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Azura 2015 – Ajaccio


Tour de la Parata and Isles Sanguinairres

Today we were in Ajaccio on Corsica and therefore in France. Passengers were being tendered ashore, which was a bit of a surprise – the last time we were here, two years ago on Ventura, we berthed. However having got ashore from the tender we discovered the reason – the single cruise berth was occupied by Celebrity Silhouette, one of the Solstice class ships. Talking of the tendering, it went much quicker this time – we walked into the Meridian restaurant to get our tender tickets at about 8:35 and were called to a tender within about five minutes. It took the usual ten minutes or so to fill up the tender, and then we were off for the ten minutes or so trip to the quayside. We were stepping ashore at about 09:10, so the whole process took about forty-five minutes.

I had a plan for the day, to visit the Tour de la Parata, which seemed to be a local attraction and beauty spot with historical significance. I’d also researched ways to get there, and I’d discovered that the #5 town bus went from the centre of Ajaccio to Parata. We found the bus stop and discovered that the buses weren’t quite as frequent as we’d hoped – we’d have to wait about 40 minutes for the next bus, for example – but we decided to go ahead anyway. After sitting on the seafront for a while we got the bus at the due time and set off. The fare was just €1 each, and the journey took about 20 minutes.

When we arrived at 10:10 the first thing we did was check the times of buses back to town, and we found two potentially suitable ones: 11:30 and 12:40. I was expecting us to be on the later one, but to be truthful we found that there wasn’t much at Parata. There was a road/path out to the headland with a hill on it on which the tower is perched, and the paths go round the headland and afford views to the Isles Sanguinnaires which are a short distance offshore. So we set off walking. However it was very hot and dry and in the end we just walked as far as the headland and climbed up a side path for a short stretch, to get pictures of some views of the tower and the rocky coast. Then we headed back for the earlier bus. While we were there we saw people on P&O excursions, and also several open-top HOHO buses came into the car park at the end of the road. So it’s definitely regarded as an attraction, but I can’t help think it’s a bit oversold – I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d booked an excursion with this as one of the highlights. That said, I’m prepared to admit that it might be very different at sunset – the road to the tower runs due westwards, so I imagine the sun sets behind or almost behind either the headland and/or the islands and that must be attractive. But in the late morning on a hot day with no shade, it wasn’t quite as rewarding. Nevertheless, we were pleased that we’d done something on our own.

We went back into town on the early bus and at about noon we climbed down the steps to one of the town’s beaches where we paddled. I expect we looked very English and quite silly (rolled-up trousers, for example), but the sea did feel good on our hot feet after the walk near the tower. Then it was time for lunch and liquid refreshment which we found in a small pavement cafe just behind the seafront. Val had a salad, I had a panini, and we washed these down with a) a 1 litre bottle of sparkling mineral water, b) a glass of wine each, and c) coffee. Then it was back to the port for the tenders. The last tender was scheduled for 3pm, and there had been exhortations in the morning to “not leave your return to the last minute”. People had obviously taken this message to heart, because at about 1:40 there was a long zig-zag queue on the quayside for tenders. It was being very well managed by P&O officers and crew members, however; the queue was being controlled, water was being brought round the queue and one of the more senior officers was doing card tricks! There were three or four tenders in action, and it wasn’t too long before we were boarding one for the trip back. We were back on board by about 2:30pm.

So that was our short day in Corsica. After two visits I’m beginning to think there’s not a whole lot here. Some history, of course, especially that connected to Napoleon, but once he left the island he hardly ever came back. Other than that, and from Ajaccio, it seems to be beaches and restaurants, or drives up into the mountain. There doesn’t seem to be depth of settlement or of history that there is in Italy. But perhaps I’m being unfair.

Tonight we are eating in Sindhu again, and tomorrow we are at sea during the passage to Cadiz.

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