Sardinia or Corsica? The Verdict!
Crazily Captivating Corsica
We had planned a 3 day weekend to visit Corsica and while we would have liked to explore various towns and beaches of the island, we really wanted to visit Calvi. The flights into Calvi were considerably expensive, few, and far between. We ended up finding a great flight deal to Bastia so we decided to fly into Bastia Poretta airport, renting a car and driving to Calvi instead.
We would have needed the car anyways to visit some of the beaches on our list. Even though the drive was only a little more than an hour we would essentially be driving from the north east end of the island all the way across to the north west of the island. We figured it would be a nice way to see more of the island, given our time constraint.
For accommodation, we ran into difficulties completely opposite of what we had in Sardinia. It was hard to find a really nice resort with a private sandy beach. Corsica is really popular with campers and caravans with campsites all over the island and miles and miles of undeveloped, pristine public white sand beaches and hiking trails.
Construction within 100 m of the coastline is actually prohibited by law. Hence, the lack of big resorts with private beaches. After searching and searching we found this nice hilltop apartment/villa resort. The resort offered villas and apartments with panoramic views and private pools. It was a few minutes drive up from the town of Ile Rousse, and several beautiful beaches along the western coast. Calvi was a nice 30 minutes drive further south. We thought it was our best bet considering the comfort, the proximity to beaches and Calvi.
Our flight to Bastia on a was delayed so we ended up getting into Bastia after 11 pm and then it took us over an hour at the rental car desk with 3 flights arriving at the same time and everybody needing a rental car and the French pace of work :S Not fun!
We finally got out of the airport a little after midnight and we had over an hour's drive to our resort. An hour's drive is not bad at all except that late at night, there were not many cars along the route, the route was not very well-lit and the road was super winding through the mountains. Not dangerous by any means, just that it took us more than 1.5 hours to get there and a hilltop resort meant the last 500 meters were extreme incline. Bless our rental car's heart.
We made it up there only to find nobody at the reception and no instructions to check-in. Knowing that we were getting in late at night, I had made notes on the reservation and sent a separate email requesting for instructions to be left as we would be arriving past midnight and driving from Bastia. There was an after hours/emergency number posted on the door, but no on was answering. Not the ideal start and I felt like this was my fault because I should have followed up to make sure it was ok as I never received a confirmation to our request. Yikes!
Anyways, we were tired and I was not prepared to sleep in the car. I randomly tried opening the door to the Front Desk office and just our luck that it was unlocked. Keep in mind it was around 2 in the morning :P I turned on the lights and saw this big file on the desk with reservation details in it. I luckily found my reservation and noticed apartment T4 hand written on it. Where could the keys to T4 be? I searched and after a few minutes I found this hidden cabinet behind the desk with all the keys in it. Voila, apartment T4 keys, were right there!
I jumped up with joy and ran to the car to get the boys to come help me look for our apartment. We literally checked ourselves in :P You cannot imagine the relief. The boys thought it was a vacation miracle. Thankfully, it was not too much trouble locating our apartment in the complex and it turned out to be really nice.
The funniest thing was when the owner called me at 7 in the morning (probably after seeing 100 missed calls from my number at 2 am) and asked me where I was. I told him we were in apartment T4 and he was like WTF! How? I politely told him to shut the front door & let me sleep, and that I'll meet him in the office at 10 am and explain. LOL
It was a bright and beautiful 24 C day and after taking care of some formalities due to last night's check-in horrors and ordering breakfast at the resort we decided to hit the beach. There were two in particular that we had narrowed down that were actually quite close to each-other, but about a 10-15 minute drive from the resort & Ile Rousse.
Plage de Ghjunchitu (I know, how is this a French beach name?) & Plage de Bodri are a part of the same coastal stretch, separated by rock formations, share a main parking lot in the middle, and you can access either of them by walking 10-15 minutes from the parking lot in opposite directions. (Remember how the coastline is protected by law and any development within a certain meters is prohibited?) Yepp, that means you cannot just drive up to the beach :) Anyways, we decided to head to Ghjunchitu beach first because of it's interesting name. :P
The walk was a bit of a workout, but totally worth the oasis that awaited us at the end. A stretch of pristine, fine white sand beach, crystal clear waters, and the perfect Corsican landscape in the background. It was mid June and not crowded at all for a public beach. It is still pretty much undeveloped, no management company, no parasols or loungers to rent etc. but gorgeous beyond words. The kids were off and into the water in a minute, I took a walk along the beach to find a nice semi-shaded spot and marked our territory :P
We spent the next hour or so on the beach and had a fantastic time. Luckily, (I had done my research ahead of time to know if we would have to pack a picnic or not) on the southern end of the beach, a couple of hundred meters back there is a sit down restaurant with a proper menu, as well as a more casual sister snack bar/hut with loungers, tons of shade, and limited food & drink options.
We actually preferred the snack hut over the restaurant for more reasons than one.
- Paninis for lunch is always a good idea
- Those loungers and the shade was just too inviting on a warm day, and
- The view was just perfect.
I actually loved it so much, I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing there, while the boys went back for some more fun in the sun. It was the perfect place to keep an on eye on them too because you can literally see the whole beach from there.
We headed back to the resort and hit the pool, which I had my eyes on from the moment we got there. Loved the setting, the view from the top looking down on the town and bay, the peace because nobody was ever there, and the terrace and drinks bar right by it. I could spend hours on that daybed and I am pretty sure I did every day we were there for my downtime, while the boys took a nap in the room.
Views from the poolside
Who would'nt want to spend time here
For dinner we drove to this seaside Italian restaurant in Ile Rousse because the boys wanted some pizza. However, to our surprise there was no pizza on the menu. What's an Italian restaurant with no pizza? :X Anyways, the food was good, nothing to write home about. My fish of the day was a disappointment. I think we might have been a little harsh in our review because we were just bummed they didn't have pizza. Come to think of it, the black risotto and the pastas that the boys ordered were good, and the sound of the waves was pretty lovely too.
The next day was pretty much identical except that we first ventured to Lozari beach north of Ile Rousse, but left it in ten minutes. When you start with the best you do not settle for anything less. It was a perfectly fine beach, not crowded and amazing by many standards, but just not quite the match of the beauty we witnessed on day one.
We decided to head to the Ghjunchitu's sister beach on the same stretch, Plage de Bodri instead. Just as beautiful, the same fine sand, and sparkling ocean waters. We felt it was slightly more crowded than Ghjunchitu because of a nearby campsite that people could walk to the beach from, but by no means unpleasantly crowded. We had calamari and fried chicken and chips at the little make shift cafe type place right on the beach for lunch and had another lovely afternoon in Corsica.
After the usual pool time fun and downtime back at the resort we decided to explore the town of Ile Rousse in the evening. We felt like having Asian food so tried this hole in the wall sort Vietnamese place, which was actually pretty decent considering where we were. There was a fun Summer concert going on in the town's main square by the port. The atmosphere was just lovely with all the Summer crowd beginning to come to the island. We hung around for a little bit longer, and enjoyed the music with some ice cream and coffee to end the night.
On our last day, we decided to spend the morning in Calvi. The 30 minute drive south along the coast was pretty special as was the town of Calvi. Pretty much what you'd expect from any medium sized french port city. Character, charm, and amazing views.
We did some souvenir shopping while we walked around the cute little streets in downtown before we sat down to have some drinks in one of the many cafes that line the port of Calvi. The views all around were spectacular with the bay of Calvi, the port and all the yachts on one end and the town with the Calvi citadel up top on the other. No surprise that this is a popular tourist town.
roaming the streets of Calvi
We were not hungry for lunch yet so decided to head back to our favorite beach from day one. This time we parked on the southern end of the beach close to the restaurant and snack hut to save some walk. It was not even a real parking lot, just a few cars randomly parked under trees and a small marked path leading to the restaurant and beach. It was actually perfect because all the boys needed to change into their beach shorts and they could do that behind the trees :P
It turned out to be another fun day at the beach and pool with an encore of our first afternoon in Corsica. That night, we decided to have dinner at the this restaurant we had noticed while walking around town in Ile Rousse the night before that looked really nice. It was the best meal we had in Corsica, by far, and finally got to have those pizzas we could not have on night one :)
The next morning we drove back to Bastia to fly back to the mainland. The morning flight meant we were able to drive through and marvel at Corsica's beautiful mountainscape in daylight. It is amazing how such a tiny island is blessed with the best of both worlds. It is just as much a hiker's paradise as it is a beach lover's.
If you happen to be in Corsica for long enough, I have heard the train in east/west direction between Ajaccio & Bastia is something not to be missed. We were obviously pressed for time so could not do it. As always, I believe in taking a trip, prioritizing, picking and choosing the dos and cannot dos instead of not taking a trip because you cannot taste everything the place has to offer. Because frankly, you can never do EVERYTHING even in two week long trip.
Sardinia and Corsica are not known to be step sisters for no reason. They are similar in so many ways mainly because of the geographical proximity yet so different in spirit, vibe & culture. Go to Corsica for its wild, untamed, limitless natural beauty and super casual feel and know you may not have luxury and comfort every step of the way. Go to Sardinia for its scattered, little, luxury havens, the amazing cuisine, and unmatched Italian hospitality.
Shall we call it a draw then? :)