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Corsican Holiday

Corsica, France. Last weekend I had the honor and pleasure of attending my friends V. and A.’s wedding on Corsica. Actually, the wedding was to take place on a tiny remote island just off of Corsica. The tricky thing was that most airlines had already begun cutting back their flights from mainland France to the island, and then once on Corsica, there was no regular ferry service to the little island. As usual, I booked flights for the Swede and me at the very last minute, which meant that we would be arriving late on Saturday, and leaving around  midday on Monday.

View from the air, Corsica

The first thing I noticed when flying into Corsica was the imposing cragginess of the terrain. The Swede explained to me that during World War II, Corsica served as an important strategic base due to its impenetrable peaks, rocky slopes, and many protected harbors.

By the time we landed night was falling fast so we quickly jumped into our dinky rental car and began our ascent. Our destination was Porto Pollo, a coastal town that lay to the southeast of Ajaccio. Though a mere 30 miles away, our drive would take over an hour as we carefully negotiated hairpin turns, fallen rocks, one lane bridges, and roaming livestock.

A bovine greeting to Porto Pollo

We arrived at Hotel le Golfe, at the far end of Porto Pollo, just in time for a late dinner of cannelloni with brocciu (a ricotta like cheese typical of Corsica), whole dorade, and pear ice cream.

The next morning we walked around the sleepy town of Porto Pollo. We passed a donkey, an abandoned camp ground (despite the impeccable weather, the end of September is still considered the “off-season”), and a troupe of leathery old men reveling in a game of pétanque while an entire pig turned on a spit in the background. The smell of crispy pork skin and smoke filled the air.

We still needed to cross the island though if we were going to make it to the wedding on time. After checking out, we hit the road and immediately got stuck behind a caravan of vintage Mercedes out for a Sunday cruise. Luckily, we weren’t in too much of a rush, as every turn revealed new postcard-worthy vistas to behold.

View along the Southern Coast, Corsica

We stopped at a lookout point to snap some photos and were soon joined by a busload of geriatric french tourists.

Tour bus of old frenchies, South Coast, Corsica

At the port town Bonifaccio, we stopped to stretch our legs and find some lunch. We wandered along the waterfront past an array of sailing vessels and cruise ships and wove through the compact streets leading to the top of the citadel. From there we looked out past the maritime cemetery toward Sicily and wondered if the souls of all those buried sailors were pleased with their top real estate resting place.

Marine Cemetery, Bonifacio, Corsica

After lunch we continued the 15 or so kilometers to our final destination, the Club Nautic at the port of Piantarella. The port, if you could even call it that, consisted of a barebones dock, a beer shack crawling with feral cats, and a handful of anchored dinghies, so we were surprised when a shiny motor yacht pulled up at the end of the dock. A group of us climbed on board, the last stragglers of the wedding party, as our captain directed us in broken French and a thick Italian accent. Our captain revved the giant twin engines and tore through the water, nimbly navigating around monstrous boulders that were so smooth they looked to have been sculpted for an Asterix amusement park.

Our destination came into view discreetly. From the outside, the buildings appeared camouflaged, effectively mimicking the contours of the rocky land. We made our final turn into the harbor and beheld the sunburnt facades of the Hotel et Spa des Pecheurs. Two men on golf carts greeted our boat and whisked our luggage up to the hotel lobby while the rest of us followed on foot, chatting pleasantly about what a magnificent place this was to host a wedding.

The dock in front of the Hotel et Spa des Pecheurs, Ile de Cavallo, Corsica

And was it ever a breathtaking wedding. The only thing more beautiful than the scene itself was the bride whose stunning vision set all the wedding guests in a camera snapping frenzy as she glided down the aisle. Her long shiny hair and lacy mermaid dress complimented the scene so naturally one might think she had surfaced from the sea for an exquisite fleeting moment on dry land. 

The bride and groom, Ile de Cavallo, Corsica

After the ceremony the real merriment began. We feasted on octopus salad, gnocchi with mussels, and loup de mer (wolf of the sea! or more commonly known as sea bass), washed down with refreshing Corsican wine. Dinner was followed by champagne, fluffy chocolate mousse cake, and dancing on the waterfront. The dance floor looked out over a dock that was lit from beneath, illuminating thousands of tiny fish and a handful of patrolling barracudas below and creating an exotic sort of catwalk/gang plank. Here the groom appeased his begging guests by performing his spot-on rendition of Billy Jean. When the music finally ended, some of us went swimming in the bioluminescent water before crawling into bed, too goofy from wine and exhaustion to stand.

Breakfast at the Hotel et Spa des Pecheurs

In the morning the early risers joined together to nurse our hangovers over a sprawling breakfast of mini viennoiseries, prosciutto and hard cheese, and tea with smoky Corsican honey. We were all terribly depressed to be leaving so soon.

Last minute dip in the Med, Ajaccio, Corsica

The Swede and I said our goodbyes to the bride and groom and the rest of the wedding guests and made the trek back to Ajaccio to catch our flight back to Paris. We arrived an hour earlier than expected so we whiled away the extra time at the pristine beach by Ajaccio’s airport. There are few things I like more than coming home with salt still on my skin after a holiday. 

Playing with the Air France snacks

Practical Info: 

Hotel le Golfe, Porto Pollo, Corsica. Not to be confused with Hotel du Golfe in Ajaccio, which apparently happens all the time. Special packages may include wine tasting at local vineyards, scuba diving excursions, or zodiak trips to hidden coves. Doubles from 290€ in high season, 190€ mid season, 140€ low season. 

Hotel et Spa des Pecheurs, Ile de Cavallo, Corsica. Luxurious (think complimentary Bvlgari toiletries) but very relaxed resort offering a full spa, tennis, golf, and scuba diving. Doubles 330€ in high season, 260€ low season. 

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