We had big plans for our long weekend in Corsica in May.
Driving, hiking, rugged mountains, deserted beaches, excellent food, fabulous wine – we were keen to try everything we’d heard about this island-mountain of the Mediterannean.
Fate had other ideas.
Large wasn’t feeling great as we left home that morning and by the time we arrived at our hotel in Saint Florent (a one-hour flight from Marseille to Calvi followed by a break-your-heart beautiful 90 minute drive) his fever was raging. He had to go straight to bed and stay there for four days, making only guest appearances on the beach wrapped in a blanket.
Not fun for poor Large, but it turned out not to be such a bad thing for all five of us to be forced to stay put for once.
It had been a frenetic couple of months with a lot of travelling, a round of exams at school and a few visitors so it was lovely to sit on the beach for days doing nothing but reading, building sand castles and planning our next meal. Even Large, once he’d recovered a little, appreciated the peace and quiet and a lot more screen time than he would normally be allowed.
The healthy among us did manage to zoom over to the pretty coastal city of Bastia one afternoon. There were many special sights but the image that will stay with me was the enormous statue commemorating a stoic 18th Century Corsican widow who, having lost two sons already in the Corsican struggle for independence from corrupt Genoese rule, offered up her third and last son to the rebels.
I couldn’t stop staring up at this beautiful, tragic image. The fact that the mother’s face was lost in shadow made it so much more haunting. Who was she? I tried and tried to imagine what it would take, what you would have to have been through, how strongly you would have to believe in something, to give up your sons.
I came away determined to find out more about the history of this island which holds such a strategic position in the Mediterranean and has, over the centuries, been occupied or invaded by everyone from the Romans to the Vandals, Goths, Byzantines, Saracens, Pisans, Genoese and French. The history of pirates in Corsican waters is a story in itself.
The watchtowers over the island are crumbling but the fresh graffiti and painted-out French language road signs are a reminder that not all of the conflict is in the past.
Back at the beach, there was a fierce wind, which added excitement to Small and Medium’s fortress building (and rebuilding) project.
Medium braved the breeze to spend ages skirting around and almost getting into the hotel pool. Finally, he jumped in but leapt out very quickly with a squeal that made me look up from my book.
“Thought I saw a shark.”
“Hmm. Pretty sure sharks can’t live in freshwater. Must have been your subconscious telling you it’s too cold to swim [the boys had been asking what the subconscious was the day before]”
“Mu-um! Didn’t you hear my song?”
“Um, I didn’t hear the actual words.”
“I was singing: “There’s no-oo-oo shark in the po-oo-ool, it’s just your imagina-a-a-tion.”
“Oh OK. You going to go back in?”
“No, I’m a bit worried about the shark.”
When Large was a bit better (but still not hungry), the rest of us ducked out a couple of times to try local restaurants (he’s about to turn 13, was happy to be left, the hotel was tiny and the staff were well-briefed in case you think we are monsters).
We tried to keep his spirits up by texting him ridiculous photos but this backfired when I accidentally forwarded a gloating dessert photo I had meant to send to our friend The Photographer back in New Zealand (she can take it). The creations dreamed up by the 19 year old dessert chef at this little café were heavenly.
Poor Large. He still talks about it.
On our last day, Large was almost himself again so we took the long way to the airport, via the stunning coast road of Cap Corse, the index finger of Corsica’s pointing hand.
This northern tip of Corsica is relatively ignored by tourists. Can’t for the life of me work out why. We just loved it.
I’m going to do my reading about Corsica and return. Like so many other places we have “tasted” in this last 15 months, we have unfinished business here.