November 7, 2010
Tonight we are in Porto Vecchio. It was a shock to again find the hotel with not much of a problem. It’s a Great Western and quite modern, the room seems to be in Stockholm but the view is quite obviously Porto Vecchio.
The drive started out in sunshine and got progressively worse until we arrived in rain. As usual, there was little direction on how to find the hotel. We took the high road up to the old city and I parked in the parking lot for the Mairie – the City Hall. It’s Sunday so everything is closed up tighter than a drum. Melinda unfurled the map. There’s something about European maps I don’t quite understand. More than 90% of the cars are miniscule. The maps are mammoth. Think of opening a banquet cloth and refolding it, starched please, in the front seat of a Yaris…no, you can’t get out of the car, do it on your lap…no wrinkles mind you. That’s the idea.
Why do they make maps larger than the cars they’re going to be used in? Is it a French thing? No, I’ve had the same experience in Italy. If it was French I could understand. Then the mentality would be that anyone who needs the map deserves trouble. Melinda suggested with a sort of guilty look that we might cut out the part we wanted to use. There was something decidedly uncivilized about map cutting so we tabled the idea for the moment. The Brits wouldn’t deface a map, it’s just not done.
We were on the search for the famous Genoese towers that dot the island. As we hunted one down outside of Bastia, we never found the tower, but we did find a Club Canine from Bastia that was having training exercises. We could see this from the road and decided that if we lost with the tower, at least we could see some dogs and assuage our dog deprivation for a few minutes. We turned off the road and could see the dogs, cars parked in a neat row. Within minutes we were lost in fields filled with grape vines, fruit trees and dirt roads that all looked alike. Damn! How could that happen! But it did and we had no idea how to get back to the road. We don’t panic, we are Girl Scouts, and after a few U-turns we made it back to the road and found another entrance to the field with the dogs. I felt for a moment like that scary book where the characters are lost in the cornfields.
Dogs were all over the place, a Jack Russell, two Westies, a few lab and Golden puppies, a Pyrenees Mountain Dog, several Yorkies, a Bearded Collie and too many others to count. After a half-hour of dog watching and patting our need was filled and we were on our way again.
We finally saw two of the sixty Genoese Towers that dot the Island. Both were seemingly inaccessible, or at least we couldn’t figure out how to get to them.
On the way out of Bastia we visited one of the many village perché that hang off the mountains. It was a bit of a shock after winding around mountain and into the village perché there. The one outside Bastia was very toney, gussied up and ready for the yuppies of Bastia to perch in, or so it seemed. There were no little old ladies hobbling around with baguettes peeking out from under their arms. Gone was the peeling stucco and cracked cement. These were all neatly painted around the new windows, the facades in elegant stonework. There were still the men hanging around the fountain talking and smoking – no women in sight. Guess they were home cooking Sunday dinner.
Lunch was at a restaurant Melinda scoped out in one of our guide books. It said it was a meat lover’s paradise and since I hadn’t had a steak since we left she thought it was the place for me. We ended us with so much food there was no way we could eat it.
I started with the buffet of charcruterie – Corsican sausages, paté, langoustine, shrimp, poached salmon, and so on. My plate filled I staggered to the table, hardly able to carry it. Bad idea to go to a buffet hungry. Then my main course arrived, a large pot of veal stew and a larger bowl of homemade pasta to go with. Yummm. But so much food! Melinda had a plate of assorted meats that included a sausage, two big thick slabs of pork meat that looked like giant thick bacon, a hunk of pork, baked potato, and a substantial crock filled with beans. Mine came with dessert. We shared that. The house wine was okay but a bit rough. We stuffed ourselves and left half our food. The next meal out we are going to try sharing and see how that works.
One of the best parts of lunch was the table behind me. It was two ladies with a delightful Shi Tzu puppy that looked very much like Desi. He was about six months old and sweet as they come. We both played with him and ended up chatting with the two ladies. It seemed to be mother and daughter of a certain age. Mother spoke English well and wanted to practice. She has a friend who lives in Greenwich, CT and had a wonderful time visiting with her a few years ago. Since we were all dog lovers we had a good time together. They wished us “Bon Sejour” and we were on our way again. Within a few minutes it was raining.
Once we left Bastia, everything looks tame as opposed to the wilder Calvi side of the Island. It is a wide and long plain that divides the mountains from the sea and is the only place we have seen so far that’s pretty flat. The road’s wonderful, straight and perfectly maintained. Signs are gplentiful and easy to follow. That is, until you get into the old cities. Then the street signs suddenly disappear and you’re on your own.
That’s how we found ourselves wrestling with the bloody map in the Mairie parking lot. I looked up to see where we were. Across the parking lot and across a chasm that separated it from another part of the city I saw a row of buildings. They looked familiar. “Melinda, look over there. That’s our hotel, I think!” She looked up. Then she looked at the tiny thumbnail on our internet reservation.
“Yes, I think it is.” She peered at the hotel and reservation again. “How do we get there?”
“I’ve no clue. But we’ll try.” It took two turns around the city to find the hotel, again, we couldn’t get there from here. I’m becoming an expert in going up very steep hills with a shift car, no small accomplishment. Our little car is grateful since I’ve stopped burning rubber. But I make no promises, the next part of our trip entails a lot of mountain driving.
And we finally got there. It was our hotel, and there was even a place to park in front. I think we’re the only people in the place. There are no cars and the only person I’ve seen is the desk clerk. It’s nice and clean, Melinda found an English language channel on the new flat-screen television and we’re going to ride out the storm in the hotel room. We’ve plenty of booze, a cooler full of food and Internet service, we could stay a month!