Riding the dream in Corsica

The propostion was simple - a two week bike tour of Corsica and Sardegne - many miles a day, self-supported, with my less than normal but very much loved aunt and uncle. The pros of the idea were overwhelming - an idealistic escape by bicycle to what the natives call the most beautiful island in the world (I can understand why). The only doubt was that of my fitness, my aunt and uncle were in top shape after countless endurance events and I was coming off of my Parisian spring, but it was not a nagging doubt, knowing it would be worth any pain and suffering.

My departure from Nice to Bastia was telling of how atypical this excursion was for a college student tromping around Europe with a backpack. I had to wake up at 5:45 Saturday morning to catch my ferry, which meant quite the minimization of partying Friday night - not an easy feat in a reputable party hostel. My buddy Sam has a good maxim "you do you," and it was easy to abandon a night of partying for dreams soon to be realized of dreamlike riding alongst a pristine coast and through lush mountians.

For two glorious weeks I abandoned college habits and rode hard throughout the days, ate well at night, enjoyed my family's adult company and went to bed before 11, never sleeping in. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

For a small island, Corsica has a fantastic and varied landscape. The coastline has slight rolling hills, with sparse greenery and many wildflowers, but very close are serious mountains with nearly deserted roads. Tiny towns of 100 inhabitants speckle the mountains, and passes with descents as thrilling as their ascents demanding provided a glorious playground.

I wrote about the simplicity of life on islands previously, and truly felt that during the bike trip. Life was simple. United by the beautiful scenery and passion for the bike, we seized each day with the momentum of 300 spartans, and reveled in good food, good wine and company each night. The occasional extended search for a hotel, or even the combination of rain and cold wasn't enough to mitigate this. Instead, the natural life of the Corsicans augented our feeling. Life is relaxed there, and nearly simple in comparison to Paris when you get into the small mountain villages. Life is unchanged compared to a century, maybe even five ago.

The sights we were treated to were beyond splendid, both manmade and natural. From thick forests of green trees, to thick lines of beautiful boats in old ports; from delicate wildflowers to strong old cities and ancient towers, Corsica was full of awe. The short distance between the sea and the mountains meant so much could be taken in during the span even a day, even with the simple turn of a head.

The short trip to Sardegne offered even more wonderful architecture, a blanket of flowers and an abundance of pizza, pasta, gelato and good coffee - the only neccesary ingrediants to make post biking life different. We spent our first night there in a town called Castelrado. It couldn't be more picturesque, classic Italian houses on a hill on the coast with a castle at the top of the hill.

At the end of the trip, after a solo chug up the whole eastern coast of Corsica in a headwine, I couchsurfed in Bastia for two nights, packing up my bike and seeing the city. I got the opportunity to meet locals, eat where they eat and drink where they drink. Quality of life and happiness are high in Corsica is the takeaway, and smiles and kind words come easy. Its a dreamland I could easily return to, of course with my bike.

Bike packed and waiting to be flown home to California, I boarded the ferry full of life and happiness. I had spent the last two days in Bastia speaking only French, a strong culmination to my year. The ferry ride was long and bumpy, but full of reflection. The time in Corsica was revealing - I don't know in exactly what form, but bikes and French are parts of my life that I will guard for the long run.

Corsican Crescent Moon