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Hôtel Castel Brando: homey Corsican relaxation

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More a walled Mediterranean-style chateau complex than a classical medieval fortress, Hôtel Castel Brando near the picturesque Cap Corse harbor town of Erbalunga leaves one with the feeling of having stayed in the familiarity of someone’s home.
Consisting of a central building with three other outlying ones, the 46-room, four-star hotel, built in 1853, is awash with old world knick-knacks such as Grecian urns, oil and wick lamps, old teapots and candlestick holders, crimson boudoir sofas and Queen Anne chairs, a stately piano and even a large 1825 black and white military print entitled ‘Adieux de Fontainbleu,’ a tribute to Corsica’s most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Historically, Castle Brando is known as an ‘Americans' house’, meaning it was built during the 19th century by Corsicans who returned to their homeland after making their fortunes in the New World.
Most rooms are at the rear of the complex along a short gravel pathway lined with rose bushes. They are cozy, with a white-painted wood beam vaulted ceiling, a brown glazed stone tiled floor, heavy red curtains with matching sofa in one corner, whicker chairs and several framed prints on the walls, one a classic 18th century scene of an artist at his easel in an ornate drawing room talking to two women servants. Outside, a small balcony with chairs and table overlooks a swimming pool screened discreetly by an orange grove.
There are two outdoor swimming pools on the Castel Brando’s grounds, one being larger with an adjoining Jacuzzi close to the main building where breakfast is served. Here also is a small gift shop selling spirits, honey and jams and a boutique spa.
Aside from the pool area, most guest activity at Castel Brando takes place in the cream-colored, four-story main building with green shuttered windows, where some guest bedrooms are also located.
Here on the ground floor next to the reception desk is what could best be described as a comfortable study-cum-sitting room featuring many of the abovementioned knickknacks, a white marble fireplace, shelves stacked with books organized by language and several daily newspapers laid out on a central table for guest perusal.
A buffet breakfast is served next door inside a room resembling a large glass house looking out on one side to a stone balustrade above the main road through Erbalunga and on the other to an open patio in the grounds with stone and metal tables laid out under palm and plum trees and a labeled 70-year old olive tree.
Self-service is taken to a new level where you have the opportunity to make your own coffee (‘Nespresso’ coffee-maker with a wide selection of capsules) and fry your own eggs in small pans provided.
Depending on your level of sociability, the layout of the breakfast room can be either utterly delightful or frightfully intimidating, with tables set quite close together. There is no restaurant within the castle.
Erbalunga itself is a quaint medieval fishing village with a rustic feel about it and a most pleasant, unspoiled rock wall harbor, a mere two minute walk from Castel Brando. For greater variety and a more bustling environment, the town of Bastia is a 20-minute drive away along the coast with restaurants lining its well-developed leisure port, high fortress, keep and 16th-century bell tower.
A drive north along D80 also makes for a stunning coastal excursion through villages such as Macinaggio, Centuri and Nonza to admire the old Genovese towers or to taste the well-known Patrimonio wines.

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