Before you begin, the article below the video is about sailing into Bonifacio Corsica and the video that I’ve added is a supplement. So…you can gain quite a bit from just watching the video, but if you want all the juicy details, it’s best to read the article and then watch the video. And if you’re a reader and not a watcher, this video is worth watching because I show a massive super yacht backing into a very tight space and it’s kind of cool.
While sailing around the Mediterranean, my husband and I often rely on word-of-mouth recommendations for everything.
And ‘everything’ includes anchorages, restaurants, grocery stores, chandleries, things to do, marinas and even sailing passages. Some people resort to bloggers or Trip Advisor, others survey the Internet but we go on our latest neighbors for recommendation.
Often, our neighbor at an anchorage is someone that we’ve only known only hours!
But we get our information from contacts that have recently been places and seen things that we’ve yet to see. Sometimes…err, I’d say most times, it works in a perfect fashion.
Yes, it can be a bit unsettling because I never know where we’ll be from one day to the next. And taking advice from someone we don’t know is a bit different from the way we did things in the past, but it’s also exciting, very spontaneous and mostly offers exceptional results.
Our decision to leave Sardinia (Italian Island) and head for Bonifacio, Corsica (French Island), was based on the recommendation of two of our neighbors we met while anchored in Portisco, Sardinia.
Ken from sailing vessel Orinoco and the family from Crackerjack both highly recommended Bonifacio so prior to heading west we decided to sail North to the French island of Corsica.
When we left Sardinia, we sailed past boats in the Perini Navi Cup. It was amazing to see the USA boat Comanche (Link will open the Facebook page). Simon counted 21 crew and I videoed them gracefully sailing along. From our viewpoint it looked as if no effort was being used to speed along. Here’s a link the the video I posted on Facebook while Comanche passed us: Comanche Video
It wasn’t long before we pulled down our Italian flag and raised the French flag.
It was the first time that Britican flew the French courtesy flag!
After a six-hour sail/motor we eventually reached the lovely sandstone cliffs of southern Corsica. The entrance to Bonifacio is one of those that you can’t easily spot by the naked eye. You have to rely on maps or your plotter to find the green and red channel markers. And once you find them, you’re led into a narrow cavern with cliffs reaching high on either side.
BIG TIP: Get the boat ready before you enter the channel. In other words, fasten your stern warps (ropes at the back of the boat) and get your fenders tied on and ready to moor before entering the channel. By doing so you’ll be able to sit back and absorb the beautiful scenery of sandstone cliffs, historical architecture, amazing boats and the lower town of Bonifacio.
Upon arrival to the entrance of the marina we called the marina three or four times without response.
Eventually, someone responded and a dinghy met with us to show us our spot. We did call in advance and reserve a spot but I imagine it’s a first come, first serve spot in the summer.
Fortunate for us, we visited the very popular port in September when the season was starting to die down.
That being said, it was still very busy!
We were instructed to go stern to the wall (back the boat up to the wall) and all went well. As usual, I threw the two stern lines to a person on land and then took the lazy line to the front of the bow and tied that down to anchor the front of the boat. The lazy line was small but eventually I pulled up a massive rope attached to the small rope – in the end I had to use our anchor winch to pull it in as I was not strong enough to do it unassisted.
Within the hour, hubby, our daughter and I were off exploring.
Joanne from sailing vessel Crackerjack recommended a restaurant to us so we went in search for L’Archivolto. I assumed the restaurant was along the port but we later discovered it was up in the old town.
Feeling lazy, we took a taxi to the old town, and eventually found L’Archivolto. To say that I was ecstatic about the food at the restaurant is an understatement. After almost 20 months of Greek food (good but a bit bland) and Italian food (pizza and pasta) it was so wonderful to enjoy French cuisine at it’s best. And I must say that L’Archivoltois is the best you can get in Bonifacio Corsica (so I’ve been told).
My husband, Simon, started with a baked apple with goats cheese salad and I had pate with the most irresistible chutney (when in France – eh?!). Simon then had a beef and vegetable dish that had the most divine flavors. My dish had three large shrimp with incredible guacamole and fragrant rice. In the end, we all gobbled down an apple crumble for dessert. Honestly, it was heaven.
Not feeling as if we explored the area enough, we decided to pay the price to stay another evening.
So, for €99 (price of a 56’ boat) we stayed along the wall below the great fort rising above us.
We walked around the port area, purchased groceries from the Spar to stock up the boat. We then took the tourist train back up to the old town. We walked around absorbing the breathtaking sights. It was great to see the great big expanse of blue water from a height. We’re always level with the sea so it was nice to rise above it for once.
It was also humbling to see each sailboat as a tiny spec against a massive deep blue backdrop.
It goes to show you how small and insignificant a boat on the ocean is.
After a good nose around, we walked back down to the boat. That evening I moo’d like a cow while eating a bucket of mussels. I’d love to tell you what the sauce was but I couldn’t speak French and the waiter appeared not to speak English.
The French are funny… They really hate foreigners not speaking French. And I’m not basing this on my trip to Bonifacio Corsica. I’ve been to France many times. Even when I try to speak French, I get a look of distain. During our visit I told one waitress I couldn’t speak French and she then spoke to me in English…but every time she returned to me she spoke French until I asked her to speak English!
One guy looked at me like I was insane when I questioned a menu item.
He totally acted as if he didn’t understand me. I then had to point at something (the amazing mussels I got) and hope for the best. Ironically, I later overheard him speaking in English to another table. WTH (what the heck!?!?). Bonifacio cannot be more touristy than any other tourist place…
I suppose that I understand the rudeness received when I was in Paris, because it’s a city, but when visiting a destination that is full of English speaking people you’d think they’d be a bit more hospitable.
(As a side note, I have loads of French friends and I love them. French people, alone, are great. It’s when it’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation they all seem to band together and decided to revolt against English speakers…and perhaps other languages too?!)
Back to the mussels.
They were so good that when I later flossed I was still enjoying the flavor. I know that might sound gross, but seriously, I’d have to say that they were the best mussels I’ve ever had…and it’s the sauce that really made them awesome.
To our delight we finished the evening all laying on the back of our boat watching a spectacular fireworks display. Would you believe that the fireworks were right above our boat?! We had the best seats in the entire area. I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming.
That evening, Simon and I put our daughter to sleep and then readied the boat for an early departure.
The plan was to leave Bonifacio. Corsica to head for the Balearics – first port of call was the Spanish island of Menorca.
At 5am we left the amazing port, said ‘good bye’ and ‘thank you for having us.’ Bonifacio will definitely be a remembered port. It wasn’t the same view with the same touristy stuff that you get in many destinations…it had character (both positive and negative) in addition to some spectacular views.
So, if you’re in the area of Sardinia and Corsica I highly recommend a stop at Bonifacio Corsica.
Upon entering the harbor there is a small inlet to the left that allows for anchoring and tying the stern of the boat to the cliff. Boats are on both sides so I’m sure there’s an issue with crossing anchor chains and it’s quite a tight squeeze if you’re a big boat. Needless to say, it’s worth trying to get in there if you can.