We have recently returned from a lovely week on the island and thought I would post a hopefully brief as possible report in case it is of use to anyone else who may be visiting. Firstly thanks to all the knowledgeble tripadvisor posters who gave us various bits of advice, it was all extremely useful.
Cheapie flight to Calvi from Stansted was with Titan Airways (chartered by Holiday Options), plane fairly full, on time and excellent service, recommended.
We were based in Calvi at the Hotel Balanea (sep review to follow but will give 3 stars on the basis of its wonderful location and views, lacking in other areas), the town was fairly busy with obviously an older crowd of French pensioners and middle aged tourists, many of whom appeared to be British, as all children back at school. The weather was great, averaging 26-28, no rain, one windy day so the BBC weather forecast was not accurate (it had showed a lot of rain for Calvi). The beach was still busy.
Calvi still our favourite and we had some great meals out this time. U Fanale is simply fabulous, ate their twice, what a shame we hadn't found it on earlier trips, thanks to bob for that one. Santa Maria packed out every night so didn't eat there, but tried U Minellu (v. good but massive portions), L'Abri Cotier, pizza at La Main a la pate, moules frites good and inexpensive at Comme Chez Soi on the port. Mata Hari at Arinella (Lumio) was excellent for lunch, food and service 1st class. We had a pizza lunch at Le Chariot in Algajola, consistently good year after year. I have an apology to make about Algajola beach, there is a small fine sand beach suitable for sandcastle making before you get to the main beach which we find a bit gritty and not as good as Calvi, so for parents who need fine sand, Algajola does have it !
St. Florent - we drove across the Desert des Agriates over to St. Florent from Calvi in 1 1/2 hrs - roads not busy. (We found the standards of driving from locals and French tourists very hair raising this year, overtaking on blind bends, completely mad driving at times.) Easy to park in St. Florent, nice little place to wander round and have lunch in the port, quiet in September. We had hoped to get the boat over to Loto beach and walk to Saleccia but the weather had got windy and the boats were cancelled - will try again next year ! Had a look round Hotel la Roya, very nice but very expensive for a sea view room and not central to the town. Would like to stay overnight at St. Florent next year and drive around Cap Corse.
Stopped at a lovely wild beach on the way home, just to the east of Ile Rousse, you turn off the new road by the Hotel Ostriccioni, go on to the old corniche road, park up and clamber down a path on to the beach (Plage de Perajola ??). Nice sand, about 20 people on the beach including a couple of male nudists on display, would be difficult to get to with small children but otherwise wonderful.
Highlight of the trip was the drive down to Porto (road excellent now all the way) and Piana stopping overnight at the Les Roches Rouges hotel, a real experience in a fin de siecle hotel with views of Scandola & les Calanches, possibly the best views ever. Hotel has gastronomic dining room, food superb. Terrace full of guests and callers in I think who come for an aperitif and watch the sun set over the Calanches. And the price - just 90 euros a night for a sea facing room with modern bathroom, shower etc, what a bargain. We chose the 32 euro menu which was as close to a Raymond Blanc experience as I am ever going to get (we live in Oxfordshire but my husband refuses to go to RB's manoir on the basis of the exorbitant cost).
Stopped at Plage d'Arone on the way to Cargese, nice beach and sand but a bit more developed than we care for (volley ball nets, posh restaurant etc). In Calvi if you want the less developed bit of the beach now you have to walk quite a distance past the beach bars to get to the quiet and more rustic part.
Called in at Cargese - lovely little place, could envisage staying there another day - looked round some hotels, had lunch at the Bel Air and then drove back inland via Venaco and all the other Vs, very scenic route, good road, little train whizzing by at regular intervals.
Aardvark - the Thalassa and Lentisques hotels both good 3 star hotels but a bit of a hike from Pero beach up to the centre of Cargese for an evening out - didn't find any 3 stars in the village itself ?
Sorry if this has gone on too long for those still reading it - finally a thanks to GeoffChall for the recommendation of the St. Erasme Hotel in Calvi, we had a good look round including some sea view rooms looking across to Revelata and will be booking in for next September, we liked it for a base in the town and it does have the advantage of the U Fanale restaurant 2 minutes walk away !