“It is easy to be wise after the event.” ―
“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’” ―
In the villages and towns of Upper Corsica, it is there where time as a tourist passes. More care, I think, should be given to the journey between those villages and towns.
During a recent trip through Haute-Corse, around Cap Corse, several long drives warranted more consideration on my part.
Part of the problem is finding places to stay. Secondly, only after driving through them did I know where I could have paused and breathed or where I would have wanted to spend a day or two.
Today, there are four routes where I wished I had paused: 1) on the east coast, the route between Bastia and Macinaggio; on the west coast, the routes 2) between Centuri and Saint-Florent; 3) between L’Île-Rousse and Calvi; and 4) between Calvi and Porto.
Between Saint-Florent and L’Île-Rousse is the desert des Agriates, for example. It is not a desert filled with sand but the maquis bush, which is common on Corsica.
The issue with taking advantage of the drives is what to do with them. You want to stop, but where? The roads are narrow and sometimes the turn-outs are not available. Stopping anyway is not possible; that is a given. Too many curves, and thinking that no car will come is foolish. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
Porto, Haute-Corse is a port. Sometimes its name is associated with Ota (Porto, Ota, Corsica, France). It is small; and without tourism, it would simply be another small village with summer homes and the occasional fishing boats going out if they had already identified markets for their catches, maybe in Calvi to the north or Cargèse to the south.
Despite its size I spent three nights in Porto at a funky hotel called Hôtel Bon Accueil. I would return to Porto if I could again reserve a room there. It is not a hotel for those who want comfort and luxury. It reminded me of the low budget hotels where I used to stay when I was younger and hipper and when I looked for places where my parents would refuse to stay.
Porto is a former fishing village that now caters to tourists. It has restaurants, summer homes, and boats that take visitors to the Calanches de Piana and to the Réserve Naturelle de Scandola.
Porto has a tower on the port, la Tour Génoise de Porto à Ota. It is the major tourist destination. You can go to the top of the tower. Inside are historic displays, and climbing some steps further, you can have the panoramic view that the tower promises from a distance. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
All roads on Corsica lead to Corte. Sort of. If one looks at a map, in the center of the island and a bit to the north one finds Corte. The major roads going west to east and north to south pass through it, or nearby.
The train system intersects at Corte as well, except for the train going from Bastia to Calvi. One must transfer to a second train at Ponte-Leccia to continue to the west coast and Calvi.
Tourists, myself included, like to take the train in the morning from Bastia to Corte, spend some time there, and return to Bastia. It is small, Corte is, and much can be seen with part of a morning and much of the afternoon. The train ride is about two hours. One can walk into town from the train station; I did.
I chose to spend three nights in Corte. That meant wandering some streets more than once. Saying that, I would return and do it again.
Corte is set in the mountains. You are reminded of it during the train ride and later when you climb to the citadel and look to the horizon. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The citadel offers the best views of the surrounding countryside. It requires paying the entry fee for the Musée de la Corse. One enters the mueum, turns left before entering the exhibits, and walking outside to the citadel viewing area. One must be able to walk up steps. But wait, there’s more!
During a recent trip to Haute-Core (Upper Corsica) and while driving north from Bastia to Macinaggio on the east coast of Corsica and down the west coast from Centuri to Cargèse, I noticed the many, many stone towers that dotted the two coastlines. Corsica is a, was a fortified island. They provided points of view for searching the waters for pirates and invading forces. The tower shown in the post, “on being high as a kite in nonza,” is an example.
Citadels—“a fortress, typically on high ground, protecting or dominating a city”—are prominent on Corsica as well. The major towns have them: Bastia has one that overlooks its harbor; Corte has one that sits on a high knoll that overlooks the surrounding countryside; Saint-Florent has one but it is modest and lacks interest; and Calvi has a large one that overlooks its port.
While the definition of “citadel” suggests a fortress, meaning a military base of some kind, the citadels on Corsica had villages in them. People lived there, and it is still true today.
In every town with a citadel, the citadel is a tourist destination for good reasons. They provide excellent views, often panoramic, of the towns, the countryside, and the Mediterranean Sea. The citadels are medieval in design and construction. Anyone wanting a partial sense of life during the Middle Ages will walk through their narrow streets. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!