June 5, 2014
We arrived at the Ajaccio airport dead tired on a gorgeous day just in time for lunch at one of the several eateries that line the port off the old town city center. A perfect temperature, a light sea breeze and a glass of rosé to start our Corsican adventure – a 15 day hike across the spine of Corsica on the trail known as the GR20, considered by some to be the toughest trek in Europe.
Ajaccio feels like the Mediterranean South of France – sea air, pastel buildings, palm trees, cafés and a morning outdoor market.
Rugged snowcapped mountains behind the small port complete the scene.
We had lunch at Le Forum while we waited for our room to be cleaned. The Mare e Sole salad marrying fresh shrimp and smoked salmon with fresh citrus beautifully complemented the glass of rosé. Don’s pizza Nepolitana was perfection sans fromage – just how he likes it – a garlicky tomato sauce covered with large thin slices of ripe tomato, just enough anchovy and drizzled with parsley pesto and olive oil.
Still needing to kill a little more time before we could check in we took a spin through the Museé des Beaux-Arts in the Palais Fesch, claiming to have the largest collection of Italian paintings in France after the Louvre.
Most are B works at best, but some are oddly entertaining – unusual themes, misshapen body parts and funky proportions.
Dinner at Le Cabanon, recommended to us by the hotel clerk, is a tiny restaurant at the end of Rue Bonaparte. As the sign is difficult to find look for Bar Pietra. It’s essentially the same place. According to the hotel clerk, the owner fishes in the morning and the daily catch appears on the evening menu.
A cool but lovely evening for dining al fresco, we sat at one of the tables that line the sidewalk in front of the bar. The menu is very limited with only three entrees and three mains.
We started with the palamide (tuna) tartar and the octopus salad – both fresh, nicely seasoned and served on a bed of arugula.
For mains we tried the bouillabaisse revisited – 3 small filets of Mediterranean fish perfectly cooked and served with root vegetables, fennel, grilled bread and of course aioli. The veal chop was also perfectly cooked medium rare and served with garlicky smashed potatoes.
Dessert – a molten chocolate cake served with a luscious mound of whipped cream.
On this particular evening the server told us that she was the wine list. “Just tell me what kind of wine you like and l’ll bring you a bottle”, Corsican of course. We weren’t disappointed with her choice. When we returned to this charming establishment on our last night on the island they did have a short list of wines hand written on a slate board.
The spacious high-ceilinged room was simply and elegantly decorated – dark tile floor, white linens, heavy drapes and a large bathroom. Our room over-looking the street was quiet on our first stay. However, on our second stay, there was live music playing at the bar just across from the hotel until quite late making it difficult to sleep without earplugs.
Service is very efficient and friendly.
A typical French continental breakfast is served in the lounge or patio including – a bread basket, juice, choice of yogurt or fromage blanc and coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Eggs can be ordered at an additional cost.
Plane Transfer in Paris
The long journey from DC to Ajaccio required changing airports in Paris. A detail I failed to notice when I first booked the flight. Nonetheless, all went smoothly – we arrived in Paris on time; easily found the shuttle bus that transferred us from CDG to Orly; and despite the morning traffic and the long line at Orly security, arrived at the gate an hour early. About 3 and half hours in total from when we landed at CDG until we arrived at the Orly gate, including one and half hours for the bus transfer between airports.