Homecoming- that warm feeling and a desire to feel that feel again is probably what a quest for travel is all about. We travel to discover who we are and where we belong to and it is not necessarily the country you were born in. You can belong to any part of the globe, any place that you can call home. This ‘home’ for me was Corsica, a small French island, situated between the French and Italian mainland.
I first read about Corsica in a short story named Happiness, by he celebrated French author Guy de Maupassant. As a 15 year old, the love story had a special impact on me and since then, Corsica became a safe haven of love and dreams. It so happened that almost after nine years I applied for a program called Assistants de langue étrangère, under which I supposed to go to France and teach English to little French kids. The destination city was to be decided by the French Embassy. As luck would have it, I was placed in Corsica, the island I used to dream about since I was 15 years old. This island became my home for 7 months.
Definitely one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Corsica is a lot more than just natural beauty. It’s the rugged history of the island give it the peculiar nature. Though the island is now one of the communes of France, it has distinctly preserved its own culture, language, and food.
Ajaccio and Bastia are the two largest cities on the island. Rest are all small towns and villages. Ajaccio happens to be the hometown of Napoleon Bonaparte. Other notable towns are- St Florent, Calvi, Porto, Porto Vecchio, Bonifacio, Corte etc. A single mountain range runs through the length of the island, making one of the world’s most adventurous hiking trails, the GR20.
The Northern tip of the island is called the Cap Corse, as it forms a ‘cap’ over the island (called Corse in French and Corsican). The savage Mediterranean jewel is home to a number of wild animals and exotic birds; as a result, there are a number of Natural Reserves all across the island. Many of the beaches are other sites have been listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
One of the most exhilarating things to do in Corsica is to see the sea from a mountaintop. This isn’t too difficult. Climb up anywhere along the Cap Corse, and you have the perfect combination of the mountains and the sea. One of the easiest trails is from Maccinagio, the last village on the eastern side of the island on the Cap Corse, a 2-hour drive away from Bastia. Within a walk of 45 minutes, you are happily perched on a hilltop, approximately 50 feet above the sea.
Another remarkable town is Bonifacio, which happens to be on the southernmost tip of the island. From here, on a clear summer day, you can easily see the Italian island Sardinia. Bonifacio is special for its location and geographical features. The town is precariously situated on a huge mass of white rock. The effect is even more splendid when the white rock contrasts with turquoise and blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The surrounding waters are home to many small caves and creeks, which make for some of the most gorgeous sceneries. A specific creek is of particular interest as the opening to this creek is in the shape of Corsica. I know it sounds incredible and may be a little hard to believe, but you’ve got to see it to believe it!
Yet another interesting place to spend an evening is Ile Sanguinaires, reachable by a 40-minute bus ride from Ajaccio. The archipelago can successfully offer you one of the most pristine sunsets you’ve witnessed in your life. At Ile Sanguinaires, you just need to be with yourself, against the backdrop of sun simmering down in the Mediterranean Sea and dolphins.
Many other villages dotted all across the island happily tell the folktales of battles and loved ones lost. The entire island has a sort of savageness to it, which makes you feel closer to nature. The rustic old houses in Sartene will make you forget the fancy cottages in Scotland and the narrow, winding roads will make you forget the fancily constructed highways.
You won’t be lost even if you don’t know where you’re going when in Corsica. The Corsican summers are packed with tourists, mainly from Europe, some from the UK, and few from other countries. The best part about Corsica is that that it is still unharmed by ruthless commercialisation. The people are still simple and won’t try to rob you at the next possible chance. I was welcomed with a warm heart by Corsica and its residents, and i am sure that if you dare to explore this ferocious beauty, you will be welcomed too.