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The GR20 in Corsica - July 2008

Getting There - Tueday 1st July
Chez moi to Calvi

I'd wondered about whether to drive to the airport or stay with family close-by, but in the end I decided that a taxi would be easiest. For once I'd done most of my packing the day before, and I managed to finish it on Monday evening and get to bed in time to (*shock, horror*) actually sleep! I was up at 4am for a 5am taxi, but in the end I still needed to ring and ask them to put it back a little to 0515.

My Easyjet flight out of Liverpool to Nice left at 0715, and was due to land at 1030. All went well and uneventfully, and on arrival in Nice I made my way out of the airport and got onto a bus into Nice itself. I can no longer remember exactly how long it took or how much it cost, but I think it was less than 30 minutes and approximately 8 Euros for a ticket that was valid all day on local transport.

Once in Nice I made for the Tourist Info place to ask where to find the market, as one of my favourite things in France is always browsing round the local food markets drooling over the lovely fresh vegetables and fruit, and staring at the meat, fish, cheese, charcuterie, herbs and other interesting things. By that time it was after midday, though, and so people were packing up. Still, I had time to buy a couple of the particularly scrummy and convenient flat peaches I rarely see over here.

After all that drooling I wanted some lunch, and so I checked out the local restaurants on the way back down the market on the other side of the road. At one of them I saw a man eating a big pile of some delicious-looking salady things, and so I stopped and sat down at one of the tables outside. A waiter quickly came up and said something fast and incomprehensible--luckily, a kind man at an adjoining table translated for me, and it turned out that the table was apparently booked. Hmmm... along with all the other empty tables outside? Either that or (more likely) a scruffy-looking person in inappropriate clothing with a hefty rucksack didn't project the right sort of image. It was no problem, though, and so I went in and had lunch there instead. The bog-standard salads were nothing like what I'd seen outside but it was okay, and a friendly woman at an adjoining table spotted me trawling through my phrase book and helped me to order some wine :)

After that I made my way back to the main road next to the sea, and decided to take one of the little tourist trains to get an idea of what Nice was really like. The ride was great fun, and rather like the little trains in Blackpool but prettier, and hot.

My plane from Nice to Calvi was due to leave at 1730 (arriving 1815), and so not an awfully long time after the train ride I got a bus back to the airport, and waited around. Once again the journey was uneventful, and at the pre-ordained time we touched down safely.

I'd read in Paddy Dillon's Guidebook that the best thing to do at the airpot was to jump in a taxi and ask to go to Calenzana, and so I did. In my struggle to get the right words out I forgot to ask the price, but it turned out to be 30 Euros. The journey was very scenic--it probably lasted about 20 minutes--and the driver pointed to some very ominous looking thick, black clouds in the mountains above us and indicated that they meant bad weather. He asked if I intended to start the following day. I said I did, and he turned back to the wheel, looking thoughful.

I'd decided to camp at the Gite in Calenzana, and it didn't take long to book in (E9.75 for the night). The woman indicated that I could camp anywhere I liked, and so I made my way across a little bridge to a sort of field--well, more like a piece of scrub land, really, as it wasn't grassy--where other tents had been erected. I was surprised and a little disconcerted to find the ground very hard and dry. For some reason I'd been naively expecting grass. I was able to force the pegs in, though, whilst carefully avoiding a neat little circular hole in the grass that looked very like something I'd spotted a rather scary-looking spider peeping out of near Bagneres de Luchon last year.

After that I was keen to get to the Spar shop in order to stock up on things for lunch. I ran into an English bloke who pointed me up the hill, and I got there not long before closing time. I don't eat meat at home unless it's free-range, but experience in France has taught me that that's unrealistic (or at least very difficult) in the French mountains. I was therefore planning to buy a nice saucisson, some cheese, some bread and some sort of fresh salad veggies if possible: maybe some garlic, and/or onions and cucumber. I managed to find all of those things in the end (though I didn't bother with the garlic), and after that I made my way further up the hill to look for somewhere to eat dinner, since time was passing and I was quite keen to eat and get to bed.

There were several places available, but in the end I went to the Le Prince Piezza...

...because there it was possible to eat outside. There were various very delicious-looking pizzas available, but I wanted to try some Corsican food and so I opted for the Menu du Jour. I chose a lentil salad to begin with...

...followed by something I couldn't quite decipher, even with the aid of my trusty phrase book. I'm not sure what I expected it to be, but I hadn't anticipated the large pile of chips that came with it. I was happy enough to eat them, though, and I attempted to banish all images of frolicking piglets from my mind :)

After that I had cheese, and with it I had first a beer (carbo-loading, naturally), wine (to be sociable) and then coffee. Yum! The whole thing came to E28 (including a tip).

As I was tucking in a young English bloke approached, having spotted the guidebook on my table. His name was Simon, and he'd had to drop out of the walk a few days earlier with an injured ankle. His friends had continued without him, and he was awaiting their arrival whilst bivvying on the Gite's campsite. It was nice to speak to somebody from home who could tell me something about the walk. He'd been going South to North and hadn't got as far as the Cirque, but he told me everything was beautiful and it was clear from his suntan that the weather had been great. He also suggested that I should stock up with ciggies, and said it might be 8 days or so before I got to a place where I could buy some more. Eek! I realised the Spar shop had closed, and began to prepare for a panic, but Simon told me there was a shop where I could stock up the next morning next door to a bakery (more yum!), and so all was well.

Simon left to eat his meal, and I settled down to finish my cheese. I hadn't spotted that 4 young English blokes had meanwhile sat down at a table next to me, but I now heard them speaking English and saw them tucking into what looked like very delicious pizzas.

Soon after that I got my bags of bits together and made my way back down the hill to the Gite. Things were quiet on the campsite, and after a quick dash to the loos for the various evening rituals I went back to my tent, squirmed into my sleeping bag and got out the book I'd bought at Liverpool airport and almost finished on the journey: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.

I was in the process of dozing off when I awoke some time after 11pm to hear the 4 young English blokes making an enormous row, calling to each other between the loos and the tents. It sounded as though their tents were pitched in my porch, but I realised that couldn't actually be true :) After 10 or 15 minutes I called over and asked if they could make a bit less noise, since everyone else was trying to sleep, but it didn't make any difference. Sigh... It was a little embarrassing that it should be English blokes keeping everyone else awake, but I heard some young French blokes doing the same thing at one of the Pyrenean refuges 2 years ago so maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy. Hmmm... Anyway, I finished the book and soon after that I dropped off to sleep.

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