Thursday, 29 September 2011

Calvi, Corsica

First picture out of the plane window

Last year my friend, Miss K and I decided that we had a rather horrible year (another one) and needed pure relaxation on a beach, doing nothing whatsoever, but sit in the sun, swim in a sea, eat lots of good food and drink and be merry and ogle the talent.  
So off I went and started to investigate in Calvi, in Corsica.  2 years back I had wanted to go there for my big birthday bash holiday, but when you are trying to get 10 people together from oh so many different continents and dates, times, costs etc. it’s impossible, so that didn’t happen, but Miss K and I had fallen in love with the looks of Calvi.  
New destination for me, never been to Corsica.  I’m also one of these people who although I love travelling, I like to stay at hotels where I don’t find hundreds of horrible tourists from my own home country (although I’m one myself).  I like to stay where locals would stay, I like to eat in restaurants where you only mainly find locals or tourists like me.  That is very important to me.  I think this is left over from the days when I worked in the tourist industry in Dubai and after many years in this job, I had grown an aversion to these stereo type holiday makers.  The ones who travel to foreign countries, but still want to stay at their generic hotels with their own nationality, to still eat their fish and chips or their wiener schnitzel and think that if they shout in their language, it means they are actually speaking the country’s local dialect.  Or if they are not happy with certain rules of that culture or country, hey, the government should change it because they are not happy.  I shudder in memory.  
View from our balcony
Our pool
One of the many views of the duplex's garden
Another flat
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia.  Calvi is situated in the north west coast of Corsica.  A busy port during the Roman era, Calvi takes its name from the Calvus – ‘bald’ rock that would come to form the foundations of the Citadel, a thirteenth century fortress which offer some magnificent views across the bay to the mountains of la Balagne.

View of the citadel from our beach
Closer view with one of the ferry boats
View from near the citadel towards our beach
Calvi harbour
Beautiful little bays all along the coast, with the clearest water you have ever seen, lovely temperature, no strong currents whatsoever.  Also it’s one of those beaches, that when you get in, you have to walk out a fair bit to get to deep waters, so for anyone who wants to take the rug rats, a safe beach.  No rough seas, no waves, only in the afternoon when the ferry boat came in to harbour from either France or Italy, did we have for about 30 seconds ripples which I suppose you could say were waves, otherwise, just smooth and just simply gorgeous.

Along the main bay close to town where we went to every day for our beach sessions, there was the public beach and then restaurants that had their own private beach section, closed off with sun loungers and sun brollies.   As it was our holiday and also because I wanted a sun brolly as living in the UK, my lilly white skin can’t take 8 hours of sun non-stop after not seeing it for a whole year and I don’t want to end up looking like George Hamilton.   Being very sensible here…
Pictures from within town and the citadel

Walking into centre of Calvi towards Citadel

Part of the citadel
Doggy in one of the homes in the Citadel

Up in the Citadel

cobblestone road in the Citadel

According to legend Christopher Columbus came from Calvi

One of the many cobblestone streets
Now, rule of the beach in these private beach club sections, there are 3 rows of 30 loungers spread out behind each other and the Frenchies, the annual holiday makers, all book a year in advance for their sun loungers in the front row.  That is the place everybody wants to sit.  Little did we know of this beach rule.  But Miss K and I found out with a vengeance.  
The first day we went to the beach after our arrival, it was a rather overcast day (the only one) and so the weather wasn’t that great and the regulars weren’t out in full force, so we chose a beach club, went and sat on 2 loungers in the front row and no one said a word to us that this was booked, or wrong etc.  A lady owned this club.  So later on the day, when the sun did come out, the regulars turned up and we were wondering why we were being glared at.   I just thought, silly bints, what are their problems.  Miss K and I just closed our eyes and snoozed, or stared out to sea and switched our brains off.  
We then realised also that you have to book your sun lounger for the next day.  So when we left at the end of that day, we spoke to the owner, booked it, told her the front row, she said yes, and all was good – or so we thought.  
The next day we went back, but no, we were not allowed to have those front loungers, those are for regulars and were booked.  Ok, we’ll take the second row.  Booked the second row for the following day too.  Came back the next day, no, again,  we had this whole spiel of no loungers being available and we were starting to feel like outsiders at our club with the regulars glaring at us.  No matter where we tried to sit, no loungers.  Then we spotted two free, and sat down and proceeded to enjoy our day.  All of a sudden I started hearing this voice scream out from the restaurant, Madmoiselle, Madmoiselleeeeeeeeeeeeee and on and on it went.  At one point when I looked back I realised this old lady was waving her stick at Miss K.  So I mentioned that to Miss K, she turned around and it turned out that this old lady who is a regular, only turns up at lunchtime for her beach session and we were sitting at her two loungers.  So when the stupid owner turned up after the old woman sent her over, she made out to be as if it were our fault and explained, this is the same lounger that the woman has sat on for years every summer and we cannot sit there.  Errr hello, you are the one who sent us over to this.  I couldn’t believe it.  So we then had to move yet again even further along.  
Right, next day, we, on principle, refused to go to this beach club, we boycotted it completely.  Chose a new one, slightly more expensive, but we realised, it was the one to sit at.  So, David, our beach boy and waiter, pointed us to the second row and we booked that place every day for the rest of our holiday.  We actually preferred the second row, because that meant the people in the first row were also our entertainment!  Great stuff.  
We had these blond identical twins in their sixties from our boycotted club that were funny to watch.  They were the only ones from the original club to actually say bonjour and smile at us, the rest were awful.  
They would come in, by 11 start their drinking, playing cards served with lots of glasses of pastis (which is an anise flavoured liqueur and aperitif from France).
We had a bunch of French ladies who knew each other and would get together in front of us and gossip about each other, very amusing.  Eventually this group started to say hello and goodbye to us, we were slowly but surely becoming one of them.  
A mother and teen daughter, with the mother thinking she was in her teens too and had the same bleach blond hair, tiny bikini.  Of course the people who would walk up and down the beach.  No talent I’m afraid in our age group, you either had teenagers or men in their 50’s and older.  So instead, we started eyeing up the teenagers – just eyeing up I said, no need to get your knickers in a twist.   We are not cougars!  Well, not yet…
A lady selling beach wear and her advertising method was by modeling her bikini’s herself and walking up and down and telling us about it, so a bit of a fashion show every day and watching the young and the old in trying on her wears, and then buying it, very funny.
The praline lady coming round in the afternoons selling her pralines – calling out ehhh shou shou  de praline (well that is what I heard, have no clue what it actually was).   There was this hippy guy with very long dreadlocks who would go snorkeling along the rocks and swim out quite far with his trusty companion, this gorgeous dog.  This dog loved the water and for as long and as far out this guy would swim, he would swim along with him.  
Another dog would turn up, go for a swim on his own, and then amble off home.  I loved that this beach was so doggy friendly and lots of people had their dogs there.  But it was totally clean, every day a cleaning crew first thing in the morning when we were sleeping would clean and comb the sand and get it ready for us.  No littering, nothing, very clean.  I liked that. 
So there we were, Miss K out full in the sun, whilst I’m hiding under the brolly and would only come out to swim or towards the end of the day when the sun was at its best and not so strong.  We started to build up a beautiful tan and it was bliss.  
The only complaint I had really was the food.  Now I thought it would be like the rest of France, with all the goodies, but unless you were into steak et frites (chips), fish – which considering that we were right there at the source was fair bit expensive, boars paté, boars sausage, hams etc.  Ok mind you, we didn’t actively seek a local restaurant, the ones we had read about in the guides were not cheap and both Miss K and I had spent a fair bit on this holiday, although a package deal, it was main season.   The trick with Calvi, is that, like the rest of the French, you shopped at the local ‘tesco’ version, massive one there and everybody would cook at home and only go out at night to drink and party. 
Out of our lazy regime we went one day up the coast to a town called L'ile Rousse, named after the islets that blush a deep russet red in the sunset.  L'ile Rousse is a laid back seaside town with a central square, lively cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours. With one of the warmest microclimates in Corsica, thanks to the sheltering Balagne hills that surround the town.
The market

Cute dog waiting outside the patisserie

View from the bay
Our travel mode was this really old, but very charming train that chugged away slowly all along the coast to the other town.  It is the best way to see the coast and luckily I have my very own personal photographer, Miss K, who takes all my holiday pictures from all our trips away.  There is no mountain high enough or any place difficult to get to, in order to capture the best view or pictures - K is the girl!.  I love it, she takes the most amazing pictures.  Yeah!!  Here are but a few. 

Inside the train

tracks were right along the beach

On our arrival to L'ile Rousse
The view from the train station at ile Rousse

Some of the landscape from our train

Very lush

Tiny little coves dotted along the coast

Look at the clarity of the water

Lots of different beaches along the way
After our day out and a rather scorching trip back in the cute little train, we ended up at our apartment complex’s many pools to cool down.  
We actually had real luck with our accommodation choice.   It was a five minute walk down to the beach.  But set within beautiful grounds, you had 3 small, only 2 floor duplexes and each duplex had its own pool so the pools never were that full and it was very quite and quite peaceful.  Our apartment had a big balcony, where we had breakfast and dinner out every day.  I was very spoilt during this holiday, it seems when Miss K goes away with me, she seems to take my qualities i.e. the habit of waking up early and I took on hers in that I slept past 8am.  So my lovely friend left every morning to walk to the local boulangerie, bought our daily breakfast of croissants and local sweet pastries and we would be so full until dinner time.  
Now, although Corsica is a French island off the coast of France, it is actually closer to Italy in its location and over time the Corsican food has picked up some of the Italian influence, so fabulous pizza’s but instead of using mozzarella, they used gruyere cheese, strange at first but they tasted delicious.  We had one of these take away pizza restaurants right in front of the entrance of our duplex, so on the nights when we weren’t out at the restaurant having dinner there whilst watching footie, or cooking, we would pick up a pizza.  Can you believe, I actually lost weight on holiday, what with all the croissants, pastries, pizza… good stuff.  
This whole holiday was organised through Corsican Places (a company started up by an English brother and sister team) and I can highly recommend them.  I normally book my own hotel and flights, but with Corsica if you did this on your own, it was a lot more expensive flight wise and during the main months they then have charter flights direct  to Calvi which was our preference as I really didn’t fancy a 2 hour bus ride from the next airport, hence the travel agency.  The staff were brilliant, uber friendly and helpful and everything went so smoothly, I would definitely book through them again.   
Au revoir Corsica!   A last sad glance at our beach loungers, we promise to be back one day!


  1. Given today's weather what would I give for a dip in that pool or the sea right now?
    Gorgeous photos!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful holiday you've made me want to pack my bags!

    And tell Miss K that the photos are amazing!

  3. Miss K rocks!

    I so want to be in that sea or pool at the moment! Let's go ladies!!!

  4. Ahhh, good memories. Watching the beach life was a sociological study in itself (and so entertaining, being told off in no uncertain terms about imagined faux-pas by rich old bints with walking sticks notwithstanding, LOL). You hardly needed a book to pass the time. And remember, it's your way of telling these stories and not the pictures that makes this such fun to read!