October 13, 2013
Unlike Monaco there are no current famous residents of Corsica. On the other hand they do have Napoleon a native from the town of Ajaccio. He is celebrated in statuary, street names and an airport. Napoleon Bonaparte of Genoese ancestry faced no “birther” issues despite Corsica becoming French just before his birth in this seaside Corsican town. We managed to see him in Roman toga as well as in his famous hat and pose. His birthplace and church baptismal sites are memorialized in marble and with lines of tourists. His father being a minor member of Corsican nobility was able to gain the admission of his son to the French military academy in time for the French Revolution. The rest is history.
We left the ship and boarded a double decker bus that drove us around this pleasant seaside city. Unlike Monaco, there is little pretense or false sophistication. The drive along the seashore was filled with blue seas, sandy beaches and modest to somewhat luxurious villas. The place looked very livable and enjoyable to visit. The beaches were plentiful and largely empty in mid-October. It could not have been too cold as people were swimming and sunbathing. We considered it for while and then settled for the hot tub on the ship.
After the drive to rocky islands at the end of the bay and a brief walkabout, we returned to the city center. We then wandered by the old 17th century fortifications that are still used by the French military. The dry moat is maintained by donkeys and goats. They were on duty today and ignored us while keeping the grass short. We found the various Napoleon sites and now we know not only where he is buried but where he started.
Toured a French sidewalk swap meet. Pretty much like the American kind. Many used DVDs, clothes, shoes and nicknacks were available for haggling. I pulled Peggy away before she could buy a hundred pound statue of Napoleon. Walked by the modest municipal Casino so unlike the garish one in Monte Carlo. Ventured through the old town and its produce market. So many interesting cheeses, sausages and strange condiments. Nougat is the Corsican specialty candy. Unfortunately, it is difficult to sell cruise ship people food. It is Sunday and most shops were closed so we will have to wait for Italy to find table cloths.
Had the time to converse with several shipmates after returning to the ship. Many of the folks have had fascinating careers and stories to tell. Of course if our pilgrimage comes up, which it does frequently, we hold the crowd spell bound. Even the Europeans, who constitute a majority of the passengers, are impressed that elderly people like us would do that adventure. I have to admit it is fun but we remain humble as good pilgrims should.
All in all, Ajaccio is a livable city with resorts and accommodations for regular folks. I could easily imagine returning here for a while and enjoying the unpretentious ambiance. I might even develop a taste for nougat.