Today we left Porto and headed down the west coast. It was to be a big driving day but we thought there would be more main roads. Again it was a ay of slow driving with many, many hairpin turns. We had our morning swim at Plage De Pero at Cargese. Another amazing beach. We then lunched at Ajaccio, where the usual French cafes were by the port and beach which were filled with many people. We had a crepes and Panini for lunch which were really nice. When we returned to our car which we thought was parked with an easy exit, the usual French parking left us with no room at the front and luckily some at the back. They park anywhere and anyhow they need to find a spot. We then went to a Neolithic archealogical site and saw the menhirs at Filitosa. This was via a road of the narrowest lanes with barely room for one car let alone pass another one. We were lucky we didn’t have to pass any. We then headed to our hotel at Porto-Vecchio which we struggled to find at first and arrived late as usual to no English to start with until they found the manager. So far all our accommodation has been nice. An easy night of light pre-cooked meals.
My birthday. We started the day with an unexpected video call from Kristen, Makayla, Andi & Mum. It was lovely to see them all and have a chat. We then went for a walk and had a swim at the beach near the port. The water was magically clear and a nice temperature. We then headed inland to walk at the Calanches of Piana. The sea and wind-eroded granite rocks form a stunning architecture with colours changing from golden, pink to red depending on where the sun is. It was an amazing view from here to the water as well. We are being very spoilt with the waterviews you start to take them for granted. We then went for a 2nd walk through Les Gorge de la Spelunca which was an old mule track between the towns of Ota and Evisa. This was a little less inspiring but lovely just the same as everywhere else we have been has been amazing. Even so it was an enjoyable bush walk. We were heading back to our room early for once to go out for a nice dinner for my birthday until we met a worried German lady (Martina) who couldn’t find her husband. She was lucky we spoke English because she only spoke a little French. He had decided to not continue the bushwalk with her and went back to the car at Evisa and was going to meet her at the Church in Ota at 6pm at the latest. When she finished the walk the car was at the end of the track but no husband. She had no way of contacting him so she left him a note at the car and we drove her to the church. The road was blocked so rather than driving a short distance we had to go around about 7km which took about 20 mins on the usual hairpin bends. He wasn’t there so we drove her back the short way and walked through where the road was blocked to make sure he was back at the car. Thankfully he was. We then left her and headed back for dinner. This blew out our days schedule and we finally headed to dinner at 8.30pm. We had a lovely meal on the waterfront at the port. We shared a seafood plate for dinner (Mussels, oysters, prawns and Whelks which are sea snails). Followed by Grilled fish of the day. An enjoyable end to my birthday.
Last night was our first evening to eat dinner in since we left Australia. It was lovely not to have to decide where to eat and what to eat. We had a quick meal of flavoured rice with chicken and pasta. This was followed by our first cereal breakfast since La Grande Motte. It is funny how much you miss the basics of your normal life.
Today got underway a lot earlier than the last few days as we were breakfasted before 9am. We headed off towards Calvi. Our first stop was for a swim at Plage de Lozari. This was a beautiful blue, crystal clear water beach. I swam along the foreshore for about 500m and back. The water temperature was beautiful and the sun was shining warmly. We then drove through L’ile Rousse and stopped at Calvi. We had lunch and then did a Broadbent walking tour of the town, visiting the port, citadel and St Jean Baptiste Cathedral. Still saying lots of prayers. On the return to our car in the parking station we arrived to a difficult situation. Db had lost the parking ticket, this almost happened the day before but a lady told us as we walked past. What to do? No English on the parking meter and no way to get out. With my favourite French words “Do you speak English” I manage to speak through a microphone at the pay station to get a new ticket. This ticket cost 11 euro (the cost of 5 and a half ice creams here) when we had only been there for 3 euro worth of time. I hope it comes out of DBs ice cream allowance. I suppose that is better than sleeping in the car at Calvi. Let’s see how many more times this can happen in the next few weeks. After this we headed to Col de la Croix where we headed off for our 3.5 hour bushwalk at about 4.30pm. This was a walk from 280m above sea level down to the beach, back up again and then down to Port Giralato. We had a quick coke then headed on our way back as it was now 6pm. After a twilight swim back at the beach we headed up the last stretch to our car. In true Broadbent style the torch was required for the last 20mins arriving at the car at 7.50pm. One day we will get to sit for a while at the destination and not have to race daylight on the way home. But don’t hold your breath as I have given up on this one years ago. After our walk we still had to drive 40mins of hairpin bends to our new hotel at Porto. DB chose a bit more expensive hotel for tonight and tomorrow night for my birthday. We arrived at the hotel at 8.40pm. The roads here are so radical. Hairpin turn after hairpin turn with room for less than 2 cars abreast. A challenging drive in the daylight but even more so in the night> Lucky DB is a good safe driver is all I can say. We showered and headed straight out for dinner as it was 9.30pm on Sunday night. We were starving and a bit worried nothing would be open. We luckily found a Pizza restaurant wo were happy to serve us. Phew. It was going to be along night on potato chips and rice cakes otherwise.
Today was to be a rest day. Taking it easy Broadbent style involved a walk around St Florent, a visit to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a drive on the radical hairpin roads back to Nonza where we went into St Julie Church. I haven’t made the sign of the cross, genuflected and said so many prayers in a very long time. We then walked down 600 steps to what we thought was a grey sandy beach only to arrive down there to find large dark grey pebbles. It is even harder to walk on pebbles than soft sand. We declined a swim as there was an old asbestos plant close by. People had cleverly written their messages in the sand with placing lighter pebbles on the dark ones. From the top it just looks like writing in the sand. We then had to climb back up the stairs, so much for an easy day. After a milkshake reward at the top we continued on to Bastia. We walked through the town, went to the citadelle, a couple of churches and the port. Communication is interesting, today I rebooked our hotel for tonight with no English, using signs and minimal conversation, since leaving La Grande Motte most menus are in French and very few people have much more English than “a little” which is what they say to you when you asked “Do you speak English”. Tammy we could do with having Tanika here as our translater. But we are managing. DB is leaving it up to me a lot of the time. I still say Thank you when I mean to say good bye, and Yes when I mean to say thank you, but I eventually get to the right word and give them a laugh along the way. Well it was almost a rest day, we arrived at our hotel for the night and it was till daylight. A first since La Grande Motte.
Today we have woken to an amazing day of sunshine. Our home for the night has incredible views from our room and the dining room looking out over the Mediterranean. The photos today are all with the most clear azure blue seas. We had a lazy breakfast and headed north from Bastia to Erbalunga where we saw a ruin on the point with cafes and harbour nearby and had a swim in the warmest clear water. I had a bit of an exercise and ocean fix as was suffering a bit from lack of exercise and needed to get in the salt water. I think I am hooked on the endorphin boost from exercising everyday. We then headed to Macinaggio via the winding cliffside roads. At Macinaggio we went for a cliffside bushwalk to Santa Maria Chappelle which was 1.5hrs each way. The water was crystal clear and the views amazing. On the way back we had another swim. On our return to Macinaggio at 6.30pm we still had what we though was a 65km 1hr 40min drive to our accommodation at Saint Florent. This turned into a 2.5 hour drive on the windiest, narrowest, highest Cliffside roads I have ever been on. Again the views were amazing and the heights incredible with a very narrow low stone wall between us and the biggest drop off the side of the cliff I have travelled on. DB was in racing car mode but it still took forever to get there. DB not real well today, has picked up a bit of the flu, hopefully the strenuous day doesn’t make him worse tomorrow. We might have a rest day tomorrow.
After a brisk walk on a beautiful day along the promenade of Juan-Le Pins, which was similar to other towns along the French Riviera coastline (crystal clear, bright blue water on golden sand, we packed to head to Nice Airport to exchange the car. This was a 15km drive which took 1.5hrs along the coast road. We swapped cars and made sure this was a little car so DB was more comfortable on the very narrow roads. The car misses the mod-conveniences but fits in the lane now. A big bonus. We went directly to the Port to join the queue for the ferry to Corsica. This is a 5.5hr ferry ride. Very similar to when we caught the ferry in Canada, a large car hold and then outdoor, indoor, food and bar areas, also with sleeping cabins and furtherof reclining chairs. We booked a recliner as weren’t sure of the seating arrangements but didn’t use them. I had one of my few cups of tea of the last 2 weeks which was lovely. We spent all afternoon planning our visit here and then had an interesting conversation with a 72 and 80 year old couple. They gave us a few tips for travel in Corsica with mediocre English but enough to understand. We arrived at our Hotel L’Ariana which is on the cliff side on the waters edge 7km north of Bastia. Decided to have breakfast here tomorrow as food was quite minimal today and the view should be amazing.
An overcast day with the potential for rain. We thought as it was a lovely dinner last night we would have breakfast in the hotel. A little treat. It was an expensive juice, bread, croissant and cup of tea. But was lovely all the same. The view was amazing over the water and if you use your imagination you could see the azure waters if the day wasn’t overcast. We then spent the day driving the French Riviera from La Ciotat to Juan-Les Pins (A town just west of Antibes) which on a sunny day would have been magnificent. We followed the coastline and for the majority of the time the road was either along the cliffs or the beach. Truly an amazing drive just like the Great Ocean Rd back home. We went through towns that were big and small but all had mainly the same features – beachfront lined with cafes, marina and markets. The towns we travelled through were La Ciotat, Toulon, Le Lavandou, St Tropez, St Maxime, Agay, St Raphael, Cannes and Juan-Les Pins. Checking in was interesting as even though everyone says they speak English. They lie. Managed to get our room, car parked and out to dinner. After a lovely dinner we went back to the hotel to book tomorrows travels. A ferry ride to Corsica and the first nights accommodation near Bastia port as we will arrive there at 7.15pm.
We are at Avignon, after a morning of planning we headed into the city. We visited Palais de Papis (The Popes Palace). This is an awesome construction and was home to Sovereign Pointiffs in the 14th century. It is a gothic palace and we were able to view 25 rooms. It was amazing. We then went to the Pont St-Benezet which is the remains of a bridge crossing The Rhone River constructed in 13th century. It was damaged by many floods and was rebuilt in the 17th century.
After a couple of days of culture and history we are now on our way to La Ciotat which is a seaside town just east of Marseille for some salt air and sea spray.
The big decision is tolls or no tolls. Cost from Avignon to La Ciotat is 26 Euro with 1.5 hrs to 2hrs without tolls. DB decision as he was driving. Your guess? DB’s call half way there. I wouldn’t have gone no tolls if I realised you didn’t even bypass large cities (ie Marseille – the largest crime city in France) I would have paid.
We arrived at our hotel Auberge Revestel at La Ciotat at 8.45pm, 1 hour 40 mins later than without tolls. Lesson learned. We had an amazing dinner even though we were not quite sure of the accompaniments. I had La St Pierre (Fish) and DB had Lamb again. He said the best meal he has ever had. Lucky because it is probably one of the more expensive meals he has ever bought. Dinner cost with a main and dessert each without wine was 100 euro. Our hotel was only 75 euro and the view was fantastic.
This was a mammoth day. After packing up we farewelled La Grande Motte and collected the car from Montpellier Airport. With an upgraded car (Not good as it was much bigger and the fuel of DBs annoyance for the ensuing days, as lanes are very narrow and parking impossible). With amazing calm, DB headed off in the car with very few hiccups. He drove us from Montpellier to Nimes. Here we saw La Maison Carree, The Cathedral of Notre Dame & St Castor built in 1096, La Chappel De Jesuites built in 1678, Arenes Amphitheatre built in the 1st century, Church of St Perpetue & Felicitie built in 1852, Tour Magne and Jardins de la Fontaine in the 18th century. All of these sights were amazing. After a very long day we then headed to Avignon to avoid arriving there in the dark. We arrived about 7.30pm to then be informed at the hotel that the Luminescence show at Palais de Papis (The Popes Palace) was something not to be missed. As we weren’t to be in Avignon the next night we quickly got ready to head out. Shows were at 9.15pm and 10.15pm. We were trying to make the 9.15 but with navigation, parking and dining issues we didn’t make it until 10.15pm. The place we were advised to park seemed to be in the seedier side of town, with people just hanging and others collecting their cardboard for the night. We almost aborted the show but instead braved it with scary rice and chicken skewers for dinner and an interesting walk. The Palais de Papais was massive and the light show was amazing, although 45mins standing was a bit too long for our very tired legs. After finding our way back to the parking station and further navigational issues, DB spat the dummy and I think I am sacked PHEW!! Our night was at an end about midnight.
A good rest morning for us. A day at the carnival in the afternoon, the Aussies did really well coming 2nd to NZ in the point score and Taplin. We followed this with a lovely dinner at Restaurant SanCyr. DB had lamb & I had duck with a cheesecake dessert to follow.