CORSICA // The Western Coast

Sunday, July 10, 2016
After spending a week packing up our life in Holland, we were READY for our Corisca adventure. We had a super early flight - as in 6:30am departure early - which was an adventure in itself trying to get to the airport that early (buses and trains and lots of walking). But we made it on time, and after passing out on the plane we woke up just as we were beginning our descent. I immediately looked out the window expecting to see something to get my bearings and all I saw was a cruise ship perfectly framed by the tiny airplane window cruising along through the bright blue Mediterranean. We were in the Mediterranean, that was for sure.

Walking off the plane and onto the tarmac we were hit with 80 degrees and humidity. Still wearing our Holland clothes we were instantly sweating. Rental car located, we pulled off a quick change into beach clothes right there in the parking lot. Now we were ready.

When we planned this trip we didn't want to go to the touristy locations - we wanted to hike, lay on the beach, and see as much of the country as possible. The southern and northern tips are extremely touristy and expensive, so considering we booked this trip two weeks before leaving, we stuck to the middle of the island to make it affordable, adventurous, and relaxing. After getting our rental car and immediatly changing into beach clothes in the parking lot, we left Ajaccio and headed toward the red rocks of Les Calanques. Every turn exposed a new cove somehow with even bluer water, whiter sand, and redder rocks. Red, white and blue is kind of the perfect way to describe this trip. These colors are seared into our minds when we think of this island. Our favorite parts of this trip included the red rocks of Corte du Rosso, the huge, white puffy clouds that built up above the mountains each day, and the incredible blues that we saw in a hundred different coves along the coast and a handful of incredible swimming holes in the Gorges de Spelunca. Plus, this was fourth of July weekend so there is that cheesy connection as well.

Less than an hour later we were picking out our first beach spot of the trip - as soon as we spotted the beach we pulled down a random street and headed towards the ocean. We actually lucked out and stumbled upon a fancy beach resort that has a public beach attached to it, and it was pretty much the most perfect first dip into the Mediterranean as possible. The sand was almost too hot to walk on, which made the water an inviting and refreshing cool. We raced across the sand and dove into the most refreshingly cool, incredibly clear water.  You could see all the way to the white sandy bottom, and it was so salty that you could easily float on your back and stare up into the cloudless sky. In true Dutch fashion we had packed for rain, but of course it was at least 80 degrees and sunny for the entire trip, so the rain gear became beach gear as we completely forgot to bring beach towels. We posted out on our rain jackets to dry off (which took about 5 minutes in the hot sun) and then headed up the coast more to Piana, our first town of the trip. 

After making a pit stop to check into our little roadside in, we headed out in search of more beaches. Arone, another incredible beach, was our destination, and on the distance you could see a skinny peninsula with one of Corsica’s famous Capu Rossu. This peninsula also defined the southern edge of the Gulf of Porto which was our chosen locale for the next two days. We swam and lounged some more, soaking up as much sun as possible to make up for the dark winter days of Delft.

Before dinner that night we walked around Piana, which is a small, old town that had a few touristy spots along the roadside but along its narrow alleyways and driveways were tons of local scenes with lots of character – 3 old French women sat on a stoop chatting away, a few stray cats taking an evening snooze on the steps of a beautiful but abandoned building, an 80-something year old lady tending to her vegetable garden, local kids playing around at the small futbol court, a couple dozen swallows zipping around overhead, some local teenager doing laps through town on his scooter… it was perfect.

Dinner that night overlooked Piana with the Gulf in the background. The view was amazing and the swallows continued to put on a show. As the sun started to go down, more birds joined the swarm. Pizza and Pietra were the right call for dinner– both hit the spot. Pietra, we learned later is a local beer that somehow incorporates chestnuts, the most famous crop on the island. It was cold and tasted like beer, which was really all that mattered at that point. After dinner, we drove back out the peninsula back towards Capu Rossu and hiked halfway out the trail to watch the sun set. We were surrounded by red rocks, a gorgeous golden sunset, and a sweet warm breeze. It was the perfect way to start the trip. 

Day two was jammed pack with lots of hiking and beach time. Les Calanches was a main destination point for us because we had researched a stunning 10 mile hike which would give us incredible views of this side of the island. Not going to lie, it was a pretty treacherous hike (and this is compared to the crazy 6 mile Austrian hike in the unexpected snow...). It was ALL uphill, which was fine, except halfway through the trail dissapeared and we had to follow sparsely placed carines and head up, hoping we were going the right way. The "trail" led us across HOT, slippery red rocks, climbing up broken boulders, rock climbing up cliffs, and almost collapsing from the crazy incline of it all.

However, it was completely worth it. The views from the top of the mountain were unbelievable. The coastline was jagged and red, meeting the white beaches and deep blue waters in a way we never couldn't have imagined. Looking in towards the center the mountains continued to climb with beautiful valleys and vistas for days. It was unlike any place we had ever seen, and seeing it from this view gave us a new perspective of the island.

After pretty much falling down the mountain the entire way back to the car, we headed back to Piana which the sole goal of finding a beach and floating for the rest of the day. We aimed for Plage de Ficajola, which was supposedly a pretty local town, but had the most intense and terrifying drive down to the beach. The road was incredibly steep, incredibly winding, and incredibly narrow. How we didn't crash into an oncoming car and/or stall a million time, I don't know (Jack is the BEST DRIVER EVER!) However, the heart attack I almost had was completely worth it when we got to the beach. It was a short 5 minute walk through some trees and down a steep set of stairs to the most picturesque hidden cove of a beach. We threw our rain jackets down and dove into the water - it was the perfect temperature, with soft, wave smooth rocks massaging our feet, crystal clear water, and huge red rocks surrounding our views. When I think of heaven, this beach comes to mind.

After soaking up the sun and refreshing ourselves, we drove the treacherous road from Piana to Porto, which was another heart attack waiting to happen. It basically was a one lane, switchback, windy road carved into the side of the red cliffs, but it was two lanes and there were crazy people driving in the other cars. TERRIFYING.

But we made it, and Porto was such as adorable as I imagined. It was definitely most touristy than Piana, but we was the perfect pit stop before heading into the center of the island the next day. We completely fell in love with this part of the island, seeing some amazing beaches, going on some incredible hikes, and soaking up the coastal life of Corsica. 

Stay tuned for Part II of our corsica adventures coming soon!
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