November 6, 2010
Leaving Calvi wasn’t so easy. We realized we were going to miss our little apartment and the family. Everyone came out to say goodbye to us this AM and we got on the road about the time we had planned. That alone is a major accomplishment. The car was full to the gunnels. Jerome came over to help us – good thing he’s a tri-athlete and plenty strong. My suitcase seems to have gained more weight than I have and I really haven’t put much extra stuff in it – I mean, it closes doesn’t it? What’s with that?
There was almost no traffic on the road with us. The weather was splendid, and we hear it will be tomorrow also, but then – not so much. We have a lot of places we want to stop at on the way south and rain wasn’t in our plans. We’ll see.
Bastia is a real city. They have big stores, like my favorite discount shoe chain, and big hardware stores, miles of the kind of open malls we have in the states – both sides of the street filled with big new retail temptresses. We could be outside Philadelphia, St. Louis or Ventura and see the same stuff, more or less. The main difference is the language. These stores exist in the suburbs all over France. Mr. Bricolage, Carrefour, Casino, Spar, furniture chains, outlet clothing, you know the kind of thing.
Bastia has a big urban sprawl of suburbs. After you drive through them you hit the new city, modern apartment buildings and condos, office buildings, wide streets. Then there is the old city huddled around the Old Port. There’s a new port too, carved out just to the north of the old one. This is where the ferry boats come in to let off the cars and passengers. It’s nice and modern, slick and sleek looking at the same time.
The old port is charming and funky with restaurants ringing it. It’s pleasant to sit outside and look at the boats. It reminded me of the old port at Nice. I sat and had a panaché, my favorite drink of beer and lemonade mixed – refreshing and delicious. Melinda trekked up to look at another church. My attitude is a bit of “seen one seen ‘em all” so I go to some of them but not every one. Actually, I like old churches, my minor in college was Medieval art and architecture so I enjoy seeing them. But my feet and legs were tired. Enough! The panaché and the port were calling to me.
Earlier in the day we had, shockingly, found our hotel with no problem. Bastia is fairly easy to get around, it’s long and narrow and the long part faces the water on one side. Also, the signs are right on and frequent.
Afterwards, we roamed through the Old City in search of the new Bastia museum. Melinda had found out about it in the guide books, supposed to open in this past summer. We all know how that goes…but there it was, open…sort of.
The Museum is housed in the former Genoese Governor’s Palace. They did a remarkable job of modernizing it while still keeping the feeling of the ancient, albeit cleaned up and rather stark. There isn’t too much in the museum…I mean just a lot of very nice rooms with maybe four or five items in each room. Melinda said “It was very thoughtful; they didn’t want to overwhelm our senses or our brains.” That’s her diplomatic training. I just thought it looked…hmmm…barren.
We found an elevator and punched a couple of buttons and ended up on empty floors. When we went back to the entrance a women at the desk took us in hand to show us where to go. Down in the bottom of the Citadelle we visited jails and storage rooms for, we think, water and grain. They were big really empty rooms, but sort of interesting. Quite informative were short films made for the museum showing, in one, the local churches, oratories and other religious buildings. Another film showed the modernization of Bastia.
Shocking and a big surprise were the films of Bastia’s partial destruction during WWII. I didn’t realize that Corsica had been a target during the war. The glass blower’s wife told us that the Corsicans generally like Americans because of the big air force base in Corsica during WWII. Lots of Americans were stationed there. The Yanks made sure there was food in Corsica and got on very closely with the local population. The Corsicans had been left to their own devices by the French and the Americans were a welcome power on their side to keep the Germans at bay. I think this is very interesting and want to read more about it.
When the buildings and areas were rebuilt in Bastia, care was taken to keep the architecture in line with the original style and feeling. The result is the city is newer in places than you would think, but the style is always compatible with the original.
We were ready to leave the museum when another one of the ladies came and grabbed us as we were going out the door. “Oh, don’t go, you haven’t seen the gardens. Come with me.” We followed her to an elevator and then up to the fifth floor. We had already explored and knew that three of those floors were empty. On arrival at the top she herded us out to a large area overlooking the city and the ports. It was planted with grass and indigenous plants that had signs telling what they were. WOW! Now we’ll know what we’re looking at and we didn’t have to buy the darn book that cost almost $40 USD!…and I’d have to carry it home. The garden was interesting and looked like a great place to visit of a summer evening. The views of the city and ports was fabulous and we spent a while gawking and taking great photos. By hanging a bit out over the wall you can also look down on hidden corners of the Citadelle. How nice that she caught us in time, we could have missed the best part.
Tomorrow is another day. Corsica has plenty more secrets to give up. I have the feeling you could spend years here and still not see it all. Every day just whets the appetite to explore more. On the drive from Calvi we found two or three more villages perched on the side of mountains that we could have visited. Then there was the stream that bubbled along the side of the road…wonder where it went?