Saturday August 25, 2018
“Bastia? What’s exciting there?”
“Exciting is not the word to describe Bastia.” It is a laid back small working city with a few hot spots.
Vieux Port (Old Port) and the Terre Vecchia (Old Town) have been there for a couple thousand years in one form or another. It has strong ties to the Genoese empire and would be Italian except Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica and when he took over France, he made Corse a French Department. Bastia doesn’t look French and doesn’t especially look Genovese either; I would say it looks Mediterranean.
The Genoese citadelle and Terra Nova neighborhood occupies a craggy hilltop above the bowl shaped Old Port. The pleasure and fishing boat packed harbor is surrounded by open and outdoor seating restaurants. Fish is a local food draw. The restaurants are busy from noon to 2P and then 7P to 10P. The harbor is guarded by two small lighthouses, fue, on either side of the narrow mouth. Big ferries actually stop outside and BACK into their berth if their cargo door is in the stern so cars can exit. Front loaders must back out of the harbor!!! I saw no cruise ships the two days I was in town.
I walked about 8 miles each day. Multiple trips to the Old Part for different light. Even so, it begins to look much the same … but slightly different light. The last time was for dinner at one of the best restaurants, Chez Huguette, overlooking the harbor and all the activity. I made reservation for their opening at 7PM and then sat by the waterfront watching the comings and goings for an hour until the opened.
An aperitif and then grilled vegetables for a starter. I ordered the traditional octopus with tomato sauce. The octopus arrived on a bed of roasted vegetables; the WHOLE OCTOPUS. Yum, but it was the first time I ever got the WHOLE thing!!!
Returning home to the Hotel Riveria, I stopped at an event that I have never witnessed before. The Place St Nicholas along the harbor was set up for a Petanque tournament. Two teams of three, each player with two steel balls the size of a baseball, one tiny colored target ball. The strategy looked like curling except you can loft the balls and knock another competitor away. Amazing to see balls launched in an arch to bomb another ball 10 yards away. Some players seem to be the designated bomber.
“Exciting” is for Gulfe de Porto and Les Calanches de Piana is a UNESCO place. Located on the northwest coast (Bastia is in the northeast) it is a beautiful gulf and the geology is fantastic with amazing red porphyry rock formations. Most of Haute Corse is sparse and underpopulated. Very eroded and mountainous with roads along the ravine sides. I was continually shifting from 2nd to 3rd to second with an occasional stretch in 4th. I never got to 5th in my little Ford Fiesta. The northwest is a “GoBackTo” place. There is fine hiking in the Calanches and the Gorges de Spelunka to be done. Arizona’s Redrock Sedona is rounded and massive wind formed, Calanches are spiky, deeply eroded by rain and wind. The road, D81, is often 1 1/4 lanes wide and hanging close to the cliff face. Traffic is scary and slow, kind of like narrow lane roads in Ireland/Scotland. but here it on a cliff face. It is a good idea to sound your horn when approaching a tight bend. Signs do indicate which direction has the right of way, but a bus is NOT going to back up. It is best to travel the road in the early AM but. You do what you have to do.
Off to Ajaccio and the resorty Sud Corse…
“travel light and wear a smile.”