Yes, yes, it is part of France and therefore it barely counts as “abroad”, never mind somewhere exotic. But before we went to Corsica in September, I suddenly found I had a pressing need to try and answer questions that I’d never thought about before, and although the internet is a place of wonder (and/or horror), I couldn’t find all the answers before we went. So, in a crunching change of gears from my previous introspective post, I proudly present my guide to Corsica with a toddler.
The boy loves his milk. He had a mixture of formula and breast milk right from the start, so by the time 12 months rolled around, I was *very ready indeed* to put the days of mixing up powder behind me, and to leap enthusiastically to giving him cow’s milk. Barring the fact that I’ve trained his tiny palate to prefer it slightly warmer than fridge cold (which makes him reluctant to drink a bottle which has been kept carefully chilled!), it has been a success. But all my memories of earlier trips to France involve searching out cartons of UHT milk for my cornflakes in giant hypermarches, so I wondered how he might cope and whether I ought to pack some powdered follow-on formula (which would be equally new to him).
Fear not! We easily found “le lait frais” in relatively small supermarkets, and even the local Spar. Whole milk (entier) was red top, while semi skimmed (demi ecreme) was blue. The only time we struggled was in the tiny shop on our campsite in the second half of the week, where we did end up with an emergency dash for UHT semi skimmed as the only milk available (which he also happily drank).
Possibly because we are lazy, the boy still drinks his milk from a bottle (rather than a sippy cup, as the NHS recommends). I don’t know whether this helped when we took two full bottles of milk through airport security (i.e. It was very clear it was baby milk), but they had no issues with us transporting that volume of milk for him in that way. We had the same levels of understanding from airport staff in Corsica, too.
On a previous trip to Corsica, I remembered that the portion of our time spent inland did involve bugs at dusk – but I had no memories of bugs during the coastal bit of the holiday. Turns out my memory was a little faulty – Corsica does indeed have bugs, including mosquitoes, which enjoy nothing more than a bit of tasty toddler. It was alarming to try and gently slap the mosquito which was feasting on his arm, and finding it’d already managed to sink its teeth (proboscis? Whatever) into him.
Thankfully, the boy was mostly unbothered by the bugs. We took Jungle Formula for kids which is suitable from 12 months (although we also used it last summer when he was about 4 months old, on the grounds that it was better than him getting bitten). I’m not sure how effectual it is, but he escaped lightly. Having forgotten to take any repellent for the adults, I slapped it on too, and got plenty of bites, including one on the top of my scalp – ouch. Next time, I would also want to take our plug-in bug repellent, though I need to check whether the chemicals involved are child-friendly. And I will be investing in another plug-in, as we won’t always share a room with the boy. Don’t forget to take some cream or antihistamines in your first aid kit, too.
As I bragged to my colleagues before I left, Corsica has some beautiful beaches, from crescents of white gold sand, through to rocky shores steeply sloping into teal water. Needless to say, the needs of a toddler (all new to me) turn out to require a specific kind of beach – sandy (so long as he or she has given up eating sand, which is the boy’s occasional hobby), gently sloping into lapping waves, with some shade. We spent half of our time in the south of the island and would recommend Santa Giuliana beach as being ideal. Parking (early in the morning, or even mid-morning when out of season) is free and right next to the beach.
The beach is not particularly wide so in peak season I imagine it gets full, but in mid September we had space to find a shady spot, protected by the various trees which overhang the beach. It has well-kept free public toilets (no baby change), and the waves are pretty gentle. In fact, the only downside was the copious quantity of seaweed which somewhat put us off, as the boy wasn’t keen on splashing into the water through it.
In the north of the island, we also loved Calvi beach. It is a huge bay, broken up with shorebreaks, and backed by a range of beach bars and restaurants. There’s also a train line, should your toddler be fascinated by such things! It’s harder to find shade (although you can string things up from the fence at the back of the beach), but there’s lots of space to spread out, boats to watch, sand castles to make – and the water is beautifully clear. You can also walk into the town of Calvi itself for a gelato (yesss!!) or a look around the cobbled streets. The marina has free public toilets (and paid-for showers) – we successfully rinsed a lot of sand off the boy in a deep sink designed for boat owners to do their washing up. There’s no baby change in the loos, but (apparently) the men’s is slightly better prepared than the ladies’ for a quick nappy change.
We encountered a wide range of baby facilities on the island. This will sound really parochial (ok, it is really parochial) but there’s no Ikea – so don’t expect to see the ubiquitous white plastic high chair. We encountered: a vintage wooden chair (in our accommodation); the type of high chair that clips onto an ordinary dining chair (no tray, so be aware that you might want to take a plastic plate, a stick down mat, or even some children’s cutlery); our pushchair (which suddenly became really annoying, as you realise that the low, reclined seat really isn’t much use) and our knees.
We didn’t find baby changing facilities anywhere, not even in popular tourist spots, so my homemade travel change mat came in handy – a sarong or beach towel would also do. Nappies and wipes were easy to find in supermarkets both large and small, but they were pricey – much more so than at home, especially branded nappies. And we saw no sign of any swim nappies, so if your little one is going in a swimming pool and you plan to use swim nappies, be prepared.
We picked up a couple of baby meals in case we needed them, and were reminded that many French baby meals have added salt or sugar, even purees for newly-weaned children. Even the children’s meals that we ordered in a restaurant came with salt on them – so if that is a deal-breaker, self-catering might be a better bet. I wasn’t super happy about the salt but the boy is a bit older and so I’m a bit more relaxed than I was when we visited France in January when he was only 8 months. And I feel like I’ve lost the battle about sugar (she says, posting another biscuit into his cheeping beak).
We took a pushchair with us, which proved less useful than expected. If the boy napped on a beach, he was content to lie on a towel (or me), rather than recline in the seat – and dragging a pushchair backwards across the sand was enough to make me feel I wasn’t on holiday. The only exception was at Calvi, where the boy walked on the beach while I pushed a chair filled with the ephemera required for a day at the beach – towels, drinks, snacks, clothes etc! The angle of the beach meant walking on hard sand at water’s edge was feasible. For our day in the southern port town of Bonifacio, the pushchair was not much use, even though some parts of the town have been made accessible to wheelchair / pushchair users, and despite the tourist train which can transport you up into the citadel. On that day, the soft carrier (Ergo 360, borrowed) really came into its own and next time I wouldn’t bother with the pushchair at all if I know beforehand that cobbles are involved.