By Jesse Nash,
with Barney Lehrer
Little-Known Jewel of the Mediterranean
Where do actors
George Clooney and Kathy Bates, singers
Tom Jones and Alicia Keys, and even socialite
Paris Hilton (just to name-drop a few of Hollywood’s elite)
go to escape the rigors of being in the spotlight day in and day
out? Why, the tiny island of Corsica, that’s where.
Every day we read stories of Hollywood’s crème de la crème going
on holiday to such destinations as the tony island of St Barth’s
in the Caribbean, Hollywood’s backyard playland, Cabo San Lucas
in Mexico's Baja Penninsula, or the chi-chi ski slopes in Aspen,
Colorado. But now a discreet group of Hollywood stars have
discovered the crown jewel of the Mediterranean.
This writer has known about this enchanting island for over 20
years when there was only one automatic car on all of Corsica,
and it was reserved for yours truly. Well, I knew my secret
couldn’t stay hidden forever...
Corsica is a rock-hard, fragile paradise. It’s for beach lovers,
hikers, divers, and culture buffs alike, combining dazzling
white beaches with dramatic mountain ranges and picturesque old
towns. There’s plenty of activities for your body and some rich
history to engage your mind.
Just off the coasts of France and Italy and jutting out of the
Mediterranean Sea like an impregnable fortress, Corsica
resembles a miniature continent, with astounding geographical
diversity. Within half an hour, the landscape morphs from
glittering bays, glitzy coastal cities and fabulous beaches to
sawtooth peaks, breathtaking valleys, dense forests and
beautiful hilltop villages. The scenery that unfurls along the
island’s crooked roads will have you constantly stopping to whip
out your camera.
Napoleon’s birthplace boasts breathtaking views and a plethora
of charming corners. Take a boat out of the resort village of
Porto to see the bright white Calanques, steep-walled bays with
their dramatic backdrop of stone cliffs rising up over the sea.
Visit the thirteenth-century Calvi Citadel, then wind your way
on mountain roads toward the tiny village of Calvi for a
romantic dinner before heading out for a morning excursion on
the scenic Route de Bavella.
Although Corsica has officially been part of France for over 200
years, it feels different from the mainland in everything from
customs to cuisine, music, language and character -- and that’s
part of its appeal!
Hollywood Loves Corsica!
And now a select few of America’s most famous celebs have
discovered this magical island. This past August, George
Clooney and girlfriend Stacy Kiebler joined friends
for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle adventure around the entire
island. The couple hooked up with friends, including Clooney’s
business partner and collaborator, Grant Haslov, and were
spotted all over the island during their one-month getaway.
Singer Alicia Keys married boyfriend Swizz Beatz
near Corsica’s charming port town of Portovecchio, which will
host the first leg of the Tour de France bicycle race this year.
The wedding ceremony was performed by Deepak Chopra, and
friends Bono (of U2) and singer/actress Queen Latifah
were there to lend their support. And Keys, fully pregnant at
the time, was seen there in a bikini, which had paparazzi from
around the world trying to capture the next hot tabloid cover.
Stooges rocker Iggy Pop performed in the village of
Patrimonio, where they also happen to make some of the best red
wine on the island. Pop was so smitten with Patrimonio he openly
mingled with the locals and visited a few restaurants in the
area in the days after his concert.
Actress Kathy Bates stayed for a year in Saint Florent, a
quaint fishing town close to one of Corsica’s most beautiful
beaches, before receiving the bad news that she had breast
cancer and had to have a double mastectomy immediately. Now the
actress, who has a hit TV show called “Harry’s Law,” has
expressed her desire to "friends" that she would like to return
and spend some more quality time in “the heart of paradise.”
Singer Tom Jones is a regular vacationer on the island.
He fell in love with Bonafacio—a spectacular fortress town high
on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean--in the 1960s, while at
the peak of his career. “Right after ‘It’s Not Unusual’ came
out, a friend took me on his yacht and we went to Calvi. What a
beautiful island and I keep coming back year after year.”
And socialite Paris Hilton was busted for marijuana
possession at Corsica’s Bastia Airport a few summers ago. (Oh
well.) Hilton was unavailable to talk about her love of Corsica
Corsica: Chocolate Lovers Paradise!
Corsica has become a secret Hollywood destination only recently,
but this ruggedly beautiful island has held a very special place
in my heart since the 1990s, when I spent four summers there. So
when an opportunity suddenly presented itself to go back, I
jumped at it.
And what caused my good fortune? Chocolate!
My return was prompted by Corsica’s first-ever chocolate
festival, which took place in October 2012 in the port city of
Bastia. Billed in French as “1er Salon du Chocolat & des Delices
Corse,” and organized by Corsican business entrepreneur, Paul
Pierinelli, this delicious event did not disappoint. After the
ribbon-cutting ceremony with Bastia’s mayor, chocolate makers
from all over the island showed off their masterpieces.
The event was an incredible success, with over 30,000 visitors
in just 3 days! Attendees came not only from Corsica but also
from as far as Paris and many other parts of France, along with
an international contingent made up of Corsica fans—and
chocolate-lovers--like me. For such a tiny island it was, as
the French would say, "Formidable!"
Pierinelli likes to call the Salon du Chocolat his "living room,
a warm and friendly environment where local tourists and those
from the international community can come to experience the
highest level of gastronomy where chocolate is their passion and
Corsican craftsmen make it their art."
Scents of Corsica
One of the highlights of the Salon du Chocolate was Scentseas
Cosmetics, a salon that prides itself in showing the unlimited
possibilities of using cocoa in its cosmetic creations. Their
product line was a big hit at the event, with lines of people
trying their products.
Located in the seaside village of Bastia, Scentseas Cosmetics,
(a trademark of Corsican Soaps and Cosmetics), is a company that
uses only natural island resources to create these beautiful
fragrances, unique to the island of Corsica.
Delphine and Olivier are the owners. A specialist in floral
biology, Olivier studied agriculture, and has brought his
knowledge of plants and organic chemistry to create a very
original product line, which you can check out for yourself at
Chocolate Goes Global!
Chocolate has been and continues to be a world passion.
Recently, Fiftybest.com published the Top 50 Chocolate Makers
from around the world. Their list included chocolate makers from
Belgium, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Grenada, Italy,
Japan, Luxembourg, Scotland, Switzerland, USA, and Venezuela.
But not one chocolate maker was listed from Corsica!
With Pierinelli’s plans to expand the Salon du Chocolat to
include one week in Bastia and a second week in Ajaccio, and
possibly on the French mainland itself, in Bretagne -- all this
should create more visibility and, hopefully, an opportunity for
one of Corsica’s own master chocolatiers to make the Top 50
Chocolate Makers prestigious list. In fact, Pierinelli intends
to make the Salon du Chocolat THE major event in Corsica every
"We want to make the Salon du Chocolat competitive with Paris,"
Pierinelli declares. "We don't expect to be number one -- but
number two wouldn't be so bad!" Plans are now in place to take
the Salon du Chocolat to the international stage, since there
have been some nibbles of interest in these glorious chocolate
delicacies from Morocco and China!
For more information, visit the Salon du Chocolat website at
Corsica Is For Lovers
Corsica is the dream you read about in novels. The romantic
escape you only thought was fantasy. But Corsica and all its
beauty is very real. So be sure to bring your paramour with you
for the passionate adventure of a lifetime! Who knows? Maybe one
day I'll end up writing my own romantic novel about this
beautiful paradise on Earth. In the meantime, my wife, twin
girls and I are planning our return in 2014, when we will go to
Bonifacio to renew our wedding vows just in time for our 10-year
wedding anniversary! So, hey, you just never know...