November 14, 2023 Portland OR

Today we returned home from the “Three Island Tour” as we have been calling it. We really enjoyed all three islands, but once again, Sicily really stood out. It has become one of our favorite places we have visited. Sardinia and Corsica were also fun and interesting, very similar in many ways, but also very different because despite being next to each other, they have had very different histories and rulers.

We really enjoy the controlled chaos of Sicily. It is one of our favorite places.

The flight back was one of the smoothest we have ever experience. There was no line at check in, no line at security, and remarkably no line at immigration. We have never experienced getting thru the formalities of travel so quickly. The flight left on time, and landed on time. Remarkable.

November 13, 2023 Amsterdam NE

Woke up to heavy rain, so it made it easy to finish up the process of preparing François for the winter. We finished up the last of our food, and offered some fruit to the owner of the campground. After a short uneventful drive to the storage area we dropped François off for the winter and took an Uber to the hotel which is in the center of a giant construction site. It was still poring rain so we spent the day in our room relaxing.

November 12, 2023 De Hoef NE

Today was spent preparing François for storage. We slept in a bit, and woke up to promising blue skies after another rainy night. Unfortunately, the blue skies didn’t last and a thick damp fog set in. So after cleaning up we pretty much settled in to a movie marathon for our last day in François. Exploring the canals around us will have to wait for our return in the spring.

Pretty much the scene all day.

November 11, 2023 De Hoef NE

We are at our final stop for our fall trip. Today and tomorrow we are at a campground near the Amsterdam airport where we will do our final preparation before delivering François for storage.

A very wet horse coral near the campsite. The owner of the horses came out to talk about what they are doing to try to dry out the place. Apparently the amount of rain this fall has been incredible.

The drive over from the Ardennes was pretty easy and included three countries. When we left in the morning the roads were pretty empty in France, the traffic built in Belgium, and when we got to The Netherlands it was quite busy.

The canal across from the campground.

When we arrived at the campground the owner met us in front, and asked very tentatively if we spoke English. When I replied that I did she looked relieved and said that most French don’t speak English, so I had to explain that I was an American in a French camper which she thought was funny.

The chicken was very interested in Ton until she figured out that she had no food, then she walked away in a huff.

The campground is on a working farm with sheep, chickens, and some interesting horses. But it has been inundated with incredible rain over the last few weeks. I had emailed the owners a couple of days ago but their reply went missing in the ether. So when we arrived they said that we were welcome but that we would have to park in the driveway next to the bathrooms because the actual campsite was far too wet to accommodate us.

Some of the sheep next to our campsite.

We settled in and Ton began figuring out what was going and what was staying, and did some preliminary cleaning. Mostly we hunkered down as it was both cold with occasional showers all afternoon. We finally got out for a short walk near sunset. The countryside around here is exactly what I expected of Dutch countryside, roads on top of dikes, small canals feeding into large canals, and tall and blonde Dutch people riding by on bicycles. It was a fun walk.

Another canal near the campsite.

November 10, 2023 Trembles Les Rocroi FR

Another day devoted to driving long distances. Today we covered over 440 kilometers, and are parked on a small farm near the Belgian border in the Ardennes region of France.

Checking out the equipment near our camp spot for the night.

It was bright and sunny when we left Beaune, and unlike yesterday the drive was stress free on pretty quiet Autoroutes with mostly good weather. The cost was even less than we expected, now we play Toll Price is Right when we pull up to the toll booths. Today we both lost as we were both way over on our guess.

Parked up on a small farm in the Ardennes.

Initially I had picked an aire near a fortified village, but when we got there it was not quite what we expected so I looked for any alternatives in the area. By now it was cold and raining hard again so we were looking for somewhere a little more protected. The only thing that came up was a nearby farm that was said to offer two spots for visiting motorhomes. Since it was close we decided to go take a look at it as we could always come back to where we were. When we got there we saw a place where two motorhomes would fit with signs in multiple languages welcoming visitors. It was cute and much nicer, but we could not figure out why someone would do this on their land. We went and knocked on the door of the farm and asked if it was ok, and were welcomed in French and told of course. He even asked if we wanted electricity, which was amazing, and very helpful when running the heater. This is truly a case of someone doing something extraordinary for visitors, I only wish I had the French to find out why, instead, all I could do was continue to thank him for his kindness. We looked to see if they were selling anything, but we saw no sign of anything for sale that we could purchase to help support them. As near as we can tell they do it out of kindness.

Our hosts home for tonight.

November 9, 2023 Beaune FR

Another day focused on covering distance. We traveled about 380 kilometers all but about 30 of which was in medium to heavy rain, so it was not a very fun day.

A shot out the window of the port in Lyon. I was worried about passing thru Lyon as it is the second biggest city in France, but today despite the rain traffic was good and we were thru without delay.

There is not much else to talk about. I picked Beaune as the stopover today as it was a good distance north and a town we had fond memories of. It was the place we spent our second night in a RV in France. It is a beautiful town with a lot of interesting historic sites, and great wine.

The town hall in Beaune.

With the rain the photographer in the family was not motivated to walk into town, so we hunkered down and had a big meal. We have a lot of food to eat in the next few days so we had a big meal and a bottle of wine. I took a quick walk into town but was quickly driven back to François and Ton when another shower came down. The rest of the evening was spent vegging in front of screens watching movies.

November 8, 2023 Avignon FR

We are at a point in the trip where distance traveled in the right direction is more important than where we end up staying. Today we got lucky as we were able to get a good jump in our 4 day journey to Amsterdam, and stop at a place that has been on our list of places we wanted to visit. Avignon is famous for two things in the English speaking world, for about 100 years 7 popes of the Catholic church ruled the church from Avignon instead of Rome. The other is that every French language student learns to sing a childrens song about the Bridge in Avignon. Ton had told me about the song, and the other night Denise Cook also launched into it when we told her our plans.

Pont Saint-Benezat, the unfinished bridge at Avignon celebrated in a childrens song.

We had a quick and easy 4 hour drive to get here, arriving at the municipal campground on an island in the Rhone River right across from the medieval city, and the Pont Saint-Benezat or the Bridge at Avignon just before the staff headed out for lunch.

The view of the city from the gate of our campground.

When we arrived at the campground Ton almost aborted our walk into town. The campground here had a large commercial washer and dryer setup, and one of Tons top to do list items was washing our linen before we left. She wouldn’t agree to go to town until I went and confirmed that the laundry would be open late enough to get our washing done. Once she learned that it was open until 10 pm we were off and heading into town.

Part of the battlements of the old fort.

Avignon is a fortified city with most of the walls facing the river still intact. It also has a large cathedral and palace befitting its nearly 100 years as the center of the Catholic church. Even after the popes returned to Rome it stayed under Papal control until it was incorporated into France during the French Revolution.

The palace and library from the Papal period.

We did a quick walk through town, and then to the Cathedral and the Palace of the Popes. The palace and the Cathedral were impressive, but we found ourselves drawn more to the gardens above the Palace.

The views of the Rhone River, and the incomplete Pont Saint-Benezat, from the gardens of the palace.

By the way, the bridge used to cross the river, but was abandoned in the 1700’s because it kept collapsing when the Rhone flooded. The four arches and the gate house have survived and become the most famous tourist attraction in Avignon because of a children song.

Part of the gardens was a small vineyard, that has examples of the 14 types of wine grapes grown in the Cote du Rhone wine region.

With laundry looming over us we wrapped our quick tour of Avignon and took a small pedestrian ferry across the Rhone to return to the campground. So we are now 320 kilometers closer to Amsterdam, we have seen a town on our list of places to visit in France, and we have nice freshly laundered linen. Today was a pretty fun and productive day.

The tourist authority just put this in this year to please the selfy crowd.

November 7, 2023 Roses SP

We were up bright and early as we had a 9:30 appointment at the repair place. It was an easy drive and we arrived to find a real polyglot operation. Initially they greeted us in French based on our plates, when I asked for English the person immediately switched to flawless English. She then got on the radio to have the technician come to the office and spoke what I thought was German to him, but I thought I had misheard and it was probably Catalan, later I learned it was German. The tech and I went out to the car to look at the problem and he was speaking in French until I asked for English, and he said oh good and also switched to flawless English. After a few minutes discussion in English Ton said to me in Thai that she thought he was German based on his accent. It turns out she has a good ear as he was indeed a German who had settled in the area. All of this talk of languages is because the repair itself was quick and easy and took all of 10 minutes. We now have a new latch and light for the refrigerator that seem to be working, as well as an admonishment to put less stuff on the refrigerator door shelves.

The welcome sign to Roses.

On the way to the repair shop, we saw a grocery store advertising the cheapest fuel we have seen in about 3 years. So we stopped and filled François up and probably saved about €20 over what our average fill has been lately. The gas station was attached to a large supermarket, so Ton ran in there for a few minutes while I was filling François. Well a few minutes turned into 45 minutes as we had discovered the largest Catalan owned grocery chain, and it was full of cool and cheap Catalan and Spanish food.

Downtown Roses on our way to lunch.

Ton had spotted a seafood restaurant yesterday that she wanted to try if it was open. Yesterday it was closed, but we hoped that was because it was Monday. Unlike the restaurants that are closed for the season, this one still had tables outside, and the inside tables were set with plates so we were optimistic. She even knew what she was going to order. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open. So we tried a Moroccan restaurant just up the street. We enjoyed the food, and the tea, so while disappointed that we didn’t get the seafood we wanted we still had a nice meal.

The Roses Express, using a Case or John Deere tractor for the engine.

Every town in Europe now seems to have a little train that you can take to see the sites. We have taken a couple of them over the years. The one in Roses was exceptional as the “Engine” was a big Case or John Deere tractor instead of a little modified truck like most. We had stopped and looked at it yesterday, but there was no one there. Today when we walked by there was someone manning the booth. We were intrigued so we signed up for the one hour Cap De Creus tour.

The harbor in Roses with the Cap de Creus in the background.

The tour was mostly thru narrow streets full of vacation homes, and once again I was impressed as the driver navigated this farm tractor pulling two trailers down streets I would have cringed to take François down. The tour was narrated in French, German, and English, but not Spanish or Catalan. When we signed up for the tour they asked where we were from, so I suspect there were no Spanish on the ride today.

Looking back towards Roses from the Cap de Course.

We climbed up quite a hill, and then dropped back down towards a less built up area which was part of a Spanish national park. For a short part of the trip we were on dirt roads, which is why they are using the tractor to pull the “train”.

Looking inland from the Cap.

On the tour they mentioned that the full time population of Roses is 20,000, but that during the peak of the summer when all of the hotels and vacation homes are full an additional 120,000 people are in the town! We both agreed that we were glad we were here when the population was closer to 20,000.

A loan sailboat anchored off of the promenade. All but one of the hotels in the background are closed for the season.

Tomorrow we are heading north as we only have 6 days until our flight home. We are planning to cover about 300 kilometers a day, which should put us into Amsterdam with a couple of days to spare. So today was our last day of traveling without a plan, unfortunately.

Beach soccer with the Cap in the background.

November 6, 2023 Roses SP

As much as we liked Perpignan we had to leave today as the campground we were staying at is closing for the season. We looked at our options and everywhere North and East of us had rain. I pointed out to Ton that we were only about 30 minutes from the Spanish border. One of our favorite memories in Spain was a meal we had in Roses, so that’s how we ended up here in the town aire. I told Ton that we should leave early as the recent reviews kept referring to it being sold out. We arrived about 9:30 in the morning after a quick drive down the freeway and claimed a good spot. I went to get rid of some trash around 5pm and they had just sold the 70th and last spot for the night to a RV from Iceland.

This Gnome thing is in front of a now defunct amusement park called WOK and Park next to where we are staying. It looks like it could be a good setting for a horror movie.

Our memory of Roses was of a very lively resort town where we had our first and most memorable Spanish meal about 6 years ago. It was a three course meal with both an aperitif and a glass of wine for €13. We were hoping we would recognize the restaurant and see if we could replicate the meal.

The not very bustling seaside resort of Roses.

This time instead of a bustling seaside resort with lots of shops and restaurants, we found a bit of a ghost town. Out of season 90% of the hotels and restaurants shut down. We had the beautiful seaside promenade to ourselves most of the way. We found our favorite restaurant but unfortunately it was also closed for the season.

Ton likes the way they trim the trees in France and Spain.

But we did find a restaurant where we could get a three course meal for €17, but this time the wine was extra. But, the meal was wonderful, and Ton was thrilled with her first course which was a giant plate of mussels, and her second course which was a very meaty fish called a monk fish. So Roses continues to meet our expectations for good meals.

Still a beautiful place if a little cold and blustery.

We are going to spend another night here in Roses as we have to get a little problem fixed on François before beginning our trek north. A part of the latch on the door to our refrigerator has cracked. The door closes fine, but the door ajar alarm keeps going off because some circuit is not being closed. It is quite annoying to be woken up every few minutes by an alarm, sometimes it goes off continuously and sometimes it will be quiet for a few hours and then suddenly go off for no apparent reason. So tomorrow we are off to try to get it fixed.

November 4, 2023 Perpignan FR

Our original plan was to head to Avignon to look at a bridge. The weather forecast for Avignon was a lot of rain, so Ton went on line and looked at weather and places to see options and landed on Perpignan. Perpignan is only about 30 minutes from the Spanish border and is part of French Catalonia, and most importantly is supposed to have good weather for the next 3 days.

We were standing next to a fishing forbidden sign as Ton took this picture. The mountains in the background are the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border.

We woke up to the rain that is driving us towards Spain, so we were not in a hurry to get up and get going. Before departing we went over for a final coffee with Fred and Denise. We enjoyed another conversation and after about an hour reluctantly headed down the road. We are going to keep track of their travels and are hoping to find another opportunity to meet them. Our only regret is we did not get a good photo of them and us together.

The village next to the reservoir we are parked on.

As we drove down the autoroute the weather was initially pretty bad, but as the forecasters predicted the rain got lighter and lighter until we finally broke into a bright blue sky. We arrived at the campground I had picked out, hoping they were still open. The internet said they were open until the 15th, but I was a little nervous about the accuracy of the information. When we pulled up I was relieved to see they were open. When I checked in and asked for 2 nights the guy at the desk said only two nights as they were closing for the season on Monday. So while the information was not accurate, it was accurate enough for our needs.

This band was shooting a video next to the reservoir. Only the drummer was actually playing as they had no electricity to power the other instruments.

We settled in and then took a walk around the reservoir the campground is on. After that Ton prepared a pizza on the stove top using a technique our friend Cory taught us on her boat last year. It was delicious.

November 3, 2023 Aigues-Mortes FR

We woke up to a very chilly François this morning. The thermometer by the bed said 51 degrees and I was tempted to run the heater for a few minutes, but Ton is made of sterner stuff and told me it was ok. Then just as we began to stir it started raining hard, and did so until about 10 am. So the morning turned into a late breakfast, while Ton stayed tucked up warm in the bed, and I puttered around François.

You can see the effect of the three hours of rain on this dirt road.

We finally decided to head into town because Denise and Fred really liked Aigues-Mortes. Before we left we set up a rendezvous with Denise and Fred for lunch. They were going to go into town by bike while we walked the 4 kilometers.

It was a longish walk but we had views like this the whole way. Ton enjoyed shooting a lot of pictures as we went.

Yesterday I mentioned that Camargue was known for three things, salt, flamingos, and horses. On our walk thru the country we saw all three so we got the full Camargue experience.

Some of the famous white horses the Carmaque is known for. It is also a cattle region, so these horses are sharing their field with some beef cows.

The Camargue is heavily influenced by the Rhone river delta, which makes up a good deal of the area. On our walk we saw a lot of canals and dikes to control the water flow from the delta. In addition to horses, flamingos, and salt they also raise cattle and grow rice.

You can see the giant mounds of salt in the background, as well as one of the canals used for irrigation and flood control.

We tried to get a good picture of the flamingos, but they would not cooperate and come close enough. You will have to trust me that we saw them on our walk.

A boat canal near the beginning of town. These canals are common all thru France.

About half way on our walk Denise and Fred passed us by on their bikes which are a much more efficient mode of movement than walking. We agreed to meet at the town gate, and they agreed to scout for a restaurant.

The town gate for Aigue-Mortes.

Aigue-Mortes is an old fortress town, and its entire wall is still intact which is unusual. In most cities sections or nearly all of the wall have been removed for modern buildings or to widen roads. In Aigue-Mortes you can walk the entire perimeter of the old town on the walls if you desire.

The main tower for the town.

Fred and Denise met us at the gate, and we headed into a Spanish Steak house. But as the waitress that took our order said, the Spanish has been heavily influenced by French taste. We were very impressed as both Fred and Denise were able to speak French with the staff which certainly sped up the ordering process and generated some good will from the staff. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch, and before we knew it, it was 3 pm.

As Carmaque is part of France, it of course also produces wine.

We took a quick turn thru town and would have liked to have spent more time there, but with day light savings time the sun is now setting around 5:30. So much earlier than we would have liked we found ourselves hiking back to the aire for the evening.

On the way back we saw this group mounting up for a sunset ride.

November 2, 2023 Aigues-Mortes FR

We have shifted about 200 kilometers west to the Camargue region. The Camargue is famous for three things, salt, horses, and flamingos. But the real reason we are here are to connect with our good friends Fred and Denise Cook who are traveling Europe in their American Expedition Vehicle. It is built on an old Italian Mercedes Firetruck and is an impressive sight. The Virginia plates also catch peoples attention in the Aire. Compared to their truck François looks like a small car.

The Camargue is famous for its white horses.

We arrived at the aire about 1pm after an easy drive from Toulon. After we got settled in we went over and spent the afternoon and evening sharing tales of travel, and places we have enjoyed visiting. Tomorrow we are going to set out to visit the town, which Denise once spent a few weeks living in as a student.

November 1, 2023 Sanary-Sur-Mer FR

Our ferry left about 45 minutes late last night, but it was a very rough ride. The wind was still blowing strong, and the sea was very rough. The ferry was about 600 feet long, and even at that length was getting tossed around quite a bit most of the night. We both eventually fell asleep and when we woke in the morning it was much calmer as we put into Toulon.

Toulon is a big city and we arrived at 8am. We were one of the very first vehicles off of the ferry and headed right into downtown Toulon. I was expecting rush hour traffic, but traffic was really light. I finally asked Ton is today a holiday in France? A quick google search confirmed that it was All Saints Day which is a national holiday. So thanking our luck we arrived at our campground less than 30 minutes after rolling off the ferry.

The marina at Sanary-Sur-Mer full of wooden sail boats that look like a regional design.

We wanted today to get our laundry done, and give François a good cleaning. While we were waiting for some washers to open up I walked down to the town center. Ton passed on the walk after a long night of being tossed around by the sea.

The streets downtown and along the marina were closed for a market.

I took a quick turn around the waterfront and then headed back to François so we could get our laundry done. After completing our chores we relaxed for the afternoon and began to think about our plans for the next week. Based on weather forecasts we are going to be staying in the south as the weather in Paris and Amsterdam shows 10 straight days of rain.

October 31, 2023 Bastia FR

A short one today. The wind built overnight until we were getting gusts around 40 to 50 miles per hour. From our campground the ocean looked pretty rough. We spent the day hunkered down in François with him shaking pretty vigorously in the wind. We finally followed the example of our Dutch neighbors and moved over by a tall line of shrubbery that blocked some of the wind, though we would still get knocked around pretty good. We spent a good part of the morning watching our email fearing that the ferry would be cancelled. Finally about 3:30 we moved down to the ferry port where we are currently waiting. The departure board says we are leaving at 7pm. I expect it is going to be a rough 13 hours to Toulon.

October 30, 2023 Pietracorbara FR

We had a weather shortened day. We forgot about daylight savings time, and did not realize until this morning that it had happened yesterday here, of course we were not late for anything because most days we don’t have to worry about being anywhere at a certain time.

The sea was pretty active today, and the wind was whipping along at a good clip.

Our first stop for the day was a LeClerc to stock up on some food, and to pick up some Corsican things we have grown to appreciate that we probably will not be able to get once we head back to the mainland on Tuesday. This was a huge LeClerc so Ton enjoyed herself window shopping as well as filling the basket.

An old wall that must have been attached to a bigger building at some time.

We were planning to visit a town called Saint Florent which is on the other side of Cap Corse, but when we came out of LeClerc the wind had really picked up, and the mountains we were going to have to cross to get to Saint Florent looked socked in, so we decided to go up the side of Cap Corse we were on to our campground for the day. On the way we stopped in Erbalunga which is a cute town.

Looking back at Bastia from Erbalunga. It was not a day to be at sea for the faint hearted.

Erbalunga is a quick stop, but we enjoyed watching the ocean putting on a show. Ton remembered she needed to some onions so we popped into a little neighborhood market which was doing a thriving business, and then headed to our campground for the day. We are parked in a big open field with about 5 other RV’s. It is a really nice campground with great facilities. When we arrived there was a sign that said go pick a spot and come back at 6pm to pay. When I went by at 6 pm no one was there, so maybe tomorrow morning.

The beach at Pietracorbara.

The wind really howled most of the afternoon, frequently giving François a good shake. But towards sunset it died down completely, and now all we can hear is the surf about a quarter mile away. Another front is supposed to come thru tomorrow just in time for our departure on the ferry.

October 29, 2023 Bastia FR

Today we visited the second largest city on Corsica. Bastia was founded around 1370 as a Citadel guarding a port that Genoa was trying to use to rule Corsica. Over time it became the primary port for Northern Corsica and today is the primary ferry port to connect to mainland France and northern Italy, we will be departing from here on Tuesday. Italy is closer to Corsica than France is, and there are two prominent islands off shore that are part of Italy, one of which is Elba where Napoleon lived in exile until his death.

The citadel overlooking the main harbor in Bastia.

Corsica has always been a tough place to govern. All of the major cities are fortress towns where the off island rulers (Genoa, and France) have tried with mixed success to control the interior of the island. The extreme ruggedness of the center of the island makes it a rebels paradise. Even today as we were driving into Bastia, most of the highway overpasses and bridges had “Corsica is not French” spray painted on them, so even today there is a Corsican independence movement.

Historically these are a tough people to govern, but look like a fun group to hang out with.

We accomplished another thing today as we decided to park at the ferry terminal for the day, so our trip in to catch the ferry on Tuesday will now be a little easier as we know the route and the layout of the terminal. As we walked into the town center we came across a sprawling Sunday market on the main square of the city.

The Sunday flea market.

The largest part of the market was a huge flea market. While interesting for people watching, other peoples junk is generally not our thing. So we passed thru pretty quickly.

This is a dish we have seen throughout Corsica, it is cheese mixed with a little dough to make a kind of pancake. We tried one and it was interesting, and while very popular with the local crowd we won’t be buying it again.

We kept on thru the center of the city and next found ourselves at the harbor. The harbor was where all of the high end restaurants were located. We did some window shopping, but in the end decided to have a home cooked lunch today.

Looking across at the mountains that are right behind the city. The mountain with the towers on the left side of the picture is 2700 feet to give you a feel for how steep the land rises behind the city.

Our last stop for the day was the citadel built above the harbor to protect it. The citadel was a good climb up, and as we were walking up it I saw a sign saying that one of the problems that Bastia has always had to deal with is connecting the citadel above the town with the harbor. Today the answer appeared to be that the lower town and the harbor are the center of the town, and the citadel is very quiet.

This is the main square of the citadel. For about 15 minutes Ton and I had it to ourselves.

The lower town was very lively, the market was busy, and the restaurants were full. When we got to the citadel it was mostly empty, and except for one restaurant all of the businesses were closed. It was quite a contrast.

Usually Ton has to wait for people to clear out for her picture. In the citadelshe was happy to find someone to put in the picture.

We wandered about for a few more minutes looking at signs describing the buildings, for the first time today we heard languages besides French. Our conclusion was that the citadel was for tourists and since the season is over all of the businesses have packed up. So we headed back to François and out to our campsite for the day.

We ran into this priest on a motorcycle on one of the back alleys of the citadel.

On the way to the campground we wanted to swing into a grocery store to pick up a few supplies. Unfortunately, all of the parking lots at the major grocery chains we saw had height barriers. This is a uniquely annoying French thing where they put gates at about 2.6 meters above ground to keep oversized vehicles out of parking lots. Sometimes you can find a back entrance, or a secondary lot that is not restricted, but today I didn’t want to go on the search, so we decided to keep our money to ourselves.

Ton liked the concave wall on this apartment building.

October 28, 2023 Pietracorbara FR

Today we shifted to the other side of the island to Cap Corse. If you look at a map of Corsica you will see a panhandle sticking out of the northern part of the island. That is the Cap Corse.

The drive over was thru the mountainous center of the island.

We headed out pretty early as we have learned that Corsican roads are twisty and hilly things that require some time to negotiate. Todays road was pretty straight by Corsican standards so we beat my estimated time by nearly 30 minutes.

Today is the final of the Rugby World Cup, and apparently the fans of France are favoring South Africa over New Zealand.

We followed the east coast of the cape for about 20 kilometers after leaving the largest city on the island Bastia. I was expecting something like our drive down the D81 but it was completely different. Much of the coast line here is developed and we were more impressed with the beautiful homes than the coast. The coast line was impressive but after a week on Corsica our standard for a spectacular coast line has gotten quite high.

This old fort is overlooking our campground.

We had a quiet afternoon relaxing and conversing with our Dutch neighbor whose 3 year old took a shine to me and was teaching me Dutch so I would play with him. Later in the day we headed down to the beach. During the afternoon we had heard a few gun shots in the vicinity of the campground. On the trail to the beach we came across a gentlemen in hunting gear and carrying a double barrel shotgun. I got his attention and asked him in my best French c’est Securite, pointing down the trail. He gave me a big thumbs up and replied Oui c’est bon. So we hustled down the trail to the beach.

A beach club closed up for the winter, though some of the locals were using the lounge chairs for a meal.

We took a quick walk along the beach as the wind was up and it was getting chilly. There were a fair amount of locals around, all bundled up also. There was a dark cloud coming over the hill, and after the downpours of the last few days we didn’t want to get caught out so we headed back to François for the evening.

The beach at Pietracorbara.

October 27, 2023 Lisula FR

After our short train ride into Calvi yesterday, we decided to head the other direction to the opposite end of the line to the town of Lisula. On the maps the town is labeled by its French name of L’Île-Rousse, but given its history and our observation of the preferred name in the town we decided to go with the Corsican name.

About the only place we saw the French name for the town in Lisula was on the train station.

The town was founded as a port by the Corsican separatist Pasquale Paoli in 1758. It was put on a point of land that allowed the Corsicans to cut the flow of goods between Genoa and Calvi during the rebellion that was going on at that time. The rebellion was successful for a short period of time and Corsica became an independent country for a few years, before Genoa sold the rights to the island to the French and it was occupied by them in 1768. So in this area there is an ongoing rivalry between Calvi and Lisula going back to the 1760s.

Part of the old fort on the left behind the evening Pétanque match. The island in the background is what gives the city its name.

The wind has been howling since last night and when we arrived we decided to head out to the island first. The walk across the causeway was pretty intense as a couple of gusts of wind actually staggered us. The high wind was a constant companion all day, even at lunch when one gust blew thru the covered seating area we were in and knocked over chairs, signs, and blew glasses off of tables. Ton and I both showed good reflexes to grab our wine glasses before they blew over.

Looking back at town. Like every town we have been to in Corsica there are mountains within a mile or so of the coast.

When we walked into town we saw a bunch of tents set up and a lot of people on bicycles. It turns out that the town is hosting the Corsica Bike Festival this weekend. So in addition to enjoying the pretty waterfront we were entertained by different bicycle events and displays.

These stairs are part of a race course set up thru town.

One of the events is an urban race course that runs thru the streets and alleys of the town. The surface is cobblestone mostly and at one point it runs down a set of stairs near the town hall. We watched one race and it looked pretty challenging as they had to navigate tight corners and run up narrow alleys, all the while dealing with changing surfaces and curbs.

Racers making a turn around the town market building.

We enjoyed our stay at Lisula enough to extend to a later train back. Our old train was packed with people returning to Calvi after a day outing to its rival Lisula. The coast line here is also stunning and we really enjoyed looking out the window of the train at the cliffs, beaches and inlets as we headed back to François. Corsica as a destination is a beach bums dream.

We arrived back at our campground in Calvi near sunset.

October 26, 2023 Calvi FR

We finally got our chance to go to Calvi today. After a day and a half stuck in François while a huge storm passed thru, we were anxious to get going. So at 9:40 we were at the train stop.

The 9:40 train to Calvi. In a country of ultra sleek and very high speed electric trains, this was a boxy, diesel from the 60’s.

10 minutes after boarding we were deposited at the foot of the citadel that is the main attraction for Calvi. Most of the tourist oriented places were closed as we walked up to the citadel. The citadel is impressive, built out on a point of land guarding the harbor. It really looks like an Americans vision of an European castle/fort.

Part of the fortress walls. You can get a sense of the scale by looking at the people on top.

As we walked into town two things made me connect to Calvi immediately. The first was the cities motto carved into the main entry to the citadel in Latin, “Civitas Calvi Semper Fidelis” The city of Calvi is always faithful. Semper Fidelis is also the motto of the Marine Corps. The second thing I saw was on one of the old fort buildings was a sign that said it was the officers club of the 2nd Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment who are based here. I worked with one of the officers from the 2e REP (as it is abbreviated in French) during my brief time in Lebanon, the only time I worked with the French Army.

Calvi shares the same motto as the US Marine Corps.

We walked around the citadel for about an hour enjoying the views and admiring the fort.

Some of the buildings and walls of the fortress.

Calvi makes a claim to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The locals admit that there is no evidence to support this claim, just local stories passed down over generations that he was born to a fisherman from Calvi. But when he went to get help from the Spanish for his voyages he couldn’t admit he was from Corsica because the Corsicans had a bad habit of slaughtering Spanish soldiers and sailors who came by. So instead he said he was from Genoa who were the rulers of Corsica at the time. Research on the internet allows for some doubt about Columbus true birth place, most scholars say Genoa, but others say he was Greek and a few say he was a Pole, but no one but people from Calvi say he was Corsican.

Even if Columbus wasn’t from Calvi, it is a beautiful city. The citadel is on the right.

After our tour thru the citadel we went into the new town and explored the marina and did some shopping at a SuperU grocery. We learned that the same train that we took to Calvi, goes to two other towns that are on our list to visit while we are here, so we will be taking the same vintage train in the opposite direction tomorrow.

Ton liked this painting from the cathedral inside the citadel.

Our last stop for the day was at a microbrewery near the campground. It looked promising. The set up was much like we are used to in Portland with a chalkboard of todays beer offerings. We ordered a couple of beers and asked about food, the only thing they had was some dips made from olives, eggplant and tomatoes and bread so that is what we ordered. After our order arrived we were then ignored and eventually abandoned. When we were ready to leave Ton finally went and knocked on the window to the back room to get somebody to come out and take our money. It was a strange visit, the beer was fair.

The artwork for the brewery was very well done, we really liked this poster.