Dom Joly: You can stick your al fresco salami, thank you

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The Independent Online

I've become a bit of a wimp traveller. I'm so used to swanning around the world with a film crew in tow that I've forgotten how to look after myself. I'm in Corsica, desperately trying to have a picnic. I'm not very good at having picnics. I'm just not organised enough. I'm a spontaneous type of person and picnics need organising.

I was here a couple of months ago on my own just travelling around. I'd read about this great river valley high up in the mountains above Calvi and I decided that it was worth an expedition. So I hopped into my car, stopped at a market, bought some supplies and headed off.

I found the valley. It was stunning and I took a little path down to gorgeous rock pools where I could lounge around on huge rocks and... have a very unsatisfactory picnic.

My penknife had been confiscated at Heathrow and I'd forgotten to bring a knife so I couldn't do anything with the local salami. I desperately tried to hack at it with my car keys until they nearly broke.

I got the bread and butter out – but the butter had completely melted and became a hideous, evil liquid running everywhere.

I turned to the bottle of rosé. Surely salvation lay within her smooth glass walls?

I tried to force the cork back into the bottle using a variety of pieces of wood, but to no avail. I thought, briefly, about breaking the neck and pouring the wine into my parched mouth but decided against it.

In the end, I was left munching on bread and drinking river water like some Wild Man of Corsica, not a total disaster but hardly the kind of thing that's going to get me my own lifestyle/cooking show.

Now I'm back in Corsica with my family for a quick final holiday before school goes back. I'm determined to visit the same river valley and have a successful family picnic experience. We visit the same market and I purchase a fine penknife with corkscrew.

We get breads and meats and cheeses and wines and tomatoes that smell of tomatoes, and lashings of ginger beer. (Well, beer anyway). Stacey has a huge cooler box and we place everything inside and feel very smug as we set off for the mountains. Our only little problem is that the woman at the car rental desk in Calvi has bamboozled us.

Instead of the sexy convertible that I'd booked, she persuaded me to take a Renault Kangoo, a supposedly modern version of the classic Renault Four. It is undoubtedly the most embarrassing car that I've ever driven. I thought briefly, that it might give us "local" cred until the first Corsican drove past us and nearly crashed laughing.

Trying not to look at our reflections in shop windows, we make our way out of Calvi and up into the Corsican maquis. We get to our destination without any further mishaps and things are starting to look up. Again I make my way down to the heavenly rock pools and enjoy the "oohs" and "aaahhs" of my family as they spy the crystal waters. We sit on rocks smoothed by thousands of years of water and lay out our picnic.

Rick Stein himself would be having words with his production staff if he came across us right now. I feel happy, I am a successful picnicker and my family is proud of me.

Then the Italians come. We hear them before we can see them, a family of 15 who care very little for the long-agreed laws of picnic placing. Despite us being very obviously in command of our rock pool they totally ignore us.

The kids dive in and start splashing about and shouting while the grown-ups set up camp all around us, breaching the 1958 Zurich agreement on personal body space and first-come claimant protocols. I mutter under my breath about how angry I am but, being British, decide to say and do nothing. Two adult Italian men strip naked and flaunt their salamis as they prepare a far superior picnic to ours.

In the end, we give in and form an orderly British/Canadian retreat to a nearby restaurant where we order sublime 'steak frites' all round and bravely berate the entire Italian race. If my film crew had been there I might have put up more of a fight. But, as Warren Beatty once remarked to Madonna: "If it's not on film, what's the point?"

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