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France: Corsica

There are two Corsicas: the glamorous, sun-blasted island of seaside resorts and boldface names, and the misty, steep land of the mountains. Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio are part of the first Corsica—mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, white-sand beaches, plentiful restaurants, and fish that’s bracingly fresh, like a slap in the face that returns you to consciousness (try it at a seaside table at Catina Grill, in Bonifacio). Yet no matter how white and soft the sand, how temperate the sea, and how warm and steady the sun, the reality of the mountains is never far away. In the heart of the island are innumerable waterfalls and rock pools, raging rivers that look like molten aluminum, and the interior’s most photographed natural wonder, the Col de Bavella, an expanse of otherworldly granite needles with no apparent evolutionary purpose save the triggering of fear and trembling. But Corsica is no place to be wimpy, not a place to be prim or shy. It’s a place to get drenched, it’s a place to be exhausted, it’s a place to be just a little less civilized than you normally are. —Scott Spencer

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