........... Bastia

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Bastia (bas-TEE-ya), is one of the two largest cities on the island. During the rein of the Genoese, it prospered as the capital of the entire island. The planting of chestnut trees, olive groves and vineyards were encouraged, ensuring that northern peasants were better off than their southern counterparts. The Bastia of today continues its influence, as the capital of Haute-Corse (Northern) Corsica. With a reputation for being politically progressive, it provides employment and residence for a quarter of the island's residents, including a number of the island's top doctors, lawyers and architects.

A true picture of modern Corsica, Bastia is full of contrasts... Approaching from the south, traffic often crawls along N-193, through miles of industrial sprawl past small businesses, hyper-supermarkets and (much needed) department stores. Entering the town, directional signs dominate for Le Port, guiding visitors to the thriving ferry terminal, which connects walk-on passengers, cars and freight to ports in Italy and mainland France. Yet when you stroll through the center of town, you'll find long narrow streets, with building's heights reaching towards the skies. Reminiscent of Paris in the angles and detail, but more crumbling... one sees beauty and incredible age fused together to provide views quite unexpected.

Its easy to never pursue more then the obligatory visit to Bastia... Arriving on the ferries en-route to somewhere else, or visiting the grand magasin shops south of town who offer furniture, linens or clothing items in refreshing variety at discount prices. It took a passion for second-hand finds, to motivate us to make the two+ hour drive to Bastia early one Sunday morning to see what we could find at the marché aux puces along Place St-Nicholas, a large town square along the port, lined with Palm trees and featuring a statue of Napoleon. The prize of the day turned out to be our walk to the Vieux Port. Packed tightly along the hills surrounding the port, were hundreds of buildings, splashes of color from grays to creams and terracotta, their age was like layers of old candle drippings down into the harbor. A butter yellow church stands along the harbor, one street back from the quai, while boats and sparkling blue water provide the context for this harbor, as they have for centuries.

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