We drove off the ferry at around 2.30pm on day three of our 45-day French island adventure. The itinerary for our 17 nights on Corsica had begun to unravel a week earlier when I received an email from the first campsite we'd booked to stay at to tell me that, due to danger from the nearby dam, they were closed. It was a shame because we'd planned four days of exploring gorges, no doubt being fed by the dam that was in danger of flooding the land below.
With our original plan shelved Tony and I decided that we'd simply go to the second of the three sites we had chosen, which didn't take bookings and therefore didn't require any rearrangement. I'd not been particularly comfortable including this site in our itinerary because of the fact we couldn't book it and I didn't want to chance getting a pitch in the height of summer, but I wanted to visit Porto Vechio and this campsite's website assured that if you arrived early in the morning you'd get a choice of the best pitches. However, we'd now be arriving at 5pm.
As it happened, the route to the campsite in Porto Vechio took us past the campsite we'd chosen as our third and final Corsican base. I suggested to Tony that we stop to have a look at it and he agreed. The biggest selling point at this site was its location directly on the beach and we were immediately drawn in by several vacant spots right next to the small dune separating campsite from the sandy beach. We decided to change our plans again and stay here. We were both thoroughly fed up with travelling by now and the thought of possibly not getting a pitch if we continued south for two more hours made it an easy decision.
Following signs to reception brought us to a patio area outside a terracotta-painted house. An old man was sitting at a table and greeted us.
'Reception?' I asked.
'Oui,' replied the man, gesturing for us to approach the table.
He answered my usual follow up question in the negative. He didn't speak English. So we proceeded to do our best to secure a pitch by nodding occasionally as he spoke to us in French. We got wires crossed almost immediately when he seemed to think I'd suggested we had two camping cars rather than two people, but that was quickly sorted out. Tony counted in French from one to seven while I held up seven fingers to indicate we'd like to stay for a week. Somehow we correctly understood when we were being offered electricity and I handed my passport over at the required moment. An invoice was completed and presented to us prior to the man beckoning us to follow him. I pointed at my passport still sitting on the table and the man shook his head - he was keeping it in lieu of payment. I just hoped he put it somewhere safe after taking us wherever he was taking us.
We trotted off after the old man who took us first to the 'poubels', the rubbish bins. He continued to explain in French what went into each of the three large skips and strangely, the dedicated place to put your leftover bread. Pictures and English text on the bins helped our understanding, as did an English translation on the sign he pointed out next. Gesturing at a hose and at our feet, the man was telling us to wash the sand off our feet before going into the showers. After that we were fully inducted and got the impression we were free to go off and choose a pitch.
We parked Cleopatra in one likely spot while we walked around discussing the merits of others. Eventually we decided we'd like a pitch in the southern corner right by the dune. After Cleopatra was parked I worried maybe she was a little far back and that someone could still set up in front of us. I delved underneath the driver's seat where we store two hammocks and quickly hung them from the trees. I also locked the bikes to one of the trees two, thus clearly marking that this pitch was ours from the van to the sea.
We soon had the roof popped up, fairy lights hanging from the extended awning and tables erected. It was about 3.30pm and 35°C. We both had a sweat on and decided the next job on the list was jumping into the sea to cool off.
Beautiful white sand greeted us, no stones or pebbles anywhere, and hardly any people - maybe ten within eye sight. I stepped into the water apprehensively, expecting a cold-water shock but there was none. The water was warm. Our quick dip turned into an hour-long swim.
The beach shelved gently into the Mediterranean as we basked in the pleasant water. From the beach you can see only trees and mountains beyond, no buildings are visible and tents and caravans are hidden by the small dune. It felt like paradise. In fact it felt like the kind of remote and deserted beach we'd usually cycle for 90 minutes to reach every day, and yet here it was just a few feet away from Cleopatra.
I didn't see how the campsite, and our fabulous pitch compete with hammocks hung between trees, could be any more perfect. We might have only booked for seven nights but I could already see that becoming 17.