For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. – Robert Louis Stevenson
A few years back, I had the opportunity to spend 2 months in Saint Florent, Corsica’s seaside resort. I accepted a job on a whim, drove my car to Nice and took a ferry to Calvi on the northern side of the island. I didn’t know what to expect. Let me tell you straight away that I never regretted the decision and I can’t believe that this island is still a bit of an insider’s location. Everybody knows about the French Riviera, but not many people seem to know that the “Ile de beauté” or “island of beauty” (and that’s no overstatement) is just within a short ferry ride.
I spent my first day on the island, driving from Calvi to Saint Florent on a coastal road, stopping every 50 meters or so to take pictures of the scenery. When I arrived in Saint Florent, the first thing that caught my eye was the Marina. I had rented a small appartment without internet connection (yup, it came as a shock to me, too). It actually turned out to be a good thing because I spent my evenings in small cafés and bars near the sea, working on my laptop, reading or just enjoying the view.
Corsica is great for everybody who loves nature and sports. One of the best known long distance trails (the GR 20) runs through the island from the north to the south. If you are not into hiking or if you don’t have enough time for that kind of commitment, you still have plenty of opportunities to get moving.
On the road and underwater
I was working a part time job and I dedicated two of my afternoons each week for a scuba diving course. The bay near Saint Florent is a great diving spot for beginners and experienced divers. I was diving with the French association and passed my “Niveau 2” (about the equivalent of a Padi Open Water and allowing you to go to 40m). Near Saint Florent, there are a few great diving sites, including a ship wreck). If you have the time, you should also go for a dive in Galeria, near Corsica’s Natural Reserve. I loved working in Corsica as it allowed me to interact a lot with the locals.The islanders were friendly and had plenty of tips as to what I should go explore.
The best part of that job were my house-calls, during which I drove through small villages along the coast and in the mountainous inland. The mountain passes and many roads along the sea should be fun for every cyclist.
The highest moutain is Mount Cinto (2706m). I was there at the end of summer so I didn’t check out the two skiing stations. However, I’m sure it’s a very unusual experience to spend a day on the slopes, then have dinner at a seaside restaurant. 🙂
In the air
Another great way to enjoy the view is from above. Altore is a paragliding school on La Roya beach near Saint Florent. They offer tandem paragliding for beginners, which is what I tried. I usually prefer being in the water rather than in the air and I don’t see myself gliding around on my own any time soon, but this was a great experience. The guides explained everything very well and even control freaks like myself should feel at ease 😉 They also offer canyoning and winter sports activities.
Along the coast
On weekends, I explored the island. Now, if you have heard of Corsica before, you might have heard about the beach Saleccia. It is about a half mile of white sand in the “Désert des Agriates”. Most people take a ferry boat from Saint Florent (20 min) which will drop you off at a beach nearby called plage du Lodu, but I recommend you walk along the ” Sentier des douaniers”. This path along the coast leads you from La Roya beach all the way to Ostriconi beach through the “Désert des Agriates”. You’ll need good shoes, lots of water and sunscreen. Oh, and don’t forget your camera 🙂
On the boat
On the west coast of the island, the natural reserve Scandola can be explored by boat. I chose a half-day tour of the reserve with a stop at the small coastal village Girolata (Colombo Line, departing from Calvi). The guides explained about the fauna and flora of the reserve and pointed out the best sites for diving, bird watching,… The boat stopped often for picture-taking and the stay in Girolata was long enough to stroll through the village and eat at one of the restaurants or just lie on the beach.
To be continued…
I drove through the inland, strolled through villages and tasted wine (yup, I discovered wine from Corsica and highly recommend any wine enthusiast to drive along their “Route du vin” and stop at the shops along the way 🙂 ). Before I knew it, my two months were over and I felt like I just scraped the surface of everything there is on this beautiful island. If you are looking for a destination that will let you explore a beautiful, undeveloped nature, taste great food and do just about any kind of sport (be it in the water, in the air, in the moutains or near the sea), this island should be on your bucketlist.