Great place to visit: Southern California and the Central Coast

The Grover Beach coastline.

The Grover Beach coastline.

For our honeymoon, we decided to visit my home state over the winter holidays. Our road trip included stops in Universal Studios, Santa Barbara, the Grover Beach butterfly grove, Monterey and Carmel. While Los Angeles has its characteristic showbiz feel, the Pacific Highway takes you winding up a wild coast line that looks much the same as it did 30 or 40 years ago, minus a few McMansions. California has a little something for everyone whether you like the glitter and glamour of Hollywood or the natural beauty of the Central and North coast.
Continue reading

Great place to visit: Corsica

DSC01734

One of the most beloved vacation spots of the French, Corsica is an island paradise situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea to the Southeast of mainland France. It has been part of France since it was ceded by the Republic of Genoa in the 18th century, just before the birth of Napoleon in the Corsican city of Ajaccio. The island is split into two French administrative departments: Corse-du-Sud (2A) and Haute-Corse (2B). While French is the official language, a few rare residents still speak Corsican, which greatly resembles Italian (to me). Corsicans are very proud of their culture and language, which is distinct from other regions of France.

Like most of our vacations, we went to Corsica because my husband and I have friends there. We rarely go anywhere that’s not motivated by visiting friends or family since we have loved ones scattered all over two continents and wouldn’t get to see them otherwise.

Getting there:

Ferries are available from Toulon or Nice and take about 8 hours or more depending on what port you are going into (Bastia or Ajaccio). Easy-jet and Air France flights are also possible. However, be wary of low cost carriers, as we recently had an airport controller strike in France and a lot of flights were cancelled without the possibility for rebooking.

Things to do:

For those who love hiking, the valley of the Restonica, located near the town of Corté is really worth the visit. We hiked up to the first lake in the park and had lunch up there, though it was a bit cold and windy. The views were breathtaking. Did I mention there were waterfalls?

Melu Lake, Valley of the Restonica

Melu Lake, Valley of the Restonica

The limestone cliffs of Bonifacio are another must see of Corsica. When you get to the city, you park near the port and then walk up to the citadel, perched atop a limestone cliff. From there you can visit various historical points of interest such as the staircase of the king of Aragon. My favorite part was taking the path up the cliffs away from the citadel so we could see the ancient part of the city as a whole. If you’re planning on visiting, it’s best to go during the off-season and early in the day. Even on weekdays, the crowds are horrendous well into the month of September.

Citadel, Bonifacio

Citadel, Bonifacio

Finally, go to a beach, any beach, and go snorkeling. The Mediterranean is like an aquarium at bathtub temperature. We went to Ostriconi beach in the North and really appreciated the calm and the sea life. Small alert for nudists and yellow jackets (eat in the car, not on the beach).

DSC01826

The food:

Corsica is famous for really stinky sheep milk cheese, pork products, hard cookies called Cannistrelli and sparkling muscat wine. Our neighbors had Corsican cheese that smelled so bad they closed the package with duct tape before putting it into refrigerator. There’s also a Corsican cheese that has worms in it (on purpose). The most famous Corsican pig product are lonzu, coppa and figatellu. Lonzu and Coppa are dried pork products similar to ham, while figatellu is a dried sausage containing pig liver. Finally, to wash down all that pig liver and wormy cheese, try a good sparkling muscat. Corsican sparkling wine is tasty and not too expensive, so why not indulge.

The people:

There’s a whole whole lot of tourist traffic that comes through Corsica, so don’t be surprised if people are a little gruff. If you are respectful and easy going, you won’t have too much trouble. Just remember that the customer service culture is not the same as in North America, so you might be a little taken aback at first.

I hope this little post about Corsica got you inspired for your next vacation to France or elsewhere. If you have already been to Corsica, I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments.

Until next time, au revoir.