Hi folks. I know I'm new here but I thought I'd offer some advice for anyone planning a trip to Corsica. I'm just back from there and it's fresh in my mind so I might as well try and retain some info, even if only through this medium.
First up...Corsica? Where's that?
Corsica is an island in the Meditterranean Sea, south of Italy and to the north of Sardinia. Unlike Sardinia which is Italian, Corsica is French. This is important.
How Do I Get There?
Flights are relatively plentiful but are very expensive. At least when compared with going to the likes of the Costa Del Sol or the Cote d'Azur.
There are three main airports - Ajaccio in the south, Calvi in the north-west and Bastia in the north-east. Car hire is at standard European rates and is a must! Forget public transport. It takes an eternity to get anywhere. Corsica does have a railway but it's narrow gauge and very slow. Although I haven't used it I would certainly like to. The views on the routes are truly spectacular. Anyway, you need a car not so much because the distances are large (they're not) but because the roads are torturous. Absolutely murder. And fabulous. The best round of the WRC isn't Corsica for nothing. I felt like Colin McRae sometimes. Be aware, Corsicans tend to drive as though the devils at the exhaust pipe, seriously. They also have a peculiar habit of driving in the centre of the road right up until the point when they see you and then they move almost imperceptibly over to the right, just enough for you to pass. Whew!
We originally booked flights to Bastia but were informed by post 2 weeks before departure that they hadn't sold enough seats and so the flights were cancelled. Cancelled! B*******s! Anyway, worked out pretty good because even though there were no flight's to Corsica for the dates we wanted - we also had accommodation booked - we managed to get 2 cheap flights to Nice on the French mainland. We spent one night in Nice before boarding the world's fastest ferry for Corsica in the morning. I like boats.
1. Boarding at Nice 2. Bon Voyage! 3. Arrival in Calvi
Nice was nice [sic] but you're never far away from the smell...of money. Being naturally averse to the "filthy lucre" we were happy to see Corsica within 4 hours. Coffee on ship was terrible, btw, lol.
We arrived in Calvi to the north and as our car was booked at the airport (because the 'downtown' pick-up was closed on a Sunday) we jumped in a taxi. After getting the car we had to head to the other end of the island for our first weeks accommodation. Don't ask. It's only about 100 miles from one end to the other but it takes ages. Plus, being from the dark side of the continent I had the added hassle of driving on the 'wrong' side of the road and driving in a hurry. I didn't want to be arriving in the dark.
I did arrive in the dark, as was predictable. Our first week was spent in Propriano which is a good base from which to explore the south of the island. Sights to see are Filitosa, a settlement some 5000 years old and full of photographic opportunities. Bonifacio is another highlight of the south, with it's magnificent Citadel atop the whitest cliffs you've ever seen. It's an incredible place! Propriano, our base, is ok too. Although much more of a working town it does have it's charm. It also, around 20:00 hosts the Marseille ferry. No big deal you think. Ha. Propriano has a tiny harbour and the boat is massive. It's like an eclipse.
1. Propriano from our house 2. Filitosa 3. Bonifacio from the sea
Our second week was spent in the north of the island. A place called Calenzana. It's a very small village right in the mountains, in the shadow of Monte Grosso. There's more to see in the north imo. It's possible to get some distance between yourself and the ever-present mountains. Did I mention the mountains? No? Well, they're big. Very big. Being Scottish I like to think we do mountains pretty well (and we do) but these things are huge. And they look like witch's hats, always a bonus in my book. The mountains are always there in Corsica. Even sitting on the beach in 30degrees of sun you don't have to crane your neck too far to glimpse 8000foot peaks. We were there in May and there was still a bit of snow on the tops. Absolutely beautiful.
Calenzana, our base, is the start of the gruelling GR20 route. One of the most difficult high mountain walks in Europe. And I'm sure probably the most rewarding.
You'll also find Calvi in the north. This is probably my favourite place in the north mainly down to the fact that the restaurants go on forever and the views are to die for. On the west coast the undoubted highlight is the Scandola Nature Reserve. This is a world heritage sight consisting of the most twisted red rock you've ever seen. All tumbling down from great heights to stunning beaches!
1. Calvi Harbour 2. Scandola 3. Scandola again, sorry.
I'm going to wrap things up for now. If you folks don't mind I'm old, and can only type for a finite amount of time.
There's more, obviously. In fact, until I started to type I don't think I realized just how much more.
Things to take note of in case this was so enthusing you've already booked flights for tomorrow morning, lol.
1. Corsica is not cheap.
2. Corsicans are not like French people.
2b. Don't dare tell them they are.
3. Corsica is relatively uncommercialized. This could be good or bad. It's great for a photographer because there's very little of the 'organized' tourism you see elsewhere on the Med. There's also no McDonalds.
4. The food. Think about it. Closer to Italy and governed by France. How could the food not be good?
5. Go in the spring or autumn. Don't go in high summer as that's when the French go there. It's mobbed, I'm told.
Why did we go to Corsica? My wife and I were married 10 years ago and went to Corsica for our honeymoon. In a tent. While there - and pretty drunk, truth be told - we promised each other we'd return in 10 years time.
Day 2. Haha, just kidding, lol.
It's been brought to my attention that I haven't mentioned my camera yet. Well, here goes...
I bought a Nikon D80 with the 18-135mm lens and MB-D80 battery grip a month ago (ish). I also bought 3 Sandisk 2GB Extreme II cards to go with it. When choosing the Nikon over it's rivals I was acutely aware that it has no dust-reduction facility. Being of the paranoid type I bought a Rocket blower along with some Sensor Swabs and fluid. Since the battery grip holds 2 batteries I bought an extra battery too. To carry it all I bought a Tamrac holster (I hate large bags).
The camera's been superb. I experimented a lot with it before leaving for Corsica but learned just as much on the island too. I find that despite the complexity of some of the options it's pretty easy to just pick it up and click, the image will be pretty good. Having said that I use it almost exclusively in Manual mode. It's not so much that I think I know better than the camera (though I do), it's more that doing things manually slows the whole process down. This gives me more time to consider the options.
The camera feels superb. As documented elsewhere the 'feel' of the camera was my major consideration. The Nikon is just that bit bigger than the competition and for these large hands that was a deal-breaker. Factor in the battery grip too and it's just perfect. I don't really use any of the in-camera 'retouch' effects. I have tried them and some of them work pretty good but I prefer to wait to get home and unleash CaptureNX on them. I'm never completely confident in the image when viewed on the cameras screen, but that goes for any camera and probably says more about my eyesight than it does the camera.
I like that there's a dedicated button for the most important functions because I can't stand wading through the menus. I also like that it has a switchable viewfinder grid. For landscapes a grid is very helpful.
The batteries. These two rechargeable units are very clever. They communicate with the camera so that when I go into the menu I can tell how much juice is in the right slot and left slot. As well as this each has a shot counter. And, they remember how old they are and will remind me when they're nearing the end of their life.
Niggles? A few, though no biggies.
It's sometimes good to have the image review switched on but if it is and I'm in manual and trying to get some shots quickly, then as soon as I turn either command dial to alter the aperture or shutter speed nothing happens. Well it does, but all that's happening is I'm scrolling through the playback options and as far as I can see through the viewfinder it looks as though everything's locked up. Two ways around this. Either remember to half depress the shutter release after taking the shot or...switch the image review feature off. I've settled on the latter.
The grid. Why is it 4 x 4? Crazy! You'd think it'd be 3 x 3, handy for employing the rule of thirds. It doesn't really matter for me as I've already learned to ignore the verticals and use the horizontals for...horizons. Still, Nikon made a weird choice there.
The lens cap. Maybe it's pedantic but I can't seem to operate it with any dexterity. The 18-135mm lens ships with a lens hood and Nikon have thoughtfully supplied a lens cap that allows access with the hood in situ, a la Tamron. Troubly is the wee finger slots Nikon have provided on the front face of the lens cap are useless for these sausages I call fingers.
The lens hood. Don't try to take flash pictures when you're half cut in a bar because you won't remember to take the hood off (it casts a shadow) and you'll already have switched off the image review facility so you won't know until the next morning. This could also be a good thing.
The strap is not so good. It may well be on a par with other manufacturers supplied straps but it turns to sanpaper when worn on a bare neck in hot weather. As soon as I returned fronm the trip I ordered an Op/Tech strap in black. Much more comfortable although I' may have to wait a while before I can say how it performs in hot weather, it being summer here, lol. Another feature of the Nikon strap I wasn't too enamoured with was the way it had 'Nikon' emblazoned all along it in bright yellow! I prefer to be discrete. I also prefer not to advertise the fact that I'm carrying close to a grands worth of equipment in a relatively tiny, and eminently stealable bag. Besides, Nikon should be paying me to use it, not the other way around.
Overall I like the images I've captured. It's difficult for me to be too critical as this is my first DSLR and previously I've been using a Fujifilm F-11 compact which is nice but can you say "purple fringeing"? I knew you could. Actually, that's a pretty good example because I was coming around to thinking purple fringeing was something inherent in digital cameras. It's not. I haven't seen a trace of it since getting the D80.
The is the longest thing I've ever written in any medium.
Ciao for now.