Tag Archive: France

Maturing morning

Click to expand in place: Music: “Gravity” by Lusine

by Mike

From the plane, it looks like a web of lights is clinging to the French coast and spreading inland in constellations. And the lines and webs extend to the horizon where they climb onto the black sky and become stars.

And ahead, morning light gathers into an arc and builds its Mediterranean blue, then it spills into the sea. It conjures orange and pink, and finally, gaining confidence, the morning matures and pushes away the night. We fly into its colors.

Below, in France, places I love are waking up. People I love are waking up. Places I have loved in the past are waking up. People I have loved in the past are waking up. Places I will love in the future are waking up. People I will love in the future are waking up.

Before there were markets

More dog

The girls hopped from rock to rock with their skirts brushing the bushes. They sang high-pitched hymns that reached us in the wind, voices fragile like glass, clear and pure as the hill’s high air. From here we could see the Mediterranean to our right and the Pyrenees to the left.

Gabriel knelt.

“This is rocayrol.” The frizzy little lettuce grows in the cracks in high places. He slid his knifeblade into the rock and sliced the rocayrol at its root, tossed it in his basket then searched for another. Gabriel wears a leather necklace with a stamp-sized image of the Virgin Mary on one side and Jesus on the other, and it dangled outside his shirt.

“That’s asparagus,” he said, pointing to a fern leaning into the path. I’d never seen wild asparagus. “That’s fennel. And over there, that’s lemon balm. A tea of lemon balm, rosemary and mint gives men strength in the morning.”

We were collecting dinner salad for 13 people – the parents, nine kids and us two guests. Though they live on a farm in the valley, they collect much of their food from the surrounding hills. “God is generous,” the father said. And while neither of us is religious, as travelers our job is to listen to understand. And we understood.

“Rocayrol has the most wonderful taste,” he said. “It loves high rocks in the sun.” So we climbed high to find it, and as we collected it we listened to the girls’ crystalline hymns.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

Love has a recipe

Stirring, Corsica, France

by Mike

Azure fell in love with a Corsican cheese, a cheese that doesn’t travel well. We were leaving in a couple days and she might never again see or taste the enchanting, goaty brocciu. Azure was sad, so I had to do something.

We asked a young man at the market if he knew a brocciu maker who might teach us to make the cheese. He told us to ask the widows who sit on the steps of the mayor’s office.

We rode our scooter to the mayor’s office and asked the old ladies where to find a brocciu maker. In the next village over, they said, lived a woman who made it for years.

We rode our scooter over the ridge and asked a man where Mme Albertini lived. She was his aunt, in fact, and she lived at the edge of town.

We found the woman, but she no longer made cheese – the process is too intense. Her cousin in the next village over, though, still made it.

We found the village and found his barn and Philippe was inside, milking the goats.

“Please,” we said, “Azure loves brocciu and needs to learn to make it herself.”

He looked at her and smiled: if we returned the next afternoon he would happily teach us everything. The next day, alongside his wife and daughter, he patiently taught us the generations-old recipe.

All we had to do was ask.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

Here’re 20 tips for traveling Europe on the cheap (Dang that’s a lot of tips!)

Rooves, Luceram, France
You have to be pretty cheap to find places like this.

Y’all want to know about our finances anyway. I’ll keep it oblique so there’s still a sense of wonder and enchantment.

Az and I budgeted about 50 Euro per day for us as a couple this winter, which works out to about $1000 per person per month, not including airfare. We spend less traveling than we do at home.

Here’re 20 tips for traveling Europe on the cheap:
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Tip 1: Travel with a partner. Save on accommodation, split meals & taxis, free massages, share toothbrushes. AWWWwwww….. Stop paying strangers to hold hands while you walk through the park.

Tip 2: Learn the language. You’ll be closer to people’s hearts if you can communicate with them, and for that reason opportunities will knock. You’re also more likely understand when someone’s telling you about other/better options and it’s less daunting to get off the beaten path.

ACCOMMODATION
Tips 3-10: Spend as little as possible on accommodation. Unofficially, SEVENTY FIVE per cent of our daily budget went to accommodation when we were paying for it, in fact the price for a hotel room was sometimes so high that we would start the day over budget. Yucky! By spending one night in a free place we can halve the price of a night at a hotel.

And the math doesn’t lie: spend half as much and travel for twice as long.

There are a lot of ways to do it: Wwoof, Couch Surf, Servas, Global Freeloaders, Help Exchange, rent an apartment, stay in a hostel, stay in a pension, ask for a good price for a longer stay, offer to exchange services, visit places where you know people who would welcome you in their homes….

Tip 11: Stay in a place with access to a kitchen. So you can cook instead of eating out.

Tip 12: Get away from the tourist areas. The tourist areas attract money-obsessed locals (as is the case everywhere in the world). They’re good at business which means they’d punch their own mother to make a buck. Break the cycle of violence, try to deal mostly with businesses that don’t cater to tourists.

Tip 13: Rent/buy a scooter/car/bike. The more independent you are, the more options you have. Most of the places we stayed would have been next to impossible to find without our own transportation. It’s also possible to do this and save money on transportation, especially if you can buy & sell for the same price.

Tip 14: Stay in one place for a longer period of time. Develop a routine. You’ll learn what’s cheap, what’s a rip-off, where you can go for free. There will also be less urgency to experience everything before you have to run to your next destination.

Tip 15: Stay in one place for a longer period of time. Moving costs money. When you arrive in a new place you might need to take a taxi, to sit in a cafe to kill time, to stay in a too-expensive hotel because you didn’t plan well, etc. There are a lot of costs associated with changing places besides just wasting your precious time.

EATING
Tip 16: Buy your food from local markets. Some have the idea that it’s cheaper to eat crappy fast food, but in fact eating the absolute healthiest is the absolute cheapest: raw veggies, salad, pasta with tomato sauces, water from the tap. Our bodies & wallets love going vegetarian.

It’s hard to get past the pride of wanting to “eat bouillabaisse in Nice” just so you can say you did. But food doesn’t have to be your ego’s crutch every meal. Ordering vegetarian food in Thailand, one says, “Gin mung.” That means, “I eat like a monk.” We should eat more monk-like anyway.

Tip 17: Carry food staples with you. Have you ever been so hungry that you panicked and splurged on, say, two bottles of liquor for lunch? Oops! You’re less likely to repeat that classy performance if you have some snacks with you at all times. Our to-go bag includes jam, cheese and some fruit, olive oil, salt a bottle of water and some cutlery. To complete the meal we buy a fresh loaf of bread, some wine and a jar of Nutella, then picnic somewhere beautiful. See video below (it’s just 7 minutes of us eating in beautiful places. I won’t be offended if you skip it).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VThrBmX45FE&hl=en&fs=1&]

Tip 18: Eat at small local places if you do want to eat out. It’s best to ask locals where they go most often, as it’s usually a sign of good food at good prices. In France there’s almost always a plat du jour (daily special) which is the best deal.

Tip 19: Split meals. Our bodies & wallets love eating less.

GENERAL
Tip 20: Don’t buy crap you don’t need.

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Bonifascinating!

Cliff dwellers, Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Azure and I agreed that Bonifacio is one of the most spectacular cities we’ve visited – it’s built on a cliff that’s surrounded by water on 3.5 sides and it’s pretty much waiting to fall into the water, as you can see above. From Bonifacio you can see Sardegna, Corsica’s Italian sister to the South. Bonifacio is hundreds of years old, of course, and somewhere up here was found one of the oldest inhabitants of Corsica, a woman whose grave was dated to ~9000 years ago.

We found the town itself to be one of those annoying seasonal towns that’s a shell in the off-season, so there’s nothing to do, nothing that sustains people. Tourism keeps em going the rest of the year, of course, so when we were walking around the town our interactions felt uncomfortably artificial. We were much happier in Sartene where there was a university and some commerce and free wifi only half an hour away.

What you find in the middle of France

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by Mike

We’ve spent the last two days in the medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein right in the middle of France, about 200km south of Paris. It’s typically French, as typical as I’ve seen with their admirable attention to detail and commitment to a high quality of life. The Bourgogne region has fairytale castles, rolling green hills with woods filling the crevasses and lining the rivers… the movie Chocolat was filmed here.

This town – Noyers – fills the bend of a river and its buildings have exposed beams on the facades. They lean over the stony street like they’re about to give up, and life goes on as usual. There are only 700 residents here. We saw signs for an “Old Chateau” so we walked out of town and followed the river against the foot of a forested hill as it bent to the south. The next sign pointing to the chateau was so white-washed that we walked past it and only realized we’d missed the turn a mile later. So we turned around and found the path and turned up the hill. We went up the steps, steps made of wood, and walked up the hill through the trees until we came to a plateau where two towers were being excavated. It looked like the top of the towers were still original, they stuck up like broken fork tines, but the bottom was being expertly redone by a team of archaeologists, I hope.

There was a sign pointing to a panoramic view, so we followed the path across a golden field, then we crossed down into a valley and up the other side. When we got to the top we kept walking through the woods but noticed that the ground was strange – it was bumpy and just didn’t look right. We started to notice a lot of white stones and we started to realize that the path was taking us over a buried city. To the left was a wall pushing out of the ground, to the right the inside of a turret had been exposed. The valley we’d walked across had been a pair of city walls. We’d later learn that we had walked near a dungeon and a church and the town square. All buried on the top of the hill.

Anyway, we’re going up to Paris today to say goodbye to the scooter. We’re heading home in just a few weeks so we feel we should start trying to sell it now rather than wait until we’re desperate. Neither Azure nor I are looking forward to being back in a big city, but it’ll be brief – after it’s sold we’re going to go back down south for the end of the trip.

Some good looking ladies

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Today’s Route (by foot)

by Mike

I had the good fortune of Azure getting sick, so I went for a long walk today from Noyers-sur-Serein (where we’re staying) to two neighboring towns along the border of pasture and forest. At one point the path was an old Roman road. It was about 9km (5+ miles) and it took me around 2.5 hours.

France is a walker’s paradise – there are well-traveled trails crossing the entire country and excellent, abundant maps that explain the routes – but this was the first time I’d ever taken advantage of them.

I also ran into a few good looking ladies along the way…

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Nice to Valreas?

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Today’s Route
(Where the hell is Valreas?)

by Mike

Today we went north, skirting the Alps and following rivers until we got to an area called the “Drome.” The “Drome” is a lot of nice hills where the sun still penetrates and there’s pine and lavender and olive trees.

We had a small breakfast in a small town – Touet-sur-Var – then lunch at a bistro in a town called Barreme where everyone in the town passed through and kissed on the cheeks. The whole way up, the river(s) were small in their gravelly banks, cutting new designs for the season.

We stopped on the side of the road near a small tower (more of an agricultural tower than a tower for defense) and took a half hour nap in a field in the sun and three cars passed the entire time. We could hear the river and birds. It was a nice break.

We pushed over a pass and came out in the town of Nyons, which was too expensive, and finally found a cheap hotel in Valreas. Last night I got a free pizza because I was the first American the owner had ever seen in town. We talked about Will Smith, Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas. I tried to pay but he refused, so I told him that when he got to America there was free pizza for him there. Pass it on.

A goaty weekend

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by Mike

UK resident Ellen Frye paid us a visit in Nice this weekend and we had a ton of fun. Ellen got to ride the scooter along the coast into Nice on Saturday morning, then we immediately went to Italy for a multicourse lunch that featured much food and much wine. We drove to the town of Eze where we saw the best view on the Riviera. Then we went back to the hotel and checked our email for a while.

For dinner we went to another Italian restaurant – La Voglia in Nice – and had their antipasti misti that included most conceivable foods.

The next morning we went to Antibes and talked about things that were impossible. We walked through the market and along the old wall, we/I had a great conversation with some Harley owners who had fascinating jobs & lives.

Finally we drove up to the farm and introduced Ellen to Margarite, Claude and a new-born goat:

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It was an eventful visit to the farm – it was the first time that the year-old goats were to go outside the barn, so Claude gave us all bamboo sticks to guide them and the adults down the hill. It didn’t prevent them from freaking out and one ran all the way back to the barn. Azure had to go and fetch him and carry him to the others, and even when he was within eye and earshot of the others he still didn’t get that he’d have to actually walk to get to them, so he started going the wrong way again. Eventually he was herded to his mother.

We then sat down and made a little fire in the woods on which Claude boiled some water for tea. We had tea and talked about Corsica and cheese.

When we were done with the tea Azure grabbed the pot to bring it back to the house, but Claude said to leave it for the next time.

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Magic in the Maquis

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by Mike

Philippe’s grandfather was found dead in the Maquis with his back against a tree and his rifle across his lap. Philippe sat in the position to show us as he retold the story, holding his arms to his chest as if clutching a rifle. “The Gestappo – the Italian police, you know? – they were in the Maquis on a full moon night and saw the light shine on the barrel. When they found him he was dead. Heart attack at 46.”

Philippe shares his grandfather’s passion for guns and hunting, as many men do on this island. A common scene was the Hunter’s Bar in Ota: a bunch of men sat drinking Pastis and looking at guns on a computer or in magazines. They wore camouflage jackets and hats and there were boar’s heads and stuffed birds on the walls. They poured more Pastis and played cards and other hunters came and went, everyone greeting everyone else.

I asked Philippe if he hunts with dogs and he said he doesn’t, he prefers to hunt at night. “Wow, that’s intense,” I said.

In the book we’re reading about Corsica (Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington) there’s a chapter about other night hunters, the Mazzeri. The Mazzeri were improperly baptized individuals who lived in the villages but apart from the people. They had the gift, though, of foretelling death. At night they’d hunt in the fragrant Maquis and kill the first animal that came along – a dog or a boar or whatever. Then they’d roll it onto its back, look in the face and recognize somebody from the area. In the morning they announced the news that the person they saw would die within a year.

Carrington writes that the Mazzeri didn’t actually cause the deaths, rather they interpreted what was sent to them. They were compelled to go into the Maquis to hunt just as the animal was compelled to cross their path. It was Destiny, and their only part was to read it. But she writes that night hunting becomes addictive for some Mazzeri, despite their reluctance to read more deaths.

The closer you look at the tradition of the Mazzeri, the further back you look “into the night of time,” further back even than the megalith builders who inhabited the island thousands of years ago, whose works you can still see and touch, faces carved into upright, human-sized stones. The Mazzeri reflect a people grappling with the basic human activities of hunting and dying at the dawn of cognizance.

When I asked Father Joseph if the megaliths were interesting to visit, I was kinda annoyed by his answer, “Well, they’re ok if you’re interested in rocks and old stuff.” But now that I better understand the historical context I can see why he answered that way. The megaliths (“rocks and old stuff”) were symbols for the beliefs and traditions that Christianity struggled for a thousand years to dislodge. The megalith builders were active on the island since 3000 B.C., while the traditional customs & beliefs lasted from the dawn of cognizance deep into Christianity’s crusade – even up until the Second World War Corsica remained an island writhing in the coils of busy myths. By contrast, Christianity has only been here since about 500 A.D. That means that in the year 3509 A.D, it will still be another 2000 years before Christian beliefs will have been on this island as long as the megalith builder beliefs have been here to now.

A couple weeks ago I wrote to you about touching the stones that ancient people touched and trying to imagine what compelled them to build. I wrote that I hoped “my mind would be refilled with the mind that built those walls” and maybe I’d tap into something fundamental to the human experience that I’m missing now. Only I failed to connect. Obviously I don’t believe I can conjure the minds of the past, I don’t believe in that. But I’m starting to realize that a fundamental piece of human experience that I’m missing is the very instrument that allowed people to communicate with their ancestors – magic.

The disappearance of magic is a symptom of the changed pace of the world. I think that the key to understanding another person’s experience is living the rhythm of their life, and to understand the wall builders I’d have to quit using a car and stop working a job and extract the internet from my body and ignore the media. It would mean living with the seasons and working with my body and living a shorter life but maybe living in constant wonder.

Philippe, stroking the barrel of his gun, said, “This is my dream, realized. I wanted my life to be hunting, guns, motorcycles, cheese, goats.” He didn’t mention his wife and daughter in the next room. “And now I have it.”

We left his house late at night and as we rode home I thought about what it would be like going into the Maquis with a rifle and just sitting and waiting and listening. I thought about what I would feel if I sat still for a night, and what I’d hear if I didn’t talk, and what I’d see if there were no lights, and what I’d sense if time and rhythm slowed to heartbeat and breath. I wondered if Philippe was addicted to night hunting like the Mazzeri and if I could be too.

The scooter pulled through the night to the crest of the hill and from a height that felt like floating, we looked down the spine of Corsica. There were a few towns hidden in folds facing the sea. It felt mythical at that time, and the next night we went back to the same spot to take pictures. I thought about my own dream realized, honestly: traveling with Azure by motorcycle (the scooter has done fine) with a camera and my journal, trying to learn the rhythm of other people’s lives.

Brocciu

by Azure (The one who loves Brocciu)

Let’s start here…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBiUt7dtfGw&hl=en&fs=1]

This story actually starts a long time ago on our fourth day on Corsica. We would go to the little market next to the Convent when we were staying in the convent. The woman there had a basket of treats, little doughnut holes filled with cheese. She would give one to me every time we went in. One day, there were pots of cheese sitting out on the table. The woman told us that the cheese was what was in the doughnuts. Underestimating my powers of cheese consumption, we asked the other client if she would split one with us. She said yes, we got a half pot of cheese and my world has never been the same since.

These are some early photos of Brocciu

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After finishing the pot in less than a day, I set my sights on finding a supplier in the Seattle area. How little I knew back then. I called it cheese and wondered who imported it. I stuck my mom with the task, since she can find anything anywhere at anytime. But, to my horror, she emailed me only a link to what brocciu is. There was a link to buy it, but of course it came up empty.

No worries at this point as we saw brocciu product abound up and down the coast. There were the doughnuts at the street markets and in every specialty store. Brocciu pots were available at any supermarket or corner shop. No problems. Not until we got north to Ota that I started to sense a lacking. Sometimes the markets were sold out of pots and often times you didn’t see any doughnuts in baskets. I started thinking about a life without brocciu.

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But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself here. What exactly is brocciu and why is it so amazing. Well, it is a light cream product, apparently you can’t call it cheese, it is not referred to as cheese. It is apparently lactose free and, in the state that I love, fresh. It cannot be imported, since it must be eaten in 3-4 days. It goes well with sweet things and is most often used in deserts. It tastes like…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luvwTCo1iT8&hl=en&fs=1]

So when Mike and I arrived on Cap Corse (the very top of the island) for the last leg of our journey, I was starting to think only of how to learn how to make brocciu. The Cap ended up being a barren place. It was dramatic, which Mike loved, steep and wild and the winds were so strong that we were told you couldn’t grow crops because the wind takes all the moisture away. We would drive for miles and miles and see no sign of anything except the Maquis.

When we arrived at our hotel in the Community of Centuri, we headed to town to get some groceries. We had 4 days left on the island and as we sat in the harbor having a snack of brocciu, myrte jam and bread, I told Mike that I wanted to get going south again. He was saddened by this idea because he loved the Cap the most of all the places on Corsica. I told him, I have to go south, I must find out how to make brocciu.

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At that very instant, he got up and walked in to the small market on the pier. I didn’t know what he was doing, but when we came out he said, we must ask in the town how to make brocciu. The journey had begun.

There was no one in town at that point, so we decided to go on a drive up the hill to the next town. Orche it was called, but it was so small that we didn’t even know where we were. On the one main street that stretched an entire half block, 5 old ladies stood outside the mayors office. We stopped the scooter and got off. One last reality check happened when Mike said to me, is this weird? I said I don’t know, is it? Probably, he said. But we both walked over to the women without saying another word.

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“Hello, do you know anyone who has sheep?” he asked.
The women just looked at him for a moment.
“I’m sorry, I have a strange question. We are trying to learn how to make the cheese, brocciu and I was wondering if you knew anyone who knows how.”
At this the women started to laugh, but of course they know someone. “You go up the road to the next town. Ask for Madame Alberitini.”
“How many minutes is it? How will we find her?” Mike asked.
“Oh not far, just ask for her in the town.”
“Thank you”

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We drove on, up the hill to Ersa. We drove through Ersa without seeing a sign of life anywhere. Outside the town somewhere we saw two men by the side of the road. “We are looking for Madame Albertini,” Mike said.
“Which one, there are many.” Of course in these towns the families stay close to home. We have learned this about Corsican villages. The town cemeteries are filled with three or four names only.
“Maybe she makes sheep’s cheese,” Mike replied.
“Ah yes, go back into town. When you see the big hotel on your right, her house is the next on your left.”
“Thank you.”

We drove back into town and parked in front of the home across the street from hotel. We walked up the narrow passage between the home and the wall and into a dark alleyway. In front of us was an open door and a man inside, probably 70 years old funneling wet cheese into containers. “Are you making brocciu?” we asked.
“No,” he said, “My wife makes the brocciu. It is very difficult. I don’t know how.”
“We are looking for Madame Albertini, is that your wife?”
“Yes, how did you know to ask here?”
“Some women near Centuri told us to come here. We want to learn how to make brocciu.”
“My wife does not make it everyday, but when she does, she starts at 5 in the morning.”
“Will she make it tomorrow?” we asked.
“I don’t think so, but ask my cousin. He lives one town over.”
“How will we find him?” we asked.
“You drive up the road, you will come to a fork, do not go toward town, take the other road. You will come to a fountain, across from the fountain, there will be a barn. He will be in the barn.”
“And what is his name?” we asked.
“Philippe Albertini.”
“And yours?”
“Roger.”
“Thank you, Roger”

It was getting late, maybe 5:30pm and the sun had set over the crest of the hill. I doubted that Philippe would be at the barn so late, but we had come so far, we had to keep looking.

At first we took the wrong fork, backtracked and found the fountain. Across from it was a barn and we parked the scooter and walked to the barn. Mike knocked on the glass and waved when he saw life inside. A man came to the door wearing among other things, a camo hat and combat boots. He had thick black eyebrows and was not a man that you would mess with.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezSZDEVtOag&hl=en&fs=1]

Inside the barn there were probably 50 goats. We asked about the brocciu and the brebis (sheep). He asked if I had sheep and I said no. I have 2 goats, but they are both men, so no goat milk either. He was confused. We were confused. We kept asking about sheep and he kept asking about things we didn’t understand. After 10 minutes of yelling above the noises of goats being milked, we were told to come back at 3pm the next day to watch him make the brocciu. More directions, this time ones we didn’t have confidence in, so he offered to take us there that night to show us how to get there at least…

Philippe speaks in sentence fragments. He talks loud and says things we don’t understand. When we were following his car, I asked Mike if we were doing something that night. Were we making cheese with him. Mike said, he would not be surprised if we made cheese, nor would he be surprised if we didn’t. No one could say what Philippe had been talking about. All we knew is that we were following him to a place we would return the next day to make cheese.

As it turned out, we did make cheese that night. It was pitch black by this point, but we were at ground zero for goat cheese production and we weren’t leaving until he kicked us out. Mike took photos, I giggled a lot. It was a good time. We rode back in darkness. It was calm at least and a peaceful ride over the pass.

The next afternoon we drove the 30 minute ride to Philippe’s house, which was also where he made the cheese and brocciu. When we got there, he and his wife had a pot already going. Monique was much easier to understand. She was patient with us and answered questions directly. She was really understanding and interesting. We liked he a lot and got a lot of what we know about cheese making and brocciu from her even though the cheese blood is in Philippe’s family. He has been doing this since he was 16 years old.

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After two hours of stirring, measuring the temperature, waiting, and stirring some more, the brocciu “arrived.” They said it would smell like cake right before it was ready and it did. It was sweet and floated to the surface for the picking. Philippe skimmed the top and plucked the brocciu out of the “petite lait.” He put them in the little tubs and I got to eat one hot out of the pot. It was heaven.

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When we had finished making the brocciu, he invited us into his house for coffee and more brocciu. Ok, you’ll have to imagine this, since I didn’t want to photograph inside his house much…you put brocciu in a bowl and pour hot coffee and sugar on it. OMG. Mike was poured a taste of some Myrte liquor from the maquis, which is now our new obsession and shown Philippe’s display of guns. He took us out to another shed and we got some other surprises.

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When we got on the scooter to go home, it was 8:30 at night. It was black out and the wind was strong. When we drove over the pass, the wind would move the scooter around like it was paper. It took us 55 minutes to drive what took us 30 minutes during the day. Mike rode with his feet touching the pavement the whole time and I learned how much I truly trust him. It might have been my best day on the island because I can now go away knowing that I can find brocciu again even if I have to make it myself.

Gun love, the story of a Corsican man

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by Mike

Philippe said, “This is a dream, realized.” He was referring to his life. There were five things: “Hunting, guns, motorcycles, cheese, goats.” That was his dream, and he achieved it without the help of The Secret.

I asked if he used dogs for boar hunting and he said he doesn’t – he prefers to hunt quietly at night.

“That’s intense,” I said.

Old cars in Orche, Corsica

by Mike

In a random little town on Cap Corse there was a random little street whose trees had blue & white Christmas lights. Under the trees were a few old cars and every night we drove by we thought, “we’ve got to take pictures of this.” We finally did last night, here are the results:

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That last one was a new technique – I took a long exposure and at the same time zoomed out. Voila.

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A hike in the Maquis

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Today’s Route

by Mike

I saw on the map that there are some dolmens around here. Dolmens are ancient rocks carved or constructed or something. When I asked the guy at our hotel about them he said that the site was still being processed (the media is intense for a small island, so every subject is well-covered) so there’s no signs and no roads to get there.

At the place closest to where we thought the dolmens were Azure saw a dirt road that went under the highway, so we pulled off the road and parked by an empty beach and walked it. There’s this shrubbery all over the island called “Maquis.” It’s a combination of 7 or 8 different plants that kinda go wherever nothing else is. It’s fragrant, very distinct and subtle. It’s the scent Napoleon talked about on his death bed. We walked the road up a ridge through the Maquis, trying to get a bearing on where the dolmen might be. No luck up the first ridge.

There was another road that lead around another side of the mountain. We hiked high on this one, up until the road ended and the Maquis closed in and the only tracks on the ground were sheep tracks. And even those started disappearing until we weren’t on a trail anymore.

Even if we didn’t find a dolmen, we satisfied my curiosity about walking through the Maquis. From the top it looks like a very even green carpet on the mountains. One of the bushes is rosemary, which is in bloom right now. The flowers are violet, so in the pictures above you can see Azure walking through a whole acre of blooming rosemary.

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Photos of Mike

by Azure

I know it seems like we didn’t do a lot today, but we did. We drove all the way from our gite in Ota up to the north coast. We stopped in Calvi for lunch and found a place in Ile Rousse that we really like. We walked through the city and climbed up to the old tower. But in between, we took hundreds of photos of each other. Mike had more opportunities because I fell asleep on his lap on the boardwalk (Susan and Arnie, I almost have enough material for the calendar next year)(everyone else, Mike’s parents made a calendar of family members sleeping–Arnie and I made up the majority of the calendar).

Mike is hard to capture on film. When I try to take pictures of him, he gets really tense and either looks extremely militant or makes a really fake smile (see below)
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or will have his eyes closed or something else equally unflattering…
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I have taken some good ones of him throughout the trip though. I have learned that he sometimes looks normal if he is doing something else, or I can catch him off guard, or if he does his fake smile and I tease him (tub shot).
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The side view has typically been the best for him, since he doesn’t have to look at the camera, but today I figured out a new trick. Get him talking about the things he likes best — scooters, riding scooters, Katie (the beagle next door to us in Seattle).
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And of course, his all time favorite topic of the trip. You can’t tame it, but you can capture him saying it.
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the H-A-W-K!