Commentary, Criticism, Snark

Corsica On Five Coffees a Day

At first, when I selected myself to write a review of my recent travels in Corsica, I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge.

“That’s crazy,” I told myself.  “I have no experience as a travel writer.”

“Just write the same stupid crap you always do,” the other me assured.

“You’re an idiot,” I told the first me.  “I don’t write crap.  I write penetrating social comment.”

“No, you’re the idiot,” the first me shot back.  “It’s a travel guide!  Just copy stuff from all the other travel guides!”

I had to admit, I had a point there.  I had perfected the art of copying back in high school.  At last, I consented.  This is my report:

corsica1

Corsica is a land of contrasts.  (That is how pretty much any travel book or article about Corsica begins.  Because travel writers basically describe everywhere as a “land of contrasts”.  Send a travel writer to Mudwallow, Kansas, population 30, and he will send back a piece that begins, “Mudwallow is a land of contrasts.”  (This will be followed by a section called: “Highlights:  What to see in Mudwallow if you only have two weeks”))

But I digress.  As I was saying:

Corsica is a land of contrasts.   Just consider:  During the day in Corsica, it is light out everywhere.  And yet at night it is dark.  Corsica has a rich variety of smelly cheeses.  And yet it also has even smellier cheeses.  It has very bad traffic.  And yet occasionally, the car ahead of you moves.   How are so many contrasts even possible, you wonder, on an island only 3 billionths the size of the planet Neptune?  Well, that is just part of Corsica’s magical allure.  (Travel writers are also highly attuned to “magical allure”.  In fact, many of us have a special sensory organ devoted entirely to perceiving it.)

History:

Corsica has a rich history full of giving birth to Napoleon, which you will be reminded of frequently.  The Corsicans take great pride in this heritage, and celebrate it by serving coffee in tiny cups befitting the diminutive emperor.  As you savor the magical allure of spending 3.5 Euros on a thimble of coffee, think back to the day when a single such thimble provided enough caffeine for Bonaparte to vanquish all of Austro-Hungary.  Then marvel at the great sweep of history that was born on this remote, hardscrabble isle (marvel for two minutes, then rest, then marvel again for two more minutes.  For best results, perform two sets of five marvels each.)

But of course there is more to Corsican history than just birthing Napoleon.  Its past also features getting conquered – by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Greeks, you name it.  It was conquered by the Genoese in 1284, and then in 1769 by the French, who cruelly ordered all the inhabitants to immediately switch from Mozzarella to Camembert.

What To Do:

  • Marvelling is a critically important activity in Corsica.  If you are caught not marvelling, don’t be surprised if a local stops you and asks, “Qu’est-ce qui se passe?  Vous ne marvelez pas?”
  • Surely the highlight of any trip to Corsica is reading about the spectacular perched village of Zonza in the guidebook. You cannot actually get to Zonza, due to the traffic, but the description and photographs are truly awe-inspiring.  Find a nice café in which to read about Zonza.  (You’ll want to allot at least an hour for both reading and marvelling, with a little extra time for savoring.)
  • Another great activity for those of you who, like me, know a word to two of the native tongue, is the opportunity to actually yell in French. This happened after Air France damaged one of our luggage pieces.   Mrs. Rotting Post speaks French like a native, by which I mean snootily.   But it was my shouting in my purest American accent, “Mais Non!  Sacre Bleu!  C’est Pas Juste!” and so on, that got us a free escort out of the terminal.
  •  One of the finest Corsican activities is The New York Times Crossword, which is available on your tablet or laptop should other members of your party engage in shopping in the many smart boutiques and tempting bazaars.  The Saturday puzzle has an especially magical allure.
  • Don’t miss the daily reenactment of the birthing of Napoleon (Weekdays – 10AM, Ajaccio Central Plaza).

The Arts:

In music, Corsica is one of the leading centers of playing, “La Vie En Rose,” on accordion.  In the visual arts, you will find many fine works of the “bric-a-brac” school.   But the best way to experience the arts of Corsica is to ask your spouse, “How was the museum?” when she returns to your café table.   Then nod like you are paying attention as you sip your mango mojito, think about the contrast between your contented daydream and the actual conversation, and marvel at this land of contrasts.

 Key Facts at a Glance:  corsica2

Currency:       The Espresso  (6.2 Espressos = 1 Café Americain)

Language:       Spoken French, with Italian hand gestures

Government:  Probably

Traffic Laws:    No

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24 replies »

  1. Having recently married a Corsican person, and have spent a few months there, I must say that you are a very good observer about almost everything there – and it is evident that you were there in the height of the tourist season. I have told my family and friends, and will tell my anticipated future clients (tourism) to come at other times of the year. I have yet to experience winter there, but I was told last summer that the island becomes almost a ghost town then. I will report someplace travel-writery – and avoid writing about the land of contrasts (empty winter/crowded summer). Thanks for making me laugh so hard.

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    • thanks much, glad it got you a few laughs. to be fair, i might have also said it has truly many gorgeous beaches, and we had a really nice time. we actually chose it because we had to travel in august and we were afraid the crowds elsewhere around the mediterranean would have been even worse. i would say it’s still well-worth doing in august, but better if august can be avoided. thanks for the comment. 🙂

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  2. When I first arrived at the Corsican Coffee Post, tired after scrolling through other more popular and on-the-beaten-path emails, I was immediately taken in by the magical allure of the post! Its little sentences, meandering through crowded paragraphs full of colourful adjectives and lively adverbs! Its English words, the etymology of some hinting of a sunny Latin root, others with their Celtic frankness, still others fragrant with borrowings from exotic lands. But then I was struck full force – this was an article of contrasts! The black font against the light background screen; letters, some of which were capitals (especally – but not exclusively – at the beginning of sentences; others lower case, yet proud to carry meaning upon their tiny swarthy bodies. But above all was the napoleonic coffee, so dark, in stunning contrast to the white cup – tasse blanc, as the locals so jauntily say, coffee that is referred to in paragraph after Corsican paragraph. No wonder, I thought as i bid adieu to this fine little post, no wonder it is titled “Corsica On Five Coffees a Day”!

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    • hahaha. hilarious comment. so glad you noticed the black font. I tried white font against white background but…I felt it needed more contrast somehow! Mrs. Rotting Post also much enjoyed your comment, although she pointed out that it should be, ‘tasse blanche’ not ‘tasse blanc’. see what i have to live with? i told you she spoke french snootily.

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  3. The bastards made them switch to CAMEMBERT?!? Oh the humanity. Sacre Bleu! But it warms the cockles of my heart to see your American spirit reflected in the umbrella cocktail you were imbibing while Mrs. Rotting Post helped the Corsican economy. Well done, sir, another snicker-inducing post!

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