Tuesday, November 13, 2012

European Zen Navigation Tour 2012 - Part 3 - Corsica

Apologies as the writing in this post is terrible.  It's been written in about 10 fits and spurts and I haven't really checked it for coherence, continuity or clarity.

Corsica started out amazingly.  Then badly.  Then amazingly again.

Bonifacio is an amazing city.  It has a skinny, natural harbour, with the old City towering above on steep cliffs.  Amazing.

We rolled in to town and staggered around looking for the rental car office.  Where we'd booked (and paid for) our car the day before.  Which we found without too much trouble.  And was closed.  Not so amazing.

There was a really nice man working at the parking lot next door.  He offered to drive us to the airport 50km away to pick up a different car.  We thanked him, found a really nice harbourside hotel where we got a sweet harbourview room with a balcony, and settled in for a day of Bonifacio.

I was skeptical, but Andrea proposed going on one of the many boat tours offered up in the harbour.  We just came in on a boat?  Why go on another one?  Anyhow.  We did.

Go on a boat tour in Bonifacio.  The captain's are psychotically skilled.  The tour talked about visiting a "Grotto".  I had visions of poking our heads in, struggling to get a look from a hundred feet out.  No.  He takes it right in.  And then a boat size hole emerges.  And he goes through that hole to an even smaller cave that you can't see.  And it's just kind of crazy.

The rest of the tour is nice.  You can see the old town from just below the cliffs.  Etc.  But that first cave is really incredible.  Touristy, yes.  But incredible.

 Here's the cave.  You can just see the small hole.
 Boat sized hole on the way in.
 This gives you an idea of how tight it is.
And then you emerge into this cavern, maybe 20 feet deep with crystal clear water.

Once back, we hiked up to the old city and had a look around.

Then we went back to the hotel and drank a 6 Euro bottle of Bordeaux.  We arrived on the last day of the annual yacht fest, so we watched the boats putter about the harbour.  I like to think of this sailboat as the Darth Vader Sailboat of Death.

We obtained our car the next morning and slowly rolled up the East coast of Corsica.  We started with a quick clifftop look back at Bonifacio.  It's really difficult to comprehend how high and precarious these cliffs are.

 Eventually, we ended up around Porto Vecchio.  More nice beaches.  Etc.
From Porto Vechio, we headed straight up into the Mountains.  Just up and up and up and up into the clouds.  Forever.  First to Zonza, for some lunch.  Then, above Quenza, into the Alpine.  Where things looked like the Scottish Highlands.  I assume.

 These guys were building a rock...house?, way up in the middle of nowhere.  They seemed excited that we appreciated their work enough to take a photograph.
We met some wild horses on the way down.
Eventually, we headed to our destination.  Somewhere in the hills around Levie is a fancy little compound, known for it's multi-course Corsican feast.  It took a while to find it but it was worth the trek.

Number 1 - The large indoor pool and sauna (no photos)

Number 2 - The overwhelming cat cuddling.  We couldn't get them out of our room
Number 3 - The massive Corsican feast (no decent photos)

Number 4 - The giant thunderstorm that we ended up experiencing through the night.  It was so close that the lightning was causing our lights to go on and off.  The cats just sort of snuggled in and ignored it all (no photos too scared)

It really wasn't a very nice day the next day, so we just started driving.  Down to the coast.  Back up to the Mountains.  Down to the coast again.
We ended up searching for a farm that supposedly sold large amounts of honey for not much money.  We followed the Lonely Planet directions perfectly.  We were on the correct road.  The farm never appeared.  Instead, we ended up on the craziest, windiest road that ended up in a nice little valley.

Onwards we drove.  Through towns.  Up hills.  Down hills.  Past goats.

We just kept going and going and going.  Everything was very nice, but we couldn't really find the combination of requirements that we needed in a destination.  Well, we couldn't even really decide on what we required.  Trip low point came once we hit Ajaccio.

Ajaccio is the largest city in Corsica.  It has massive traffic problems.  It's quite nice, but it seemed kind of crazy that we had driven by a whole pile of beaches, just to wind up in a crowded City.  We kept driving and consulted Lonely Planet.  It suggested a hotel just out of downtown that had a nice little private beach.  And it was amazing.  These were taken on the beach right out front.  Bottom one is Andrea snorkeling.  Shortly after this photo was taken, a dude came wandering out in a camo wetsuit and a giant spear gun.  20 minutes later we saw him bashing a giant octopus against a rock.  No photo.

The next morning was kind of terrible, so we drove to the turtle sanctuary.  Oh.  Wait.  I forgot about Napoleon's birthplace.  Did you not know that Napoleon was born and (somewhat) raised in Ajaccio?  And that his home is now a museum?  And that is his bed shown below?  And that, oddly, he had a portrait of himself as a grown man above his bed?
 This is his death mask.
 This is a painting of...let's see if I can remember this...Past, future, present and some other Napoleon.
 Classy stuff for sale in the gift shop.
 And a tourist shot.  Nobody else copied my pose.
Then, on to the turtles.  Sorry.  Tortoises.

By the time we got back, the sun was out and we enjoyed a picnic and some beach time.  Before packing to leave the next day.

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