WMC's diary pages, 2001.

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See-also: http://www.wmc.care4free.net/diary/.

May 2001

Ahem. In fact this includes bits of late April, gathered together here to put all the Corsican holiday in one place.

Fri 27th

Tidy up at work & hurridly complete appraisal form with install of word half way through. Hope its ok & pass on to jck.

Home via pick up D, who runs-rushes back to see m+j. Quick lunch, finish pack, deal with plants. Off. 2.15 train with 5 mins to spare which confuses D: he insists we go sit down. Off! We've begun! Excitement, happiness. Get to kc on time: 50 mins. Are trains returning to sanity? U'ground minor fun due to b'loo fire but w'loo in good time: coffee. Now on e's.

Lille 15 mins e.r. but we have a long change. Walk l. Europe to l. Flandres (5-10 min) & get view of station & plaza which would be fine if people were 20 foot tall. Wander brasseries restos seeking v food (one even manages trick of all non-v pizzas. But moules, we could take our pick. Arrive at turk, good. Spirits on bar by my head are distilled by min of tobacco, t products, salt & alcohol.

Gare: train: t2. Off on time as last few passengers scurry on. Open window & watch Lille & country go by. Read. Sleep, somewhat fitfully.

Sat 28th

Arrive Marseilles just pre 8. Sun, light. Top of grand escalier & sit a bit. Photos. Admire space, view, people. Accosted by odd monosyllabic fr with a picture of a (clothed) woman. Reproved for nearly photo of chap in flat cap. Light from railings. Walk into town. Fair crowd waiting for tunisian embassy to open. 'voila m.' says man (because we are so obviously tourists?) Cafe by old port.

Walk via f st Jean to ferry port: under raised roads a la cops movies but warm by noon. Extensive rebuilding in progress at int'l terminal. Corsica terminal #2 eerily empty: sailing is at 8: so we can't get our tickets early. Could go to tunisa/algeria via #3 (should we have thought of that) - in fact the poorer parts of town (which we unerringly find) have an algerian character.

Lunch in a narrow steep road/walkway - tables at a tilt. Couscous. M with fish: photo. Photo also: infant at 'chez zohra', montee des accoules, who wants to see the photo 'enlevée'. Sweet: marzipan ball studded with pine kernels.

Taking more photos with f801: worried about battery life with 950.

Since have time, go back & get boat (30 mins) to iles du frioul, which touches at chateau d'if on way. Bright sun but wind & choppy sea: spray: fortunately have coats. Water splashes & its fun & all laugh like D. Salted to the bone like sea-dogs. S'boats lean over. Isles are limestone, maybe 2-ish km long & at most 100m (say I) or 50 (says M). Sparse veg. Bars congregate at marina by digue connecting isles: over hill is quiet.

Boat back at 4. Metro (really) to though we have forgotten our booking #). Cafe: bier for me. Cathedral again & its shut again: shut at 6. But the porch is very impressive. Back to ferry just before embark starts at 7. Ship vast: about channel ferry size.

Board. Cabin. Shower. Top deck. Watch depart as sun sets - a lovely evening. Phone dmj. But chill: retreat to bar as others do (posh resto full). M goes off to hunt chocky. Music from stereo astonishing: not pap. Poss trad corse singing. Ship rounds cap x & would be giving excellent view of calanques except for dark... Service rapid despite crush: unlike cp, says M.

Self-service q still enormous at 9.30. M to cabin. I go to look at lights of shore, last vestige of sunset, & crescent moon brighter in a darker-than-normal sky. Polar orbiter.

Incredibly still q at 10.30: join it: when get food it is good. To bed late but full.

Sun 29th

Too full it seems: still at least a thundering vomit at 6 am gets me up in time to see the sunrise over the mountains (twice, since we move). Steaming in to an unknown (to me) land is v beautiful.

Disembark (quickly, since boat goes on to sardinia). Sit in cafe full of others but now its emptied. Quiet, sun. Walk onto quai (l'Herminier!) to watch boat depart. Then doze while M does same wander. Small brekky as befits stomach but to no avail: empty self again onto pile of rubbish just after leaving cafe. Feel much better.

Taxi. Gite. Loadsa lizards. Path: lovely. Stream. Pink fleurs. Vom #3 + dia [in retro my nadir: no more voms. M says: takes 24h. I say: now out both ends]. Slow climb to Fozzano: no cafe. Sit on steps in shade. Bees loudly: seen on wall above. Old house (photo). Water bottle replenished by nice lady opp from her 'fontaine' (well?). M feed me 3 orange seg.

Off 1:40. Gets dryer & more open. View of Prop. & F. To 710m & find solo tree for shade 3:10, a welcome shelter from sun. Rest 1/2 h. Have 1/2 orange. Dung beetles: see our 2nd rolling its little ball. View St L looking rather distant.

Down! Steeply to road (by my misguidance we leave path for road a bit early but find water tap as compensation; also rustic wit). Then through lovely woods to river-bridge. Yet another measure of tiredness: I don't go down to look at river. There 5:25, Off 5.45. Along river then up through woods. Odd trees: cork-oaks? Bark-stripped to about 3m. Photo.

To isolated church (st-jean-baptiste) 6:40, tired. 100m & 2km to go. M goes to see ch: it is utterly empty (down to earth floor & no steps) but stone work in good repair. I rest. A beautiful place & evening, if I were more able to appreciate it.

Arrive just after 7.30. Shagged. I have quick shower pre-meal & eat (communally) starter & nibble at main course but then get perm from M to go upstairs. Do so: fall asleep, with nice warm tingling from sun. Fight off pills from kind fr. Later M tidies up our kit & we make beds. Sleep.

View of St Lucie de Tallano from nearly-at-the-col-to-Altagena (I think)

Mon 30th

Brekky 8 & I eat well & declare self well. Gite v good: utterly clean (perhaps too), people friendly. Rooms large with en suite & 4 beds (bunks) each. Nb shortcut: gite is to L town as you approach below: follow 'path' up side of moulin a huile to save 5mins walk via town sq. Nb also on *zoza* road not zonza.

To town sq & both have choco. I wander off (so I must be well: I wouldn't waste a pace y'day) & buy br & ch.

Head up (10) & out of town past upper ch. See sign 'altagena' which is not on our mental map so ignore. But its a new (& better) path as we learn after 15 mins tracing the old path... To A over short col. Natural order reasserts: I am faster than M.

Leave Altagena (quiet; no serv; belle) 11.30. Photo ch int & inside to out, having sat on porch. Break our duck: see 3 other walkers.

Cyclamens grew in the shade, with a magial ability to find shafts of sunlight Path from here to col lovely: shaded, flowery (asters, pink things (later found to be cyclamen), orchid?, wild garlic), gentle (until last pull up to col). Odd places: path on steep hill, 3 times saw widenings cut out & built out to circles. Purpose? Camping?

Col: meadow with asphodel (porte-cerise). Rest under tree. Off after 1h break 1.10.

Down through woods: light & dark, M notices: no plants under dark.

To river rizzanese 3. River wide & loud: rapids up & down. Clamber on rocks. Water cool but not too. M writes; chap arrives with sac & carrying bag. Chatty: in eng: says he has spent 20y travelling; tibet (back via rickshaw), etc. Just s'bag: a model..? But how often has he had this conversation? & why carry a placcy bag with 10 days food when the villages have shops?

Struggle manfully to take piccy of river but fail. Attract M with sound of chomping chocolate. Leave bridge 4.30

Up a bit, road a bit, then pure up, following an old path, once carefully laid with big stones but now eroded. A lot of effort in the old days.

To Serra di Scopamene 6.30. Find gite. Am accused of basque beret: no pyrenean I say. Balcony to watch sunset & splendid views to our lunch-col & beyond. Almost put socks on balcony to dry in sun: would be mistake: witness swoop of linge police on poor fr who leaves towel. Drink rosé with B's.

After dinner (communal again. All very well but) wander streets looking for phone (mobile marche pas though we are in sight of a mast) & eventually find it on other side of gite. But get to go round ch. Many houses unlit: holiday homes? Just what do you do if you live here? Phone home: D says we should have a picnic by the seaside. He also says 'I want to talk to mummy', & talks about steam trains he has been to see that go forward & back..

I to bed 9.15: M 10. Tell over the days route in my mind.

Tues 1st

May day. And here too: hence no shops but prob cafes. Brek at 7.30 & ready for off at 8.30 (also turn-out time). Today is cloudy & rain is said to threaten for later. Before we leave M books ahead for an unprecedented 2 days - a good idea since gites tend to be full.

Gite is clean but not to same extremity as last. Hosts show more bonhommie than sympa: eg no phone ahead for us. Plus he makes odd speech (to all) about wading through streams that is presumably a joke... Other guests are the belge, 4x fr, & about 20 swedes on a walk-&-have-packs-carried tour.

Off. Town is built of native stone but the newer ones contrive to look like breezeblock. [later: so does levie: partly the machine-cut uniformity of stone & part blocky-unrelated house style.

Down, through Sorbollano. Often the ground alongside the path is torn up - puzzled as to cause - cattle/pigs rooting? To river (ruis codi): series of pools: looks good for fish, rest, photos. Climb up 150-ish. Decide against diversion to Quenza: could do with a short day.

A caterpillar train: about 20-30 followed the leader, head to tail. Fascinating. I watched for about 10 mins... See train of caterpillars: about 20-30 following head to tail.

To river (though on map ruis) St Antoine 11.50: rest here over lunch. Bridge is modern, functional, unsoftened by time, uncute. Off 2:10: follow river bank a little; stone-hop over a side stream; climb 200m.

Now flat! Or as flat as interior corsica gets. Meadows intermittently to sides, but perhaps running to seed. Path runs between walls.

At Castellu di Capula 3:10, a prehist site for which we could hire earphones. Dist view aigue bavella & still more dist snow. Odd sculpted undercut granite. Source? Hard to get views in maquis/forest! 10m high, individually, but about 30m all piled together. I wander for 1/2 h says M while she rests.

Thence 1km along hot road & then path down to Levie, stop in cafe le progress 4.20, where the local youth gather to admire a m'bike. Biere, then sirop de grenadine at M's instigation, pleasantly cooling. M finds an open patisserie & buys us some pat.

On to gite. Clean. Beds same type as in others: are all run by nat park? Need to reserve seems so much guff: not nearly full: & Mme makes us share rooms-for-4 even though she clearly has rooms free: this winds up the belge's no end. Showers, sit & eat pat: out 6:15-odd for pre-dinner cafe (being veg & one days notice mme can't cope with us). Slight rain 6ish as prevu. Drink a round with B's in cafe #2 (of 4). To pizzeria unfash early (7) when they return to gite-meal. Slow meal but good: large pizza. Beat M at hexed: ha!

Typical path: shaded by trees, between old walls Stepping carefully across the rushing torrent... note highly typical Maquis in background

Wed 2nd

Sun. Sit in b'fast room but since we didn't have dinner we clearly don't eat so mme ignores us. She is cr*p! So to cafe instead where I have tilleul. Oh dear! I have o'eaten again & suffer from too much pizza in tummy.

Off 9:30. Riv 10:40. Photo M crossing. Maybe monsieur was right about wading... Then up to Carbini at 12. C is on a col (photo: fields of asphodel) & its windy, unlike in shade of veg. Stop & rest in shade of church. M feels twinge... end of walk? Yes. Hey ho.

C is somewhat diff to other villages we have seen. More open, due to col. Pleasant but quiet. Has 'cafe du centre' with new sign but shut. Ch has separate tower, ruins of foundations of old ch, & all surrounded by grass & wall & shade trees - a good place to sit. Look into ch via key door: plain inside. Les B arrive: they took a wrong turn out of Levie, oops. They will tell gite about us.

Rest till 3: good. Decide to try to hitch to pv. M's urging go to end of town. So far: 4 cars going wrong way. 4:10: a fr *would* have given us lift but he was only going 5km. Hmm... that was the closest we got :-( give up at 4:45.

[Some houses have boards propped up in front doors - against rain]

So, back to phone box to call taxi from Porto Vecchio, which will take a while. Inevitable air of sadness at ending walk fits the (near) empty but belle street of Carbini, so open to its sky & wind. Sit on wall by ch to await taxi which arrives as I am pondering photos in the blowy asphodel field o'looking hills to Levie.

Mr taxi chatty: yes it is pigs that root by the path looking for... roots. The oaks were cork oaks: and he tells us to look out for a place we pass which has bark stacked up. Many houses are indeed empty: std reasons. He also has a scary tendency to wave his arms with emotion (talking of chasse au sangliers/pigeon) whilst on winding mountain roads.

To hotel: great setting just by sea with road not too close. Eat in 'tapas'.

Thurs 3rd

Sun. Up 9 for brekky on terrace by sea. Sncm ferry huge on far side of bay.

Walk hotel to town, quite short but hot & squeezed between sea & road. PV seems in danger of drowning in cars: contrast to quiet mountains.

Lunch main sq (preceeded by biere main sq under big tree) in cafe/glacerie & have home-made i'c after (marron & mandarin for me).

Church by sq: painted inside. Odd facade: tiles-with-holes left exposed, & regular holes in stonework - seen elsewhere: for scaffolding? Also stone left extending - for more building? Photo: judge for yourself.

Camera warns of low battery. Wander for souveniers. Main square for verveine (me) & i'c (m). B's arrive looking v well having finished the walk. Gite at Cast... apparently v good.

Traffic. Ugh. Back to hotel via ascertain loc of bus stop, then trail down through oliviers (at 2nd try) rather than follow road: we haven't totally lost our soul. Watch ferry leave.

I will need a new t-shirt if I don't wash one soon... sadly the corse tourism shops assn seems to have intro a code of conduct requiring its members to sell only tasteless ones.

[palm now down to 2/5 from fully charged]

Bath, reading Tristram Shandy (start of vol vii, the bit where he posts through fr for no obvious reason).

Soir: eat in hotel tapas again: good again. This time have colomba: corse biere blanche which makes me burp. But tastes ok. M gives her dress 2nd outing.

Fri 4th

Start of go-home: to catch bus at 2. Brek, leisurely. Cloudy today. A metal 4-mast could-sail boat replaces the ferry: club med, say les B, who have found a car but at some cost: ~1000. Swap emails after talking digicams. Postcards. Quietly walk shore past fading catermarin looking for sea-shells for D - Ms good idea.

Pack, last shower, off. Tint of rain in air. Look round marina, then the working bit: 3 cranes lifting boats out for repair (but no slipway?). Up to old town via porte genoise, hurried along by light rain. I have hit my stride at last: pack feels comfy.

[Poster in cheese shop: sheep have catarhal fever, but don't worry...]

Just past porte find shop prepared to break the rigourous edicts of the taste police: buy 2x for me (asterix & le chat) & boat&fish for D.

Check bus times again (if owt goes wrong we have little choice but taxi across isle: owch!) then central sq again for long lunch. Read 'le Corsica' mag which is good, as far as can be understood.

To cafe o'looking bus stop (paranoia) for last cafe.

Bus: tickets 120/each. Off down tiny side road... why? Aha: into eurocourse garage. Driver honks to his mate on top of an old bus, & throws out some 2nd-hand looking tyres. In big shed old buses quietly expire & a row of engines await cannibalisation.

Bus has various narrows scrapes (or not-quite-s) in narrow streets, mainly due to cretinous parking by locals.

Stop at Sartene: cloud dramatic. Looks like S would have been good ville to visit.

To Ajaccio which fails to impress: seems to be one giant jam. Some political posters of the indep variety; odd road-sign rewritten in corse. Newspapers have stuff (discussion, mostly) but fr supplies so much cash its hard to see...

On ship. Cabin. Onto deck. Phone D, who has been riding bike. Talk about coming back, which he says is good '...because I want my mummy & daddy'. Somewhat belatedly, M realises that the correct answer is of course 'we miss you too'. Oops. Watch depart: Ajaccio & hills fade. Pilot boat has fun: seems pointless but then pilot leaps off ship onto p.b. Photo.

Eric Newby says that 'from the holy mountain' by w dalrymple is 'witty, learned & v funny'. *I* say I carried it up & down corse for M & it is unopened.

Dinner: revenge of omlette! Cheese platter a national disgrace. But, eat on time. They have a resto only, with menu, food pre-prepared, so I cannot have crudites sans thon. Hmmph.

Ship (Scandola) originally greek. Smaller than dc, & mostly for freight. But more sympa, say fr at dinner. 3rd poss is the 'napoleon', perhaps the best.

To bed via short read (more Gill, I'm up to p150-odd). Rumble rumble go the engines. Would D enjoy a crossing? Probably.

Sat 5th

Boat docks as prevu at 7. Shower & walk off vehicule ramp past a lorry of cuboid cars: best way for 'em, I say. Past embarcation ramps for Algerie, Oran, etc.

Cafe in pl Joliette. [Palm battery down to 1/3]

Cathedral Major: open! Glorious building: huge; mosaics; but empty, both of worshippers & contents: no plaques to the dead, dons, etc. Generic ww1 uk memorial & plaque of builders is about all I found, bar statuary. But they are doing some repairs. Worth seeing inside for scale. Richly decorated (as it says) but in the recent (ie repetetive) way rather than the medaeival (creative). Outside: monument to la peste: photo for silly reason: guess what.

M buys set of p'cards of butterfly/whale/... into sailboat xforms.

St Victoire via navette. Much older. Fortified. Plain inside. Ossaria. Picture god (no! Joseph) + jesus, lilies+yo (see p'card). M views crypt.

Train (via small Libanese cafe for 2x mint tea & a pastry). M insults pride of fr navy as we leave town & briefly see harbour: 'is that big enough to be an aircraft carrier?'

Off 1.10-ish. Go through Avignon but see nowt. Up rhone: looks high. Start to tgv past valances ~3.15. M diarises, I gill (to p196, but I skipped some Big Sums to get to rotation).

Change at Lille is unexciting. M gets nice food (except for manky chips) from es, & we eat oranges, & in general it passes quite quickly. Phone mjd when out of tunnel. Now p297 but some speed-reading: but I'm still in touch.

Rest routine. Home 11.30. Bed.

Sun 6th

Drive to m+j & indeed to D.

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