperate to glean some good info. The more details the better - driving times, food, accommodation please!!!

    What a scream missing your flight!!!

    Schnauzer

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    Lol! You really are laid back on your vacations. Missed your flight, missed your restaurant reservation.

    Been twice to Nice but never made it to Cimiez. Another reason to return. Love Nice.

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    lisathetraveller: shopping in Nice is best done by poking around. The Armand Thiery shop I mentioned is in a large "commercial complex" (mall), it takes up the whole block. Ask anyone to point it out. You may already know its best to concentrate your shopping to one store (i.e one for cosmetics, one for handbags/shoes, etc) so you are eligible for the VAT refund upon spending about $250++ at any participating shop.

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    Thanks for the tip. We just got back from Berlin & found some great prices on German brands. The only experience I have shopping in Nice is going into the Mephisto Shoes store several years ago. I'm not much of a shopper but Berlin has stimulated my appetite & there are European that are very pricey here but not as much in Europe. As I'll have 5 weeks, I'm sure I'll familiarise myself with what's available. I had never heard of Armand Thiery.
    Enough shopping! Onto the test of your trip.

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    On to Corsica...
    In planning our trip to Corsica, we had the mistaken impression that we could see what we wanted to see on the island in eight days. Then we bought the Michelin map and saw how big the island is. We decided to concentrate on the northern half of the island, mostly along the west coast and through the central mountains. The access from Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, is good going from the west coast to the central mountains and also driving north along the west coast. The beauty spots seemed closer to each other in the north half. At the narrowest part of the northern peninsula, it is a short drive to cross to the east coast to take the ferry from Bastia, Corsica to Livorno, Itlay.
    Our fifty minute flight was a breeze. We picked up our Budget rental car at the Ajaccio Airport and headed for the town of Ajaccio, twenty minutes away. A note about car rentals in France. You are required to purchase a minimum amount of collision damage waiver insurance; its pre-figured into the price. If you have a credit card that will pick up the excess liability, then you are fully covered. We used our British Airways Visa because it does not charge any nasty foreign transaction fees.
    In planning our trip to Corsica, we had the mistaken impression that we could see what we wanted to see on the island in eight days. Then we bought the Michelin map and saw how big the island is. We decided to concentrate on the northern half of the island, mostly along the west coast and through the central mountains. The access from Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, is good going from the west coast to the central mountains and also driving north along the west coast. The beauty spots seemed closer to each other in the north half. At the narrowest part of the northern peninsula, it is a short drive to cross to the east coast to take the ferry from Bastia, Corsica to Livorno, Itlay.
    Our fifty minute flight was a breeze. We picked up our Budget rental car at the Ajaccio Airport and headed for the town of Ajaccio, twenty minutes away. A note about car rentals in France. You are required to purchase a minimum amount of collision damage waiver insurance; its pre-figured into the price. If you have a credit card that will pick up the excess liability, then you are fully covered. We used our British Airways Visa because it does not charge any nasty foreign transaction fees.
    I loved driving the twisting roads up the mountains to Corte. At we gained altitude green valleys yielded to forest, trees clinging to steep escarpments. Fred was feeling quite ill with nausea and stomach ailments and thought he had food poisoning. So I drove extra slowly, which allowed me to take in the scenic beauty of the forested wonderland.
    I loved driving the twisting roads up the mountains to Corte (and the roads were in excellent condition!). At we gained altitude green valleys yielded to forest, trees clinging to steep escarpments. With each turn Fred was feeling more nausea and stomach ailments and thought he had food poisoning. So I drove extra slowly which allowed me to take in the scenic beauty of the forested wonderland.

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    Finally, some time to write up more of Corsica.

    As we drove through a high valley, it began to sprinkle. Still the mountains that cradled the valley were lovely. After a sharp turn, through the trees and drizzle, it appeared like an apparition. High on the mount ahead of us were the slender, colorful houses of Corte clinging to a huge rock formation that overlooked the confluence of two river. The Citadel sat like a crown atop the town structures. In the background were high mountain peaks. The setting reminded me of the family castle of Aurora, illustrated in your old book on Sleeping Beauty.Wow, wow, wow. This magical scene had not been photoshopped; it was authentic and very inviting.
    Now to find our hotel, Duc du Pardoue. Shouldn’t be hard, only a few streets in, out and through the town, even in the now pelting rain. On the main road through town there was a detour sign so we detoured and that took us away from town. I had the hotel’s map in front of me yet couldn’t gain access to the hotel. I parked at Plaza Paoli, the tiny plaza cum parking lot of the upper town, and asked at each shop around the plaza. The locals didn’t seem to know of our hotel or my French pronunciation was so bad as to render the name unrecognizable. Finally, a cafe worker, wanting a smoke break, walked me part way there and explained that I had turned too soon. Thirty feet beyond where I kept turning away from town per the detour sign was a tiny,tiny lane on which our hotel stood.
    We parked in front of the hotel and dragged our luggage up two flights of stairs and settled in. The hotel location was good, the hotel was basic and in keeping with the low tariff. Fred collapsed on the bed and slept for hours. The hotel receptionist encouraged me to try her parents’ restaurant. I walked the few blocks back to Plaza Paoli and followed a foot path just above the plaza.
    Soon I came to the cafe whose name I cannot recall. The tables are all outdoors under a trellis. I read from my Kindle and sampled my first Corsican meal. The starter was a terrine of vegetables that was delicious. The white boar stew was tough and had no distinctive flavors other than a generic gamy flavor.
    Fred was still asleep when I got back to our room. You have to use the card key to turn the lights on and I didn’t want to disturb his sleep; so I crawled around in the dark and found my way into bed.
    In the morning Fred felt somewhat better but still under the weather. We walked a bit in town, which at some point in the mid 18th century was the capital of an independent Corsica. Apparently Corte has taken on new life and a hipper vibe since a university reopened here in the recent past. I wanted to walk up and down every side road but, no time.
    We drove down the hill from Corte and found the turnoff to La Vallee de la Restonica. Had we been on track we would have spent the whole day hiking and driving around these sublime mountain roads. As it was, we drove about five miles into the valley, parked and hiked a while following a stream deeper into the valley. The weather was perfect (high 70s), the crisp air and blue skies made the forest come alive. The locals are environmentally conscious and those who patrol this preserve work to keep it in its pristine condition. Hindsight tells me that 2 1/2 to 3 days would be a reasonable amount of time in this area. There were several valleys I wanted to see, a gourmet restaurant to dine at and several villages all within twenty five miles of Corte.
    In order to get from Corte, at the heart of the central mountains, you have to take a circuitous route since there is no road going directly from east to the west coast. We drove north, higher in the mountains via the D 18 until we could link up with the D 84 going south west. The road was narrow and twisty but the scenery was jaw dropping. The Foret de Antone was a magical pine forest with scented breezes that cooled the hot sun. There was little motor traffic in this region. We did encounter a mama pig nursing her pigletts by the side of the road. Some time later traffic consisted of a herd of some thirty goats leisurely making their way across the road.
    The balance of the drive, all the way to Piana, on the west coast, was filled with more exquisite scenery. One of the
    prime tourist destinations/natural wonders of Corsica are Les Calanques (the cliffs). They are giant red granite cliffs and cliff formations rising over eight hundred feet from the sea below. Wind and water have sculpted them into gnarled, weird shapes.
    We had read that tour busses on these roads with hairpin turns make the drive difficult in summer. Here we were in early September with the French children back at school yet it still took us nearly two hours to go the ten miles from Evisa to Piana. All cars were at a dead standstill for twenty minutes at a time while a tour bus negotiated a hairpin turn at a place where two tiny cars would have trouble passing each other. So some motorists got out of their cars to complain to their fellow motorists or snap photos, use the bathroom of the cafe or stay put and futilely honk their horns. Now we know that it only makes sense to drive Porto (just past Evisa) to Piana or back before ten in the morning or after seven in the evening. Tired from the drive we skipped our intermediary stops at Evisa and the Spelunca Gorge thinking we’d visit them on the day we did a boat tour out of Porto.
    We arrived at Hotel La Scandola in Piana a bit frayed around the edges, Fred from his motion sickness (he’d changed his diagnosis from food poisoning, a physicians’s prerogative ) and me from the traffic tangles. Our room at La Scandola was on the top floor with a beautiful view of the sea and these astounding cliffs. The village of Piana is tiny and I chose it over the hustle and bustle of Porto. We walked around the compact village; the houses were all well kept, some were close to the cliffs, affording sensational views of the Gulf of Porto. After a lousy dinner at the touted restaurant La Voute we walked back to our room and turned in.
    Next morning after our daily hot fresh croissants and cappuccinos we drove a few miles on the D81 back in the direction of Porto and parked the car. Along with a few other tourists we walked along the highway to see these cliff formations up close against the dazzling blue sea far below. No wonder the Michelin map gives Les Calanches three stars.
    Feeling inspired and invigorated by our walk we devoted the rest of the day to doing as little as possible. The owner of the hotel suggested we drive twelve kilometers to Arone beach where her boyfriend owns the restaurant Le Casabianca (Plage d’Arone, Piana).
    The half hour drive afforded more uuus and aahhs as we drove past view of the Gulf to views of this tiny bay and sheltered beach. By the time we walked along the pure white sand beach to the restaurant, we were ready for lunch...and what a memorable lunch it was. The outdoor terrace with shaded umbrellas has views of the pristine beach with its green clad mountains behind. The seafood was outstanding and the service first class, about $115 with wine and dessert. After our two hour lunch we walked down the restaurant’s steps to the beach where we secured chaise lounges reserved for restaurant guests. There we stayed for a very long time . The water was cool and clear and very swimmable.
    While on my lounger I felt a tiny sting on the front of my right leg but there was no culprit in sight. That critter gave me a nasty bite. It began to swell and sting after a few minutes and over the next few days was hot, swollen and painful in spurts. Cortisone and Benadryl did little to relieve the intermittent stinging.

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    Hi Robbie,
    thanks for continuing the report. I am hanging on your every word as there is so little detail around. I am sorry to hear about your bite - I wonder what on earth it could have been.

    I am thinking of coming from Ajaccio to Piana then head north. It is becoming really difficult to work out travel times, accommodation etc. No wonder I have given up on Corsica in the past!!!

    What was your hotel like in Piana, there doesn't appear to be much choice, would you recommend it?

    I have zoomed in on the google maps to see both Porto and Piana are in fact inland. I thought they were right on the coast. Where exactly are the calenques? I note your suggestion about getting on the road before 10. Did you do any boat trips from Piana to the Scandola National Park?

    Sorry this sounds like the Spanish Inquistion.... I am just so frustated with finding out info. We only have a week - 7 nights and I don't want to racing around but don't want to be hanging around in the 'wrong spot' either.

    My thoughts are arrive Ajaccio, pick up car, have a sticky beak at Ajaccio (depending on flight arrival times) head to Piana - spend 2 nights. On full day in Piana do a boat trip to the National Park, next day head north through Calvi and have accommodation in either L'ile Rousse or Alagola, stay four nights in this area, making sure we go inland to artisan villages etc. Spend last night near to the airport at Bastia/Borgo as we both will have v. early flights.

    What do you think of this plan? Should we change it to 3 and 3 nights?

    ANY help would be so appreciated, I am tearing my hair out. I am organising for myself and a friend so don't want to botch it up.

    Many thanks,Schnauzer
    please continue with your report asap!!!

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    Personally I would choose I'lle Rousse over Algajola to stay ( just has more going on) BUT it is more touristy, they are literally 10 minutes apart. There are some fabulous beaches between the two. And Calvi is again just 15/20 minutes away. (the citadel in Calvi is absolutely worth a look, with some great views over the bay.)
    Le Chariot restuarant in Algajola is a great place for a long leisurely lunch if you do stay there ( or even if passing through)

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    I'm enjoying this report, Robbietravels, and looking forward to more. Corsica is on our list of must-dos in the next few years, based on recommendations from other people we've met during our various travels. It's great to get some detail, and also to hear that you think 3 weeks would be a good amount of time to spend on the island. Fits our travel style perfectly.

    So funny about the missed flight. We mistakenly booked--and prepaid--the same night in two different places once (Asolo and Venice). Like you, we were simply not reading our own itinerary. So sad!

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    Hi Schnauzer,
    I'm french and I know well Corsica. Between Ajaccio and Piana, with a car, the journey take 1.5 to 2 hours. The roads are mountain roads, so it take a lot of time, even if the mileage is short !

    Calanches is a big geologic site (red rocks) between Porto and Piana. It could be seen by the road (D81) or by boat (in Porto).

    Porto and Piana are on the coast but it is mountains flowing in the sea. The two towns extend from an altitude of 0 to 1000 meters.

    You can do boat trips to calanches AND the Scandola National Park from Porto.

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    Thanks frenchgirl for answering some of Schnauzer's questions. I'll tackle a few now and some will be answered as my saga continues. Look at the website www.hotelscandola.com. The photos are accurate. The patio that is shown at night is an outdoor lounge overlooking the gulf and a perfect spot to sit and read or have a drink before dinner. The hotel was very nice, clean and attractive room. Balcony with a killer view of town, mountains, the sea. Hotel staff friendly and helpful; one spoke English, others were patient with my Pimsleur French. Yes, I would recommend it. We like to take things slowly so three days touring around Piana was fine, 2 1/2 would also do. The weather can play havoc with boat trip plans as you will read shortly.
    Glad I'm not the only one asleep at the wheel Aprillilacs. Nice to have contact with you again Smeagol.

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    On the subject of insects, bees and mud wasps are everywhere. Restaurant La Casabianca offers women (who seem to react less kindly to bees on their food than men) fans to shoo them away. No wonder, N Bonaparte, their famous native son, used the bumble bee in his emblem of sovereignty (well, there are actually two differing explanations as to how the bee got royally elevated but that’s another story).
    Back at La Scandola we made reservations to go on a boat excursion next morning. The half day trip leaves from Porto and tours the calanques from the water (supposed to be even more dramatic than from land) and cruises around the Scandola Nature Reserve, which can only be accessed by boat. I was delighted that we could see both these star attractions in one tour from Porto. In the afternoon we’d do our touring of Evisa and the Spelunca Gorge.
    We walked from the hotel toward the main square, a tiny area surrounded by a few outdoor cafes. It was nearly sunset and the cliffs became a fiery red as the sun glowed on these twisted formations; the sunset magic can be seem from every part of Piana. Just before the turn to get on D 81 going out of town we found U Campaneli, a few blocks from our hotel. DH has good instincts when it comes to picking restaurants, so I followed his lead. I had a set Corse meal that featured the best lamp shank ever. Fred was not impressed with his wild boar stew. Our fellow diners on the small terrace were friendly Europeans and the host/owner was quite charming. We walked around town a bit and then headed back to the hotel as sprinkles began to fall.
    Next morning we had an early buffet breakfast so we could get to Porto early. The receptionist came to our table to deliver the bad news. The captain in Porto had just called her to advise that the trip was cancelled because of bad weather. I was really, really disappointed. The weather didn’t look bad from our end of the gulf. Maybe the captain didn’t book enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile for him. Damn, if we’d known of this weather front, we could have done the trip yesterday...but who checks maritime weather on vacation, says the woman who doesn’t even check the date of her flight to Corsica!
    Oh, what to do. After a long morning walk on the main road going south (that means we saw three cars in an hour) we drove back to the beautiful beach at Arone and had another magnificent meal at Le Casabianca. We again sat on the terrace facing the small bay; today a couple of mid sized yachts anchored near the beach. “Our” waiter remembered us and brought us the drinks we’d enjoyed yesterday, from aperitifs to wines to coffees. It was a bit cloudy part of the afternoon but the day was warm, the waves gentle and the dogs glad to play fetch in the sea. I was now on bug patrol, yesterday’s bite was still shooting sprays of venom through my leg and accompanying surges of pain and itching. Dr. Fred declared it a spider bite....which took three weeks to heal. May my attacked know his karma.

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    On my beachfront chaise this afternoon I’d finished Revelation: A Mathew Shardlake Mystery by C.J. Sansom. My reading this trip runs from who done it, to why did it happen that way to what meaning does it have. So I’ve interspersed my mystery novels with a biographical tome, A Team of Rivals by D. K. Goodwin is about the lead-up to the 1860 Republican nomination of Lincoln and his historic tenure as President. Spielberg’s upcoming movie is based on this book. When I take the time and have the privacy to meditate and it has been sporadic, I read a bit of Reflections on a Mountain Lake by Ani Tenzin Palmo. And I deny having finished the titillating trashy trilogy concerning Fifty Shades.
    Dinner was at the Hotel restaurant just one door east of our hotel as it was rainy heavily now, the captain has been vindicated. I can’t recall the hotel/restaurant name but it was a “must miss” meal.
    Today, Thursday, was a long driving day. We left Piana and had to go east to Porto to catch the D81 going north to Calvi. More stunning scenery. Both the pass (Col de la Croix) and the Golfe de Girolata are Michelin two star sights. I gave it six wows and three omgs. Without the tour busses and stunning sea view around each bend, the driving was a breeze on these roads with stunning sea view around each bend, We arrived in Calvi early afternoon and settled in at Hotel St Christophe. According to recent research Christopher Columbus may have been born in Calvi rather than in Genoa as previously claimed.
    Calvi was the busiest and most tourist driven small town we’d encountered so far. We had lunch at one of the quayside cafes that faced many handsome yachts with mountains in the near background. Waterfront food is usually not good in our experience but the view was worth the average food.
    Fred had another bout of car sickness driving up the coast so he went to the room to rest. I took a long walk along a rampart that followed the sea. On my walk I discovered that the restaurant where we’d booked dinner that night was only a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. Yea, no need to move the car and hunt for a parking spot.
    Later we walked to U Fanale. We had an outstanding meal and dining experience. This time the dining lived up to the reviews. On the terrace we were seated next to a couple who spoke a language heretofore unheard by us, English. We had an enjoyable chat with them during dinner. They were from South Wales and have rented a flat in Calvi for a week or two for the past few years. Sounded like a good idea to me.
    We walked around Calvi a bit more next morning before we left. I think I had under rated its charms due to driving fatigue. It really is a lovely area and the water here is a brilliant sapphire blue. With many excursion possibilities I think Calvi deserves a stay of at least two nights and two and a half days. And since it was bustling in mid September, I wouldn’t recommend it in mid summer.

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    Thanks so much for answering my questions - Frenchgirl and Robbie. I am definitely getting the impression time moves slowly in Corsica and so should us visitors!!

    When you say Calvi needs 2 nights, are you meaning CAlvi itself or Calvi and surrounds? You can see I am becoming pedantic now!!! So if we stayed in Algajola which isn't far from Calvi would that work? we can drive back to Calvi for a day from our hotel.

    I think I shall take some travel sickness pills with me!! not to mention the aeroguard (aussie anti bug spray!!) I remember the wasps being really bad in Italy one year, quite spoilt the swimming in the pool.

    I like the sound of U Fanale, will put that down on the list, in fact, I think it is already there.

    We are going the second week in June so it could be similar 'busyness' wise as your september.

    Keep the report coming, it will become a bible for Corsica travels, you and barefoot are the only ones who have posted anything decent. I promise I shall come back and write something as detailed as yours.

    Schnauzer

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    Algajola to Calvi is 20 minutes max so yes doable as a day trip.
    I too have been to U fanale many times and would second it, ask for a table on the terrace though as inside is a bit austere ( I would prebook)
    Mid June is fine, it's July and August that gets REALLY busy. There is though a jazz festival on in June time I think so you may want to check those dates to make sure you have locked in your accommodation if it coincides.
    As I said in my previous post Calvi is well worth a visit but personally I would avoid the restuarants on Quay Laundry ( get an overpriced drink and enjoy the view) there are some lovely little restuarants in the Ciradel A candela is really great and not bad value at all. I also like Au Bon Amis which is one street behind the port.
    About 10 minutes out of Calvi ( and in tr direction of Algajola) is a wonderful beach side restuarant called Le Matahari which is beachside in Lumio, it's expensive but at night they have tables on the beach ( although I found t more comfortable to eat inside) the food is great. If you like pink wine,Mary the Clos Colombo rose, made at the Colombo winery about 1 mile away in Lumio proper.

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    Thanks Smeagol for your extra info. I just read back and saw you said that you would prefer to stay in L'ille Rousse, I have looked at several hotels but can't find anything in the middle price range i.e about 100Euro. Can you recommend anything. Again the accommodation sites aren't all that forthcoming. Have looked on Trip Advisor...

    Would staying in Algajola be a mistake? I have found a couple of nice small hotel/b and bs that I quite like the look of. I have emailed them both but so far no reply, but perhaps they are now closed for the season??? or just slack!!

    schnauzer

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    Algajola is fine it's just very small BUT you will have a car yes? And there are some very cute B&Bs there.
    We normally stay in Lumio ( at a friends place) where there is only one bar.restaurant so we normally drive everywhere anyway. Algajola would be a good base for the inland villages and anyway equal distance from IR and Calvi. So long answer to your question, no it wouldn't be a mistake and after all it's only 2 nights!

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    Today we headed out from Calvi bound for St. Florent. The drive took less than two hours and we planned stops at Pigna and St. Antonino. Pigna is known as a craft village but I did not see anything that called to me. Walking through the town was fun but it felt touristy and contrived. Wherever it was we had lunch, it was very tasty. The English speaking couple sitting next to us were also from South Wales.

    Once we got on to the D 81 from the N 197 the scenery becomes another series of oohs and aahhs and twists and turns until it makes its way to the seaside village of St.Florent.
    “St. Flo” is often called the St. Tropez of Corsica. Yes, the tourists (fortunately not too many) dress more stylishly than in other areas we’d visited so far but the town is neither too bustling nor glitzy, thank goodness. The main square is sweet and shady with men playing boules in its center in the late afternoon. Pre-sunset time is when the harbor comes alive with those taking a stroll or having a drink while deciding which yacht you’d like in your next life.

    The Hotel La Florentine was about one half mile from the center of town. As we drove along the coast I began second guessing myself as to why I would choose a hotel a bit remote from the action. Then we saw our room and the guessing ended. Our balcony faced the sea with a view of the full curvature of the Golfe de St. Florent, a smashing stretch of coastline. The hotel and room itself were quite nice. I had to rely on my fifty word French vocabulary to confer with anyone at reception.

    DH and I walked around town in the morning. I finally found a sun visor that says Corse (Corsica) on it. My old Palm Springs sun visor had become so stretched out that my sunglasses were the only thing that obstructed the visor’s descent down my nose.
    Nearby we found a cute dress for granddaughter Rebecca and some ice bags to give as gifts. The way wine is kept chilled in Corse is in a thick clear plastic bag filled with ice and water, shaped to hold a wine bottle but somewhat bigger. A nice idea, we’ll take a few.
    Dinner in St.Flo was at L’Auberge du Pecheur, a romantic garden restaurant. You enter thru the storefront fish market, select your fresh fish and then get seated in an enchanting garden. Even in September we needed a reservation and the patio filled quickly. Our fish was beautifully cooked and presented, it was a lovely evening. The village square was quiet in the evening so we gazed at the star filled sky and drove back to our hotel.

    Our last full day in Corsica was devoted to poking around this shimmering peninsula. Heading north out of St. Florent was the Patrimonia wine district. There were many wineries along the main road and side roads. Too bad the road we chose led to a cow path and an open field. So we backtracked and stopped in to one tasting room. As in many vineyards, I’ve found that knowing someone (or someone who knows someone) gets you far superior pours than those offered the peasantry. More impressive than the wines poured were the pieces of sculpture and paintings in the gallery adjacent to the tasting area. The vineyards were small in comparison to those in France, Italy or Napa Valley but they made for a beautiful countryside vista.

    We continued driving up the west coast of Cap Corse with the village of Nonza as our goal. Approaching Nonza the traffic was backed up for a third of a mile. We drove past Nonza and would have lunch somewhere else. As we drove further north I saw a sign with arrow: plage (beach) and hung a quick left. Going I knew not where, we arrived in the sweet village of Albo. We parked on the main road in and walked down to where there seemed to be some activity. Under the shade of sprawling trees, just across the courtyard from a yellow church, we enjoyed a delightful lunch at Restaurant Morganti, Marina d’Albo. Fred had octopus salad and I savored grilled vegetables followed by the most succulent muscles ever. The muscles were simply prepared in a broth of onions and shallots and the house rose complemented them well.

    After lunch we sat on a bench and took in the beauty of this splendid piece of coastline; then we walked the village, admired one of the many Genovese tower that dot this coast and headed back to visit Nonza.
    Blessedly the lunch time crowd had disbursed and we could easily find parking and enjoy an exploration of Nonza. The village oozes charm as it clings to the sheer cliffs that lead down to the water. I walked up and down stairs and back alleys knowing that you can only get so lost in this tiny place.
    Its a cute village, considered the prettiest on the coast, but I much preferred St. Antononio (listed as one of the Plus Villages de France).
    By five thirty in the afternoon we were back at the hotel and I was soaking up the afternoon sun and sea views from our balcony as I reviewed this wonderful week in my mind. Corsica was as wonderful as the Lonely Planet Guide suggested it would be. The profusion of natural beauty here far exceeds my linguistic capacities to describe it. Were I to redo this trip, and I just might, I’d add at least three days, making the northern circuit about ten days.

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    Our last dinner was in town, at La Marinuccia. We sat on the overhanging deck with waves slapping the wood and watched the sun sink ever so slowly behind the mountains. I finally tried the digestif Cap Corse, a tasty wine concoction, typical of the region. We had a fine meal but the place had only a few patrons, most were dining in outdoor courtyards or harbor side.

    Today was Sunday and we did not intend to miss the ferry from Bastia, Corsica to Livorno, Italy. After breakfast served on their patio overlooking the sea, we said au vroir to St. Flo, the Cap Corse peninsula and fabulous Corsica. The drive from west coast to east was a windy road at the neck of the northern island. We made our way to the airport where we turned in our car. It did a great job for us although the shifting was stiff. The small paint scratches were easily remedied with make-up (gently smeared mud) and the car passed inspection. From the Bastia airport we hopped a bus to Bastia town about half hour away.


    It definitely wasn’t practical to wheel around our luggage in order to tour Bastia. About a block from where the bus stopped for us was a faire for families. We found a table with a clear view of the stage and sat under a tree to enjoy the action and espresso. This carnival had many different rides and information kiosks (about skiing, water sports, martial arts). My favorite performances on the outdoor stage were the little girls dancing in pink tutus and then a couple doing a mean samba. Not wishing to squander prime real estate we kept our seats at the cafe until noon, when we could order lunch. After another hour we waddled two blocks to where Corsica Ferries was just docking.

    Au revoir Corsica. The balance of this trip report is about the Italian Rivieras. Since much has already been written on the Italy boards, I will spare you the excruciating detail reserved for Corsica.

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    That road to St Florent always makes me feel queasy but it's so worth it... last year we got the ferry from SF to the wonderful Plage de Loto about 20 minutes away, one of the most beautiful "secluded" beaches i have been to in Europe.

    Glad you liked Corsica, great report. We love Corsica and that's why we keep going back.

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    I found the four hour ferry crossing from Bastia to Livorno, Italy an enjoyable jaunt. While Fred napped indoors I secured a lounge chair on one of the sun decks. Outside, as in the club cars, hundreds of families were passing the time: couples playing cards, babies toddling around the decks with mom or dad, dogs sniffing out potential friends or paradours, people reading, snoozing in the sun now and then gazing at the coastline portside and the open sea starboard. Disembarking was quite the ordeal with large semis, cars with trailers, folks with strollers, mega luggage or backpacks all eager to get off the ferry. One couple with huge backpacks needed to use the elevator to get from the 7th deck to the third (where disembarkation happens) pronto so they could catch a train. No deal. Passengers with cars could walk down the stairs first but if you didn’t have a car, you waited. So we waited 35 minutes to be allowed to take the elevator. I hope the couple didn’t miss their train.

    Having experience with ferries arriving late, we’d decided to stay where we landed, Livorno. The Max Hotel was a quick cab ride from the train station. It was a modern utilitarian hotel that worked well for an overnight stop. Dinner in the “restaurant” was a sad affair. The only thing good was the white wine. I wished I’d written down the details of it. Next morning we took a very early train to Sestri Levanti.

    Despite all my reading about trains in Italy, I needed the experience to get the hang of it. We were on a Inter City train. They run less frequently than the Regional trains but they have assigned seat numbers if you also make a seat reservation. We bought a ticket online in advance (not necessary) but not a seat reservation. Hence, after being well situated in a compartment with our luggage, interlopers who held tickets with our seat numbers summarily dislodge us. The train became increasingly crowded as we traveled north and we settled for sitting on jumper seats in the aisles outside the compartments. Still a fun way to travel if the journey is no more than an hour or so.

    We alighted at Sestri Levante, our home for the next three days. At eight in the morning in front of the train station there was nary a taxi in sight. I asked the local security police and he communicated (as best I could tell) to walk to our hotel. We followed the directions he gave and voila, we were on the main street. A local woman took pity on me and wheeled my suitcase to the intersection where we turned toward Hotel Helvetia.

    I loved the hotel on first sight. This was our splurge hotel of the trip and I knew I would not be disappointed. The hotel hugs the cliff that overlooks the small sheltered Bay of Silence. Our junior suite was beautiful, done with good sense and taste.. The view from the balcony overlooking the bay and the classical buildings on the opposite side of the bay were quintessential Italy. We wiled away three delightful days here. Our first day we did a thorough exploration of the town. Tourist season, as we’d hoped, was nearly over and the town was left mostly to the locals. In the late afternoon, I went up to the pool level while Fred was napping. I’d finished one mystery novel and was engrossed in another .

    The gracious and handsome host (owner?) of the hotel said we must dine at Portobello when we asked for recommendations. But you must not. From our hotel we walked along the bay five minutes to the hotel. Right on the water. The service was lovely but the seafood was mediocre and the prices high. We know better than to eat on the water but we got seduced.
    The next day was our Cinque Terre day. Good for Rick Steve’s that he popularized this area far beyond its virtue and not so good for us that it was crowded with Americans far beyond the village’s capacity. More Americans than we had met in two weeks of travel, all taking snapshots as fast as they could shove each other off the train.

    After reading the guides I’d decided only three towns merited a visit: Monterosso, Vernazza and Riomagorrio. But in travel things have a way of morphing. We took the trip from Sestri Levanti to Levanto and then Levanto to Vernazza. Vernazza is repeatedly touted as the darling of the five terres. Yes, it was a charming village but if you have travelled widely in France, Italy, Switzerland, etc. you will find tons of equally charming villages, sans hype and tourists. We were there on a Tuesday, market day. A really lackluster excuse of a market, says the market maven.

    Our best moments in Vernazza were passsed at Il Pirata cafe and bar. Hidden above the train statin in an area where extensive repairs are in process (due to the flooding in 2011), this unassuming cafe was packed with travelers and locals in the know. I had read a post touting that this cafe had the best cannoli in Italy. Oh, oh, oh, its true. Thank you to whoever on this board directed us here. The jovial Sicilian owner said “if you don’t like it you don’t pay; it if the best you’ve ever had, you pay double! I would have paid double and I was also considering having another. However, the pants I’d brought that fit well were now snug and the pants that hugged my derriere at the beginning of the trip had been rendered out of service until future dieting. I walked up streets and alleys to get a feel for the village. A cat was howling and I followed the direction of its cry to sort out the trouble. Scrawny cat with a big belly (maybe preggers) seemed to be just howling at the wind.

    With our CT pass, we hopped on a train (after a uninspired lunch at Gianni in Vernazza) and got off two town later at Manarola. We didn’t visit the town, just found the walking path that most visitors take to get to Riomaggiore. It was an easy pathway along the sea coast. I would hardly call it exercise but the views were wonderful. The pathway is called the Via de Amore and every few turns there were small suitcase locks clasped onto barbed wire or any other stationary object. I’m not sure what these locks are supposed to signify about love.

    Riomaggorie was a charming little town, less precious than Varnazza. We hung out there quite a while, waiting for a CT boat to take us around the point to Portovenere. (With a one day Cinque Terrre card you can hop on and off the local trains as well as boats.) When we were about to board, Fred realized it was getting quite late in the afternoon and the wind was picking up. I pouted some before we headed to the train station to catch a northbound train back to Sestri Levanti.

    There was still time to chat on our balcony and enjoy some local wine while watching the sun fade into the clouds. We tried a very local place, eschewing the hostlier’s recommendation and ate a wonderful down home dinner at Osteria della Mantanna. The tiny place has picnic style seating so we visited with our neighbors while dining.

    After a sumptuous breakfast (the best buffet spread of the trip) on the wide terrace that overlooked the bay, we sat in the lobby and checked email. One email alerted me that our reservation for a car rental in Genova had been cancelled at our request. No way, someone was pulling a fast one. I emailed back that I did not cancel and would not cancel. Then they wrote that the location where we planned to drop off the car, San Remo, was not “available”. Could we drop it off in Alassio. Later that night we called the states on Skype, after fifteen minutes Sixt confirmed that San Remo was under some renovations and not a current drop off location. What did we want to to do? Hmm, we’d review our options. The idea was to pick up the car in Genoa and drive it north and east along the Mediterranean coast then drop it off just before the French border and train it back to Nice.

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    We walked around town, by now very familiar to us, then decided we’d hop a train to Moneglia. Having been around for two days in SL we decided to hop a train one stop to Moneglia. Several posters had mentioned Moneglia as a charming village to visit or stay in. That it was. We did a complete walking tour in an hour or so. After such exertion we sought food. On the edge of the village we literally bumped into Tender Restaurant. Fred gave it an encouraging nod and we were seated. It was just noon, a bit early for lunch but within thirty minutes the place was packed. The dishes, we sample several, were scrumptious . Its located at Corso Libero Longhi, 51 , www.appartamentigiulia.it.

    The balance of the afternoon was spent swimming and reading, mesmerized by the boats bobbing in this tranquil bay...and stewing about our car situation. We didn’t want an elaborate meal, it was our first meager attempt to eat sanely, so we went to Due Forni and had a really great pizza!

    Today we said goodbye to Sestri Levante, walked our luggage to the train station and five train stations to the north arrived at our next home for two nights, Camogli. We stowed our luggage in an area next to each car’s automatic doors and stood by it for the short trip.
    I know these locations are quite close to each other but I could not decide between the two so I chose them both. If I had to choose, I’d opt for four days in Camogli. I just liked the vibe better and the food options are superior IMO.

    When I’d read posts about how to get from the train station in Camogli to our hotel, the route sounded long and complex. In actuality, it was a breeze. We turned left out of the station, took a right at the first turn and walked until we saw the sign for Le Camogliese. Since it was only ten in the morning our room was not ready but the very helpful staff stowed our luggage while we set out to explore. As we walked along the promenade and down to the tiny harbor, we saw a boat getting ready to leave for San Fruttuoso. I’d read this was a “must see” excursion, so we hopped on the nearly full boat. I love being on the water so the thirty to forty minute trip was enjoyable.

    We landed on a tiny bay on which the Abbey of San Fruttuoso is the centerpiece. Fred decided to sit at a beachside cafe and people watch while I toured the Abbey. I found it modestly interesting. Andrea Doria, the Genove Admiral was allowed (via a Papal Bull) to have his family and the extended clan buried in crypts here. And I mistakenly believed that the Andrea Doria was just an American ship gone wrong. Of the several cafe’s at water’s edge none looked worthy of my appetite. So we took the boat back to Camogli and lunched at a cafe in town.

    Afternoon relaxing and reading on the balcony was delightful. My nasty spider bite decided to shoot more venom into my leg to interrupt my equanimity. I reflected on the sappy 60’s ode to existentialism about “if I had this live to live over, I would travel lighter, ditch the umbrella, thermometer, bla bla, blah. Well, no way will I travel without my Cortizone 10%, AfterBite and antihisthamenes. I do hope this insect understands the karma of biting my leg.

    I think it was Eskcy that recommended Da Paolo in Camogli. We had asked our hotel to book us a table at Cucina de Nana Nonna, which she has praised highly. The hotel wrote back that Nona would to be closed for the week but they booked us at Da Paolo which they thought was better. It was superb. It was a bit chilly out so we ate inside in the intimate dining room with with no more than ten tables. The server brings out the raw fish for diners to make their selections. I had the best grilled squid ever. They slice it very thin and top it with fresh chopped tomatoes. Fred had the muscles and then mixed smoked fish, excellent. Thank you Eskcy. We vowed tomorrow we’d begin eating moderately....unless we came back to Da Paolo for dinner.
    Friday was our second day in Camogli and we wanted to explore the Portofino peninsula. But we still were dealing with car rental issues. Avis could not be booked online for some reason so we hopped a train to Rapallo where Avis has an office, cleverly hidden inside a Fiat dealership. The reason we could not make a new booking with Avis online was that no cars were available to rent. After half an hour of phone calls by the patient Avis rep, she found us a luxury category car that we could drive all the way back to Nice. But the tab was tres cher. She mentioned that because it was a French car being returned to France, the Nice Avis rep could waive the 125 euro drop-off charge. Having no other appealing option, we bit the bullet.

    From Rapallo we took a local bus to Santa Margherita de Liguire. The bus hugged the rugged coastline and provided an easy way to enjoy this scenic stretch. SML appealed to me; it seemed to me a place where real (real rich) people live. We found our way to a restaurant recommended either by St. Cirq or Eskcy I think. La Paranza (Via Rugffini #44)is just off the coast road with a view of the shiny boats and yachts backed by green clad mountains, reminded me of Santa Barbara. The restaurant seems to be a local place run by a husband and wife team. We felt warmly welcomed and quite liked the food, the ambience, service and views.

    I had read that the route over the hill from SML to Portofino was really not to be missed. So we headed out uphill into the villa neighborhoods of SML. Both DH and I were huffing and puffing at the steep ascent in this warm weather. After about half an hour we found our way back down to sea level and walked along the coast road. Some parts of this walk had designated walking areas, some stretches you played “chicken” with oncoming traffic. I don’t know the distance between the two towns but it felt like a walk of several miles. When not dodging traffic the sea views were breathtaking.

    Finally, we arrived at Portifino, the village immortalized in colorful postcards and romantic movies. But I had a problem appreciating this quaint town. The Holland America had disgorged 2500 passengers who spent the day in either Portofino, SML or some other area cruise option. The main square was filled with huddled masses and getting a table at a waterside cafe was impossible. So my experience of Portofino was skewed. Yes, it had character in the colorful facades of the buildings facing the main square. Yes, it had the requisite number of boutiques, restaurants and bars. But it was too crowded to wander the back streets and we had to get in a very long line to try to get on the next (or the next, next) boat back home.

    Our last dinner in Camogli was slated for Restaurant Rosa, where grandma and mama do the cooking and serving. It was a longer walk, again uphill, than expected. Fred was cryng uncle at the uphill climb and I was plodding on. We were almost out of Camogli, just outside of Recco, the next town north. Finally Restaurant Rosa appears. Down some steps to a patio on the side of a sleep hill with a drop dead view of the fishing harbor of Camogli and the twinkling lights of the homes in the hills. We sat outside overlooking all this beauty under a crescent moon. My dinner was the local pasta with pesto, divine. Camogli is known for superior pesto owing to the sweetness of the locally grown basil. I asked for an extraFred enjoyed his fish and his clams. The desserts were amazing. Fred had amaretto cookies served with some dessert wine. I had a killer dessert: a puffed pastry shell filled with rum infused chocolate. We waddled back to Le Camogliese, only a ten minute walk down hill, easy.

    We bid farewell to charming Camogli and walked to the train station dragging out luggage. We got off two stops later in Rapallo where we picked us our luxury car. From Rapallo to Finale Liguire the traffic was awful, the contant tunnels unnerving. Having to use the clutch so much the ball of my left foot began to burn and my right arm was tired from shifting. We walked around Varazze, cute town; can’t recall a thing about it as I write this two days later. So we skipped a bunch of town we’d planned to visit. We stopped for lunch in Pietra Liguri in order to eat at Ca’ Ligure which was recommended by one of the trusted foodies on Fodors. We spent half an hour driving through and around town and could not find it. No one in town knew of it. In desperation, we stopped for a pizza. How outrageous, they served a mushroom pizza with canned mushrooms! If I weren’t famished I would have refused it.

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    Thank you so much for all this excellent detail. Corsica and Camogli are both close to the top of our list for our next trip and I'm sure we'll be referring to your trip report for our planning.

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    You are welcome Idyllicltaly. Here's the final part.

    The driving tour, with stops at other seaside villages, was much abridged due to the rain. Our Tom Tom was helpful in getting us to our hotel address in Alassio. The Hotel Savoia is a nice, not luxe, but nice hotel at the east end of town. The life in the town happens about a mile west. I am so glad one or two of you Fodorites recommended we visit this part of the Italian riviera, I had not given it a thought before reading your posts. I really liked Alassio. It seemed a very family oriented town with many parks with children’s play structures, several wonderful pedestrian shopping streets and beautiful villas in the surrounding hills.

    Next day, with the help of our receptionist, we headed to his favorite hill towns. Zuccarello is way up in the mountains; an old, old, village, fun to walk around. Sunday morning it was very quiet with a chill in the air. Castelvecchio di Roca Barbena, a few miles but half an hour drive away, has a stunning setting in pine clad mountains. It was cloudy with light drizzle but invigorating walking up and down the narrow lanes. In better weather it might be a lovely place to have lunch, I didn’t see any tourist accommodations. On our last evening we walked extensively along the bustling pedestrian only streets with appealing shops of all types and tiny cafes. A shoe store had the beckoning words prezzo di liquidazione. I found some beautiful summer/fall dress shoes; I love wearing things that remind me of a favored travel locale.

    Our last full day of our trip, we had our usual breakfast table facing the beach then said arivaderchi to lovely Alassio. We headed toward Nice on this cloudy morning. We had many excursion options enroute. Fred preferred visiting Villefrance-sur-mer. I’d emailed the Colombe d’Or in St.-Paul-de-Vance and they were fully booked for lunch and the windy roads up there didn’t appeal to DH. A word about my ragging on DH. In truth, Fred is a stellar travel partner and gives me free rein to choose locations and plan stops. He is almost 75 and had a serious leg injury last year, so he’s allowed to have some limits to his endurance.

    We drove through Cervo and then took the autostrada into France. I wanted
    to catch the coast route so we saw a bit of Monaco. On the way to Villefranche, I thought Fred would enjoy seeing a bit of St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. We look a leisurely driving tour of the villas in the hills and the tony little town. Not a bad place to live for those with endless euros. By the time we parked our car by the harbor in Villefranche it was starting to drizzle.

    Within five minutes it was thundering and pouring buckets. We dashed into the first harbor restaurant we saw but every inside table was booked. We ran to the next place. The lightening was very close and the rain was pelting everyone and everything. The proprietor of this place was frantically moving his antique furniture from the outside terrace inside. Yes, we could use the toilets and have something to drink. Then lightening struck closer and the electricity went out in the place. It was no longer possible to use the toilets or have anything to drink. Ten or fifteen of us were huddled in this small bar space, taking off whatever layers of soaked clothing we could.

    Forty minutes later the rain became just an ordinary hard rain and we decided to make a run for it to a place with a working toilet. Our umbrella shielded us and then the rain started to let up. I asked a woman where Rue Poilu was and voila we were at La Grignotiere, a place I had written in my notes. It was a sweet little restaurant, warm and cozy. It was carpeted so I took off my soaking loafers and let my feet dry out. The food was quite good, the atmosphere friendly and inviting, the price modest. After lunch we walked around town a while. The sun came out and it was quite warm, the sea beautiful again, cafe tables waterside, boats bobbing and folks running in to the water.

    Its only a fifteen minute drive from Villevranche to our hotel in Nice. Fred took the bags in while I scouted for a secure place to park. Bingo, got one. We’d booked a lesser grade room for this one night but were warmly welcomed back and given a view room with balcony. Fred wanted a nap and I couldn’t coax him to come with me to find some cotton table cloths. We were planning to buy some Provincial cloths and placemats to replace the well worn ones at home. During our three days in Nice at the beginning of the trip, I couldn’t find any. All I saw on offer were polyester cloths, no thanks. So today the desk clerk said just walk through the tiny streets in the old town and you will find places

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    It took about forty five minutes to find a place that had round cotton cloths. I bought a very handsome and typical print that will go well with our patio chair cushions. No more than a few blocks away, in an area of the old town near Place Rosetti and north (off marches coucherie) I found a really good shopping area. Found a second table cloth in the same pattern so I got that one too along with matching napkins.

    While trying to determine the best route back to our hotel a discount Italian shoe shop ran in to me. Great style and price, sold. I was now trying to head back home but the tiny alleyways were so dark I couldn’t tell where the sun was. Finally I saw the sun shining on some buildings and I wended my way home.

    For our last dinner we wanted to dine at Flaveur on rue Gubernatis or La Luna Rosa on rue Chauvain but they were closed on Monday night. So we headed for LE Locale which also turned out to be closed (despite the receptionist’s claim to the contrary). We found a place two or three blocks from Hotel Suisse on the port side. Don’t recall its name but the eggplant was divine.

    Tuesday morning we arrived at the airport in plenty of time. When we had originally booked our trip with miles, British Air only had first class seats available on the return flight. I thought surely in the span of ten months we could get two business class seats instead, and save fifty thousand miles for later use. No dice. So we had to forebear. The first class lounge at Heathrow was, ahmmm, really first class. For those who wish to sleep throughout the flight, they have thoughtfully provided a restaurant in the lounge where we had a fine lunch. The waiter caught on that we know a bit about wine and eagerly offered small pours of several outstanding French reds.

    The flight was a wonderful. They couldn’t do enough for us special people. They made up my bed with proper linens and blanket; it was the most comfortable bed ever.

    It has been a stellar three week vacation. With our slow pace, I was not returning exhausted but well rested and rejuvenated.

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    Thank you for your most enjoyable trip report! It's been a delight following along behind you on your travels, revisiting some of my favorite places - and favorite memories.

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