Balagne Region and Casa Theodora

12 Reviews

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Date of travel

July, 2015

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It was late morning 19 March 2015 when my phone pinged, I checked and with disbelief handed the message to Neil. We were being informed that I had just won a holiday, through Silver Travel Advisor, with Simpson Travel: a week in Corsica at the boutique hotel Casa Theodora, flights and hire car included. Needless to say I was on the phone to Jenny at once and within a couple weeks it was all booked for 21 June.

Our flight was from Stansted, not the easiest of airports to get to for us, and we decided the 10 a.m. take- off warranted a night at a hotel in advance. I booked through Holiday Extras (and included parking), gambling with the ‘mystery’ option. This paid off and we had a lovely room at the Radisson Blue, which is a short walk away from the terminal building. We ate at the Star Inn, Bishops Stortford, enroute. This proved to be goodish value pub grub close to the airport.

Check-in next morning was quick. We were flying with Titan Airways and were impressed with their efficiency, leg room and comfort. While Neil collected our bags at Calvi airport, I went and arranged the car hire collection and within 20 minutes we were on our way, with the directions provided by Simpson Travel. We recognised the early parts of the route from our previous visits to the island some 10+years ago.

Soon we were heading up into the hills of the Balagne District to the South of the coastal resorts, Calvi and I’lle Rousse, ending at the village of Muro perched on the side of the road. As suggested we parked in the church square and headed on foot to find the hotel. We walked past it first time but turning round spotted the sign and were able to move the car to right outside, making transfer of bags much easier. Where to park each day was a game: would there be a space outside or need we park in the square and take the charming 2 minute walk from the church down to the hotel?

The hotel proved to be a joy. Run by Julie and Sean on behalf of Simpson Travel the personal touch they have given the holiday makes for a relaxed atmosphere in this glorious building. A 16th century Casa, it has been sympathetically restored with original wall paintings brought back to life and furnished to compliment. The pool is in the below ground-level ex-wine cellar, and was a peaceful spot for a chill-out bathe after a hard day out. Julie and Ron provide a different cooked breakfast every day, homemade cake for your late afternoon delication daily on your return(Sean is the baker) and two evening meals. The first was on our initial night and allowed us to meet the other guests who were, like us, all at the start of their holidays. A glass of prosecco with nibbles in the sitting room allowed us to break the ice before eating in the front garden. Julie proved to be an excellent cook and the food was always of very high quality. Neil is coeliac and his gluten free diet proved no problem to her (as did another guests lacto free needs). We had Salmon on the Sunday and Duck on the Friday. Both were excellent. Breakfast each day became a meeting time to compare notes from the day before and plans for that day. Sean and Julie also made recommendations, which proved valid and useful, and were happy to help with bookings for local restaurants.

We had booked the Von Neuhoff Suite on the first floor. It was beautiful. The bed was large and comfortable. The bathroom had a lovely bath with shower over and the lack of shower curtain didn’t actually prove a problem. The sitting room at the front gave us a place to sit and read. By opening windows front and back a lovely through breeze kept the rooms comfortable. Air-conditioning was available but not needed on our stay, despite temperatures in the low 30’s. The village itself was very quiet and quaint. There is a post office and the church, no shop, no restaurant. However it was a delight to walk round its peaceful, tranquil, ancient back alleys and streets. Julie and Ron run an Honesty Bar in the sitting room which was much appreciated.

However without a hire car this would have been an impossible holiday.

On our previous trips to Corsica we had spent most of our time on beaches, so this holiday, as we were staying in the hills, we also visited the river valleys and forests. We explored the Figarella Valley in the Bonifacio Forest and the gorges of the river Tartagine. We headed up the valleys by car, stopping to swim in crystal clear rock-pools of refreshing mountain water. Then down to the coast for a drop-in to a beach, a swim in the sea and a spot of late afternoon sun before heading back for tea and cake. We had a wonderful lunch at Auberge ‘Tornada’ ( near Olmi Cappella ) of Corsican charcuterie, cheeses and cheese doughnuts (delicious).

We spent one day heading south towards Porto to visit ‘Plage de Tuara’ beach just south of Girolata. It can only be reached by boat or a long walk down from the road at ‘Col de la Croix’. But it is a walk worth doing and we had a lovely swim and snorkel in the bay. That afternoon we returned via the River Fango Valley and found a quiet spot for a blissful swim.

Another, very windy day was passed on the train that runs between Calvi and I’lle Rousse. It is a 45 minute journey along the coast, often at the back of the beaches. Lunch was ‘moules et frites’ in the old square in I’lle Rousse. It is a lovely town to spend a couple of hours wandering through, along the beach and out to the castle on the spit-head, before getting the train back to Calvi. This too has a beautiful old town where one can wander tiny alleys and find shops and cafes as you work your way up to the citadel for the panoramic views.

Driving these mountain and valley routes is not for the faint hearted but just out of peak season there was limited traffic and we had no untoward encounters. However I can well imagine, in peak season, some of these single track main routes becoming difficult. A good map is also useful as, though signposting is generally good, occasionally the map proved a life saver at junctions where signs were missing or confusing. The views, though, are breath-taking, you turn a corner and awe-inspiring valleys suddenly dominate the landscape.

We ate out 5 nights of the holiday and never had a poor quality meal so I can recommend all the places we ate at. In Algajola we had meat cooked at the table on hot stones at the Vieux Cave. Just down the road at Lavatoggio, we had a very good quality steak (and view !) in the simple Belvidere Inn. On our first foray to the ‘eagle’s nest’ village of St. Antonino we had a lovely meal at La Taverne Corse. It was Monday and we were trying for I Scalini but it was shut. We returned two days later (Julie having made us a booking) and were not disappointed. Situated at the highest point in the town this open air restaurant has glorious views and fabulous food. And finally a restaurant with another stunning view was the Auberge in Santa Reparata.

Our flight home was as uneventful as the flight out (which is what one hopes for!) and our holiday prize week was over. We have since recommended the Casa Theodora to friends, knowing that they would experience a relaxing, fun and beautiful holiday. Our thanks to Sean and Julie, to Simpson Travel and to Corsica.


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