Saturday, 26 May 2018

Following in the footsteps of our former selves - returning to Rondinara.

When we bought our first motorhome in 2013 we really had no idea how we were going to use it. One thing we agreed was that we would endeavour to visit new places. In the main we have, without making a deliberate effort to avoid the familar. We have crossed France so many times over the past four decades it is inevitable we will find ourselves in known territory from time to time simply because it is en route to somewhere different.

Only twice, however, have we conciously made a special trip to revisit old haunts; once last year to le Gurp a small campsite near the tip of the Medoc, last visited in 1982; then two weeks ago when we found ourselves back at the Pont de Gard reminiscing about a previous visit, now over quarter of a century ago.

We may be on a slippery slope, because once more we are staying in a place with very special memories for us. Rondinara is a spectacular semicircular white sand cove in southwest Corsica. It is so beautiful it graces postcards, calendars and tea-towels.

Though it is a popular spot, it remains undeveloped. The 6km track to it through the maquis is rough, steep and narrow. It is somewhere you need to make an effort to visit. At the end of the road, among acres of empty boulder strewn maquis is a campsite, beach parking and a bar. Very little has changed in two decades, apart from the bar which has acquired an Ibiza style without the 'chill-out'' sound track. Thudding Europop still pumps out across the largely empty sun-loungers of its small, roped-off 'plage privée'.

Back in 1998 I was convinced that this was the most beautiful campsite ever. In the intervening years we have travelled through four continents and in recent years covered tens of thousands of miles of Southern Europe staying in almost 400 different places. This evening, at the end of a perfect blue Med day, having wandered through the fragrant hills above the bay, picked our way along the beach, full of families having fun, stopped on the walk back to take photos of flowers we had never seen before, perhaps I still think this place is the most beautiful site we know. At least no alternative immediately springs to mind.

Boulder strewn 'macchia' - the mountains of Sardinia in the distance.

A type of sedum - unique to Corsica and Sardinia

Eruca, Gill tells me. The leaves can be used as a salad green apparently.
Though it is still early in the season Camping Rondinara is almost full, predominantly of German families. I presume it must be a mid term school break. That being said there are lots of young couples with pre-schoolers too. 

It is impossible not to think about our previous visit here - our youngest had only just turned three, the eldest was eleven. Generally I remember we had a good time, the weather was hot and sunny and we lived freely outdoors. It could be challenging sometimes too, It had been a long drive to get here and the big canvas frame tent, plus  the rest of our equipment took a couple of hours to erect and take down. In Mediterranean summer heat that was exhausting. 

Somehow Gill managed to feed all five of us using a two burner Camping Gaz stove in a miniscule kitchen extension at the side of the tent. This feat was made all the more remarkable as the toddler in the family took to clinging onto Gill's leg the moment she attempted to cook. 

In most respects camping is a great experience for a barely three year old providing endless opportunities for exploring new things and generally grubbing about. It is also hazardous, which is alarming for parents. The positives outweigh the negatives and most minor scrapes and spats end  happily, but not always. There are lots of kids playing about at twilight right now - a happy hubbub interrupted now and again by anguished wailing as some small human falls over or becomes enraged by uninvited parental intervention.

When we returned to Rondinara we never expected it to be so full of children, but somehow that is heartening, that a new generation of parents are here with offspring big and small, like us, twenty years ago. 

In the morning too, first the dawn chorus, then children waking up unquietly; it's a lovely natural thing in a world that is not always lovely and seems at times wantonly unnatural. Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne' is echoing through my head - the phrase 'There are children in the morning'. Gill is still asleep; I clamber out of bed to make coffee. It is not yet eight, the sky deep blue, if she was awake, she might well remark, 'all good'. As she is not, I think so on our behalf.

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