Geoff and Dave’s Corsican Adventure


Corsica 2015

Dave Shanks and I joined an MSL Tour and had great fun, fantastic weather and a truly memorable experience.

We met almost in daylight for the ride down to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. After a breakfast stop at Clacket Lane services we arrived in good time to catch a train one hour earlier than scheduled. The sun came out in France and we saw several others from the tour at the motorway services before joining scenic D roads to Chateau Thierry for our first overnight stop.

There were 28 bikes and 12 pillions on tour. I had wondered how this large group would manage the riding. It was clear that several folk knew each other or came in small groups, so they naturally rode together. Dave and I rode down the D roads to our next destination Bourg en Bresse. The weather heated up and we had a great ride. Shame that they were top dressing large sections of the route though! After Bourg en Bresse we used the Peage for a short hop down to Grenoble to get a flying start on our third stage to Nice. This involved riding through the Alps via Sisteron and Digne-les-Bains. What fantastic roads! We appreciated the views whilst riding, but sadly there was insufficient time to keep stopping for photo opportunities. Nice didn’t live up to its name! The traffic was awful (well it was Friday evening rush hour when we arrived) and many of the roads were being excavated but eventually we arrived at our hotel for the night.

After a great meal out we were up early to leave at 05:30 for the ferry to Corsica. The journey from Nice to I’Ile Rousse was very efficient. We booked a day cabin to give us flexibility and an opportunity to catch up on shut eye. The traffic jam leaving the I’Ile Rousse terminal was horrendous. Temperatures were climbing in the hot sunshine and my oil cooled boxer was struggling in the stop start traffic until we could move out of the port. After a great lunch stop we were free to enjoy the amazing roads into the centre of Corsica and our hotel for the next two nights. The roads were very well surfaced and the N197 in particular had long sweeping bends with good visibility. After Corte the road became more challenging as it wound through the mountains to Venaco and then down the valley to the hotel.

We had some overnight rain but this stopped in good time to allow us to ride round Cap Corse, the finger at the top of Corsica. The roads up the east coast from Bastia were well surfaced and very twisty but with spectacular views down to the sea. After lunch in Macinaggio and a brief stop to admire the views at the Col de la Serra, we started down the west coast.

[Cap Corse]

Cap Corse

The quality of the roads here was very mixed. Substantial roadworks were being done, but as this was a Sunday, no traffic lights or workmen were blocking the route. The sun continued to shine. The sea views were magnificent, but we were getting dehydrated and therefore tired by the time we got back to Bastia. After a scamper down the flat east coast south of Bastia we turned inland for the ride back to the hotel. There were some crazy car drivers cutting their compatriots up along the N200 from Aleria towards Corte. The surface was fine and the canyon views spectacular before we turned onto the local road back to our hotel.

An excellent meal followed by good craic was the order of the day. After breakfast we rode to Calvi to our next hotel. Given that we had experienced a long hot day with the twisties the previous day, Dave and I decided to pootle gently back along the main road, stopping in l’ Ile Rousse on the way. A friendly official bike park amongst the palm trees was a most pleasant place to stop.

[Palm Bike Park]Palm Bike Parking

After a leisurely stroll exploring the sights, we stopped for coffee before remounting our motorcycles for the extremely arduous journey that lay before us. (I exaggerate slightly. The distance was only 30km and the road was fine.)

The hotel at Calvi was conveniently located overlooking the sea and within walking distance of the main harbour, the Citadel and local restaurants. The next day we left our bikes in the hotel car park and explored on foot. Dave found the same bistro that he had visited 6 years before and the lady proprietor had apparently matured very well. The food was excellent so we ate there outside on both evenings in shirt sleeves in balmy weather. The Citadel was well worth the climb with excellent views over the bay and the harbour. Apparently Nelson lost his eye during the successful campaign to take Calvi.

The ride from Calvi to Propriano to our last hotel was spectacular. This road is frequently featured in tour guides and winds through narrow clefts in the rock with surprise surprise stunning sea views! The area around Piana in particular is very challenging due to the number of pedestrians and coaches using the narrow road. This road was used in 2013 for the Tour de France, I believe.

[Mountain Road]Mountain Road

We opted out of the final coast route from Ajaccio in favour of the N196. This main road is very well surfaced, but due to the mountainous terrain is full of twisty sections and hairpins. At least we were able to ride in daylight this time as our reverse trip to catch the ferry was in total darkness!

The hotel at Propriano was situated on cliffs overlooking the Golfe de Valinco. The views were due west and we experienced some amazing sunsets.

[Sunset at Propriano]Red sky at night Propriano

“The shack” as it was popularly known was an Italian restaurant down beside the beach and provided us with our evening meals as the hotel only supplied bed and breakfast. Propriano had a delightful marina and was also a ferry port. We were staying 3 nights here so managed a couple of day trips out.

First to Bonifacio. The citadel at Bonifacio was huge. A veritable old town up high on the cliffs ripe for exploring. Narrow streets and winding passages filled with small restaurants and shops mixed with houses were a delight. The fortifications protected the harbour entrance. I’m sure there were many centuries during which pirates or other raiders tried their hand to gain a foothold. The cliffs were spectacular. The sedimentary rock was being eroded by sea wind and rain to give a very dramatic stippled overhang effect. I can’t describe it adequately. Hopefully the photo will do this justice.

[Bonifacio Cliffs]Bonifacio Cliffs

Porto Vecchio was delightful but without the citadel. The boats in the marina looked like they all belonged to millionaire playboys. We calmed down with an ‘ice a da cream a’ before tackling the road back over the mountains.

[Ica da creama!]Ice a da Cream a

This twisty road was again very well surfaced and the hillsides adorned with rocky outcrops. The shady descent through the trees on a small road was very pleasant. We stopped for fuel and water and were given free grapes by the old lady at the garage. Most welcome before we returned to the hotel, the dramatic sunset and even more excellent food at the shack.

Our last full day on Corsica was a chance to try out yet more twisties. We ventured along the coast road to Ajaccio for coffee and returned by more twisties before finding an excellent roadside café for lunch. It could almost have been in Spain. Manana was obviously the password here. This was most definitely not a fast food outlet. The food when we finally were allowed to order it eventually came and was absolutely delicious. Well worth the wait. Well we were on holiday after al! After that it was back to the hotel and rest up before the last night at the shack.

Coffee and rolls were available before our 5:00 am departure the next morning. It was pitch black and we had to ride to Ajaccio for the ferry. The N196 beckoned but it was hard to see round the bends. One of my headlight bulbs on the RT had blown which didn’t help. On main beam I had a reasonable view and I had to anticipate the severity of the hairpins by looking closely at the satnav. We made it safely to the ferry in good time. We opted to have a cabin once more to catch up on shut eye following the draconian departure timing.

[Sunrise at Ajaccio]Red sky in the morning Ajaccio

The ride from ferry port in Nice to Sisteron was accomplished fairly easily. We used peage to escape from Nice before joining the N202 for Digne-les-Bains and Sisteron. The following day we joined the Route Napoleon via Gap to Grenoble. We kept off toll roads this time and rode back up delightful D roads past Bourg en Bresse to Dijon, our final official tour stop. The last supper was a merry affair. Peter Avard our tour leader told the immortal balloon joke. All too soon it was time to pack again and hit the road. The group fragmented after Dijon. Dave and I headed for Albert near where his late Uncle was buried having died at the Somme in 1918.

The Hotel Royal Picardie looked after us splendidly. We even met Tony Robinson. The ride home was damp as it rained most of the final day. It was full wets on to Calais and then I risked using normal gear after the tunnel. As we emerged onto the English side, the heavens opened and we had rain of biblical proportions for a time. The M25 proved to be sticky in parts (what a surprise) but we got home safe and well but tired. Two days at home to catch up and then off to the Isle of Wight!!!

Would I recommend MSL Tours? – Yes definitely! The hotels were well chosen. Booking in was streamlined and efficient. Peter and Gloria are excellent hosts. They seem to attract a group of people who come back each year. Several had been to Corsica with MSL at least once before.


Author: geoffbmwox

3 thoughts on “Geoff and Dave’s Corsican Adventure

  1. Smashing write up ……..
    Glad you both had an enjoyable break .
    The pictures tell us all we need to know ….
    ps. (The sunrise/sunset are spectacular .)
    Plus , it would seem your taste buds were well exercised as well !
    ha ha .

Comments are closed.