Corsica – First Impressions

Fast Forward to the Present

We are skipping momentarily past some weeks of our travels to let you know what we are up to and where we are right now.   This is our 9th day in Corsica, July 23rd.

Happy Birthday Marilla !ūüĎľ

We bade a bittersweet farewell to the French mainland;  sad as to the uncertainty of when or if we will return, but excited to move on to exploring Corsica.

Long passages (this passage was ~ 18 hours) are generally timed to make sure you arrive at your destination in the daytime.   We left around 5:00pm on Friday, the 13th and arrived the next day at 11:30am.  The waters and wind were calm so we had to motor.  We tried fishing in the daylight hours but had no luck.

First impression РCorsica is a mass of mountains layered upon mountains Рbeautiful and largely untamed.

We initially chose an anchorage off Ile Rousse.  This anchorage is known to provide limited protection from prevailing winds.  We chose it none the less as all weather reports indicated winds would be mild and from a direction protected by the anchorage.

Crossing from Antibes to Corsica

We took a LONG nap and when we woke up we noticed the boat had swung around 180o Рwinds were still mild Рfor about 5 minutes.  Then suddenly, the winds picked up to 20+ knots and the boat was moving.  It is always a concern that the anchor will fail when you have strong winds dragging in the opposite direction from that which the anchor was set.  We quickly pulled anchor and headed for another (luckily nearby) anchorage.

Second first impression Рwinds and weather reports for Corsica are just as reliable as on the French coast.  Best to make decisions, when possible, based on the prevailing winds rather than the predicted winds.

The west coast of Corsica we have visited thus-far

Sant’Ambroggio

The following morning we were on our way to a marina in Sant’Ambroggio so we could watch the final match for the World Cup – France vs Croatia. ¬†We had seen the earlier two semi-final matches when Croatia beat England (significant jubilation all around) and when France beat Russia (town went mad for hours and hours). ¬†For the final match we found seats at a restaurant that had a large screen TV setup outside. ¬†We enjoyed pizza and beer while the French team won 4-2. ¬†Sant’Ambroggio is a little town,¬†with¬†few year round¬†inhabitants. ¬†Consequently, the jubilation was not as loud as on the mainland, but it was a joy to see such national pride. ¬†A wonderful fireworks display was put on after dark.
One of our favorite vacation rentals
Sant’Ambroggio residences are largely vacation rental properties. ¬†They are principally small, attractive, one or two story buildings – often a number of them are attached.

A common style of vacation rental
Sant’Ambroggio beach with vacation rentals behind

The seaside part of the town has a very nice sand beach, the marina, two restaurants, and a Club Med.  There is also a butcher shop (Boucherie), bakery with bread and pastries (Partisserie) and a small convenience store with limited fruits and vegetables, et. al

Entrance to private villa

Further inland and at a higher elevation there are some beautiful large homes, a small grocery store and the train stop where you flag down the train. ¬†The train station was¬†a¬†15 minute walk from the marina. ¬†This provided us with transportation to visit Calvi one day and I’le Rousse the next.

Private home in Sant’Ambroggio

Calvi

Calvi, like many coastal towns with an enviable harbor, was subject to attack by vandals, as well as other governments.  In its very early history control passed between the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, and later between England and France.

Calvi is a must see destination for anyone in the area.  It is justifiably renowned for its perfectly situated Citadel that sits high above the large town.  This fortress housed those providing governance for the city and shelter for its inhabitants in time of war or invasions.   The Citadel was built in the 13th Century and remains today, largely as it was then.

Whether you approach Calvi by boat or train, the Citadel can be seen for miles.  The fortress walls are incredibly high and the protection they afforded is evident.
Calvi Citadel

Within the walls of the Citadel, are tall buildings which we imagine once housed the more prosperous citizens, their servants, and shopkeepers.  Many of these remain residences and shops today.

There are many inviting restaurants tucked in here and there.

This view from within the Citadel, of the harbor and town below, provide perspective of the surrounding area the Citadel was built to protect.

View of marina and harbor from the Citadel
View of Calvi from the Citadel
Tribute to Christopher Columbus

The town outside of the Citadel has much to offer in its beauty, history, and culture, as well.  There is argument to be made that Calvi was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, although the academic consensus is he was Genoese.  If so, his birthplace was not on Corsica, but in an area that in turn became part of Italy as we know it today.

Our first serious introduction to the cuisine of Corsica was in Calvi.  It was love at first bite.  The cheeses and hams are unique to Corsica and reflect the diversity of cultures that coexist on this island.

Ile Rousse

Our train ride to Ile Rousse was timed to shop at their open market. ¬†Once again, we found distinct differences between the market in Ile Rousse and those we had frequented on France’s mainland.
Most markets in France had an abundance of vendors selling local vegetables and fruits. ¬†One very nice fruit and vegetable stand was in the market in I’le Rousse, but many more stands were devoted to sausages!! ¬†In addition, there were many small cakes and cookies. ¬†Fresh baked cakes and cookies are not prevalent in French supermarkets, bakeries, or markets. ¬†We have not been deprived, mind you, as the supermarket packaged cookies, most of which feature chocolate, are none too shabby.
The seafood vendors at the Ile Rousse market also offered lobsters. crabs, and enormous shrimp Рat exorbitant prices Рitems we had not seen in mainland, France markets.  To give you an idea of price Рthe lobsters were 60 euro per kg.  That is well over $30 (US) per lb.
Uniquely different and equally delicious dried sausages and hams
Cookies featuring orange, lemon, chocolate and fig (we chose fig – Yum)
We should have put a coin next to this huge shrimp – just figure the ones on the right were very large shrimp
George has a new job – snorkeling for lobster – he bagged a couple of beauties in the Bahamas so why not in Corsica??

Galleria

Our familiarity with Galleria is only from offshore as we anchored in a beautiful inlet there.

One of many stunning anchorages we have enjoyed (Galleria)
Galleria, Corsica

Girolata

The rugged landscape changed by the hour as we sailed south along the west coast of Corsica to Girolata.

I see a dinosaur and a duck.  What do you see?

We arrived at the Gulf of Girolata towards the end of the day and anchored just south of the town, went for a swim, had dinner and headed to bed.  We rose the next morning to go and explore this truly unique village.  The village was estimated as having 108 residents in 2008 (most recent information I could find).  It has electricity but no road access.

The village of Girolata is nestled beside the Genoese Fortress

The Fortress was built between 1551 and 1552 to defend against Barbary pirates.

Restaurant in Girolata

Other than during the brief months at the height of tourism, during which thousands of people visit Girolata, the town is a farming community.  Cows roam freely throughout the village.

Restaurant specializing in burgers guaranteed to be fresh.

The rock throughout the region is an amalgam of minerals of many colors which contributes greatly to the beauty of the area and the buildings constructed from it.

Rock arch composed of three kinds of stone

George and I spent several hours snorkeling in this area.  We observed many species of small fish, invertebrates and plants.  It was, by far, the best snorkeling we have had in Europe.

The water temperature was a wonderful 82 degrees which only added to the enjoyment.

Home built into the side of a rocky hill in Girolat
Restaurant and private residence(s) in Girolata
Shop of some sort with inviting entrance  (unfortunately closed)

That’s all for now. ¬†Corsica is not only beautiful, but every place we visit offers something unexpected and unique. ¬†We are having a wonderful time.

Antibes

Antibes

Antibes’ “Old Town” is situated right at the water’s edge, just left of the man made jetty that created the harbor.

Fort Carr√© d’Antibes

Fort Carré, built in the 16th century sits atop a hill overlooking the harbor.  Its star-shaped configuration allowed defensive weaponry to target anywhere around the circumference of the fort and harbor.

Port Vauban, like Antibes itself, caters to watercraft and seaman of the most humble to the audacious. ¬†Despite the fame and popularity of Antibes, this port provides full-service berths at half the price of many comparable marinas. ¬†The mega-yacht “Katara,” in the photos below, is 124 meters long and sports its own helicopter. ¬†She can accommodate up to 34 guests and 95 crew members. ¬†Katara was built in 2010 and is owned by the Qatar royal family. ¬†She is available for charter – not sure the cost – yachts a third her length go for 700 – 895 thousand US dollars per week.

Mega-yacht “Katara”
Fort Caré overlooks Antibes harbor (and Katara)

On the first evening of Margaret’s and Burt’s visit to Antibes we opted to eat out at a restaurant festooned with fresh local produce. ¬†My recollection is that both Margaret and Burt had magret de canard (duck breast) – prepared medium rare, the best comparison is fillet mignon.

Dinner in Antibes

The following days in Antibes were spent walking the old town and checking out the interesting shops.  Burt wanted more comfortable walking shoes and bought a pair of Teva-Like closed toed water shoes.  Margaret was on a mission to check out the local watercolor artists.  We found many artist shops, but none as promising as one Margaret had seen earlier in the day when all shops were closed for lunch.  We retraced our steps over and over (and over) again, to no avail.

Then suddenly, we realized we lost Burt. ¬†He went off on his own and we could not find him. ¬†We each took ¬†off in different directions looking and calling for him. ¬†Just as we found him, George announced he had also found the artist’s shop that Margaret was looking for. ¬†Of course we had walked past it numerous times.

The shop was closed with a sign that indicated it would not be open again before we planned to leave Antibes.  Margaret stood by and guffawed as I left a telephone message in my fractured French.  As soon as I was finished, George drew our attention to the fact that a woman and her dog had just entered a side door and both were now inside the shop.  Happy ending.

Margaret found Antibes to be the town most to her liking, of any of the towns we visited along the Mediterranean. ¬†We spent three days there and had such a good time. ¬†Margaret and Burt were getting comfortable and Margaret decided she would like a pair of the same shoes Burt got. ¬†George told Burt where we were heading and Margaret and Burt headed off on their own. ¬†Some time later, after they found us, Margaret told us that Burt said George and Susan were heading to a lingerie shop. ¬†Margaret found this a little surprising but as there had been some lingerie shopping earlier they began to search for a lingerie shop. ¬†It was a strike of luck that Margaret saw the BOULANGERIE shop in the picture below with (BOU) obscured. ¬†Just like famous detectives, Margaret suddenly realized what George had told Burt. ¬†Now wasn’t that clever of Margaret? ¬†Burt is mighty clever, too, but his French is not so good!!

(BOU)LANGERIE – A Bread Shop

Artwork is displayed prominently throughout Antibes – some a signature of the town like “The Nomade” below – some an outdoor art show featuring one or more artist’s work. ¬†We found that between 2017 and 2018 trips, the art work was rotated out to make room for different art exhibits.

“Nomade” – Artist Jaume Pensa installed,
2010, is formed from individual letters

A sculpture, entitled “Nomade” of a person, sitting with knees bent to chest in front facing the Mediterranean is situated on the Antibes ramparts. ¬†Just below there is an expansive sand beach. ¬†Look closely and you will see a bit of an artist’s work that was prominent in 2017. ¬†In this case, a rhinoceros – this artist captured an array of lifelike animals engaged in a range of activities.¬†¬†

Popular sand beach in Antibes with rhinseros sculpture
2017

Horse sculpture – 2017
Wolf sculpture – 2017
The featured artwork in 2018 was a bit more abstract, primarily featuring busts of heads or torsos encompassed within rectangular blocks of metal, and flat painted metal sheets with cutouts of historic and contemporary objects.
2018 featured art
2018 featured art
2018 featured art
2018 featured art

Within Antibes “Old Town”, ¬†we love the imaginative, and artistic adornments that transform the uniform stone exteriors into facades and corridors of exceptional beauty. ¬†Multiply the examples depicted here by hundreds – and you may begin to see what we see every day.

Plants that emerge from small openings within the paved roads are sustained by some magic we do not understand.  These shrubs, trees, and vines transform the narrow passageways.

Margaret and Burt – Antibes 2018

Fanciful adornments of endless variety grace the walls and doors and individualize each home.

Many shops have charming and inviting decorations and entryways.

Le Pain in English means The Bread
This shop makes art with bread dough

We were particularly captivated by plaster figures (examples below) that appeared on seemingly random walls throughout the narrow streets of Antibes Old Town.

Fanciful tile mural on wall in Antibes Old Town
I will try to find time to add a post on our time in Antibes with Allison, Mike, Riley and Tristan in 2017.  For now, I hope I have provided enough of a description for you to see why we never get tired of exploring Antibes.

 

 

Missing Children

All the Children

I have been engrossed in the news concerning missing children for the last several weeks.  The fate of the Thai soccer team members that went missing in a cave broke my heart.  I could not imagine the anxiety and desperation their parents, family members, and friends were going through.  The multinational support effort was a healing salve. Like the father of one of the trapped boys who said “I know they will be found alive and well – there is so much support here”; I, too, was sure of a happy ending.  I continue to wait and hope all will be safely rescued, knowing no possible effort is being spared.

In contrast, I have found no reason to be confident that the immigrant families, whose children were taken from them when they crossed into the United States looking for something they believed this country could provide, should be confident of a happy ending.  I recall reading a judge‚Äôs comment that noted if you are arrested you get a receipt for your wallet – they took the kids and have no record?

I miss my children, when we are apart.  I know I will see them again.

Our first grandchild, Riley, sent George and me the following note we received last evening.
I love you so much! I miss you too! See you in France! can I be in the Go With Tne Floe?
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ūüėÉūüíĚūüíõūüíúūüíěūüíöūüíüūüėļ


Yes, I said to Riley.  Of course you can be in the Go With The Floe.
Riley (dry)
Riley (wet)

Riley in Cassi braving frigid waters and crashing waves coming over the wall.

George and I are the proud parents of Allison and Marilla – two smart, caring, and amazing young women.  They married two smart, caring and amazing men, Mike and Mitch.

Allison and Mike
Tristan

Allison and Mike have two smart, caring, and amazing children – Riley, who you already met,  and Tristan.

Manzi
Marilla and Mitch

Marilla and Mitch are focusing their maternal / paternal devotion on Manzi (also smart, caring and amazing)

George and I also have one niece, Susan – a smart, caring and amazing young woman, and two nephews, Brian and David – smart, caring, and amazing young men.  Last but not least, David married the smart, caring, and amazing Brenna.

Susan
David and Brenna with David’s Mom, Marilyn
Brian

We miss them all.  We know where they are. We know (as much as they are willing to tell us) how they are and what they are up to AND, we know we will see them again.

Villefranche-sur-Mer, Sister City to Nice

Sister Cities

Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer are separated by a hill.  The face of each side of the hill look away from each other and at their respective harbors.

The hill separating Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer is marked with a red arrow.  The blue arrow points to a park that overlooks the Nice harbor to the right and the Nice Old Town (Vieille Ville) to the left of this arrow.  Photos of Nice and her harbor were taken from this hilltop.

Nice is a large French city familiar to many.  Approximately one million people live in Nice and four times that many tourists visit each year.  We have been to Nice on quite a few occasions Рmost often picking up and dropping off family members who have come to visit us in France.  It is a lovely city, but without question, we have devoted very little time getting to know her.

We spent a day in Nice with Allison, Mike, Riley, Tristan, Marilla, and Mitch during the summer of 2017.  Marilla and Mitch were already on board Ice Floe and were the first to take a trail up to a beautiful park with views overlooking the famous Nice beaches, her harbor, and the hillside separating Nice from Villefranche-sur-Mer.

The great expanse of Nice’s beaches bordered by the 7 km long
Promenade des Anglais.
The famous white sand beaches of Nice are bordered by the Promenade des Anglais.  This promenade was the tragic site of the devastating terrorist truck attack on Bastille Day, July 14th, 2016.  The terrorist mowed down nearly 300 people, killing 86.
Marilla and Mitch in front of a Nice Harbor overlook (June, 2017).  The hill
separating¬†Nice from Villefranche-sur-Mer is seen over Mitch’s left shoulder.
(rig as you look at this picture).

Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer are separated by a hill.  The face of each side of the hill look away from each other and at their respective harbors.  Many lovely homes have been built into each hillside, an engineering feat characteristic of many hillsides in France, particularly those overlooking bodies of water.

We anchored in Villefranche-sur-Mer’s beautiful, uncrowded, harbor the evening before Margaret and Burt flew into Nice. ¬†We let them rest up with a quiet dinner on Ice Floe following their arduous flight from home (Buffalo to Dublin to Nice).

The following morning we took them to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Margaret and Burt in Villefranche-sur-Mer (June, 2018) – love at first site

Villefranche-sur-Mer translates to Tax-free village on the sea. ¬†It acquired the tax-free status following the transition of the area’s inhabitants from hillside olive farmers to coastal fishermen. ¬†In 1295, the Duke of Provence offered tax-free status to inhabitants of the hills if they would move to the coast and provide a first-line defense against marauders (Turk Saracen, et al) who would use this coast to establish a base from which to invade Nice.

Villefranche-sur-Mer has approximately 8000 people living there.  It has one of the loveliest, quaint, Old Towns we have visited, to date.

Villefranche-sur-Mer side of hill opposite Nice
A closer view of the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mer
It appears we sold Margaret and Burt on this beautiful country on the first day. ¬†Burt commented early on that if anyone asked what he liked about France, he would respond “There is nothing I do not like”.
It was such a joy to share this experience with two kindred spirits.


The hilltop, and consequently the village is steep.  Many of the narrow streets are stepped and beautifully paved.  We spent a wonderful morning and afternoon exploring them.

While this charming town is a renowned tourist destination in its own right, it stole our hearts.  From our trip through the canal / river interior waterways to the Riviera, it has been these villages that have drawn us to them and helped us to cherish our time in France.

Ile Saint Honorat

Ile Saint Honorat Рhome of the Abbaye de Lérins

View of Abbaye de Lérins on Ile St Honorat taken from the top of the ancient defensive fortification.

The buildings (above) of the current-day St. Honorat monastery (Abbaye de L√©rins) were constructed in the second half of the 19th century.  The Roman Catholic Cistercian order of monks, living here today, mark the near continuous habitation of Ile St. Honorat by monks since the 5th century.  This order of monks has taken a vow of silence.

Ile St. Honorat is located just off the coast of Cannes in the French Riviera.

If you are lucky enough to be in the vicinity of Cannes, consider taking a day trip to this lovely island.  It is just a mile offshore (a 15 minute ferry ride) from Cannes if you are not already on a boat.  You will enjoy scenic walks that take you by the beautiful rugged coastline, vineyards and olive groves managed by the Cistercian monks who produce wine, honey, and olive oil, and remarkably well preserved ancient buildings that offer a visual history spanning 1600 years.  There is no charge.  You will not be disappointed.

Margaret and Burt beneath a living tree that has withstood the ages
along with the Abbaye de Lérins on Ile St. Honorat.

We have sailed by, anchored by, bathed by, and visited Ile St Honorat numerous times;  both last year (2017) and this year (2018).  George and I have enjoyed visits on our own, with our daughters, sons-in law, grandchildren, and most recently with my sister, Margaret and her husband, Burt during their first visit to France.

The original monastery on Ile St. Honorat was founded by St Honoratus in 410 A.D..  St Honoratus’s intent was to establish a hermitage, but he was soon joined by disciples.  This monastery, that grew to as many as 427 monks, fell victim to piracy and other sources of violence.  This prompted the construction of a fortified building begun in the 11th and completed in the 13th centuries.

Defensive monastery built between the 11th and 13th centuries
Beautifully constructed arched ceilings and passageways of the
ancient monastery
View from top of the ancient monastery
What remains of the exterior walls of this portion of the
ancient monastery offers insights into how the original
structure and existing vaulted ceilings were constructed

During the Franco-Spanish wars (17th century) the island was taken by the Spanish.  The monks were expelled, only to return a couple of years later when the island was retaken by the French.

Over the subsequent century, the monastery remained victim to attacks.  The inhabitants fell to as few as four and the monastery was closed in 1787.

Following the French Revolution (1789-1799), Ile St Honorat, became a property of the state and was sold to a private owner.  It was subsequently purchased by a bishop who established the Roman Catholic Cistercian order of monks that inhabits the monastery to this day.  This order has taken a vow of silence.

There are a number of chapels and other structures on the island.  From our own experience, we found it challenging to match all buildings to specific time periods and/or functions.  We did not take advantage of group tours, but would recommend doing so if you would like greater details.

The monastery accepts guests who seek accommodation for spiritual retreat.

Things not to say to airport security

Entering Port de Nice with a view of schoolchildren exiting in their Optimus for sailing classes

Our travels take us to Nice, France once more.   We are meeting my sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Burt, who are joining us for a couple of weeks.  Those of you who have visited us when we are sailing, know that payment is frequently exacted in our many requests to bring things we need from the States.  Requests may be as innocuous as crackers (very difficult to find in France), or desperately needed such as a new keel winch.  Oftentimes, we simply order what we need and send it to the home of the next person who is visiting us.

We let Margaret and Burt know they would be receiving several packages. We asked that they remove the packaging and bring the items along in their checked luggage.  Apparently, according to Margaret, those instructions admittedly were received, but promptly forgotten.  Being the sweetest and most considerate sister anyone could hope for, she put them in her carry-on to make sure they were not damaged or lost.  She also, thoughtfully, did not open any of the packages, as she explained, they were not hers.  When their carry-on luggage was screened, a bag was pulled aside and an item was pulled out.
The TSA agent asked ‚ÄúDo you know what is in this package?‚ÄĚ.
Margaret stammered in response ‚ÄúNo, they just kept mailing us stuff and told us to take it on the plane.”
I would not kid you – this is a direct quote from Margaret.  The TSA agent opened the package and presented them with the two sailing knives George had mailed to them.
Now, it wouldn‚Äôt be fair to poke fun only at Margaret and Burt.  First of all, we do appreciate their carting things over for us.  It was also very fortunate that they were so obviously no threat to anyone, the TSA agent allowed Burt to have their checked luggage retrieved so he could add the knives to it (although he was escorted).  But the real reason it would not be fair, is that George has had prior experience talking himself out of incarceration by TSA because of knives in his carry-on.
Some years back, George was flying to Florida to help his Mom and Dad after Hurricane Charlie.  He had a particular razor knife that fit his hand just so, and he wanted to bring it.  He travels light and was not checking any bags so he dissembled it and brought it in a clear zip-lock bag with no razors.  When he reached security to have his luggage scanned, he immediately brought it to their attention to make sure they were OK with it.  They were absolutely not OK with it and he had to throw away his favorite razor knife.His luggage was scanned and pulled aside.  They had seen something that looked like a knife in his bag.  When they opened it, sure enough, he had a pocket knife.  This knife is one he always carries on his belt. When he packed his belt, he did not give it a second thought.  It is worth mentioning that he packed his belt inside his work boots inside the bag.  OK, his pocket knife was now added to the garbage can.  When his Tilly hat went through, there was another issue.  On inspection of his hat, they found a small knife in a pocket on the inside of the hat.

George said sheepishly  “I am not going to make my plane, am I?”
The TSA agent said seriously ‚ÄúNo, I don‚Äôt think you are.”
However, believe it or not, a TSA supervisor appeared shortly after this exchange and asked George if he was a contractor.  George replied that he was and the supervisor replied that he had been one previously, as well.  He then let him go to catch his plane (without his little pocket knife).
When such good fortune befalls you, I know it is in particularly bad taste to criticize the benefactor.  However, it does make you wonder about ‚Äúreverse profiling‚ÄĚ – a term my daughter used the time she was pulled aside by TSA.She frequently returned to college after visiting home with as much food as she could stuff in her bags.  We have watched her bring whole frozen, home grown, chickens in her carry-on without being questioned.  On the occasion she was pulled aside, she was carrying some very large beets.  The TSA agent asked what they were and was told they were beets.  They were VERY large.  The TSA agent wiped them and tested them for explosive residue (or whatever they test for).  The agent returned and told our lovely, young, Caucasian daughter and her equally handsome, mid-western husband, that the beets tested positive.  He then let them take them on board anyway.

Marilla said to us later ‚ÄúHow is that for reverse profiling?‚ÄĚ.
On a subsequent trip, when she was carrying a set of silverware, she was not able to bring the butter knives on the plane.

Marilla said ‚ÄúJust in case there was any butter on the plane.”