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Corsica

Debi Green and her 18 mth old enjoy beaches, bonding and unspoilt natural beauty in Corsica

The last time we went to Corsica we booked a flight at the last minute, hired the snazziest convertible we could find, and flung a few co-ordinating separates (mainly white) and books into a carry-on bag. We spent a blissful week touring what we soon realised was one of the most stunning, unspoilt and intriguing countries in the Med. We vowed to return.

And indeed we did. A few years on and we were off to Corsica again, except that things were somewhat different, mainly in the shape of a gorgeous, small, round, 18 month old baby boy. This time we booked early to secure the most child-friendly accommodation we could find, and dedicated a lot more than a few minutes to the packing of several suitcases AND a carry-on, complete with a very few co-ordinating separates for me (mainly black) and plenty of co-ordinating sailor outfits, nappies, jars of favourite food, favourite books, toys and cuddlies (for him). We also hired the sturdiest jalopy we could find to carry all our paraphernalia and our boy safely and comfortably.

Around an hour and half after check in we were stepping into the balmy, maquis-scented Corsican breeze

So, why did we decide on Corsica?

Well firstly, getting to Corsica is a breeze. Around an hour and half (not even enough time for our grumpling to work up any steam) after our late check in (premier service) we were stepping into the balmy, maquis-scented Corsican air. Ok, so we spent the next 2 hours fitting the car seat, but we’ll know our way round its intricacies next time. The airports are small and easy to negotiate: you just get off the plane and walk out of the door – no trekking for miles along walkway after walkway. And suddenly there you are, driving on more or less empty roads, past stone cottages, wild flowers, mountain villages and amazing turquoise seas.

Getting around

Getting about is easy in Corsica too. Roads are easy to negotiate (no storming down motorways or dealing with complicated junctions) and the scenery is always riveting, from gorgeous bays, to mountains, to ravines. The minute you turn away from the coast you’re likely to meet animals of all sorts out for a stroll – cows, goats and cute little wild boar,snuffling their way through the forests(but watch out, they do bite and they move pretty fast, as shufflers go!). As distractions rate, this unexpected wildlife is definitely in the top five.

Beaches

The beaches are truly beautiful, and this from someone who freely admits to a misspent youth lazing on beaches all over the world whenever possible. There are all sorts, but they are for the most part, clean, gently shelving coves of fine white sand fringed by clear, clear sea that really does look a deep turquoise. And they are rarely backed by anything other than a few wild flowers or rocky cliffs. Even if you are staying in one of the larger towns with busier beaches, a few minutes drive will always lead you to a much quieter stretch.

The beaches are for the most part, clean, gently shelving coves of fine white sand fringed by clear, clear sea that really is a deep turquoise. And they are rarely backed by anything other than a few wild flowers or rocky cliffs.

Of course the fact that the beaches are unspoilt means that there aren’t loads of parasols or loungers or beach bars. But we just packed a cool bag, threw a parasol in the back of the car (or just on our back or on the buggy) and all was well. Especially good beaches are all around the South, near Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio (try Rondinara) and all the way up the West Coast, particular favourites being Campomoro and Menasina Beach (Cargese). The beaches near Ajaccio (Isolella)are lovely, but they are popular with locals and tourists, and can get pretty busy.

Things to do

The best thing about Corsica is that there’s loads to see and do, and everything is close enough for you to be able to fit a lot into one day. Within half an hour for example you can go from lazing on the beach to exploring mountain villages (Ste Lucie de Tallano and Evisa are lovely). There are plenty of towns to visit – Sartene is a must, and Ajaccio has a real ‘city’ feel to it, and makes a good day trip.

So, did we do all this? Well, we were staying in a peaceful spot with a lovely pool surrounded by hammocks, 5 minutes stroll through the maquis-scented field to a glorious beach, with the town and all the restaurants just 2 mins drive round the corner so actually, we tended to stay put at lot of the time. Our boy loved crawling about on the beach and spent hours putting the pebbles in the bucket, taking the pebbles out again, putting the pebbles…

We did attempt a couple of forays along the tiny winding mountain roads to admire the famous red Calanches. It’s a white knuckle ride at the best of times – nothing (not even a rock or two) between you and a sheer drop of hundreds of feet on one side of the car, and the risk of landslide on the other. But I have to say that embarking upon the most treacherous section with a cross 18 month old shouting out! out! out! at the top of his not inconsiderable voice whilst flinging balls, cars, crisps around the car with gay abandon, doesn’t rate as one of the most relaxing holiday experiences I’ve ever had. But it was fun. And the views were beautiful. And we did get out! out! out, share a delicious fresh orange juice and throw pebbles in a mountain stream, so it wasn’t all bad!

What was good about our accommodation?

It was a very quick, easy walk to the beach, which meant that impromptu trips were perfectly feasible. Not much beats 10 minutes laying on the warm sand of an almost deserted early morning beach with your baby’s delicious, hot little body sprawled on top of you, soft warm waves lapping over your feet, and nothing more than a sunhat, a sarong and a bottle of water between you. Sometimes it’s so nice not to have all the paraphernalia, but you can only do it if you’re close to a beach. There were also a couple of swings nearby and a toddlers section to the pool – which were big hits with our baby. We could walk to the nearest restaurant, cook our own barbecues, and get to town within 2 minutes. All of these features made the holiday very stress free, and very enjoyable.

What were the best bits?

The seemingly endless days of quality time splashing with our boy in the sea, lazing in the shade of our verandah, reading and dozing while he napped. The weather is great – hot and sunny, but not at all humid, rarely stifling hot and with almost always a gentle breeze. We explored the forests, strolled around Cargese, our local town and toured the coast. We ate outside by the sea – excellent fish – listening to the haunting sound of Corsican polyphonic singing (especially popular with our boy who clapped with delight and shouted yeah!!! at the end of each number….) And the best thing is that you don’t feel like one of a thousand tourists, because it’s still pretty much off the beaten track. So don’t all go at once…..

Summary

Excellent times to visit are June, early July and September. We recommend the following places:

  • Calvi
  • St Florent
  • Piana
  • Cargese
  • Campomoro
  • Tizzano
  • Bonifacio
  • Porto Vecchio
  • Sartene
  • Ste Lucie de Tallano
  • Foret d’Aitone

TIP: Take plenty of cash when visiting anywhere outside a main town, as few places take traveller’s cheques or cards. There’s not much point securing the perfect table on the terrace, in the shade, in the best restaurant, with the best view, and the best food, if you can’t pay for what you’ve planned to order (yep,it happened to us).

Contact the writer of this article via contribution@babygoes2.com

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