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Paris to Corsica and back in Sunny September 2010

Paris to Corsica and back in Sunny September 2010

Sep 29th, 2010, 05:42 AM
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Paris to Corsica and back in Sunny September 2010

We travel to France frequently from the United States, but this was our first trip to Corsica. We spent several days in France before and after our time on Corsica.

September 1
Using the flight vouchers we received after taking a bump for our flight to Germany last year, we booked a flight to Paris. We were limited to a gateway city United flew to. Corsica was our final destination, so we flew to Paris and spent several days driving down to the coast where the ferries departed for Corsica. It’s much easier to take the TGV or just fly south, but I love exploring through France, so this worked out well for us. We’ve already spent 5 weeks in France in July and August this year roaming different regions.

September 2

Our United flight was much improved over the Aer Lingus flight we took in July from Chicago to Dublin to Paris, which never made it, landing in Brussels instead. But that’s another story.

The Europcar rental desk was open and we quickly picked up our rental car at CDG, and drove to Provins. Parking at the Ville Basse, in front of the Eglise de St. Ayoul, it was lunch time, so the parking was free. Our time was limited but we went inside this church and former priory. It’s very unique. Just to the right when you exit the church is the Tour Notre Dame.

We quickly walked to the other side of town, Ville Haute, down the main road where the old walls and ramparts are visible. Creperie Mammy Gateaux at 16 Place du chatel, facing the square served very good crepes and cider. Tables are outside, with bees swarming little pots hanging from the ceiling. This village had no summer crowds since it’s early September and the return was a few days ago. The book An Hour from Paris by Annabel Simms includes an excellent tour of Provins.

Porte St Jean was the best point to start our walk of the ramparts. This is where the tourist office is located. We walked the path above the moat to the right, following the outside of ramparts. It was peaceful and very photogenic. A rose filled military and general cemetery alongside this road is worth some time exploring. We continued to the Jardin Garnier and back to our car. We needed to work our way to Auxerre, where we spent the night in a Chambre de hotes Domaine dessus-bon-boire . The rooms were simple, clean and large. A kitchen is available to use if you wish. A large breakfast was included and wifi was free. Wonderful Auxerre was just 5 minutes away.

www.dessusbonboire.com Gite de France G2128 in Auxerre-Vaux just south of Auxerre 10 min. Nos coordonnées GPS : latitude x longitude : 47.7563072, 3.5880077
[email protected] 58€ per night WI FI petit dejeuner Tele: 03 86 53 89 99

Before arriving in Auxerre we drove to Troyes. N19 between Provins and Troyes is very agricultural and easy drive. Nothing here but dead sunflower fields in September! We only had 1 hour to see Troyes. It’s fantastic, and would be worth spending a few nights in. There are many cafes in the square, very relaxed, large, open spaces, clean, attractive, & full of half timber buildings. Don’t miss the area around the ruelle des chats. We will return for a real visit at another time, but we were exhausted and needed to drive onto Auxerre.

Driving into lower Auxerre was exciting. Crossing the Yonne river, across the Pont Paul Bert gives you a pretty view of Auxerre’s skyline, full of churches, boats and half timbered buildings. Our chamber des hotes was just 5 minutes further south in Vaux so we checked in, then returned to Auxerre for dinner at La P’tite Beursaude 55, rue Joubert in Auxerre It’s in front of the small theatre Tel: 03 86 51 10 21. This is the sister restaurant of the larger La Beursaudiere, in Nitry.

We had Head of Veal and Margret du canard, both were perfect. We also had an entree, cheese and cherry soup for dessert and a pitcher of wine for €58 for 2 of us. The ambience was warm, reservations necessary. The drive out of town at night was very difficult. The tiny roads are one way and twisty. It took 45 min. to find our way out. It’s probably better to park along the river and walk into town. Auxerre is beautiful at night with the churches lit up.

September 3

We spent this morning exploring Auxerre. The tourist office has a walking trail mapped out, In the steps of Cadet Roussel, which follows the imbedded brass plaques in the sidewalk. 1.50€. Excellent guide and a great walking town. We needed more time than we had here.

Abbaye St.Germain has a guided tour of the frescoes in the crypt. This tour begins just after 10 a.m. so get there in time for this tour in French. The frescoes are fascinating and beautiful. Only 6 of us were on the tour. Next we toured Saint Etienne Cathedral and the Old town including the town hall and clock tower. Friday morning is market day in Auxerre, but it’s not set in the center. We would need to drive there if we went, and we didn’t have the time. The TI can show you the way.

On our way out of Auxerre we went back to Vaux and walked through the Stade Abbe Deschamps, the football stadium. Auxerre is only a small team, but finished 3rd in French league 1 so qualified for the Champions League, which includes the best teams in Europe. They drew the “group of death” and were preparing for their trip to Milan to play AC Milan, then to play Real Madrid. Ajax is next for them. The stadium is small and poor, but open to walk around and sit in the stands. They have a small gift shop. Excitement was high for the games they were to play.

A long drive was ahead of us, all the way on to Uzes, in Provence. Thankfully we had just spent a week in a gite not far from Dijon in August, so we knew the area well. In fact we stopped in Beaune at LeClerc to buy our favorite wine on the way. In the shopping area indoors, before you enter the LeClerc in Beaune free wifi is accessable. The A6 is a great road, fast until you get to Lyon, where the traffic slows until you get on the other side of the city.

I hoped we’d have time to stop at my favorite pottery in France, Poterie Mont Rachas on the way, but we didn’t have time. It’s in the Drome off A7. Here are the details:
Poterie Mont Rachas A7 exit 18: on the main road, D540. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. every day

Our destination was St.Mediers, a tiny hamlet 5 km from Uzes, where we had reserved our next 4 nights at:

Mas d'Oleandre www.masoleandre.com/ - 30700 montaren et st. mediers (uzes)
tel: 00 33 (0)4 66 22 63 43 [email protected] Our room was the smallest and €85 per night.

This chamber des hotes is excellent. The rooms are inside a stone walled courtyard area where several tables are located for your use. Read, have wine, eat dinner, relax. It’s a dream. They also have a swimming pool just across the tiny lane. Dinner is available with all the guests twice a week. The meal was excellent, but I didn’t care for their seating arrangements, of splitting each couple up and mixing them with others. This was made more difficult with the variety of languages spoken. Breakfast is served at 9 a.m. onwards and is included.

Motorway/Autoroute A9 - Exit/Sortie 23 (Remoulins)

From Remoulins take D981 direction Uzès/Alès. Leaving Uzès follow D981 direction Alès, 5 kms beyond Uzès turn right at junction Montaren up D337, direction St. Médiers. Our mas is at the end of the hamlet of St. Médiers.

GPS coordinates: North 44°03.114' and East 4°22.355'

We went into Uzes for dinner, but decided to just get food and bring it back to eat in the courtyard. It was a most wonderful evening. Uzes is beautiful at night, with tiny lights in the trees and several outdoor cafes set around the main fountain and square.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 07:02 AM
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September 4

After breakfast at 8:30, which is usually at 9 a.m. but we asked them to please serve it early today, we drove into Uzes for the Saturday market. It was already difficult to find parking. Drivers were very rude and aggressive. This is a very popular and crowded Provencal market. The market is very large with a great variety of products. There were more flea market items than I remember from past visits, but still, there is good quality fabric, pottery, etc. The food selections are outstanding. After spending a couple hours at the market we toured the town again. It was nice and sunny, in the mid 70’s, perfect weather for Provence.

Today was the Opening of Ban des Vendanges in Avignon, the registering of the date that the grape harvest may begin. Two years ago we were in Vinsobres for their festival and town dinner. It was real fun! The drive to Avignon from Uzes is 40 minutes. We found parking easily along the outside of the walls at Porte de la Republique. It was free for the day. Walking up the Cours Jaur es Rue de la Republique you’ll find the TI which has maps and walking tour information. They didn’t know much about the parade that was scheduled later in the afternoon, to open the festivities, but were excited about the concert that evening at the Parc de Rochers des Doms along with the Marche Gourmand.

We wanted to see the parade scheduled at 4 p.m. but had time to revisit this town before the parade. After wandering Avignon and seeing the Pont St.Benezet again, we walked the back streets which begin behind the Palace of the Popes. We went inside the Hotel la Mirande, Church of St.Pierre, walked by the Synagogue, which was closed, as was the huge, modern market les halles. Rue des Teinturiers tired us out and we didn’t complete the walk to the waterwheel. This area seems totally removed from the town in front of the Palace of the Popes. Returning to the parade route, we sat in a café along the sidewalk waiting for its start. The parade was fun, but very short. It was nothing like the great parade in Ribeauville last year!

Returning to Mas d’Oleandre, we spent time relaxing before our excellent dinner at Café de la Mairie la Table de Julien, St Maximin tele: 04 66 22 93 24 Rue des Ecoles, 30700 St Maximin. This small town is only 10-15 minutes drive from St. Médiers. This is a village restaurant but with incredible Provencale food infused with Asian flavors. The chef, Julien was trained in Paris but has lived and traveled around Asia. You must make reservations weeks ahead. Prices €34 for each menu and €30 for the wine we chose. Very reasonable. We ate outdoors on their terrace which was very pretty as the sunset.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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September 5

Montpellier is one town in France I’ve wanted to visit but have never been. Finally, we would make the trip. It was only 1 hour from Mas d’Oleandre driving down the A9. On our return we stopped in Aigues-Mortes.

Montpellier TI does a walking tour which I hoped to join. We rushed to arrive by 10:30 when it departed, only to find out that you must book ahead, especially on the weekends. Thankfully I brought a lot of information on this town with us, so we got a better map, took the route the tourist train drove and looked at my information. Still, the map the TI hands out is poor. The streets are so small on it, it’s difficult to use. There is so much to see in this town, it pays to have your route mapped out ahead of time. There is no logical walk since many of the sights are scattered. In addition to the town center, the Antigone area is unique and a must see. To walk there you’ll walk through the large shopping center to the right of the TI. It’s a long walk but a great area to visit. On Sunday’s all the shops were closed in the shopping center. A few scattered small stores were open selling water, drinks and food. Cafes were open along the L’Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, which is a long, narrow park area.

We marked our plan and set out. Everything here was fantastic. It was tiring, walking miles and miles but worth all the effort. The only disappointing site was the Jardin de Plantes. It looked unkempt. We parked in an underground lot near L’Arc de Triomphe and walked east to the TI. This is a pedestrian only area, so you can’t drive in. Do plan ahead, and don’t miss this wonderful city.

The temperature was high, in the 30’s. It’s a pretty drive across the southern edge of the Camargue to Aigues-Mortes where we parked outside the ramparts. Parking was crowded but there are several paid lots. The ramparts are in fantastic condition and completely surround the town. It’s longer than it is wide. We decided to walk around them on the outside instead of along the top since it was so warm. This is the best way to take great photos also! There are many nice shops inside this town, but once we passed the shops and just wandered the back streets, we found it more interesting. There is a tourist side of this town, but also a sleepy side to it. The history is interesting; don’t miss the Eglise Notre-Dame des Sablons. The TI wasn’t very helpful, but they do have an English guide.

This evening we bought delicious picnic supplies and made our own dinner inside the courtyard at Mas d’Oleandre. The atmosphere here is so wonderful that we loved spending our evenings in.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 10:06 AM
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September 6

Bedoin, at the foot of Mt. Ventoux has a great market on Monday mornings. It was a long drive, but we arrived about an hour before it closed down. The market actually blocks the road through Bedoin so there is a detour around town to continue to the top of Mont Ventoux. I enjoyed this market even more than the one in Uzes, and bought several pieces fabric, pottery, and Provencal items. We also bought more picnic supplies for lunch at the summit. After walking up to the top of Bedoin to see the church we drove to Crillon-le-Brave before taking the D19 to the observatory. One road disappeared on us, so it was a bit of a round about finding our way back to the main road.

It was thrilling to drive to the observatory of Mont Ventoux. Several bikers were attempting the ride and we pulled our car over often to cheer them on. There are still chalk markings from the Tour de France from last year on the road. I took several pictures of the chalk and of the bikers struggling on. The trees disappear showing just the limestone top. Near the summit is a memorial to Tom Simpson, a British cyclist who died in 1967 during the tour. We stopped here a few minutes. Taking the D19 was the best route to the top, because this is where the bikers ride up. The top is quite windy. There is a café here, but we brought a picnic and lunched on the stone wall. The ride back down is on the D974 and isn’t as interesting.

Orange was on the way back to Uzes so we took new pictures of the Antique Theatre and Arc de Triomphe. The city roads are a mess due to construction and traffic heavy. It’s not an easy town to navigate through at this time.

This evening Ester and Leonard made dinner for all the guests at Mas d’Oleandre. The meal was delicious. Cost was €35 each. We all gathered around a large, outdoor table. Seating was assigned so we didn’t sit with our spouses, which I didn’t care for. Otherwise it was a nice evening. Overnight was a huge storm and the electricity went out. Wifi went out, but otherwise there was no damage.

September 7 National Strike Day

We’re booked to take Corsica Ferries tonight from Toulon to Bastia. http://www.corsica-ferries.fr/
I booked our tickets several weeks ago, thankfully with this Italian company, and not SNCM, the French ferry company. When France strikes, this ferry doesn’t make the crossing, and it stayed docked on this evening. Several people needed to rebook their passage, but there was space on Corsica Ferry for them. We booked a cabin, but there are airline type seats also available. Others just stayed on the deck, or slept in the halls. With a cabin you get beds, bathroom with shower and a decent night’s sleep. We had just 2 of us in a cabin that can hold 4 if you need more beds. 2 beds are pull down bunks. It was noisy with things bumping into ??? during the night in the cargo area.

We still had the entire day in the south before we needed to board our ferry. Leaving the Mas around 11:00 a.m. we slowly made our way to Cucuron. Cucuron is not convenient to other towns we like to visit in Provence, so we’ve never been here in the past. I LOVE the film A Good Year, so it was great to finally have the time to visit this town with the raised pond surrounded by plane trees, which was featured in a scene from the movie. The Tuesday market had just finished so we waited for them to clean up before I could take photos. The storm from the night before left the ground very wet but we hiked to the top of the town, to the church, the old castle, and the wall segment, and were rewarded with wonderful views of village roofs, the bell tower and town.

Continuing on to Lourmarin I was shocked by how much this little village has grown. The tiny cafes have turned into fancy, modern cafes. There are many more of them now also. The village has enlarged a great amount but still looks very attractive. It was really a bit sad for me. I loved the simplicity of the old Lourmarin.

Some of the toll roads today didn’t collect tolls due to the strike! We drove on to Bandol, parked at the beach and relaxed here before continuing on to Toulon. The D559 along the coast is much too congested to drive any distance between Bandol and Toulon. We decided to get back on A50 for a much quicker drive. It was easy to drive into Toulon to the Europcar office by the Port. We needed to return this car and rent a new one on Corsica, since the rental car wasn’t insured to cross on the ferry.

We walked 10 minutes to the port with our luggage from Europcars office. Most people drove their own vehicles onto the ferries. Those of us that walked on, just followed the line of cars, there is a marked walkway along the side of the cars, to the office building. From there you don’t need to check in at the window, but take the reservation you printed out from the website booking and walk directly through the port building along another outdoor pathway, to the ship. At the entrance of the ship someone will scan in your booking number and assign you a cabin, if that was what was booked.

On board the ship someone helped with our luggage, and refused tips. After leaving our luggage in our cabin we toured the ship, which looked like a simplified cruise ship, with several cafes, a game room, TV’s showing the same French movie in each location and gift shop. The upper deck had a bar and 2 pools which were closed. Several deck chairs were available. We ate in the more formal dining area, but just ordered pasta. It was no more expensive than the cafeteria cafes. They gave us each a free glass of champagne when we were seated! That was a surprise. The pasta was very good, as was the wine.

One hour before the ferry docked in the morning, speakers announced that we’d arrive soon and it was time to disembark in one hour. No one could get back into their cars until we docked, but it was very fast to empty the ship.

Next installment, Corsica!
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Sep 29th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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September 8

We arrived in Bastia at 7 a.m. Not many of us were without cars or anyone to meet them. I didn’t have a map of Bastia but hoped to find the train station so we could buy tickets to Vizzavona later in the day. We also wanted to leave our luggage so we could explore Bastia for a few hours. Thankfully there is an office right at the port with someone in it at this early hour. It’s at Terminal Nord between A & B. He gave us a map and directions to the train station which is on the other side of town, but easy to walk to in about 15 minutes.

The train schedule isn’t updated very often but I believe the current schedule runs through July 2, 2011. http://www.corsicabus.org/Train_services The bus station is at the train station and the same office sells the tickets. The ticket is valid for the train or the bus. The train doesn’t run often, one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. The buses are more regular, but not quite on time. We booked Hotel Monte d'Oro http://www.monte-oro.com/index.php in Vizzavona for this evening, but had time to see Bastia before the train left at 3:47p.m. Buses left at 10:25a.m. and 11 :20 a.m. but we decided the train would be more scenic. This was a mistake. The train left too late in the afternoon, and was so old and dirty, it was hard to see well out the windows. Pictures were impossible. I tried to lower the window, but they didn’t lower enough, and others on the train wanted to pull the shades because of sunlight heating up the train. On the bright side, this was the only big mistake we made in Corsica! My suggestion would be to just rent a car when you arrive. We were picking ours up the next day in Ajaccio. The roads through the center of Corsica were fine. It would have been no problem to drive to Vizzavona.

When we arrived in Bastia it was bright and sunny, a beautiful day! After dropping our luggage off at the train station, €5 charge for each piece of luggage left, although they didn’t charge us here, but did in Ajaccio, we walked back to the harbor and had breakfast in one of the many cafes. This is a very nice, large plaza with many cafes to choose from. The harbor was busy with more ferries arriving.

The TI has moved to a temporary office, but soon will have a large building right on this plaza. We picked up the walking tour from the TI and hiked up to the Citadel. While in the gardens here a storm moved in and rained so hard we were stuck inside. The wind blew, chairs flew, it was unbelievable a few minutes earlier it had been bright and sunny! We finally left during the storm and got quite wet. There are several churches that are very interesting to visit. After a couple of hours the rain stopped. We had lunch back at the harbor, there wasn’t anything else to see in Bastia. Still, we needed to wait for the train.

Before I continue here is a listing of where we spent each night: 9 nights

Sept. 8 Monte d'Oro http://www.monte-oro.com/ Vizzavona (in the center of Corsica, south of Corte) This was 76€ for each of us = 152€ for room, dinner and breakfast w/o drinks You can also book without dinner included for less. Everyone seemed to eat here though.

Sept. 9, 10 Ajaccio area: Gite #17931 chambres d’ hotes (gites-de-france.com) listed as in Eccica Suarella but actually Stangone €65 per night. This is east of Ajaccio about 15 minutes. It’s very easy to drive to Ajaccio.

Sept. 11 Levie, just west of Zonza Gite # 18631 chambres d’ hotes €72 per night in Levie

Sept. 12, 13 Bonifacio Hotel le Royal Bonifacio www.hotel-leroyal.com €75 per night

Sept. 14, 15, 16 Calenzana, south of Calvi gite # 57321
Chambres d'hôtes "A l'Ombre du Clocher" www.ombre-du-clocher.com €75 per night

We were very happy with our choices of B&B’s. The hotel in Bonifacio was the exception. Although it’s wonderfully located, I would not return. We prefer B&B’s but driving into Bonifacio in the morning may be difficult. It’s important to be there early for the boat trip.

Vizzavona is on the GR20. It’s a beautiful area. The train ride was very pretty when you could actually see out. Once the train stopped in Corte, many more passengers got on board. We continued on to Vizzavona, but drove back to Corte later in our trip. Monte d'Oro hotel offered to pick us up at the train station. We just needed to call once we arrived. Another family on the train was also staying there so the van picked up several of us. The room we received wasn’t the room we booked. We were put in an outer building, not nearly as nice. The situation was the same with the other family who arrived when we did. I asked about the situation and they said the rooms in the main building were already full. Our room was very large, and fine, just not what we had actually booked. Dinner was in their main building, in a very nice dining room. Those of us that booked dinner with our room had a fixed menu. It was a very large meal, most of it good. Wine was extra.

Before dinner we hiked down the trail that leads to the GR20. It’s a short distance from the hotel. It was beautiful, but since it was late we didn’t continue to the waterfalls yet.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 12:59 PM
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September 9

After breakfast we walked back to the GR20 and hiked to the Cascades des Anglais, through the pine & beach forest. We turned left at the trail to hike to the waterfalls and pools of clear blue/green water. The pools extend up the mountain for about 15 minutes of walking. We aren’t hikers so our goal was to just enjoy a few hours in this beautiful area of Corsica before taking the bus on to Ajaccio.

We took the van back to the train station where the 12:55 bus to Ajaccio would depart. The train left for Ajaccio at 8:55 a.m. or 17:59 so it wasn’t a good option. The windows on the bus were large and clear, so the drive was much more pleasant. It arrived at the train station, where we checked our luggage so we could tour Ajaccio before picking up our rental car in the center of town. €5 for each piece of luggage checked was collected.

September 9th is the Day of Liberation in Ajaccio, celebrating the date in 1943 when Ajaccio was the first city in France to be liberated. American flags were flying along with military vehicles displayed by Hotel de Ville. We spoke with the French soldiers there who said they were all American at heart. They were truly grateful for their liberation saying that they may have ended up speaking German or Russian without America’s help. This is not something I’m used to hearing in France! That evening they would celebrate with a Corsican concert. We planned on returning for the celebration this evening. We wandered rue Fesch, saw the museum, along with Maison Bonaparte. This town is pleasant and easy to visit. We enjoyed it a lot. Europcar’s office was in the center of town, so we just walked there, picked up our car, a Peugeot 1.4, which wasn’t very powerful for the mountain roads we were about to drive, and returned to the train station to collect our luggage.

Traffic out of Ajaccio was heavy. We noticed this with each town in the morning or evenings. Once out of the immediate area the roads were clear. We loved the B&B in Stangone. The owner was very friendly and had wifi available when we asked. The room had an outside table where we could eat or have a drink in the evenings. They only have 2 rooms and it’s much nicer than the old picture on the gites de france web site pictured. We returned to Ajaccio for dinner, just a 15 minute drive, parking in a lot near the train station. The concert of Corsican traditional polyphony music was outstanding that evening. It was outdoors, and free for anyone. Many groups of people in the audience were honored. After the concert fireworks were lit over the harbor. It was a special evening for all.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 02:10 PM
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September 10

The beauty of today will stay with me forever. We began with a drive from our B&B east of Ajaccio up D81 to Cargese. The beaches near Sagone were shallow, have tiny waves and are bright blue, but continue on for even nicer areas. Cargese is known for its two churches that face each other, different denominations, sharing one priest. Both are on the bay. One is Greek and the other Corsican. It’s a beautiful site and each is interesting to view inside. Parking is along the road.

Continuing north on D81, we arrived in Piana. There are some good views here of Les Calanches but this is just the beginning of this gorgeous area. There are several cafes in Piana, but the boulangerie and small market were closed for lunch.

We drove first south on D824 to Plage d’Arone. The road has beautiful views around each bend and the beach at the end has very fine sand and is wide and long. There is a wonderful restaurant, covered beach beds near the restaurant, and beach huts and loungers along the beach. Also good bathroom facilities. It would be easy to spend your whole day here. We only spent 1 ½ hrs.

We returned to Piana and continued driving north to Porto. This is the famous road, full of twists and bends of exquisite beauty. The red rocks jetting high above the blue sea. You’ll want to walk this road instead of drive it. We continuously pulled our car over to walk and take photos of the beauty. It was crowded and we had 2 buses pass from the opposite direction. This is difficult because the road is very narrow. One bus had let all its passengers out so they could walk a portion. Later in our trip we took a boat from Calvi to Scandola Naturel Reserve for similar views, but I believe the portion we drove was more beautiful than that we saw from the boat.

This wasn’t the end of day yet. We turned east at Porto on D84 and drove through the Gorges de Spelunca to Evisa, then south on D70 to return to Sagone. This road is full of pigs, goats, cows etc.switchbacks, but another very beautiful area. The drive through the gorge back to our B&B took 2 ½ hours. This is a very long day, but also probably our most beautiful day of our trip on Corsica. The mountains are as spectacular as the sea.
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Sep 29th, 2010, 11:32 PM
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Wonderful report! Unfortunately, Corsica is no longer a "secret" and half of Europe seems to go there in the summer. You were very wise to go in September.
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Sep 30th, 2010, 05:10 AM
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Thanks kerouac. We've found September to be a wonderful time to see France. Last year the weather was poor, very rainy, but this year it was beautiful. In Corsica there are still enough people vacationing but it wasn't crowded. Sometimes in France small villages can be locked up tight since summer is over. In the Var we found cafes and shops closed in September since the French had returned from their vacations.

We were in the northern and central parts of France in July and August where crowds were no problem. It was nice seeing all the French families enjoying time together.
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Sep 30th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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September 11

Filitosa, Olmeto Plage, D121, Sartène, Levie

We’re driving south today and spending the night in Levie. Levie isn’t worth any time, but it had a good B&B to stay at on the route we wanted. Auberge A pignata is another choice in this area, and serves one of the best meals.

We drove south on N196 to D57 where the prehistorique site of Filitosa is located. This area is large, peaceful, open, full of olive trees, cactus and many carved Menhirs. It’s also home to two donkeys. You can see for miles. There is little shade here so it was very warm. Many of the menhirs are carved with faces or weapons. There is also a small museum here with 3 more standing menhirs. We spent 1 ½ hrs. at filitosa and thought it well worth the time. There are audio information points along the way where you can select the language of your choice.

Ready for some beach time we drove down D57 to D157 which leads to the Olmeto Plage. This is a long stretch of beautiful beaches, but each separate along the road. Some have restaurants on the ocean’s edge. We pulled into U Farniente which had a beautiful location, but I wasn’t sure where to stop so we kept driving. We ended up going down a small road which leads to the Tour de la Calanca. The tower isn’t very attractive, but the beach was excellent. There was a good sized parking lot down the very steep hill. A small, unattractive café was also in the parking area, but we didn’t eat at it. Again we had a picnic lunch with us. The sand here was a bit courser, which was good, since it didn’t blow into everything. There were few people here. Any beach along this stretch would be wonderful.

Next we drove down past Propriano, we had advice not to stop here, to D121. Our goal was to drive to the Genoese Tour at point de Campomoro which we could see from the beach at Olmeto. 67 of these towers still stand today on Corsica. This is yet again, a beautiful drive, but the road is pretty narrow. There are turn outs for enjoying the views. We drove about ¾ of the way down the road, where we could see the tower, but didn’t complete the drive. We were tired of passing cars on the narrow road and wanted to see Sartène before going inland.

Three days earlier the local newspaper headline was of a mob murder in the central plaza of Sartène. In fact there were two mob killings, the other in Porto Vecchio. The woman who owns Monte d’Oro hotel told us if that were her son who killed another, she’d kill him herself. We believed her! Anyhow, Sartène is not a big town. The central plaza is right in front of the church, along the small, main road, and is quiet and attractive. It’s unbelievable and a little spooky what had just happened here days earlier.

There is an arched doorway at Hotel de Ville, next to the church, which leads to a few shops and very picture some alleys. One shop sells wine, charcuterie, cheeses and other Corsican products. We bought a few supplies here. Sartène is full of old character and was one of my favorite towns on Corsica.

It was time to drive just west of Zonza to Levie to check into Gite # 18631 chambres d’ hotes our B&B. The drive was quick and easy with beautiful mountain views. The rooms at this old mill are very large. It’s set off of the tiny road which goes through town, but parking is a bit tight. Breakfast was included in the morning along with good conversation!

A beautiful pink sunset greeted us again tonight as we drove 10 minutes to Augerge A Pignata for dinner. http://www.apignata.com/table.html -
Route du Pianu 20170 Levie –
Tél. 0033 (0)4 95 78 41 90

This is considered one of the best restaurants on Corsica. The road down to it was very rough, full of potholes, but this was just for 1 mile. The set price for the 5+ course dinner is 40€. There is no menu, but you do get a couple of choices. So much food is served, you won’t be able to eat it all, but it was a fun experience with great ambiance, and dinner hearty and traditional. Those staying at the Augerge had a slightly different menu. Reservations are a must. It was so dark and clear when we left, you could see every star in the sky. Magical!
Images2 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 08:45 AM
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Great report, giving me lots of ideas for future trips! Thanks so much for including all the links, too.
Leely2 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 10:52 AM
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Thanks Leely2! It was a fantastic trip!

September 12

Col de Bavella, Cascades de Pulischellu, Cotes des Nacres, Palombaggia Plage, Bonifacio

Another highlight of Corsica is the Aiguilles de Bavella which can be seen along D268 between Zonza and Solenzara. At the Col de Bavella there is a large parking area. It was full when we left, but in the morning parking was no problem. The views here are magnificent, and there are several hiking trails that begin at the end of the top parking area, just past the road block. At least 4 different colored trails are marked here. This area is on the opposite side of the road from the memorial. It would be wise to get the hiking map of this area before you arrive. The signs posted at the sight were almost useless. We could see all the way to the sea, on the north side of the road. Plan on spending a few hours at least in this area.

Once we passed the most spectacular part of D268 we arrived at a small bridge with a sign Pont de Pulischellu. This is shortly past another large parking area on the right. (We were driving from the west to the east). There were several cars parked along the side of the road to help mark the spot. This tip came from another review and was quite helpful. Take the path leading down on the left hand side of the small bridge, (with the large parking lot to your back) not where the sign Pont de Pulischellu is. It’s not very difficult to walk to some beautiful, clear green pools of water, with waterfall. Others who were more ambitious were climbing high above the large pool we stopped at, with one diving from high above into the pool of mountain water. It’s a lovely area to try the water, or just lay in the sun, picnic and read!

East of the Cascades you’ll arrive at Vasques de Solenzara. There are many natural rock pools of the clearest, green water along the Solenzara River. They’re easy to see from D268. We couldn’t resist stopping yet again for a little time wading in these pools. The road came to an end at the town of Solenzara, where we drove south towards Porto-Vecchio.

Porto-Vecchio is a town with famous beaches. I expected to love the beaches here. We didn’t see the town itself, but skirted it on N198, taking the small white road on the Michelin map that leads to Palombaggia beach. We drove down from the north on this road, and stopped at one of the many fruit stands along the way to buy supplies for dinner. The fresh food on Corsica was outstanding. The road had no traffic on it,& was very rural. Once we got near to Palombaggia we took a turn to the left that lead to the beach. There is an extremely large paid parking area under the pine trees. We parked and walked to the beach. The beach has postcards printed of it, for it’s beauty, but I was very disappointed. Yes, the sea was deep blue, and the rocks deep red, but the beach was very narrow, and full of people, loungers, restaurant, and stuff. It was a shock after all the isolation of the other beaches we’d been at. Climbing over or walking in the water around the rocks that jet out into the ocean at the end of the first beach leads to a less crowded beach, but still, it was full of people. Maybe this is a very famous beach, but I don’t think it’s the best. Nevertheless we were here so we stayed for an hour.

The road continued past other beaches but driving south you encounter so much traffic, narrow roads, because cars are parked all the way along this road and congestion. I was very happy we weren’t staying in this area.

The road south to Bonifacio is an easy drive, but it slows as you drive into town. Finding our hotel Hotel le Royal Bonifacio www.hotel-leroyal.com was just a matter of following the main road to the center of town. We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and had a very hard time finding the parking lot, which was free for guests, because the instructions were very poor. The parking is close, but it took my husband an hour to finally figure out where it was. This hotel isn’t wonderful, but the location is right in the center. It was noisy early in the morning, from 5 a.m. on when they’d clean the streets and shop owners would greet each other. It’d be better to find a different location.

Bonifacio is wonderfully scenic. We took our best photos of it on this evening with the beautiful sunset over the sea, and the moon shining over the ocean. The port is also very nice with couched cafes set along the harbor. There is an upper town and lower port area with steep stairs connecting them. The white cliffs are dramatic and a site I’ll never forget. Tomorrow we’ll sail around them and hike the grand staircase carved into the cliffs.
Images2 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2010, 08:04 PM
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Excellent report, images.
stokebailey is offline  
Oct 4th, 2010, 01:49 AM
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Hi Images2 - Really enjoying your trip report and was interested to see you have been to Vinsobres!
Have you been to this bistro in Paris which has the wine from there? We have eaten there and the food is really good - BTW the photo of the restaurant is old and it does not look like that - It's much nicer!
tod is offline  
Oct 4th, 2010, 02:43 AM
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Thanks Images2

We are about to book the flights to Corsica out of protest with the price of the trans-atlantic flights. Easyjet and Ryanir are about the only airlines offering half decent deals for next year. I am not paying the silly amounts that BA eant for an economy ticket to The Bahamas.

Easyjet to Corsica : £120 per ticket including bags in July is too good to turn down.

Looks like we will have to put up with beautiful beaches with no sharks or turtles but much better food.

Will be back for later for advice on where to visit.

Thanks for the report.
yanumpty is offline  
Oct 4th, 2010, 02:44 AM
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Images2, you make Corsica seem a lot bigger than it really is with all of the places you went. Of course, on the winding roads, even when places are only a couple of kilometers apart, the distance often seems much greater.
kerouac is online now  
Oct 4th, 2010, 11:39 AM
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Thanks everyone, I'm working on the next installment, after a busy weekend with my family visiting.

tod, No we haven't been to Vin Sobre, but wish I'd known about it when we were on rue Saint Jacques 2 weeks ago, visiting Val de Grace during journees-du-patrimoine! There are many UK retirees living in Vinsobres whom we met at the dinner! Wish we could join them.

Many of the roads on Corsica are slow and pigs, goats and cows appear often. It is a small island, but so full of beauty with plenty of ways to spend your days. yanumpty, you're making the right decision!
Images2 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2010, 12:10 PM
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September 13

This morning we walked down to the harbor to buy tickets for an excursion to see Bonifacio from the sea and the Calanques. Most of the boats making this trip have now consolidated under the name Thalassa with fixed ticket prices. They have one ticket stand, and once a boat fills, it leaves. One operator was selling tickets for €12 but the main consolidator was charging €17 per person for Circuit 1 to the Grottes, falaises and 2 calanques. Circuit 2 goes to Iles Lavezzi and Cavallo and is about €25. On this trip you get dropped off and can take a later return boat. We negotiated with someone handing out fliers, so paid €15 for the Thalassa Circuit 1trip. The boat that was filling up only had seats available indoors, so we bypassed it and waited for the next boat so we were able to sit outdoors. I wanted to take photos and wouldn’t be able to do this from inside. I sat on the left side, in a seat facing the rear of the boat, which was perfect for photography! The boat trips begin to depart at 9 a.m. and leave about every 20-30 minutes. The seas were calmer in the morning and by the time we returned the crowds were thick. The trip was about 1 hour and wonderful. The boat went past the Grain de Sable to inside Grotte du Sdragonatu. The captain maneuvered inside where there was a hole in the roof, open to the sky. The seas were a little rough so it took skill to get the boat inside. Next we sailed along the chalk cliffs which support Bonifacio. The seas were turquoise and choppy.

Once we returned we bought food at the small market near the port and once again made a picnic lunch. There are many lunch options in the bars along the harbor where we had drinks later in the day. Yachts line the harbor. Near Torrione, a lookout post of the castle, is Escalier du Roi d’Aragon, a 187 step staircase leading down to the sea. It’s very, very steep with uneven deep steps. A ticket booth is located at the staircase, selling combination tickets which include this site for about €3. The climb is somewhat difficult but the views and walkway along the cliffside are spectacular.

Cimetiere Marin was my favorite site in town and is located at the tip of town, next to the large parking area. It’s full of deep rows of mausoleums with white crosses and the sea as its background. There are several similar cemeteries on Corsica. We spent a few hours enjoying the narrow, twisting alleys of Bonifacio before relaxing back at the harbor.

Dinner was at Cantina Doria, 27 rue Doria, and was poor, despite the crowds and recommendation in guide books.
Images2 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2010, 07:40 PM
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Still enjoying this very much, thanks!
Leely2 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2010, 08:09 AM
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September 14

To Corte, Calvi and Calenzana

Leaving early this morning we drove N198 up the Eastern Coastline of Corsica. This is a quick, easy road to drive. Just as the road hugs the coast at Anse de Fautea there is a narrow but pretty beach. Taking N200 we left the coastal road and drove back to the center, to Corte. Parking is difficult in Corte, but there is a large underground parking area, near the large bright red building. This is off Cours Paoli, very central, near Place Paoli. We walked up the steep steps to Place Gaffori, the haute ville, where we discovered very old, rough streets leading to Eglise de l’Annonciation , the Belvedere, Casa Arrighi de Casanova, Casa Gaffory, Eglise Sainte Croix, Oratoire St-Theophile and the Bastille. The bastille contains the Museu di a Corsica so you can’t enter it without buying museum tickets.

U Museu Restaurant looked very pleasant, was terraced, & had several diners. Instead of eating here we shopped in A Casa Curtinese a small shop full of Corsican products. They stocked wine, chesses, charcuterie, jams, fruit and produce, everything we needed for another picnic lunch! This shop is alone on a corner, and across the street, is a very picture some Boulangerie Patisserie Toussaint. I have no idea if it’s actually open, but worthy of a few photos! We loved Corte, but needed to be in Calenzana this evening, so taking our picnic supplies, left town.

The Gorges de la Restonica lead west from Corte on D623. Many rock climbers were climbing the cliffs here, and there are watery pools to swim in along the river. It’s a great place to picnic. We tried driving this road, it’s another very beautiful area, but after several miles, we needed to turn around. The road is so very narrow, and felt dangerous. There wasn’t enough room to pass other vehicles without being terrified. We drove ½ to ¾ of the road and it was more than enough. One college girl thought she swiped our car, and was very apologetic, but she had actually hit another. Happy to return to the N193, we continued our drive north, to N1197 which led to the sea! Oh my gosh, the spot where N1197 meets N197 by Plage de l’Ostriconi (east of Lozari) is jaw dropping beautiful. We drove by twice, but never had time to spend in this area. Next time!

Calvi’s Festival of Polyphony had begun and we wanted tickets to a couple of the concerts. I tried to contact the ticket office by e-mail before we left but never received a response. Parking in Calvi is easy, as there is a large, free lot right by the beach before you enter town. It’s a 10 minute walk into town from this area and allows easy access and exit from Calvi. The small train that should connect these beach towns isn’t running now. They’ve had problems with it so have suspended service.

The TI was selling tickets to the festival. This is a major event, but tickets were still available. We bought 2 sets of tickets to the Thursday night Mongolian concert in the cathedral and to the large gathering to hear the Japanese drummers and A Filetta, the local group. Next we bought tickets at the port for the boat trip to Scandola Natural Reserve for tomorrow. These tickets need to be purchased the day before you leave. Prices are €56 for the morning/afternoon trip which stops at Girolata for 2 hours for lunch, returning at 3 p.m. or €45 for a 3 hour afternoon trip. We chose the longer trip which leaves at 9 a.m. Walking up to the Citadel is a hike, and the cathedral was closed this afternoon, reading for the concerts inside. The views are spectacular from here.

Calenzana is about a 15 minute drive south of Calvi, down a pretty road. It’s backed by more mountains, but the town isn’t in the mountains. It was wonderful staying at this B&B, Ombre-du-Clocher. www.ombre-du-clocher.com and was €75 per night for a very comfortable stay. A kitchen and dining/tv area is available for the guests, in addition to an above ground swimming pool.

A Stazzona 17 rue du fond in Calenzana was recommended to us. Their outdoor garden dining area is a nice place to dine. We preferred ordering a la carte rather than their set menu of 3 or 4 courses. I thought the food was delicious and service very warm. We didn’t need reservations.
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