Napoléon's home

Overnight Azamara Quest had made the relatively short 172 km (93 nautical miles) voyage from Olbia Sardinia through the 11km wide Strait of Bonifacio on its way to our next destination of Ajaccio on the west coast of Corsica; the island directly north of Sardinia. With that we were leaving Italian territory for one of the regions of France. From a historical perspective it was cool to be sailing in to the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte.

Interesting info about Napoléon Bonaparte

Chances are if you asked people to identify 3 things about Napoléon as a person the most likely answers would be what shown below.

But are they true?

Napoléon was French

Corsicans will certainly dispute this notion.

Napoléon is Corsican rather than French. He was born in Ajaccio, Corsica to an Italian wine-making family decending from minor Italian nobility originally from the region of Tuscany.

Interestingly, he was born in 1769 - the year that the French invaded and took control of the island, although it didn't officially become a region of France until the following year.

Napoléon's first language was Italian, not French, and his birth name was Napoleone di Buonaparte - the name he kept until the age of 27 when he changed it to Napoléon Bonaparte around the time of his marriage to Joséphine.

Napoléon was short

Historians say that Napoléon was about 1.69m or 5’-6 1/2” tall - which would put him at about the average height for his era. Some say even above average height for that time.

Part of the misconception about his height came from the unit of measurement that the French used at the time identifying him as 5’-2” tall. One source we read also identified that his Imperial Guard that surrounded him was made up of tall men - so comparatively Napoléon would appear shorter.

It is interesting that the complex defining people’s aggressive tendencies based on stature is named for someone who wasn’t actual short in his day.

Napoléon kept his hand in his tunic

Ah yes, his famous pose with his right hand inside his tunic. It has become so intwined with his identity. Theories of why he did this range from a deformed hand, stomach cancer, an itch and a few even more far fetched ideas.

None of which are true; Napoléon didn’t keep his hand in his tunic.

The pose was actually used in English portraits dating back to the early 1700s. One theory is that artists started it because they couldn’t paint hands properly. Be that as it may, the pose was considered to identify good breeding. The practice had fallen out of favour by the time Napoléon’s famous portrait was painted, but the artist Jacques-Louis David revived the pose when he painted Napoléon in 1812 as a way to give him a boost when Napoléon’s popularity was fading. Napoléon never actually posed for the famous portrait, so he didn’t even put his hand in his tunic for the painting.

As a post-cruise note of interest:
One of his famed two-cornered hats, known as a bicorne, made the news in June 2018 when it sold at auction in Lyon for €350,000. The particular hat was attributed to have been worn by Napoléon at the battle of Waterloo. Of the estimated 120 iconic bicornes worn by Napoléon there is thought to be only 19 remaining today. The highest price paid for one of these 19 hats was a whopping $2.4 million in 2014.

We were scheduled to dock in Ajaccio at 8:00am so we made sure we were up early enough to enjoy breakfast on the final sail into the port. The weather was nice enough to take breakfast on the Sun Deck at the back of the ship as Azamara Quest maneuvered its way into the port and final docking position. It was a beautiful breakfast view and a great start to the day. Similar to Olbia, Ajaccio appeared to be a busy ferry destination but Azamara Quest was the only cruise ship in port.

Vizzanova and Bucugná

The plan for the morning was to travel to pretty much the centre of the island to the village of Vizzanova. From sea level at the port we’d rise about 900m in the mountainous forest region dominated by Monte d’Oro with its peak at 2389m. The scenery along the way was spectacular in its rugged beauty. Truly impressive. Our guide was entertaining and informative on the way to Vizzanova. It was interesting to us that she was not native to the island, but rather being from the Netherlands and working in Corsica for the tourist season.

Ajaccio and back to Azamara Quest

Once back in Ajaccio we decided that we’d return to Azamara Quest for lunch and to freshen up before heading out for the afternoon to enjoy the city. Like our day in Sardinia we opted to take lunch on The Patio. It suited us perfectly once again.

Ajaccio Image Gallery

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WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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