Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Provence to Corsica

Toulon at dusk

Wednesday began with a continental breakfast at our bed and breakfast in Beaumettes.  By the time we got our car loaded up, it was getting close to 10.  We had thought of going back to Senanques Abbey that morning, but decided to just hit the road.

It was overcast as we left and was dull pretty much the whole day – which was fine, as we were travelling.  We again thanked the travel gods for outstanding weather so far on our trip and were willing to accept an overcast day as we motored south toward Toulon.

Our first stop was in Aix-en-Provence, where we stopped at the Fouque atelier (workshop) and store of Provence’s premier maker of Santons.  These are little (or large) crèche figurines that are hand-crafted and painted and have been part of Provence’s Christmas traditions since the French Revolution.  

I was first introduced to Santons when I was in France on my LDS mission almost 30 years ago.  Then, when my younger sister settled in Geneva and made periodic trips to Provence, she started sending me large figurines every year as a Christmas present to our family.  Most of these figurines were made by Fouque, and last year, Martha gave us her entire collection of small Santons, all of which were from Foque.  So …. Since we were in the neighborhood, I wanted to stop by and see this place, where I purchased one more figurine to add to our collection.

We then thought we’d drive into the center of Aix and walk around, but it was noontime and the traffic was horrible.  So, we can say we’ve driven through the center of Aix, but that’s it.  We decided to get out of the city and go on down to Cassis, on the Mediterranean.  


We had been told that parking is horrible in Cassis, and such proved to be the case.  But, we finally found a spot in a parking lot that, as luck would have it, was also adjacent to a rocky beach.  We walked down to the harbor and had lunch, then after walking around a bit, we went back to the parking lot, changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the beach.  As was the case at Lake Geneva, however, Mark was the only one who actually went swimming.  The water seemed cold to me; Mark said it was like bathtub water compared to Lake Geneva.

Around 3:00, we headed on toward Toulon.  We had to turn in the car in the center of the city and somehow get all our stuff into the ferry terminal.  After parking near the terminal and walking over to a large supermarket to buy some sandwiches for dinner, we came up with a plan of action:  we would unload all our stuff near the entrance for the walk-on passengers, where I would wait while Mark returned the car and walked back to the terminal.

I had known all along that this part of our trip would probably be the trickiest:  How would we get all our stuff onto the ferry when there were just two of us and it was a long walk from the gate (above) to the terminal, then from the terminal to the ferry (below).

But, everything worked out - as it has tended to do all during our trip.  A shuttle van was arranged to take us up to the terminal, then that same shuttle picked us up at the terminal and took us down to the boat.  Then, a couple of ferry workers helped us get our luggage up the escalator onto the passenger arrival deck, and there was a room to store our biggest pieces of luggage during the crossing.  The bikes went into the car area, where they were locked onto the side of the vessel.

Our cabin
Our cabin windows looked down on the prow of the ship
We left Toulon at 9:00 p.m. and arrived in Ajaccio at 7:00 the next morning (Thursday).  The crossing wasn't bad at all.  There was a bit of rocking, but it helped us sleep. :)

Our tour director picked us up from the ferry terminal and drove us to the hotel where we would be spending our first night.

The view from our hotel room balcony

After getting checked in, Mark and I left on a 48-mile ride up through the Prunelli Gorges, just above Ajaccio.

Our hotel is located on the small peninsula south of "Prunelli".  We rode up through Morgone, Cauro, and on up to Bastelica, where we planned to have some lunch.

On the way up to Bastelica


When we approached Bastelica, we saw several signs for various eating establishments.  "Chez Paul" announced that they had a terrace with panoramic views and authentic Corsican cuisine.  It also announced that it was at the "top of the village."  It was.  We climbed and climbed, finally found the place, went in, sat down ... and were ignored.  They were busy, but they showed no inclination to even bring us table service, let alone a menu, let alone food.  So after waiting a good 20-30 minutes, we got up and left.  We decided to try another place that we had seen at the entrance to town.  Basically, the same thing happened, though we did manage to get a Diet Coke.

By then, it was going on 2:00.  We just decided to head on back to Ajaccio.  I felt surprisingly well, considering I hadn't slept well the night before, we'd been up since before 6:00 and I hadn't had had anything to eat that day except a pain au chocolat at 6:30.

We started down from Bastelica toward Ese and Ocana.  The road wasn't great, but the views were improving.  Then, we came around a corner and saw the following view, along with a roadside food van and several tables.

We stopped, of course, and each ordered a "Corsican" sandwich, then sat down to enjoy the view and the sun.

Our sandwiches were delicious:  Corsican bread, Corsican ham, sliced very thin, Corsican cheese, olive oil.  Yum.  I couldn't eat all of mine; we decided we could have split one between us.  After finishing off with a Nutella crepe, we continued our journey back down to Ajaccio.


This is where the ride really became fun.  Beautiful scenery. Winding downhill road that wasn't too scary.  It was really fun.

Looking back toward our little picnic spot (notice umbrellas at right)
Looking down, down, down, all the way to the Mediterranean

Today (Friday) we set off on our tour, heading toward Zicavo.  We almost certainly won't have internet access there, so I'll likely next be reporting from Corte, in the center of the island.

A picture Mark took of me yesterday on our ride down

We will head south along the coast, then up through Pietrosella, Albitreccia, etc. to Zicavo (upper right)

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