I became acquainted with Corsica for the first time in 2009, somewhat by accident, really. At the time, Sebastian was no more than a few weeks old, and we had gone to Sardinia in true backpacker style – which, given the enlightenment of 20/20 hindsight, was probably rather a naïve thing to do with such a young infant.
After staying at a pre-booked hotel in Alghero, Sardinia, we needed to find new accommodation, which we had not expected to be a difficult task – but it was. And it ended up with us taking the ferry to Corsica to see if luck would be on our side there, which it was – fortunately.
It was also way back in 2009 that I fell in love with Corsica… and during my third trip to Corsica in 2015, I still experienced the French island as thoroughly amazing. The aroma of the maquis, myrtle, and chestnut trees – the rugged landscapes, vineyards, spectacular beaches and the completely turquoise sea are some of the reason I keep being drawn back to the island.
Away from Tourist Hell
Every time we’ve vacationed in Corsica, we’ve lived on the east side of the island. It’s been great because we have been staying outside of the most touristy areas, which are typically located at the northern end of the island near Bastia and Ajaccio.
Every time we’ve been in Corsica, we have had a car to get around. Having a car is not a must but almost. It provides you the freedom to get around to see things that may otherwise be difficult to access, and it allows you to live away from the big cities.
Every time we stayed near Aleria in a rented cabin at a campground. Being in the middle of nature has been amazing, with mountains in the background and the white sandy beach with the stunning blue water just 200 meters away.
The number of tourists is also limited in this area – obviously, there are the others staying at the campground, but other than that, the place is not overrun by tourists, the way I have often experienced it in places like Spain and Italy. Here are no big hotels or noisy discos either. It is quite the close-to-nature experience.
For me, it has provided a sense of peace of mind, and a way to identify what I love most when I travel, just being a spectator of everyday life is wherever I travel.
The food in Corsica is amazing – something of a mixture of French and Italian cuisine. Both Lise and I love food, so of course, we have been out enjoying the delicious cuisine. One particular restaurant in Bastia stood out: Le Petit Zinc. The restaurant had no menu per se, only suggestions for what to order. We both ordered a salat and were presented with arguably the best salad I have eaten to date – consisting of fresh produce from the island and an absolutely amazing homemade dressing for the salat.
In addition to eating out, we often shopped for food to prepare ourselves. It was truly a pleasure to shop around at stores and markets to find good fresh ingredients for dinner. It is very common for supermarkets to take in produce and fresh meat from local farmers, creating an amazing local atmosphere, not to mention great taste.
The ingredients that made Corsica’s culinary experiences most memorable for me are chestnuts, myrtle, honey, and goat cheese. Here are varieties of honey I had no idea existed and chestnuts used for wonderful goodies.
In many ways, it’s difficult to say why I love this diamond in the rough so much, because there are no great and famous attractions per se, nor lots of amusement parks. Actually, I believe that my love for this place rests precisely in the fact that the island has no great attractions or amusement parks. Corsica is its own, it is natural, and there are lots of things to experience if only you look around.
There is spectacular hiking, there are wonderful rivers to bathe in with the locals, unbelievably beautiful beaches, idyllic towns, good food, gorgeous nature, and – not least – peace.
For me, the three greatest experiences were
- visiting Ajaccio as a contrast to the rest of the island, experience the pulsating metropolitan rhythm the Corsican way
- swimming in the clear, turquoise water
- driving among raw, jagged mountains
Corsica in pictures