- Mumsnet Reviews
- More Information
"I wasn't sure what to expect of Corsica. Anyone who's…"
I wasn't sure what to expect of Corsica. Anyone who's ever been assured me we'd love it - "The beaches, the food, the scent of the maquis in the air"; - but deep down I wasn't totally convinced that my rabble of a family and such an allegedly glam' island would play well.
We'd booked our villa - U Paese di l'Ondella (number one) - through Simply Travel. We've had several great hols with Simply, so were quietly confident that they weren't going to let us down this time. The villa looked lovely in the brochure (and I found some web footage of it that looked good, too) but we still weren't really prepared for what greeted us. In all honesty, our little house was quite the prettiest villa we've ever stayed in. Very shabby-chic with hi-tech touches, it was like walking into a Fired Earth catalogue. Beautifully furnished with oh-so-rustic tiled floors, glorious beamed ceilings (I swear you could hear the woodworm munching if you listened carefully) and Montpelier green shutters throughout, everywhere we looked there were stylish little touches: Provencal style storm candles, chandeliers, wonderfully distressed cupboards, a classic rise-and-fall pendant light... The twin bedroom even had a fabulous old-style dressmaker's dummy standing to attention in the corner. (Sounds dead odd, but in reality just worked.) Whoever had overseen the interiors clearly knew what he or she was doing and hadn't scrimped on essential fittings either: rough-hewn stone sinks, a deep roll top bath and a separate sunflower-head shower were all very 'low-fi luxury' too. (Frankly, it made our house seem a total pit in comparison.)
The villa has a good-sized main living area with well-equipped open-plan kitchen. There's a big dining table, comfy sofa and armchair to crash out on - and a plasma TV and DVD (No English channels - DS watched the Olympics when the heat of the day got too much for him - so bring dvds with you if you think the kids are going to need a bit of downtime.) But we spent most of our waking hours here outside. The villa is set in quite a secluded little spot - a few minutes drive up the hillside from the main road linking the towns of Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio. The small, but adequate decked terrace looks out over the hillside and down to Santa Guilia Beach and leads straight onto the infinity pool. (You can almost roll off one of the sleek loungers straight into it.) The pool's not vast but it's deep and cool and, when not under attack from a small boy, a well-placed lilo is the perfect place to relax and make the most of the glorious view. Said small boy is part fish and happiest when he's underwater, so it made no bones that he couldn't touch the bottom, but a lack of a shallow end; the rough, steep stack of boulders that make do, albeit stylishly, for pool steps and the steep drop on the other side of the pool's infinity lip means the villa wouldn't be a great choice for a holiday with little ones (you'd need to keep an eye on them 24/7 or keep them in armbands permanently) or short, non-swimmer types. That said, if you've a babe in arms or older kids that have got beyond the point of treating foreign A&E's like a category to complete in an I-spy book, then you'll be fine. (Also, if you ever get the urge to escape without the kids, the villa would make an oh-so romantic bolthole. There's also a hot tub, with holders for your champagne glasses...)
One of the nice little extra touches is that the villa's owner also owns the excellent pizzeria/grill restaurant at the bottom of the track, and you get a complimentary meal as part of your stay. The food is really good here and we ended up visiting twice. (Dead handy as you don't have to worry about having a drink - but bring a torch for the walk back.) To be honest, you don't have to go far to eat well: we found a fantastic restaurant a few minutes drive away along the main road. U Pinu specialises in Cuisine corse - so superb meat, stews, seafood and particularly strong cheeses!
Catering at the villa's a breeze: there's a range-style oven and hob; microwave; coffee maker; Smeg-style fridge-freezer; dishwasher and - outside - a large, super-efficient gas BBQ. We ate at home a lot; sitting out on the terrace, glass of good vino in hand, watching the lights from the swanky boats blinking in the inky darkness and the stars coming out (the low light pollution guarantees zillions of them, including the odd shooting one) was a pretty good way to end a day. There are several vast hypermarkets situated on the Porto Vecchio ring-road and you can find fruit and veg and freshly baked croissants a few minutes drive away - both along the main road or at the mini-market at Santa Guillia beach. Quality is high - but so is the price. Corsica is many things but it is not cheap.
Glorious as the villa undoubtedly is, there's no point coming here just to flop and drop. You're only a short drive from two of Corsica's most famous beaches: Palombaggia and Santa Guillia, both of which would give the Caribbean a run for their money. They were absolutely heaving in high summer, but still good fun. Beaches at both are gently shelving, so good for little kids, and there are several bars/cafes to eat at. (Don't shell out on the ludicrously expensive sun loungers, just buy a sun umbrella from a supermarket, it costs about the same as a day's lounger hire!)
Porto Vecchio and the stunning medieval town of Bonifacio are also an easy drive - although parking in high summer can be a bit of a lottery/nightmare depending on what time you arrive. (Don't leave it until the end of the day when everyone is pouring back in from the beaches.) Porto Vecchio's much nearer - about ten minutes away and has loads of restaurants to choose from. (We had good crepes at The Black Pearl - possibly one of the cheapest options available). Bonifiacio takes about 30/40 minutes and is definitely worth the effort, if only to explore the incredible walled Haute Ville. There's also a fabulous harbour to sit out by that must make for one of the best people watching locations ever. (You will not believe the boats moored up: with names like "Don't Ask"; and "Off Shore";, it's like Roman Abromavich's entire entourage have descended.) We took a boat trip out for the day from here, which took us out past the back of the old town; seeing the houses clinging like limpets to the cliff edge, you can't help but wonder how on earth they get insurance! (Maybe they don't?) The trip took us out to the Iles Lavezzi - part of an archipelago of granite rock islands, fringed by lots of sandy beaches. Boats run to and from here like buses, so you can stay for the entire day or just an hour or so. Make sure you take a picnic, sun tan lotion and plenty of water - you're slap bang in the middle of a large marine reserve and there's no shop to be seen; but there's fantastic snorkeling - we even saw an octopus in waste-high water!
But our best jaunt out was actually the day we hit the island's interior, drving up the coast as far as Solenzara and then heading inland to the Col De Bavella. The mountain scenery here is jaw-droppingly beautiful; completely unspoiled and, after the buzz of the coast, wonderfully peaceful. We spent an entire afternoon swimming in mountain rock pools (bring your goggles) before heading home via one of the much quieter beaches near Favone. (Same icing sugar sands; clearer seas; far fewer people - so well worth the car journey in high summer if you want to avoid the crowds.)Read moreLess
5 people found this review helpful.