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!