Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Eve Island

Every New Years Eve, I like to play a game. I think about where I would live, if I could choose anywhere outside the United States. Then I spend time trying to imagine living there. I find it's a good mental preparation for dealing with the new year ahead. No matter how the coming year shapes up here, I like to imagine how it would be in the foreign country I've chosen for that year, too.

Years past have yielded many nice mental excursions. Chile, Spain, Ireland, Malta and Tahiti were happily considered in prior times. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and Switzerland are more current choices -- although Switzerland could never be more than a summer home for me (ditto Iceland). I try to be realistic about things like hurricanes (hence no carribean countries are on my list) and ease of fitting into the culture. Lately southern France has been on my mind, traceable back to seeing "SICKO" earlier this year. Once I fixate on a country, I have to select a likely region. So I decided, why stop at the southern shore of France? Why not head out INTO the mediterranean? Let me take you on a little tour of the French Region of Corsica:

CORSICA is a large island in the Mediterranean Sea, located west of Italy, southeast of France, and directly north of the island of Sardinia. It is considered one of the 26 regions of France, although it enjoys powers slightly more important than other regions due to its territorial status. It has wonderful coastal beaches, but is so mountainous, I don't think global warming rising tides will do it much harm. It's a quick bunny hop to/from the French Riveria.

The island has a Mediterran-ean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The natural vegetation is forest, woodland and shrubs, and includes a national park which protects thousands of rare animal and plant species & is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to the island's pleasant climate, tourists seek out the beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastlines. However, the island has not had the same level of intensive development as other parts of the Mediterranean and thus remains relatively unspoiled.

Ever the realist, I must note there is much political violence in Corsica's long history which has not yet resolved itself peacefully. The island has had blood feuds that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like lovebirds. They invented the word "vendetta" and mafia activity is not unknown. There are several movements on the island calling for Corsican autonomy, generally focusing on preservation of their native tongue, more power for local government, and additional exemptions to their already generous exemptions from the notoriously oppressive french taxes. They opposed Nicolas Sarkozy in the last election, so they can't be pro-bush -- I should've realized that after learning this factoid: the constitution of the Corsican Republic, written in 1755, was used as a model for the American Constitution.

Here is a little Corsican villa on a private beach that accepts pets and is available to rent by the week or month. Not convinced? Here's more photos of "our" villa environs, similar to my idea of heaven.

I even know what we could do to support ourselves there, if we made it our home! You see, Corsica is a habitat for Cork Oak (Quercus suber), a valuable and protected resource. Now, I know about Cork Oaks. They don't grow just anywhere. In fact, they are confined to particular areas of southwest europe and northwest africa. I learned about them in researching flooring products. Not too popular (yet) in America, cork flooring has many desireable qualities. In my opinion, it is a perfect flooring material. Unlike hardwood floors, cork has a resilient/spongey feel & is easy to maintain. Unlike tile floors, cork doesn't freeze your feet (it is temperature-neutral) & it doesn't echo (it absorbs sound). There are cork floors in libraries that are 100-yrs old & have never cracked or needed much maintenance. And what's even better -- cork is a renewable resource. Yes! The bark of Cork Oaks is harvested without harm to the trees! After a few branches or partial trunk is peeled, a new layer of bark forms which can then be harvested in a few years. Since Cork Oaks live 150-250 years, that's a lot of cork bark harvesting. Now, the peeling of cork bark is a skill usually passed on through generations of cork growers, ALWAYS done entirely WITHOUT machinery, but there is NO reason a motivated person couldn't learn & thus find themselves in the vanguard of providing a rare renewable raw material for a useful housing product. Remember you heard it here first!

So Corsica is my choice this year -- an island of France that enjoys all the famous french social benefits without the onerous taxes, a mild climate, relatively unspoiled coasts and mountains, our own private villa, and if we're lucky, a grove of Cork Oaks that we can harvest for the rest of our lives in a manner that is easy on the environment. Anyone care to join me on my island?

It's not perfect: the language barrier might prove difficult. The people are mostly of italian descent, speaking a dialect known as Corsu, which is considered italianate, but sounds decidedly french (much the same as portuguese sounds a bit like spanish with a french accent to american ears). My italian is Godfatherish (with many hand gestures) and my french is neant. Quelle sinistre!

I have a sample for you! This YouTube is "Fields of Gold" sung by Sting and I Muvrini, a band from Corsica. Listen carefully to their Corsu accent. How easily could you pick up that patois and have a meaningful conversation? I'm already practicing. (3.6 minutes):

Consider this my New Years present to you, my blog friends! The scenery is stunning, the men handsome, the women gorgeous, the song reminiscent of the true meaning of Auld Lang Syne, and that big smooch at the end is much like a New Years Eve midnight kiss...10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!!!! ... Happy 2008, Everyone!


Cartledge said...

At least I can still catch up with you while you let your mind wander (I enjoy cheap travel too :). Happy New Year.

DivaJood said...

Corsica is where that wonderful cheese, Brin d'amour, comes from. It's divine!

D.K. Raed said...

Cartledge: yup, mental travel is very affordable. I'm imagining myself in that villa now. Dogs running along the beach ...

Diva: how marvelous to see you out & about! And of course, you would know about the delicious cheese. Wine too, I think? Ever been there?

Larry said...

Thanks for giving us something nice to think about and a place to hang out from time to time.


Fran said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR to the "K" family!!!

D.K. Raed said...

Larry, you can always hang here (even when it's not so nice).

Fran, the Special "K" family (humans and nonhumans alike) wish you & yours a Happy New Year, too!

Richard said...

Happy New Year D.K. and everyone else.

I've travelled a lot around the Med but never been to Corsica. It's a pretty expensive place stay but an old mate of mine (fluent French speaker) loved the place and spent time their as regularly as he could afford. Of course, he wasn't short of a few quid being a well off, Chief Accountant of a large motor company.

My VERY favourite place is Turkey - aka Paradise - and with good reason. One of my younger brothers sold up in the UK when he retired 4 years ago and went to live there -(Southern, Med coast). He and his wife LOVE it - as do me and mine. We spend as much time over there with him as our dosh will allow. (The cost of living is only about one third of what it is here in the UK).

If it wasn't for me needing our NHS so much, the missus & me would have moved over there a long time ago.

If you're not too easily bored and ever have the time/interest/patience, here's my most recent photo album. We were last over there in September. ( I bet you'd love it too, DK.)

Casabranca said...

Congratulations for the text on the Quercus suber. I am a painter of Quercus suber from Portugal. Happy 2008

TomCat said...

Thanks for leaving my invite at PP, DK!! Let's go!

Happy New Year to all here!

D.K. Raed said...

Richard: Turkey sounds VERY interesting, but your link is dead. I bet you put some pix on your blog; I'll look for 'em there. Now, Corsica being expensive is why I'm only mentally traveling there this year. The Euro exchange rate is a killer. "My" villa would cost $1500/wk USD right now (which the rental info says doesn't include an electric heater)!

Casabranca: Bemvindo! I was just updating the method of cork oak harvesting (peeling a few branches or partial trunk per tree) when you popped by. Your online portfolio is amazing! Not only the paintings, but your narrative recognizing the unique ecological niche of cork oaks. I was in Portugal in 1982, Cascais, a short biz trip ... too short ... found myself unable to easily communicate, because although the written language looks so similar to spanish, the pronounciation is muito dificil.

Tomcat: you noticed cats are allowed at "my" villa? Don't worry, you won't have to swim in the ocean. There's plenty of mountainous countryside for a cat to explore.

D.K. Raed said...

oops, Tomcat, I should've said "our" villa. It's as much yours as it is mine! And we may need your sharp little claws for mafia protection. My dogs are only good for barking. Thanks for playing along.

proudprogressive said...

Mais Oui mon Amie consider me there. I am a total mental traveler.

Blessed Be ! and best wishes to all for our very challenging and electric year ahead.

love you all dearly - merry we meet.

PS i also live in my own private Idaho...but its really liberal I am the Queen of "my country" and all are also welcome.

Richard said...

Sorry about the duff Turkey link, DK.

This one should work okay.

D.K. Raed said...

PProg: well since you mention liberal, I'm guessing your private Idaho is NOT in Idaho! See you at "our" villa, don't forget your cats. There must be fish in that ocean, so we'll find them something besides your exploded head to eat, hahah (I still laugh about that image). I love the people I meet mentally traveling!

Richard: aaaah, that's more like it! And wow, your pics will keep me busy for awhile, mentally traveling. Turkey looks lovely, not how I pictured it at all. I was thinking big cities with lots of minarets. You are sooo lucky to have a bro to host you there.

enigma4ever said...

Oh this is great....thank you for posting this..
and taking us on this adventure....hmm, about where would I go....Bali..( they have a clinic there that even needs nurses...) and Thailand...Phukat ( And yes, they need nurses...)...So I have been studying Thai and French off and on for a while...just in case....

But gee now I have to look at Corisca and Turkey.....hmmm

D.K. Raed said...

Oh Enigma, all I know about living in Thailand, I learned in that Spaulding Grey special, "Swimming to Cambodia". Well that & eating at Thai restaurants. I think we need a French Tutor NOW!

And yes, you MUST view Richard's Turkey pix! also the Portuguese Cork Oak Painter's "Portfolio" above ( absolutely captures the trees' souls, some of them look like they're dancing together!

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

Count me in!

D.K. Raed said...

Hey Pursey, I was hoping you'd stop by! We definitely need you on that island. Bring the whole family. We needs your million$ to buy real estate there. I hope we can get Spado to provide mafia protection.