It's surprising how much French you can learn watching a footy match with a French commentary. Our arrival in Corsica for our summer holiday coincided with the World Cup final, in front of which we collapsed with a bottle of local plonk. Additions to my vocab included 'contre attaque' (counter attack), 'un frappe' (a shot on goal) and 'hors jeu' (offside). Unfortunately none of these proved particularly useful during the rest of the week.
Corsica is a gorgeous island, with masses of lovely sandy beaches, clear seas and stunning mountains, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed. It was surprisingly green, with trees and flowers everywhere. Meadows are covered with what is known as the Maquis, a pungent mixture of wild herbs including rosemary and oregano. Corsica also the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte, but apart from a few plastic statues at the airport and a Rue Bonaparte in a town we visited, this didn't seem to be particularly celebrated.
Highlights of the hol included a boat trip to a blue grotto, a welcome refuge from the heat of the day, and a walk in the Col de Bavela, a mountain pass with awe inspiring views, including the Bavela Needles, granite formations which do indeed look like needles. I was also dragged around the Corsican version of Stonehenge, at place called Filitosa where prehistoric menhirs have been excavated and are now on display. They are alleged to have faces but they looked more like giant phalluses to me. But the place did have an eerie vibe, enhanced by the orchestral music piped out around the site.
We were there for Bastille day, and joined the locals of Porte Vecchio in celebrating, by wandering around the pavement cafes and bars, listening to bad live music and not watching fireworks (scroll right to the bottom of this page to see a photo) . We joined hundreds of others waiting down by the harbour for the firework display, which despite much tooting of boat horns, did not materialise. We learned later that there'd been a fire nearby which had demanded the services of the local fire engines, which presumably resulted in the fireworks being called off.
And what was my holiday reading? Well, I entertained myself on the beach with Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry, which has been out a while in hardback but has only recently been issued in paperback. It was an ok holiday read, despite being 400 and odd pages I whizzed through it due to the very large print. It's undemanding enough, if depressing, featuring as its main location Highgate cemetery, and various ghosts, including one of a kitten which I found very upsetting. I don't think it's a patch on The Time Traveler's Wife, either in terms of the plot or the depth of the characterisation. Must be hard to follow up such a world wide best selling smash though, let's hope I get to find that out for myself one day...