Snow-capped Mountains? CHECK.
24 degree heat? CHECK.
And thus a love affair with Corsica was born!
When Simpson Travel asked if we fancied checking out all that Corsica had to offer over half term, I had no idea what to expect. The island is a region of France but geographically closer to Italy and only a few nautical miles from the coast of Tuscany, just above Sardinia. I was intrigued! I also knew that it was hotter than home and we needed to recalibrate as a family, so we were all in!
And so, at 3.30 am that first Sunday of half term, we found ourselves doing the drive from Oxford to Birmingham International Airport – never one that’s even on my radar but the lovely Zoe at Simpson UK suggested it might be an option and I’m so glad we took it! Small enough to make check-in super quick and easy AND with Corsica’s Bastia airport just a 2 hour flight, it couldn’t have been more straightforward.
Neither could the drive from the airport to the villa have been more stunning - and unexpected!
I didn’t have any idea what to expect of Corsica but snow capped mountains, coastal roads to rival California’s Route 1 and aqua blue bays of Greek Island territory and we knew we were in for an amazing week!
An hour from the airport and we found our road climbing to the picturesque village of Monticello and our villa - L'Oliveraie de San Francescu - which was as romantic as its name suggests. Winding down the drive, flanked by cypress trees reminiscent of a Tuscan landscape – the kids were excited, as was I.
Tucked away in the groves of olive tress, the villa doesn’t give much away as you arrive but, the minute the ancient door was opened (by the worlds biggest key!)– ALL the wow!Just stunning!
One of my favourite moments on holiday is when you arrive and the kids squeal with excitement, running around to check all sleeping options and happily chatting about who’s going to go where. L’Oliveraie was the perfect mix of ancient and modern and, with its 5 bedrooms and 5 acres of it’s own land, the kids exploring options were pretty endless!
I can’t be the only person who STALKS the online photos of a chosen villa before arriving, eagerly anticipating every chair, every lounger, every corner for lazy days reading and relaxing? Randomly, I’d been dreaming of the stunning baby blue stove ever since my first glance at the website and, walking into the kitchen to the Simpson Welcome Pack couldn’t have been more welcoming!
Nothing you LESS feel like doing when you arrive at a villa than heading out to a supermarket for the basics and, as we sat on the stunning outdoor terrace, overlooking the salt water pool, breathtaking views of the mountains in the distance, we knew it was going to be a great week.
And from the villa you can do as much or as little as you want to.
Debbie, the local representative from Simpson, arrived on our first morning to helpfully talk through local options for our week. It was great to be able to grill someone local, not rely on the suggestions of guide books for how to fill our days.
The town of L’Ile Rousse was a gorgeous surprise. Just 10 minutes drive down the mountain, the beach was perfect for families with its gently shelving sand with the town at one end, perfect for a lazy wander along cobbled streets, passing boutique after boutique of baskets and espadrilles. The ancient marketplace boasted a market every morning for fresh produce and seafood and there was always something new to see. Wandering further along the boardwalk was our favourite thing to do, with the beach becoming slightly less populated, the cafes more bohemian and totally us with their laid back vibe.
Cosmopolitan Calvi was totally worth checking out, and you can take the U Tinighellu coastal train from L’lle-Rousse for the ultimate Corsican experience for €12 each.Home to The Foreign Legion (hadn’t actually realised it still existed!) and the most stunning Citadel we spent a gorgeous day wandering around the ancient streets, stopping only for icecream and coffee and a touch of people watching.
Down in the harbour itself and the luxury yachts led to a mixed clientele – tourists rubbing shoulders with Europes Yachters – the cobbled streets overflowing with stunning boutiques to challenge even the most controlled of purse strings and providing some much-needed shade from the sun.
And on the way back home, just around the bay from bustling Calvi, the quietest and most stunning of beaches. The U Tinghellu train stops all around the bay, meaning you can jump on and off to your hearts content, discovering deserted coves and de-compressing from the busy Calvi.
Before long, we were in the groove of our daily villa life! Early morning coffee on the barbecue terrace with the sunburst coming through the trees, Alfresco dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the main terrace with cocktails by the pool, it was half term HEAVEN.
Next to the saltwater pool were two of the comfiest loungers I’ve ever had the pleasure of relaxing on. Not quite sure what kind of rotation system you’d have to operate if the villa was at capacity with 10 people but Trey and I did a pretty good job of keeping the secret for ourselves by plying the kids with copious numbers of inflatables.
And there was an outdoor shower, poolside. The kids rowed their boat around the pool – a clever purchase to insure they were in the pool all day on even the cooler days as the pool wasn’t heated. I’d also taken wetsuits to make sure they were in the pool the whole time, rain or shine.
Our week stretched out to be enjoyed as we punctuated each day with excursions to a local beaches – most of which had their own beachside cafes and, if we were lucky, cocktails!
The villa would be perfect for big groups and families as there are so many corners where you can lose yourself, olive groves to explore and enough common areas that, even at capacity, the place wouldn’t feel cramped. And tennis courts available in the village at the top of the drive, horse riding in the field next door. The beaches are PERFECT for families because the shore generally shelves really gradually, so you have peace of mind they’re not suddenly going to disappear from sight. I probably wouldn’t suggest the villa for toddlers given the steps – but great for everyone else!
THE FINE PRINT:
Our stay at L’Oliveraie De San Francescu was courtesy of Simpson Travel. All flights, car hire and logistics were handled (and paid for) by us.
We flew out of Birmingham Airport – we found the FlyBe flights to be the cheapest. And our Airport Parking for the week and Airport Lounge visit were sorted out by HolidayExtras.