Photo Friday: Bastia, Corsica

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Wiping the drive of my aging Dell laptop that has been shoved under a bed collecting dust for the past five years, rendered useless by my three Macs, has unlocked so many memories for me—particularly of my second stint living in Europe in 2005, when I met SVV. During the same journalism program, we were required to travel extensively for class, as our area of study was international journalism and world politics. On our first lengthy assignment, my friend Helle and I were sent to France. The project was on communities—or more so “ghettos” as our not-so-silently-racist professor assigned it, but we preferred a more politically correct topic and thus tweaked the idea to include all communities living together under one belief—and we could pick anywhere in the massive country we wanted to highlight.

Being the dedicated students sun addicts we were, we went as far south as we could go and still technically be in France. And that’s how we found ourselves in Corsica.

Corsica is a mountainous island in the Mediterranean—its highest peak rests just below 9,000 feet—with a population of 250,000. Like any territory vying for independence (think Basque Country and Euskara), it has its own language, Corsu, though most everyone also speaks French. Its southern tip is separated from Sardinia by little more than a narrow strait.

While it’s true, we both crave sun like nobody’s business—Helle is from Denmark, and if you’ve ever been to Scandinavia, you know the residents need all the sun they can get while away from their cold, dark countries—our interest in Corsica was piqued by the FLNC.

Corsica is a “territorial collectivity” of France, which more or less means it enjoys some of its own rights but still is ruled by France. Not everyone agrees about this—not by a long shot. Enter: the FLNC, a well-known “terrorist” organization. (I use air quotes as the FLNC is considered such by the media and perhaps much of France and maybe even Europe, but it’s hardly the kind of terrorism we’ve seen in the United States in recent years.  Members are more akin to political activists—albeit, very violent ones—than anything else.)

Helle and I found throughout rallies and chance meetings and many pre-arranged interviews that, for the most part, the majority of Corsicans seemed to want to be autonomous. Which is why the FLNC—National Liberation Front of Corsica—the poster organization for such a cause, is so powerful on the island.

Like any militant group lobbying for more rights—to eventually be free of French rule—this doesn’t come without violence. Several bombings have taken place over the years, both around Corsica and in Paris, not to mention, assaults, robberies and other acts of aggression. Helle and I visited many of the bombed sites that are now little more than rubble.

While there, we were even granted access to sit through the trial of one of the alleged bombers (I say alleged because it’s been a long time and I honestly don’t remember his name or what the outcome was).

But while our purpose for being on the island was for work, we’d spend most of our mornings and early afternoons in interviews and doing research, while the late afternoons and evenings were for enjoying our surroundings; after all, the island was simply gorgeous. We stayed in Bastia, the major port city, for the majority of our time on Corsica, but also took a few days to drive along the coast down to Bonaventura for an interview with a former FLNC member, then over to the capital of Ajaccio to interview a Parliamentarian, through the mountainous university town Corte to get students’ take on the initiative and on back to Bastia.

We got a local’s view of the island through staying with a handful of CouchSurfers in Bastia. (One even gave us his entire guesthouse for the duration of our stay! Guess that right there dispels the “French are rude” stereotype, eh?) We got a crash course in Corsican politics and history. We got some solid stories, which we sold to local news outlets. And yes, we even got a bit of that time in the sun we so desperately craved.

*Back then, I used a Nikon point and shoot. Today, I primarily shoot with a Canon T1i but when that’s not convenient to carry, I keep a Canon G11 in my purse and a Canon Powershot 780 in my ski pants’ pocket.

**For more Photo Friday fun, visit Delicious Baby.

COMMENTS
  • February 25, 2011

    Ah Corsica. Despite living in spitting distance of the ferry terminal from Nice to Corsica, I have *still* not made it there yet! But I think this could be the year!
    We have had several FLNC bombings in Nice too over the years, most notably being the local treasury department which was bombed on a Sunday morning, thereby ensuring the only casualties were mountains of paperwork!

    Next time you’re in France, you’d best be planning to come back down South and visit us!! :0)

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      I bet employees of the treasury department are huge fans of the FLNC, eh? At least when they bomb a place, they (try to) ensure that nobody’s inside when it happens.

      And it’s just an eight-hour ferry ride from you, missy! No excuse to not head there for a holiday!

  • February 25, 2011
    Abi

    I’ve spent a lot of time in France, but never made it to Corsica. I really like this unusual look at the place (and your dedicated approach to your studies 😉 )

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      Oh yes, Abi, I am quite the dedicated student…in fact, I was back living in Europe a second time so I didn’t have to be a grown-up in the real world–er, I mean, so I could further my education, of course! Yes, that’s right; that was my reason for going…

  • February 25, 2011

    Corsica looks beautiful!

  • February 25, 2011

    How wonderful to dig out these memories. Sounds like a fun work/play experience.

  • February 25, 2011

    I never tire of your photos. 🙂

    I know I wished you a Happy Birthday on FB, but I’m wishing you a belated one here. Besides, it really should be a week-long celebration. 🙂

    • February 25, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Angella! I tend to employ the “celebrate all month” philosophy. I mean, February’s a short month after all!

  • February 25, 2011

    When I was 16 years I went to Corsica for some camping with my volleyball club! It was great, the landscape and the Med are beautiful!! Really enjoyed me time there!
    And right you were to chose the southernmost point of France, if they let you chose 🙂
    Have a nice weekend!

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      Oooh I imagine it was beautiful camping along the coastline! We were there in March, so it wasn’t *that* warm, just mild during the day. I’d like to go back in the early summer and catch some serious rays! =)

  • February 25, 2011
    SVV

    So appropriate to be reading this now. Well done sweets.

  • February 25, 2011

    You are single-handedly growing my “Must See” list of places before I die. Congrats! 🙂

    xox

    • February 27, 2011
      Kristin

      Heidi, this makes me happy! Just wait until I gush about Portugal and Spain some more… =)

  • February 25, 2011

    I love finding photos from past trips – it lets you relive the experience all over again! 🙂

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      I guess that’s the one positive part about going through five computers in as many years, eh? =) The only embarrassing part is that I left my SLR home when I lived in Europe and traveled with a terrible point-and-shoot, so all my photos during those trips were grainy and low-res…I kind of hate publishing them on my site, but at the same time, want to retroblog all the experiences I had back then in my blogless days. Catch-22!

  • February 25, 2011

    What an interesting experience…..sounds like you got a chance to experience much more than the typical visitors do! If you liked Corsica, I think you will love Sicily. Thanks for your recent comments in the past couple of weeks. Let me know if you make it to Sicily in the next couple of years…we have a guest room and are always happy to have interesting guests!

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      I have no doubt I will love Sicily…my husband tells me so nearly every day!

      We’re definitely hoping to make it there next year (or maybe the next) to revisit all of his old hangouts (and for me to see the island for the first time). Glad to know we have a tour guide handy when that day finally comes =)

  • February 25, 2011

    There are so many places in Europe that have an unique culture (not necessarily countries). Corsica is one of those places due to its isolation. Even if you visit France, you would not know about their cultural differences or the problems they are confronting.

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      Exactly! I found it quite similar in Basque Country, too. I was in San Sebastian and Bilbao for guidebook work shortly after Corsica and knew so little about the politics of the area until I arrived.

  • February 26, 2011

    This is a really interesting read… I like how you weaved politics and culture in between the sun and palm trees.

    • February 27, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Lauren! I try not to talk about politics any around here, but sometimes it’s nice to slip in a little history and culture lesson, you know? =)

  • February 26, 2011

    This is one place I missed when I lived in France and I really wanted to visit but it never happened. I don’t see many photos of Corsica and although it looks interesting, it also looks more run-down then I thought- interesting to see! thanks!

    • February 26, 2011
      Kristin

      I know, right? It sounds so exotic, but in reality is quite dilapidated (yet charming in its rundown state).

  • February 27, 2011

    Love these! We’ve passed by Corsica several times via cargo ship/ferries from Barcelona to Italy but have yet to get there. I still want to spend extended time in both Sardenia and Corsica.

    • February 27, 2011
      Kristin

      I’m with you, sister! Scott was stationed in Sicily for three years and can’t speak more highly of it, and I’ve never been there or to Sardinia. I’d love to hit up those three islands in succession for an extended period of time!

  • February 27, 2011

    what a cool project and beautiful pictures. I just took a minute to really look at the old architecture and nice views that you got in these pics.
    Makes me want to hop on a plane to France. I’ll have to add Corsica to my travel bucket list.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • February 27, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Wilson! It was truly a unique island with a lot to offer. Get there one day!

      • February 28, 2011

        I’ll have to for sure, with views and stories like these it’s a no brainier for sure.

  • March 1, 2011

    Now I want to go to Corsica, haha! It looks beautiful, and so very Mediterranean. That sounds like such a cool project to work on, too!

  • March 2, 2011

    I second Laura’s comment!!!

  • March 3, 2011

    🙁 I guess my original comment didn’t post. Cant seem to figure out how to keep my comments from going to spam. Any how, I think I remarked on how good your images are and that you convey a great sense of time and place in them.

  • March 3, 2011

    I’m a little behind this week catching up on last week’s Photo Friday picks, but glad I stopped by! Nice pics!

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