Corsica once had its very own king, albeit briefly.
Theodore Von Neuhoff was elected King Theodore I of Corsica in March 1736. Despite issuing edicts, minting coins, forming a knighthood, "the Order of Deliverance" and freeing all these imprisoned by the Genoese his reign ended in November in the very same year it began. With a history of financial misdeeds he once again failed to raise funds and fled to Amsterdam and was jailed for not paying his debts.
He tried again to reclaim his throne in 1743 but to no avail. He died in 1756 and his body interred at St Anne's church in Soho, London. A plaque in the church building is inscribed, Theodore King of Corsica.
Well, the Platinum Jubilee is upon us and it got me wondering whether or not during her 70 year reign Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had ever visited Corsica. A little research and I discovered that she and the Duke of Edinburgh did visit once way back in March 1956. They flew to Ajaccio, carried out a flower laying ceremony then took a launch from the port to join the Royal Yacht Britannia to start a brief Mediterranean holiday. Pathé News covered the visit and there is a super black and white newsreel here with excellent commentary and music - The Queen on Holiday 1956
Of course the relationship between Corsica and the United Kingdom goes back a long way. In 1795 the new Corsican constitution put Corsica in a 'personal union' with the United Kingdom which amongst other things meant that there was a common monarch, George III. Who knew - I certainly didn't.
So that's Corsica's link with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Next time, the King of Corsica.
For now, God Save the Queen, Dieu Sauve la Reine.
Post script - sadly, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away in September 2022.
It will be no surprise to hear that riding in Corsica last year was an unusual experience given the absence of tourists however, even without a pandemic the island remains an idyllic cycling destination and still largely undiscovered. The expected post Tour de France 2013 cycling boom hasn't really materialised in terms of making Corsica a mainstream destination like the Alps or Majorca. What is true though is that there are more cyclists around and there have been some developments on the island designed at making riding more accessible for all.
The E-bike is a big step forward as it enables more people to get out onto the undulating terrain. Bikes, both road and MTB, are available to rent from the outlets listed on my Information page.
Whislt pro bike racing has dried up BikingMan - the unassisted, ultracycling race series - has arrived. This is an annual 1,000km race which is into it's fourth year. With a time limit of 5 days and 18,000m of climbing it's not for the faint hearted. The 2020 edition was won in a time of just under 56 hours well inside the 120 hours time limit.
If ultracycle racing isn't your thing then there's the newly launched GT20 - La Grande Traversée. It's the cycling equivalent of the world famous hiking route the GR20. 600kms and 6,600m of ascent it departs Bastia, anti clockwise around the Cap and south to Porto. On, traversing the mountains to Corte via the Col Vergio on the breathtaking D84. South over Col Sorba to Ghisoni then up and over Col Verdi to Zicavo, Zonza and on to the finish in Bonifacio.
Finally one or two specific cycling routes are popping up with dedicated waymarkers. The Col de Battaglia in Balagne has some very smart new signs along a couple of different approaches showing gradient and altitude per kilometre if you get a chance to look up!
For those of you who regularly visit Calvi then you're in for a suprise when you next go to the beach in Calvi Bay. Gone are the fifteen beach restaurants and bars along with their cordoned off areas for sun bed rental. Literally gone, demolished, 'disparu'!
In France the 'Loi Littoral' stipulates that the majority of the coastline must be freely accessible to the public. For some years now Paillotes have been cleared along the French Riviera despite having been in situ, in some cases, for decades. This got underway a year ago on Corsica when the long established restaurant and bar on the beach in the Bay of Revellata was demolished after a 21 year stay.
It's controversial as businesses and livelihoods have been disrupted. The establishments will return but as temporary buildings which will be removed at the end of each summer season. In the meantime, the beautiful beach is back and very much unspoilt - see for yourself at CorseMatin who have a wonderful photograph of the empty plage.
Joseph Heller author of Catch 22, served in Corsica during WW II. His time there was one of the influences for the novel which arrives on our small screens this week thanks to George Clooney's adaptation.
It is therefore very touching to note the news of the return, last Saturday, of the remains of Lieutenant James Lord who lost his life at the age of just 20. A member of the 66th fighter squadron, Lt Lord was flying a mission targeting gun positions over Italy in his P-47 Thunderbolt in August 1944 when his plane went down into the sea off Corsica.
Lt James Lord was listed as missing in action for 74 years until his remains were recovered during a diving mission last year. His flagged-draped coffin was received with full military honours when he finally returned home to Cleveland Ohio at the weekend.
I always recommend layers and a water/wind proof outside of July and August on Corsica. After the spring so far I'm adding full finger gloves and quite possibly snow chains to that list! The picture here is from the webcam on the Col de Vizzavona on the morning of the 15 May at 0830. The Col is at 1,163m and is one of the highest road passes on the island sandwiched between two 2,300m peaks.
The cold snap led to many villages recording new record low temperatures for second time this May. I haven't seen the rainfall figures yet but after a very dry winter we've experienced a very wet spring.
Riding was still possible close to and at the coast but with very strong winds and rain I was more of a fair weather rider than usual. Chapeau to the group with Pyrenees Multisport who were riding the Audax Club Parisien - a week they'll not forget in a hurry!
As I write, the weather is getting back to normal with plenty of dry, sunny days and pleasant temperatures in the low to mid twenties (hills/coast).
In January we made the long journey to New Zealand's third largest island. Stewart Island or Rakiura is located some 30kms off the southern tip of the South Island over the Foveaux Straight in the roaring forties. Having got yourself all the way to New Zealand and then all the way down to the very bottom of the South Island it's just an exciting twenty minute hop on a Britten-Norman Islander from Invercargill airport or a 1 hour ferry ride from Bluff.
Why go to Stewart Island? It's a remote, unspoilt, pristine, untouched national park that is 'off the beaten track' to say the very least. With a population of circa 400 and a modest number of visitors it never at any point felt crowded. Stewart, and the other nearby islands, have remained largely pest/predator free and hence the bird life in particular is magnificent in this perfect corner of paradise.
You can rent an e-bike here but we preferred hiking on many of the trails in and around Oban. We did a successful Kiwi spotting trip (which takes place during darkness) and the Ulva Island tour. Both were led by Stewart Island Expereince who have excellent guides.
We stayed at the Stewart Island Lodge which we'd highly recommend. The South Sea Hotel in Oban is a super spot for a relaxed dinner and it has a cracking bar - a perfect place to mix with the locals. Kai Kart must be one of, if not, the most southerly fish and chip shop in the world - awesome fish and chips!
There's no argument - it's a long way to get there but, in these times of heightened environmental and climate concerns Stewart Island perfectly illustrates how well careful long term conservation can ensure us humans and the natural world can co-habit harmoniously.
It was Wicker's World and Alistair Cooke that ignited my interest to leave Liverpool, alone for the first time, to look for America in the early 80's. I spent three very happy, memorable summers at Camp Timber Ridge in Highview, West Virginia. After camp concluded I spent the end of each of those three summers exploring, on a very low budget, the America between the east and west coasts. What great discoveries and adventures were had!
I've lost count of the times I've been back since but it had always been to NYC and the odd ski trip. So it was with great expectations that we set off on a three week road and camping trip in October to explore California away from the coast. Our expectations were easily exceeded.
Escaping LA we headed into Joshua Tree to camp amongst the giant boulders then on through the Mojave Reserve to Death Valley to catch a sunrise at Zabriskie Point and a sunset at Dante's Peak. From Death Valley we headed to the Sequoia National Forest and Park via lakes Owens and Isabella - the 3,000 year old sequoias truly are a sight to behold. Then a hair raising drive into and out of King's Canyon with some remote and beautiful hiking before heading on to Yosemite to gaze at Half Dome and El Cap. Taking the stunning Tioga Road brought the unexpected treats of Lee Vining, Mono Lake and Lundy Canyon before time was called and we headed back to the west coast.
The America we visited bore no resemblance to Trump's America we see on TV. Every last person we met was friendly and interested in what we were up to and, not a single one of them mentioned Brexit! Such a good trip and already planning a return in 2019.
The good news is that from May this year Air Corsica will commence for the first time direct services from London Stansted to Bastia, Ajaccio and Figari. With nine flights a week these are the only direct flights to the island from the UK to include weekday departures.
The first flights get going on the 3 May and the prices look pretty reasonable - I've just randomly selected London Ajaccio return for a week departing on Thursday the 7 June and that comes in at £104.32. This includes a 23kg checked bag, a 12kg cabin bag, a free drink, snack and newspaper. Very good value!
The cost of bike carriage is an expensive extra and adds around £135 (Easyjet charge £84 for example) to your air fare bringing the total to £240 return. However, the basic airfare is such good value that the total cost is competitive compared to say a week in Majorca with your bike at the same time of year.
Alternatively, you can rent a bike by the day from Bastia, Ajaccio, Calvi and Ile Rousse. Click here for rental shops.
This website is completely commerce free and I wouldn't normally write about a piece of equipment however my new bike merits a few lines.
Back in 2006 I got myself a Cannondale Synapse Triple 105 specifically to ride here in Corsica. I've long lost track of how many kms I've covered on this bike, mainly here but also in the Alps and the Pyrenees - it has been an incredible ride. Eleven years later the bike remains in great condition but my eye was turned by a mouth watering offer from Sigma Sport back in the UK. A 2017 Cannonale Synapse Ultegra with Shimano Di2 electronic gear change, disc brakes and a very welcome 26% discount. What a package!
Cannondale market the Synapse as an 'endurance machine' and I'd say that's a pretty accurate description. My other road bikes are both Specialised and whilst they are great bikes, if I'm going to spend a half day or more in the saddle riding up and down hills then the Synapse works for me every time.
The disk brakes are a revelation and although they don't appear in the professional peloton they are just brilliant here in Corsica on long decents - hand aches have become a thing of the past. The electronic gear change is very precise. I messed up and needed to make some rear derailleur adjustments post a flat battery - it's a clean and easy job using the gear change lever to make minute adjustments in adjust mode. It's the first time I've ridden on Mavic tyres which come in a standard 25c width which is perfect for here. I'd normally use a with a Vittorio tyre and Slime tube but, so far so good.
What, you may be thinking, has become of my beloved Synapse 105 - well I'm buying lightweight touring wheels and converting it to a touring bike for my 2-3 day escapades here on Corsica.
By no means do I consider myself a wine connoisseur but I do have plenty of consumption experience and know what I like. One of the great joys for visitors to Corsica who enjoy a glass or two is the discovery of a huge range of indigenous wines. In all likelihood you'll have never encountered any previously as production is limited and mostly consumed sur l'ile.
A few facts and figures: there are more than 30 indigenous grape varieties; the main grapes are sciaccarellu, niellucciu and vermentinu; there are 9 appellations; 264 producers (including a lone english vintner) and 370,000 hl of annual production. Wine production on Corsica has been traced back to the sixth century BC!
There's plenty of variety to choose from once you're here and we are still discovering new wines to try each year.
Vins de Corse produce a really useful free guide (in French and English) which you can pick up at any tourist office or go to their website. Look out in Balagne for the Route des Vins which is a fantastic ride or drive.
I was deeply saddened to hear on my return to Corsica yesterday of the death this week of Kiwi rider Darryl Queen who fell on the D81b between Calvi and Galeria. Our heart felt condolences to his family and friends.
We had the very great pleasure of returning to NZ a few weeks ago - I'd forgotten what a wonderful place it is having not been there for some fifteen years. Now I could wax lyrical about the stunning scenery, uncrowded roads, deserted beaches, delicious wines etc but you can get that from any old travel blog or guide book.
I could tell you what an incredible cycle touring destination this is for the fittest of riders with plenty of time to invest but that's best discovered by you.
No, what struck me most are the very different contrasts with life in the northern hemisphere: there's lots of space and the air is fresher; striking up a friendly conversation with complete strangers becomes a natural thing to do; there's no road rage; motorised vehicles and bicycles comfortably cohabit the highways; there's no litter; there aren't any cigarette butts on the beaches; there are very few smokers; it's very rare to see a driver using a mobile phone and, exercising outdoors is epidemic!
Why is it so different? It could be that I'm just getting older and less tolerant however I decided to conduct a survey with a sample of one - one of our boys who lives and works in Auckland. What's the big difference between here and your home in the UK I asked. After some thought an unexpected but insightful response - 'people here in NZ have a much stronger sense of community and demonstrable civic pride'. Wow that from one of our boys! No wonder applications for working visas are at an all time high!
Just one mention for the scenery - the photo is East Island taken from East Cape lighthouse, the most easterly point in NZ and well off the main tourist trails. The whole East Cape is rugged and remote and many Kiwis we met had yet to explore here - head east from here and the next stop is the Chilean coast some 5,600 miles away!
'Earlier this month I was at long last able to put a line through one of my bucket list to do's and ski in Corsica. It is not widely known that you can ski here but when you consider the topography - twenty one peaks above 2,000m, the highest at 2,706m - then you'll appreciate why there can be plenty of snow in winter.
There are three ski stations: Ghisoni, Val d'Ese and the newly reopened Haut Asco with a combined total of seven lifts and just over 10km (yes, ten) of prepared pistes - it's very much a niche piste skiing destination!
We skied at Asco where the long ago established ski station has reopened with a brand new button lift and two prepared runs. You can rent all you need and get a day ski pass for around 35 euros. There is a very nice restaurant and hotel at the base which is open year round - I highly recommend the Corsican soup.
The untapped attraction of snow en Corse is ski touring and off piste adventures - there are great rafts of untouched terrain and once you're there some of it easily accessible such as Restonica out of Corte. A guide of course, as well as the right equipment is essential given the remoteness.
The weekend was topped off with some great hiking in and around the coast Revellata and of course the obligatory bike ride - now you can't do that in Val d'Isere in February!
By no means is Corsica famous for its chemin de fer but it should be! Opened in 1888 U Trinighellu - 'little railway' as it is known locally - connects Bastia, Ajaccio, Ile Rousse and Calvi and runs for some 232kms. It really ought to feature in one of those TV programmes about great engineering endeavour with its thirty plus tunnels and no end of bridges and viaducts. These enable the line to climb up from the coast to the high point of 900m at Vizzavona.
The photograph shows Corsica's longest viaduct measuring 171m. It's a 'monument historique' called Le Pont Eiffel after the great Gustave Eiffel who constructed it in the early 1890s just a few years after finishing the tower in Paris. The line also runs along the coast between Calvi and Ile Rousse, in many places right next to the sea, and is a good way to explore one or two of the less accessible beaches such as Bodri, Davia and Sant Ambroggio.
Now it's important to note that bikes are not allowed on the trains. It's just a practicallity as there just isn't the space on these two carriage rail cars. Having said that I would highly recommend the section from Ponte Leccia or Corte to Vizzavona where the station is nestled in the forest. This is a beautiful spot with one or two places to eat and drink or stay, such as the hotel Monte d'Oro From here there are great walks in and around the forest and the GR20 passes by so there's also the option to get to some of the higher ground such as Monte d'Oro (2,389m).
If you're a group or family of riders and non riders why not park up at Corte station and meet at Vizzavona for lunch. It's a 35km ride from Corte to Vizzavona and an hour on the train.
You can find all you need to know at Le Train Corse website.
The Rallye de France, WRC Tour de Corse returns for a second consecutive year later this month after a seven year break. The drivers (and spectators!) will be hoping for better weather this year after unseasonal storms last October disrupted the event which was won by Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala - only the second ever Finn to won en Corse, the last being Markku Alén in 1983 & 84.
If that were not enough for rally fans there are three other rally events on the island all around the same time. I can't provide all the detail here so here's a list of what's on and where to see from with links for what will be a rally tour de force en Corse:
- Tour de Corse: 29 Sep to 2 October; the WRC 1-3 & JWRC, tenth round in the calendar
- Tour de Corse Ladies: 28 Sep to 2 October; a first with women only crews
- Tour de Corse 10000 Virages: 28 Sep to 2 October; Gt and supercars take on the 10,000 bends
- Tour de Corse Historique: 3 to 8 October; a rare opportunity to see and hear some absolute classic rally cars at maximum attack including Alén's Lancia 037 featured in the race publicity
Those 10,000 bends are going to see plenty of action, take a look at last years highlights here.
All but the very latest printed Corsica maps ever produced are now out of date!
The ubiquitous Michelin map and the blue IGN maps are all out of date - I suspect it will take sometime for them to catch up! Those clever online people at RouteYou, Mapmyride and Google maps are of course up to date.
Over the past few months the Collectivité Territoriale de Corse has quietly been removing all of the red Routes Nationales signage and replacing them with shiney new Routes Territoriales signage as shown in the picture. Gone is the N196 Ajaccio - Bonifacio and in is the T40, the N200 is now the T50 - all in all there are five principal T routes and a further fourteen subsidiary T routes.
I'm in the process of amending my website text to reflect the new physical T signage whilst retaining the historic N signage, which is most likely what you'll still be searching for based on the maps you have to hand! Fortunately my route maps are current care of RouteYou.
I had the great pleasure of meeting the group from the Bicycle Adventure Club of America recently part way through their 16 day tour of Corsica. The tour organisers, Lucy and Randy, made contact back in late 2014 and we met up last year on Corsica as they planned and recce'd their route and what a fantastic route they are riding - Cap Corse, Balagne, Calvi coast to Porto & Piana, the D84, Corte & Restonica, Col de Sorba and Ghisoni, Bavella, Zonza, Sartene and Bonifacio. That's a route of some 800kms with 11,800m of ascent and only a single day with less than 500m of ascent.
It was great to meet up with the group for dinner in Calvi, give brief talk about riding on Corsica and ride out the next day on the Calvi - Calenzana circuit .
So why the inspiration hashtag? Well these guys are hardcore bike riders - it struck me that cycling is a way of life for them - and they invest a huge amount of time organising and riding tours the world over. Take a look at their 'Our Rides' page - I think you'll agree that the title is just a little understated given the exciting rides on offer! But, the really inspirational thing is that the vast majority are retired and the elders of the group are septuagenarians - truly inspirational and not an ebike to be seen!
Chapeau Lucy and Randy and the BAC group.
Colombia is just an amazing place to visit! Friendly and welcoming people, stunning scenery, great coffee and the most incredible twenty two wheeled trucks weaving their way around the high mountain roads and passes (no rail transport here).
Colombians have a great love of cycling which is on a different scale altogether given the mountains and high altitude. It's an exceptionally popular sport and has produced so many good riders over the years such as Luis Herrera and more recently Nairo Quintana who won the Giro d'italia in 2014 and placed second in last year's Tour de France. There is a very good Guardian article if you'd like to know more about riding Colombia at, Cycling in the hills of Colombia.
One of the highlight's of our visit was Bogota's Ciclovia (cycleway). Every Sunday from 7 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon some 120kms of main roads through the centre of town are closed to traffic and opened up to cyclists with some skateboards, scooters, rollerbladers and dog walkers thrown into the mix. It is tremendous fun, a fantastic way to see the city and mix with a huge cross-section of Colombians and an even greater cross-section of bicycles - mine was a 'beach cruiser'. A bit of a cycling street festival with a liberal spread of juice and food vendors and plenty of pop-up bike stores along the way.
We rented bikes from Bogota Bike Tours in La Candelaria. They also offer guided tours but we opted to do our own thing and you really can't get lost on the Ciclovia - you just follow the other riders.
We've never seen so many people on so many bikes having so much fun. Viva Ciclovia, viva Colombia!
I have to admit that sometimes I do other things than ride my bike in Corsica! I do some work, I ski as much as possible in the winter and every couple of years or so we try to travel further afield.
Towards the end of 2015 our travels took us to Myanmar or Burma. To be honest it really wasn't on the list but a wedding in Bagan led to a trip that we're so glad we made that also took in Rangoon/Yangon and Mandalay.
This is an amazing place in the broadest sense: culture, people, history, temples and of course the ubiquitous Buddhas. The food and local beers also are well worthy of a mention. It's also relatively tourist free and consequently untarnished by the tourist dollar. The other surprise for me is how easy it is to get to - just over a one hour direct flight from Bangkok.
It is without doubt becoming ever more popular and rightly so - has featured in many of the Destinations for 2016 supplements I've been reading over the holiday period. I couldn't recommend it too strongly - in some respects it reminds me of Corsica in the sense that it is relatively untouched by the developers - how Viet Nam and Thailand were in the early days.
You can see many more photos on my Twitter and Instagram accounts but better than that, why not go take your own!
Happy new year everyone.
Most people contact me before they set off on a trip to Corsica but recently I received an email from Tevz Cernigoj who hails from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. He'd completed his trip and tour de Corse. Tevz sent me a link to his excellent blog which includes some great tales, really useful tips (especially for those wishing to camp) and superb photographs. You can read it here, http://ljubljanabybike.blogspot.si/2015/12/touring-cycling-corsica-intro.html
Merry Christmas everyone and very best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.
Just a note to say thanks for your help with my recent Corsica trip. I had an absolute blast out there a lot of it due to your downloadable routes and some research on Google Street view prior to riding - wow, what a place. I’ve ridden Sicily, Majorca and Sardinia but none come close to the cleanliness of the roads and hills and breath-taking scenery of Corsica - a captivating place. I especially loved the fact there was hardly any litter on the roadsides and the car drivers were cycle friendly – I didn’t get an impatient toot all week.
Some tips that might be worth adding to the routes and your awesome website in general: (Ed's notes)
We're having a Medicane! I have discovered that the word is derived from Medi-terranean Hurri-cane.
Earlier in the week I was riding in the mornings and we were at the beach in the afternoon, swimming in the sea enjoying typical Corsican early autumn conditions. Now as I write the rain is hammering against the windows and there are the biggest waves I've ever seen rolling in smashing and crashing everything in their path - the harbour wall in the picture is over 2.5m high! Yesterday afternoon we watched a small yacht break from its mooring and wash up on the beach like a child's toy. Friends from the UK having been in touch to tell us our weather is on their news. This morning an 'orange' weather alert remains in place and all the local schools are closed. The Tour de Corse World Rally Championship is due to commence in fifteen minutes - I think wet weather tyres will be the order of the day - and I'm having second thoughts about spectating stage two at Ponte Leccia this afternoon. For sure I'll not be riding my bike!
Typical Corsican conditions are forecast to return mid morning tomorrow, let's hope so.
Post script: the worst weather day we've ever seen here. After writing the blog we watched a boat capsize in the harbour, another break loose and a couple of people washed into the water - all safe I'm glad to report. There was a break around noon so we set off for Tour de Corse SS2. First off the roads are full of debris washed in by the severe rain - will take a while to clear. We had to wade into Ponte Leccia where sadly many of the businesses and homes close to the river had been badly flooded. On to try and get to Morosaglia we hit a road closure and that was that. We ate our packed lunch next to a soggy rally refuelling team who had no cars to refuel after SS2 was cancelled. We will try again tomorrow hopefully in more normal weather conditions. It was so good to see the sun again late pm....
A few days from now will see the start of the Corsican edition of the World Rally Championship. After a break of seven years it returns to rekindle it's thirty-five year history of top flight rally car racing on the island. Past winners have included Didier Auriol, Carlos Sainz (snr), Sébastien Loeb and of course the late great Colin McRae who won in 1997 and 1998.
Known as the 'ten thousand bend' rally, due to the tight and twisty terrain, the drivers will cover 333kms of special stages and 984kms in total over four days, 1-4 October. Motor rallying is especially popular with the Corsicans and we will no doubt see large crowds along the route. Lots more detail can be found at the Tour De Corse website.
Hot on the heels of the WRC event is the Tour De Corse Historique running 5-10 October. This rally features some classic cars from motor rallying history including the iconic Lancia Stratos (pass the ear defenders), the Delta Integrale, EscortsRS's, 131 Abarths, Renault 5 Turbos to name a few - there's even a Ford Anglia on the list. For more information about the stages and stops click here TdCH
So a busy couple of weeks for motor rallying here on Corsica which will mean many of the roads will likewise be busier. If you plan to bike ride just check out the links above before setting out.
I get regular enquiries about transport, bike hire, places to stop, routes to take etc from riders all around the world. In April of this year Richard Evans from Yorkshire got in touch about a trip he was planning on his Bob Jackson audax bike. I was happy to offer a few suggestions and recently Richard sent me a link describing his tour here on Corsica. Great to read what a fantastic time he had and that this was his best trip ever! Read for yourself at, http://richardevans147.wix.com/mycycletours
© M.Lund 2013-23