Courting Corte, the old capital of Corsica

An evening out in Bastia gives a real flavour of what is to come on Corsica. The island is a fusion of Italian roots, French history, a hard mountainous spine and the coastal romance of the sea. Music, menus, culture, sport, place names reflect both Italy and France.

The town’s petanque competition brings locals out in their droves. Held over several days on the wide open square by the modern port, all ages and genders, from 7 to 70 perform in their teams and leagues to win the top prizes.

From Bastia it is a long drive through forested peaks across the spine of the island to the south west. From the 11th to 13th centuries Corsica was ruled by the Italian city-state of Pisa, superseded in 1284 by Genoa. To prevent seaborne raids, mainly from North Africa, a massive defence system was constructed that included citadels, coastal watchtowers and inland forts.

An hour out is the old capital of Corsica – Corte. In 1755, after 25 years of sporadic warfare against the Genoese, Corsicans declared their independence, led by Pasquale Paoli (1725–1807), under whose rule they established a National Assembly and adopted the most democratic constitution in Europe. They made the inland mountain town of Corte their capital, outlawed blood vendettas, founded schools and established a university. But the island’s independence was short-lived. In 1768 the Genoese ceded Corsica to the French king Louis XV, whose troops crushed Paoli’s army in 1769 and the island has since been part of France except for a period (1794–96) when it was under English domination, and during the German and Italian occupation of 1940–4.

The steep, narrow, frequently cobbled streets and tight squares still remember those days of local patriots and pride in Corsican values.The many statues of Paoli always points the way for each following generation.

Where next – of course it’s Corsica

Hi everyone. Well, you may have wondered where I’ve been. Since last blogging to you I have been on a trip to Barcelona. It was a real adventure. I joined Chloe, Alexa & Toby on the first leg of their railway adventures around Spain. On the first evening I had a run-in with a bag-snatcher. He was not content to simply pick my pocket. No, I stupidly placed temptation right in front of him, or her, and he/she swiped the whole bag, camera and all, from the back of my chair in a restaurant and no-one saw a thing. Hence no photos and no blog.

Three weeks further on I have replaced my kit and I am back on my adventures. You find me in Corsica, that small island off the coast of France which was the birthplace of Napoleon. We fly into Bastia, in the north of the island, and the next day is spent exploring this historic port, through which most of Corsica’s trade and goods arrive on and leave the island. Established by the Genoese in 1487 the narrow, dusty streets ooze history.

There are three main areas to this historic town. The old town around the cathedral & square of St Jean-Baptiste.

The old port.

The citadel.

 

Lost in France

You may have been wondering why things had gone quiet From your favourite blogger since Mongolia. Has he finally settled down beside the waters of Lake Victoria? Is he being held for ransom somewhere and no-one is prepared to pay the £100 for his release? Maybe he bought that Harley and it’s now motoring through South America through the dust of the Pan American Highway. Hey, he could have been put into a home by his family and friends so we don’t have to suffer any more of  his rambling accounts of his latest trip.

Well, my friends, I was cut off from all techno contact when all my techno gear was nicked, stolen, burgled in France. I say ‘all’. They didn’t take my camera (thank you Spirit in the Sky) nor my car. So I was cut off from you, my friends, and everyone else I should add. I am getting my stuff back gradually, thanks to insurance, and am now able to ‘share’ again. ‘Oh goodie’ I hear you all cry. Do let me tell you what happened.

Having spent a few days in Provence enjoying the company of friends, the wine, the food, the sun, the heat, the smells, I moved over to the foothills of the Cevenne to a small village outside Uzes. I had rented an old family stone built house for two weeks. Set on two floors, the bedrooms were on the lower floor with an outside door and the living area was on the upper floor, accessed by two sliding French Windows, we were in France after all.

It was the second night. It was 3 o’clock. It was dark and still. I was sleeping in my new bed. Dreaming. In my dream I could hear footsteps walking above me. I opened my eyes to discover that there were footsteps walking about in the living space above my head. ‘Hello’ I cry out in my innocent daze. ‘Oh, it must be the owner popping in to say hello’. Derrrrh. I get out of bed. I put on my M&S pants (the white ones) and I go out into the downstairs reception area. There is a cool breeze from the back door which is wide open. Up the stairs a light goes on. I call out again and do what no sensible person should do. In my white underwear, I climb the stairs calling out some nonsense as I go.

Obviously, whoever it was caught sight of my manly physique, heard the authority in my voice and not wanting to be attacked with the bare hands of a bald headed, semi naked, retired English gent decided, like any cornered rats would do, to run out of the top doors with all the loot in their swag bags. By the time I got to the door and rather nervously looked out, all that could be seen was the disappearing headlights of a 🚗.

I took stock….. The story does go on – being locked in the gendarme compound, of scene of crime taking swabs to find DNA, of the retrieval by a local farmer of my passport & Nector card & bus pass (thank goodness for the latter items, Ay?). But hey, you don’t want to hear all that. You will just be pleased that I survived this experience and that I am now back in the blogging seat again.

Oh, Please text me with your numbers as they took my phone so I have lost all my contacts.

A few images of the following weeks of my journey through Provence, the Camargue and Languedoc-Roussillon. I know you’ll be upset if you have no pretty piccies to look at.

20160829110813_img_3381 20160829104014_img_3375 20160828103847_img_3318 20160828154602_img_3326 20160828154649_img_3328 20160824132057_img_3299 20160824124131_img_3288 20160824123304_img_3269 20160824095639_img_3237 20160823190857_img_3220 20160813100833_img_3078

 

The three faces of Le Coitat

The first face of Le Coitat can be seen high above the sprawling buildings & resorts that spread along the Mediterranean to the east of Marseille. A dozen or so gantries & cranes hold up the sky in the distance and become more impressive as the old ship building yards are approached. This is where proper big ships were built with huge keels and propellers the size of tall men. Now the rusty remnants stand as hanging idols to a glorious past and grasping fingers fight rusting decay against a blue sky.

20150810151320_IMG_7720 20150810164618_IMG_7749

 

These guardians of history stand tall around the tightly formed, compact, old town, the second face. Here the narrow streets & faded tall buildings would have offered protection from Saracens & Turks & pirates. Crusaders must have walked her once on their way back from the Holy Land. Nowadays the tight darkish streets offer shade & respite from the burning sun for locals & visitors alike.

20150811083458_IMG_7879 20150811144838_IMG_7938 20150811152202_IMG_7975 20150811152253_IMG_7978 20150811152353_IMG_7979

20150811144604_IMG_7932 20150811153946_IMG_8008

The final face of Le Coitat comes out as dark approaches & stays until the early hours. Hundreds of stalls start to appear and like candle flames start to attract an increasingly busy crowd of holiday makers who feed the umbrellered  hives with Euro pollen. The streams of bustling shoppers turn to rivers & then a flood around the once picturesque quayside of the old port. When morning comes all is as before and the night is forgotten until it all starts again as each day ends. Like the seasons the Night Market comes seven nights a week – beware!!! Well in July & August anyway!

 

20150810204022_IMG_7836

 

 

A few days down on the Cote d’Azur – Villefranche-sur-mer

A short skoot from the Var, through the golden delights of Nice brings me to Villefranche- sur-mer. Once, a beautiful small fishing village with a secure harbour and a protective citidal built in mid 1500s. Now surrounded by typical Côte d’Azur developments: villas, properties, apartments & hotels and the tall, 21st galley- the dreaded cruise ship although to be fair, other than a few northern accents the presence of its cargo of UK tourists went barely noticed.

Down on the quayside tourists meet bars meet yacht owners meet20150809095407_IMG_7601 20150809100208_IMG_7616 20150809102708_IMG_7628 20150808173432_IMG_7537

pizzas meet oyster restaurants meet beer meet rosé. A delightful atmosphere in the cool of the evening. Take my frame, place it around the old town, add a bit of cool salsa played in a bar, distress the plasterwork and shutters and ignore all the buildings outside it – you could be in Cuba.

Some of that history & local character still remains whatever the tourists try to do to the place. You can see why I had to include one of my frames!!!

20150809092132_IMG_7576 20150809091943_IMG_7573 20150808161713_IMG_7441 20150808171153_IMG_7511 20150809102223_IMG_7620 20150809132342_IMG_7674 20150809133058_IMG_7693

Enjoy the smell of the sea and the sight of glistening white yachts & sailing boats of all sizes bobbing at anchor on a turquoise sea.

 

 

 

Fun, food and farewells at Restaurant la Gloire de mon Pere

While at Seillans the restaurant at the heart of this lovely small medieval Var village has become a favourite place to eat & enjoy the shade of the four huge plane trees and the gentle breeze during the evening. The site of the first & the last meal, of a wonderful long lunch with friends from home and countless beers & cafes that have been purchased during the week spent here. Staff found time to have some fun with photo frames & bonhomie (that’s French, you know, for geniality & good spirit). A special place!!! Thank you.

20150804135337_IMG_7207 20150804123030_IMG_7171 20150802112256_IMG_7143 20150804124520_IMG_7181 20150804123353_IMG_7175 20150804122918_IMG_7168 20150804123305_IMG_7172 20150804123748_IMG_7180 20150804122837_IMG_7161 20150804122900_IMG_7165

 

The Pàrumeries of Grasse

Grasse is a wonderful mediaeval town, surrounded by a spreading slick of suburbia in the form of apartment blocks & private housing along with commercial developments, that is the centre of a large well reknowned perfume manufacturing industry. Museums & smelly shops sing the praises of this long established industry. Women walk around its narrow stepped streets holding a fan of white emery board shaped samplers to their delicate noses trying to decide which small aromatic treasure to buy.

20150806154851_IMG_7321

The heart of Grasse old town is magnificent in the colours of its tall, stretching tenements which line the narrow alleyways. Blocks of rich oranges & orchas & reds & tans stand side by side as if in a merchants sign or a baron’s coat-of-arms. Arrays of shuttered windows hide away secrets of bubbling vats & coppered urns linked over furnaces by pipes and test tubes all furiously working together to create the next fragrance to take the classy class by storm. Alchemy in practice in the 21st century.

20150806155413_IMG_7330 20150806155538_IMG_7333 20150806161728_IMG_7367 20150806162354_IMG_7379 20150806162407_IMG_7380 20150806163644_IMG_7403 20150806163819_IMG_7409

It’s a shame that tourism, once again, hides the innocent glory of a once elegant centre where Victorians would have travelled to take the air away from the coast of the Med which can be seen in the far distance from Grasses’s high promenades.