Geneva to Rome #3 (Corsica)
On the ferry bound for Livorno, Italy I decided to write a blog post entirely on Corsica, because....Corsica. Our decision to come here was a last minute one. As we mapped the distance from Toulon, France to Genoa, Italy our GPS informed us that the route was “not possible”. Now, obviously the route is possible, but maybe not for bicyclists carrying a full load along a highly trafficked road. After talking to several people that we've stayed with we found out that the ferries to Corsica were abundant and the cycling in Corsica is highly renowned. We arrived early in the morning after a ten hour overnight ferry from Toulon. Phil and I spread out our camping gear in between the seats and napped the whole way to a looping soundtrack of X-Men Apocalypse overdubbed in French. The scenery in Corsica is unmatched by anything we've seen yet, even in Switzerland. Once you get outside Bastia (the northernmost city) the towns thin out and you are nestled between the sea and the stoic peaks. Cactus gardens grow along the side of road and the sea is an unbelievably clear teal colored mirror. We spent three days biking a 90 mile loop around the Cap de Course (the little nub poking out the top of Corsica). The second day was the best one we've had all trip. Long undulating and vigorous uphill climbs followed by incredibly scenic and exciting downhill races. Around every corner was the ocean framed by massive mountains and then the occasional pink pastel washed town with ancient churches, black sand beaches and stone towers. Corsica has defied the influence of modernity it seems even with the huge amount of tourists that it withstands every summer. They keep to a uniform historic look of houses and villages and many shops don't accept credit cards. In 2013 the first three stages of the Tour De France were held here on a portion of the road that we biked. I couldn't believe that those athletes averaged 25 miles an hour on mountains which absolutely destroyed me. We're averaging a paltry 11mph!! There is a relatively large movement in Corsica to liberate themselves . Almost every road sign with a French and a Corsican spelling on it had the French version spray painted out. Corsica was occupied by Italy until the mid 1700s at which point it was overtaken by the French. Since then relations have been relatively strained between Corsica and mainland France, though Corsica enjoys more autonomy than many other French territories. Once again we missed the mark on the local cuisine. Though we tried some local cookies and seafood we have been keeping to a tight budget and haven't been consuming tiny and expensive gourmet meals. We go for maximum caloric intake at the least expense, though I can say that the scallops, shrimp and especially the wine on Corsica were delectable. I am looking forward to experiencing the biking in Tuscany, though as I write this I'm looking back longingly at Corsica. It seems to be a place lost in time with a people who are fervently proud of their culture. Over the next week Phil and I will attempt to bike across Italy to the Adriatic sea, and then take another ferry to Croatia. We have another month on the road before we fly home from Rome, so a lot can happen between now and then!