The trail we found was paved, but shortly into the trip it turned to a rocky goat path. The scenery was magnificent – hazelnut, kiwi, and clementine orchards grew at the base of jagged, metamorphosed basalt known-locally as schist. A rippling brook laced with spicy watercress was a perfect respite for Ashton’s hot feet and my Dad’s and my greasy hands after repairing our bike chains.
As the road curved like a serpent to the left, we found a man-made stone wall depicting many shapes and shades of grey rock. We followed the noise of bleating to a herd of sheep weighted down with winter wool. The sheep were grazing in the lawn of an ancient ivy covered stone house surrounded by tall cork oaks. This Quercus genus possessed long crooked branches and bare lower trunks, where the cork had been harvested for capping wine and vinegar bottles. Within a few years, the cork would grow back ready for future vineyard fermentations.
As Ashton climbed and jumped from the stone platforms, my mom and dad visited with Jürgen and Gudrun, a couple staying on a sailboat at the Port de Taverna and had been hiking down the trail we were ascending. Their English was interwoven with bits of German which was friendly and easy to understand. With their recommendation, we continued on the trail pushing our bikes with the rising elevation to a small 12th century church called Chappelle Sta Cristina.
Here my mother read to us Corsican history while we sketched—my dad an olive tree, my brother the variety of iron crosses on the gravestones, and me the church itself. It was fascinating to discover how the Roman, Genoese, Pisano and French domination had influenced the people, architecture, religion, fauna, and language of this 50 by 100 mile island.
Hunger won the battle as we moved onward and upward to Cervione, the goal of our day’s itinerary. This town was perched on the mountain so all the streets were either slanting up or down at sixty degree angles. We locked up our bikes and walked to the town square hosting a Baroque church of the 16th century and a few modern-day cafes.
We chose an outdoor table and the four of us feasted on Corsican salads with smoked sausage, fresh mozzarella, cantaloupe, basil, tomatoes and lettuce. The next course was quiche with sweet peppers, onions, prosciutto, and sheep cheese. We consumed three baskets of chewy French bread dipped in the island’s olive oil, rosemary, and gooseberry vinegar.
Too full to eat any more, we hiked up to an ancient castle with a fresh water spring. Here we refilled our water bottles and infused sprigs of uncultivated mint. As we turned around to admire the view, we saw the outline of the Tyrrhenian Sea engulfed in fog with a glimmer of sunshine sparkling on the water. In anticipation of swimming, my brother Ashton convinced us to head to flatter ground.
The biking and hiking were challenging, but the ride down the mountainous road was thrilling. The wind whistled through my bike spokes and my backpack was full of wild edibles. It turned out to be a rewarding family adventure completed with elderflower fritters for dessert.