The first stop on the AidaPerla’s Mediterranean cruise is Corsica. After a day at sea, we are looking forward to our brief visit to Ajaccio.
I hobble off the ship on my crutches. Thankfully the ship is moored directly in the little port of the town. It is only a short walk (or hobble, in my case) to Place Foch where the Choo Choo Train picks us up for a 1.5h city tour. There is still a little time before the tour starts so we have a look around the square. In addition to the usual souvenir shops, we see the imposing monument of Napoléon (Staue de Napoléon Empereur Romain). This one is not going to be the last depiction of Napoléon that we’re going to see today. Ajaccio is Napoléon’s birthplace and he is omnipresent.
Our ride through Ajaccio with the Choo Choo Train
The train station is packed with tourists. I doubt that all of us will fit into the train. The train arrives and… don’t let anyone get off… people push and shove… I just stand there with my crutches shaking my head about all the fuzz. Would I have been able to walk I would have abandoned the train idea then and there. But it simply was the only way for me with my fractured foot. The train pulls away from the stop and we plus another 50 or so people are left behind.
A second train turns the corner, this time the remaining people shove a little less and the four of us get on the train. Alright, here we go!
The train takes us around the city for a good 1.5h and we paid 10€ for a ticket. Pre-recorded explanations is German, English and French are played on board. At a couple of stops, the train pauses for about 10 minutes for people to take better pictures. Taking pictures isn’t that easy from the train itself because it has about the same hight as a normal car. The view isn’t brilliant and I think a double-decker bus would have worked better.
First, we pass the Hôtel de Ville, the Town Hall. We circle around the Place Foch and head towards Place de Gaulle and a monument for Napoléon and his four brothers.
I catch a glimpse of an Anglican church from the 19th century. It is said that a Scottish woman had this church build so that British inhabitants of Ajaccio and tourists from elsewhere have a church to go to.
1st stop: Napoéon Cave
For about 10 minutes our train stops at the Place d’Austerlitz. There is another bis Napoléon monument commemorating all of his victories.
The city had this monument build in 1938. This statue of Napoléon as a general is made from granite and is a copy of the statue from the Dôme des Invalides in Paris. The first emperor of France stands proud in his city of birth, framed by two eagles, and looks at a list of his battles that are carved into stone. The battle of Waterloo is missing from that list.
Legend has it that young Napoléon used to play and read books about history’s most important generals in the cave underneath the granite rock. Unfortunately, 10 minutes aren’t very long and we don’t have enough time to explore the place.
The city tour continues to the Greek Chapel and past stunning beaches all the way to our next stop.
2nd stop: Îles sanguinaires
The Îles sanguinaires or Bloody Islandy are a little archipelago of four islands. The little rugged islands consist of dark red porphyry rock that glows in a warm red when it gets hit by the setting sun. This phenomenon might explain the odd name of the islands. Another possible explanation is the archipelago’s past as a leprosy colony. The people that lived and died here covered the ground in their reddish-black blood when they passed away. Without a doubt, I prefer the sun-and-rock story.
The Choo Choo Train stops for another ten minutes in a big car park. With enough time one could walk the 20 minutes up to the tower with the nice view.
But our tour continued, back to the Ajaccio Old Town and past the Ajaccio Cathedral. It is a Venetian building from 1593 where Napoléon was baptised in 1771.
It is a rather plain and small church, compared to other cathedrals.
Next, we pass the Citadelle, of which we got to see little more than the exterior walls, and then past the actual birthplace of Napoléon. The tour ended where we began at Place Foch. It was a piece of work to get off the train as the next horde of tourists was already pushing towards the cars.
It the tour worthwhile? For me, it was exactly what I needed on that day and in my situation. But if I wouldn’t have had my fractured foot I would have much preferred to explore the city on foot to see the small little alleys and cute restaurants, to see the beaches for longer than a couple of minutes, to take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea and to just soak up some French ambience. Who knows, maybe next time.
The evening ambience shortly before the AIDAperla left the port could most definitely tempt me to come back one day.