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Corsica, France’s Isle of Beauty

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Immersed in the sea off Bonifacio, in southern Corsica. Immersed in the sea off Bonifacio, in southern Corsica. Ed Alcock for The New York Times

THE train is hardly anything to write home about, not with its three rusted and creaky cars and with seats as hard as church pews. But 20 minutes into the journey from Ajaccio, Corsica’s largest coastal city, to Corte, in the island’s rugged outback, a certain alchemy begins to take place.


The smells of palm trees and Mediterranean winds give way to odors of pine forest and damp vegetation. Twenty minutes more and you’re clattering upward past plunging ravines and snow-capped mountain ranges that look transposed from Ansel Adams photos. Red-roofed mountain villages, ruined stone huts, and lightning-blasted trees thunder past and vanish behind. All that’s missing is a Corsican Wordsworth to distill these natural wonders into verse.


Almost all the passengers — among them Italian cyclists, Dutch trekkers and my own astonished self — press their faces to the dirty glass, muttering superlatives and wondering what will materialize around the next bend. Our words come rushing out in multiple languages — “Bello!” “Mooi!” “Holy crud!” — with each phrase expressing the same sense of awe.


In a way, our band of travelers is just conforming to history’s pattern. For millennia, visitors have arrived in Corsica only to be blown away by its loveliness. The ancient Greeks sailed into its dazzling turquoise bays and declared the island Kalliste: the Most Beautiful. Henri Matisse strode down a gangplank many centuries later and found a “marvelous land,” where “all is color, all is light.”

Read the full article from NY Times


Last modified on Saturday, 16 June 2012 19:59
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