Thursday 19th April 2018 To Corfu 82 miles + 22 km
Rosie has wanted to go to Corfu since the boat we were travelling back from Greece on in 1967, from Igoumenitsa to Brindisi in Italy, called in at Corfu Town. In 1971 her Mum & Dad, Renee & Lena invited us to join them on a holiday there, but Rosie was pregnant with Paul then and in those days you weren’t allowed to fly. So we thought it was time to fulfil another wish!
After a very busy time at home trying to catch up with the garden after the bad weather and with numerous health appointments, we were ready for our ‘holiday’ to Corfu. However our flight was at 05.55 and this meant leaving home at 2 am! We had a straightforward drive to Gatwick (M4, M25 & M23), apart from the fact that the eastbound slip road was closed at junction 13 this morning so we had to go ‘cross country’ to Theale and only just missing a muntjac deer which ran out in front of us in the dark on the M4 near Maidenhead. We arrived at 03.45 and left the car with our ‘meet and greet’ man. Then an easy booking in at the self service bag drop and through security where Adrian had the full check as he had left his phone in his back pocket!
After a pointless wait for 10 mins on the stairs down to the tarmac to board the plane (why does Easyjet do that?), we had a pleasant 3 hour flight to Corfu in the hazy sunshine, passing over Germany and the snowy Alps and down the Croatian coast landing at 11.00 local time (2 hours on). Quickly through passport control and baggage collection we were out into the sunshine to look for the shuttle to collect our car. It went a bit wrong here, where in Greek style, the instructions were very unclear as to where the pick up was, so after wandering around for some time, a phone call was needed! Then it was up to Goldcar where we quickly got through the paperwork and were off in our ‘brand new’ Fiat Panda.
It was then a trip around the back streets to avoid going into Kerkira (Corfu Town) and stopping at Dimitra’s supermarket to stock up with provisions as we are staying in a self catering villa. This was about 20 km up on the NE coast near Nikassa. The driving here seemed at times no better than Sri Lanka. It was very green on the way as we passed through many small conurbations most of which were very touristy. It was therefore with some relief that we arrived at ‘Olive Press Cottage’ on an unspoilt bay. We drove down to our villa which is one of three places there - The owners house (Costas & Vicky), a larger house which is empty this week, and ours. Walking down the path in the hot sunshine (23°C) to our villa on a small pebbly beach by the blue calm sea, past the lemon and orange trees was so delightful. It was all very rustic and lovely.
There was no one there to greet us as the housekeeper had rung yesterday to say she was away today so we let ourselves in and began to unload the shopping. Lunch on the patio by the sea followed, and later unpacking and settling in. It was often held up by 4 or 5 cats which as Mum Bower would have said ‘were at bit of a nuisance’. We're sure Louisa & Millie would not have agreed.
Later we had a cup of tea on the patio and then a paddle in the sea on our private beach which is not warm enough for us to have a swim (although probably warmer than England in the height of summer).
An aperitif in the evening sun and then excellent Portobello mushrooms cooked by Rosie with a bottle of wine left by the owners followed. We sat out on the patio till the sun had set and came in about 9.30 for an early night after our very early start.
Olive Press Cottage, Nissaki
Note: Rosie originally wrote this day’s diary, but the tablet crashed and lost it, so it has been rewritten by Adrian - as a one off!
We arrive at our idyll on Corfu
Friday 20th April Settling in! 15km
It was wonderful to not have to be dashing off anywhere and to have time to really enjoy this idyllic peaceful setting.
After Adrian’ excellent diary entry for yesterday, I thought that I’d lost my job, but he says no!
We ate breakfast on the patio in the sunshine, just as the sun was emerging from behind the hills. We tried some delicious marmalade made by Vicky, the owner. She came by with two tablets for the washing machine for us to use. Later she left some olive oil (this place used to be an old olive press). Some rosemary plants had been delivered, and a gardener came to plant them to replace those that had got damaged.
The sun soon became hot, so we sat outside under the shade for coffee and later lunch, which included a ‘Greek salad’ We had been given feta cheese, tomatoes and cucumber in our welcome basket.
We soaked up our surroundings, walking along the pebbly/rocky beach as far as we could.
In the afternoon, we went to set off in the car for a short drive around. Costas, the owner, was with the gardener, planting petunias. He confirmed that the property had been in the family since the late 1800s. He hoped to keep it that way! He told us too of the disease that is affecting the palm trees, and also of the citrus tree disease, which has meant that the orange and lemon trees have had to be sprayed.
Exploring our beach
We drove along to the small coastal settlement of Nisaki (sometimes spelt with one s). This was tiny and steep, and confusingly had a restaurant called ‘Olive Press’ the same name as our property.
We called in to well stocked little Katerina supermarket, where we bought a bag of charcoal, and ordered some sea bass for tomorrow.
We then had a short drive up into the very steep hills behind us, where houses tottered on land beside the road. We enjoyed the fresh wild flowers.
We looked back down to ‘our’ property
We stopped by an atmospheric little paved area, possibly a failed entrance to someone’s proposed home, or maybe a way to a spring.
Back at the villa, we enjoyed a cup of tea with a shared baklava from the shop - it was just cool enough in the shade to sit outside!
At suppertime we survived the cats but Adrian succumbed to having one on his lap afterwards, sending her off when we finally came in for bed.
A wonderful first day here.
Olive Press Cottage, Nissaki
Corfu in its ‘spring green’
Saturday 21st April Mt. Pandokrator 25km
We're getting used to this Corfuan way of life! I was up late on a morning that was slightly cooler, with noticeable waves. It was still lovely sitting on the terrace for breakfast. We needed to go up to Katerina supermarket to collect our fish. Just as we were leaving, the housekeeper arrived, so chatting to her delayed us for a while. She is from Cheshire, but has lived here with her husband, in a village 45 minutes away in the mountains, for 8 years, and loves it. She also does home caring, and has just been back to England for 4 months. She was originally a gardener. They have 19 cats and a dog! She reminded us of Sharon, and was very easy to talk to. Costas and Vicky then arrived, so our departure was delayed further!
We made first for Aphrodite supermarket, as it has a bakers attached. We bought a fresh white loaf, and a baklava. We came back for a late coffee on the terrace, enjoying a piece of the delicious loaf.
We had been wondering where to go today, but as we didn’t set off until after lunch, we had decided to drive up Mt. Pandokrator, the highest mountain on Corfu (911m), which is up behind us. We took a very winding route, enjoying the wild flowers and the ancient olive trees with marvellous views down to the aquamarine sea.
We drove through the long drawn out Greek village of Spartilas, ascending higher and higher to the summit. Everywhere was very green, with flowers all about.
We had read that the monastery at the top had been engulfed by hundreds of antennae, and it certainly was! The biggest, which stands in the monastery, Costas tells us was erected in the 1960’s when the Colonels were in power in Greece, to send television signals to all Albania during the Communist era. It has to be seen to be believed as a travesty of planning.
Ascending Mt Pandokrator through the olive trees
There were few visitors at this time of year. Neither the church, nor the cafe were open, so it was a pleasant wander around the ancient buildings, with fantastic views down over much of Corfu, and to Albania, which we are hoping to visit one day. It was warm and the sky was a cornflower blue - lovely!
The monastery dwarfed by the communications tower
On our way down, we diverted to drive through the village of Petalia, which looked unloved and unwelcoming. The village of Strimilas looked far more loved. After Spartilas, we took a different road down to the coast.
Looking to Albania from the summit of Mt Pandokrator
We arrived back at the villa to enjoy the baklava, surrounded by the cats!
Tonight we barbecued the sea bass we had bought - hampered again by the numerous cats!
They enjoyed our ‘throw outs’. The fish was good, with veggie ‘skewers’. The weather was a bit cooler, with a breeze. Costas came to water his plants
Looking across to Corfu Town which we are visiting tomorrow
Nice place for a barbie!
Sunday 22nd April Corfu Town 53km
The sun hadn’t reached us by the time we had our fried breakfast, so we ate inside.
Vicky was busy gardening when we left at 9.20, for the half hour drive into Corfu town.
Once there, our first stop was at the port, to sort out our proposed trip to Albania on Tuesday. We took some time finding the office, but once we did, we were dealt with by a pleasant young chap and ended up with tickets for the 9.00am hydrofoil, coming back on the 4.00pm ferry. Summer timetable doesn’t start until May!
We continued to the so-called ‘New Fort’, where after a difficult search, we found a place to park. From here we could walk into the old town, through the Jewish quarter initially. The fort had towered above us as we wandered the little streets lined with souvenir shops and eating places.
We peeped into numerous dark, ornate churches as we made our way to the ‘Old Fort’ and Esplanade. We’d found it hard to know whereabouts we were, despite looking at the many street plans.
We managed to make our way back to the car, in the old port. It was 2 o’clock as we set off for the British cemetery, which we found tucked away behind the prison. Where we had first parked the ground was rutted with dried mud. We could see the cemetery, but couldn’t get in! We found our way to the actual entrance - a small gate in a wall. It was a very atmospheric place - a bit like an old British graveyard, but set under tall fir trees. It was upsetting to see how young people were when they died, but the saddest thing of all was a memorial to 44 British soldiers who died in 1946 when their ships were mined in the waters between Corfu and Albania. Albania denied responsibility and maintained the British ships were in Albanian waters. It seems many regard this incident as the start of the cold war. It’s very complicated and has only been settled recently.
The New (12th Century) Fort and the Jewish Holocaust memorial
Britain had ruled in Corfu from 1814 to 1862, having inherited it from the French after the fall of Napoleon and giving it to Greece in 1862 (not back to, as Greece wasn’t formed until 1832) and so it was not a surprise to find that Corfu had the only cricket pitch in Greece - part of the Esplanade. This was very busy with locals eating and drinking on this sunny Sunday morning.
Images of Corfu Town (Kerkyra)
The Cricket Ground, Corfu Town
However, we had difficulty in finding an eating place to suit us when lunchtime came, but ended up at Lafran, where we had attentive service and enjoyed sardines (A) and aubergine & feta (R), sitting outside. It was an excellent place for people watching. A short distance away a small group were playing modern jazz, which added to the pleasant atmosphere.
Atmospheric lunch stop
We now drove south of Corfu Town to look back to it and the old fort across the bay. There was an atmospheric old windmill and a restaurant where lots of people were enjoying Sunday afternoon. Others were sunning themselves at the end of Mon Repos beach. Little boats were anchored in the bay. We both enjoyed an icecream -mango and honey & nuts -soaking up the atmosphere and the view. They were even playing a favourite REM song of ours ‘Everybody hurts’.
The entrance gate to the British Cemetery
We now drove to the southern end of Kanoni peninsula, where the airport is situated. You would have no idea of this from the much photographed southern tip, where we stopped to view the two pretty little islands of Moni Vlahernas, reached by a causeway, and Mouse Island, both with little churches on them. We viewed from below and above, where there was a flourishing cafe with fantastic views.
Looking back to the Old Fort from the ancient windmill
We made our way back up the peninsula, passing again some of the ancient ruins of this area. Then it was back to Olive Press cottage, stopping at Ipsos to shop in a disappointing Spar supermarket (where I did get a few postcards), arriving back at 5.30.
Moni Vlahernas and Mouse Island
Monday 23rd April A difficult morning, and pretty beaches in the afternoon 44km
A day which didn’t go as planned! My blood pressure, which I take daily, had an extremely low reading, and my pulse was high. Hence a morning which was spent not as we’d have liked! We took my blood pressure several more times, even changing the monitor batteries, but decided that we should do something about it.
We had breakfast outside - it was amazingly calm and peaceful.
As my blood pressure was still low, we set off for the ‘British surgery’ we had seen in Ipsos. Oh dear - it was closed for winter, and the nearest one was only open Tuesdays and Fridays!
Back we went to the cottage, and spent the rest of the morning trying to sort things out. Costas and Vicky weren’t about, and, after a difficult-to-hear phone conversation with an English speaking doctor, the phones didn’t work and we couldn’t find the address! Adrian was understandably getting stressed. In the end, we set off for the health centre, in Agios Markos Ipsos, but we didn’t know where! Adrian enquired in the pharmacy, next to the closed surgery, and was told that it was actually in the village of Agios Markos (St Marks), a km inland. We drove there, past the school where the children were doing some sort of parade, and found the Health Centre. Here we were quickly seen by 2 lady doctors, who found my blood pressure to be normal - even a bit high (not surprising now, after all the anxiety!)
So then it was back to the cottage for lunch, buying a loaf on the way.
In mid afternoon, we set off in the car to see some of the coastline to the north. First stop was Kaminaki Beach, where we made a very long steep descent (from 120m), hairpinning down to a minute pebbly beach, where sunbeds were stacked ready for summer. The sea was an aquamarine blue, but we didn’t think that it would be much fun dodging all the vehicles on the narrow lane to find a cramped spot by the sea.
Our next stop was at Agni Beach, where the descent was just as long, but far more gradual. Sunbeds were stacked here too, but there were several jetties for hire boats from this pretty beach.
We then wound down to Kalami beach, famed for The White House - once the home of Lawrence Durrell and his wife. It is now a Taverna, with rooms to rent on the first floor. He wouldn’t have liked the many apartment blocks which have sprung up round the bay.
Pretty Agni Beach
Our last beach was Kouloura, which we didn’t actually get to, as a badly parked car was almost blocking the road. Instead we made for neighbouring Houhouho Beach, which was again pebbly, but deserted and quite lovely. We walked along past the beached pontoons to the end of the beach, before five minutes sitting on the pebbles and looking to Albania, very close by.
Lawrence Durrell’s White House, Kalami
We got back at 5.15, having stopped at Katerina’ and bought 3 more postcards, and four stamps -all she had! Aphrodite had no cards or stamps, but the cashier said - ‘bring them here and I’ll post them for you’
We were relieved to find that my blood pressure was now normal.
A bit later, we saw dolphins swimming past us. We sat outside to eat supper then came in to prepare for our trip to Albania tomorrow.
Tropical looking Houhouho beach
Tuesday 24th April A day in Albania 45km
The alarm went at 6.00 and we got up soon after. Before we left at 7.30, we read the news that William and Kate had had another little boy yesterday.
It was a good time to travel, with not much traffic. We arrived at Corfu Town at 8.00 and made for the port. Adrian went to park the car, then it was soon into the Port Terminal - a bit like an airport with the security, but not so bad.
We were soon on to the hydrofoil, which left for Saranda, Albania at 9.00am.
We sailed up the Corfu coast, trying to spot our cottage, which we couldn’t. We thought that we might on the return journey, but the sun was against us, so we didn’t then either.
At 10.00 we arrived at Saranda - a large town of apartment blocks and hotels, none of which fortunately were more than 10 storeys high, which stretched right around the bay. I was excited to come to Albania, as the country had fascinated me since 1967, when we’d had to drive around the outside to get to Greece. I wasn’t able to conceive of a country which you couldn’t visit.
It was freed from this tyranny in 1991, when it was so backward that it has taken 25 years to come into the modern world. Now, this part of Albania at least, could have been anywhere in the western world.
On the hydrofoil from Corfu Town to Saranda, Albania
Our plan was to hire a taxi to take us to nearby spots, and this worked brilliantly. We were soon driving off with Tafil, a pleasant man, who spoke only a little English, so Adrian wasn’t able to have deep conversations with him about life after the communist regime. We just got impressions. Tafil had been born in Saranda, and loved his country - he kept saying ‘beautiful’ and certainly what we saw today was.
He stopped to buy us each a bottle of drinking water as we drove first southwards to the ruins of Butrint. Much of this was on a narrow strip of land, with the sea on one side and a lagoon, where there were mussel beds, on the other. We soon stopped with a good view back to Saranda. We had noticed one or two motorhomes, and several campsites.
Then it was on to the National Park of Butrint. This was a wonderful place. It was situated on a round peninsula, and contained ruins from Venetian, Roman and Greek times, all set amongst glorious verdant green forested hills. Near the entrance there was a castle across a channel, where a simple ferry ploughed back and forth, taking its one or two cars. This fascinated Adrian.
The Albanian coast
We stopped to view all this on a shady seat, while I drank the coffee I’d brought with me. The ruins were very atmospheric - the peace only shattered by someone strimming the grass! In a pool of water we spotted a turtle.
We had a good wander around, getting back to the entrance at midday.
The castle and the cable ferry across the channel at Butrint
On the way back to Saranda, we stopped by Tre Ishujt restaurant in Ksamil, beautifully situated by an (imported) white sandy beach, with exquisite aquamarine sea.
The ancient ruins at Butrint, Albania
Then it was on to ‘Blue Eye’- a beauty spot north of Saranda. This was unbelievably beautiful. We wandered through deep greenery to arrive at the spring, which was an exquisite blue. It was 50m deep and the water was 10°C, remarkably clear and ‘bubbling up’ at 8 cu m /sec.
The exotic view from Tre Ishujt restaurant in Ksamil
Now Tafil drove us back towards Saranda, driving right up to the castle, high up, where there were good views down over the town and bay. He told us that the summer is incredibly busy, and hot - May and September were the times to come.
We walked on, coming to a pleasant eating place where we stopped for lunch - trout with plenty of green salad and pappy chips. Tafil ate local cheese, which he gave us to try - a very interesting goats cheese we think, all for €17. Only afterwards did I realise that we were sitting on boards out over the rushing clear water! Cats plagued us here too. There were little chalets around and Tafil told us that before 1991 this used to be a place where the ‘leaders’ of the regime used to come to a ‘hotel’ for relaxation!
Stunning Blue Eye
The former hotel and the restaurant at Blue Eye
He drove us back down to the waterfront, where we said our goodbyes. It had all worked so well.
We now walked around the bay, going on to the white pebbly beach, where I put my feet in the clear water. We'd bought an icecream, which although the flavour wasn’t the best, was the cheapest for a long time - €1 for two! We passed little boys with their bikes - just like any European kids, but two toddlers had come up saying ‘money’.
Looking down to Saranda from the castle and Tafil, our driver
We were travelling back by ferry, as the hydrofoil wasn’t yet running in the afternoons. Our 4 o’clock departure was actually five a-clock, as Albanian time is one hour on! We had to wait while a car was driven on board. We sat up on deck in the sunshine for the 1½ hour crossing. We seemed to travel for ages down the coast.
Once we’d docked, we walked through the port to the car, by which time it was nearly 7 o’clock. Then it was the drive back to Nisaka, stopping to shop in Lidl, and to post the cards I’d written, arriving back at 7.50. It had been a long but wonderful day.
We ate some ‘tea’ outside, accompanied by the 5 cats!
The ferry back to Corfu
Wednesday 25th April Pretty villages, a swim, a barbecue and a fire 27km
It was a lovely peaceful morning. We ate breakfast outside, accompanied by the cats, before spending a relaxing morning catching up with the diary, photos and enjoying our wonderful location.
We had eaten our lunch on the terrace and were about to set off in the car when Diane and Tony, the housekeepers, arrived to clean the cottage. After chatting to them, it was 1.45 when we left, speaking to Costas on the way.
We were heading north, to explore the coast around Kassiopi. This was a pretty place, set around a bay, with a ruined castle up above - and much history! Dozens of swallows were swooping down. We could imagine it being very busy in summer. We asked for stamps, but the shop had none, and the post office closed at 2.00pm! The drive on around the headland was lovely.
We drove back to see some of the peninsula just before it, coming down first to Avlaki - again beautiful - a semicircular bay of white pebbles surrounded the turquoise sea, with green hills all around. It was deserted and very pretty. I put my feet into the sea.
We drove on through the lush green to Ayios Stefanos, yet another lovely cove - this time with a lot of boats. We asked in a little shop for stamps. The elderly lady said ‘no, next door’. This was a well stocked gift shop, up many steps, and yes! they did have stamps! We bought some and were able to post our remaining cards in the post box outside before having a walk around the quiet bay.
Our last stop was at idyllic Kerasia - another white pebble bay surrounded by green hills. Just one family were enjoying the beach - I really felt like joining them in the sea, but we hadn’t come prepared. There was one taverna, and villas were hiding in the trees, but it seemed deserted.
On finding our way back to the road, we had a near disaster when the car got stuck on the very steep concrete road which had a covering of small stones. Adrian had several goes at ascending, and at last we made it, with only minimal scratching of the car.
We arrived back at the cottage at 5 o’clock. Looking out to the calm sea, I decided that this was the time to try it! Getting in isn’t easy because of the uneven pebbles, although there is some sand further out. The water was beautifully warm, and we both had a lovely swim, and were so glad to have done so.
Then it was time for our second barbecue, cooking the excellent fish we had bought in Lidl, and watched of course by 5 cats, who squabbled over the remains!
A delightful swim from ‘our’ beach
Adrian had asked Costas the other day if we could have a fire on the beach, and he replied that it was OK (before 1st May). Hence we had a magical evening sitting in our seclusion with the growing moon and a few stars. We tore ourselves away to come in at 9.45. Another great day!
Another delicious barbecue, watched by Jessica cat
The day ended with a fire on the beach
Thursday 26th April To the northwest coast 86km
A lovely morning again as we sat on the terrace for breakfast. Costas came to water the plants. As they are going to Munich to meet their daughter (who lives in Saudi Arabia), Adrian went to pay for our stay. This took a long time, as Costas’ visa machine wasn’t working at first.
It was 10.30 went we set off for the north coast. We took a difficult zigzagging road to Spartilas on green mountain roads with lots of wild flowers.
We stopped for a late coffee just before Episcepi, a little town of twisted streets with atmospheric steps and a bell tower.
We reached the sea at Aharavi, which had a white pebble beach. It was quiet now, but we imagine different in summer.
Coffee stop near Episcepi
Where we had pulled in, under acacia trees with white wisteria-like blossoms, a man with a truck and trailer asked if we could pull out - he needed the space to reverse his vehicle & trailer! It was a lovely peaceful stop, with just birdsong - and a chain saw! All around were terraces of old olive trees with nets spread underneath them.
We drove along to Roda, which had disparaging reports in our new (but 15 year old) guide books. Again it was quiet today and had a sandy beach.
It was now a very bumpy track to Agnos, which again was quiet. We ate our lunchtime sandwiches sitting on a wall by the sea in the hot sun - there was no shade. Large rocks had been set out as protection from the sea.
We drove up high to come to Sidhari, where Emma and Ruby had stayed last year. We looked at the sandy beach, which again was quiet now, with the main street right behind it. When we came to drive along there, a vehicle was blocking the road. After a circle back down onto the beach, luckily the lorry soon moved off.
After several attempts, we managed to park behind a hotel and walk to the ‘Canal d’Amour’ - a popular spot where inlets of water were
surrounded by yellow sandstone rock. Everywhere was setting up for the summer season - 1st May it seems.
Beaches at Sidhari
We drove on through the village of Peroulades with its old houses. Popular Longas Beach was way down below. Next was the attractive stone built village of Arliotes which seemed to go on forever.
As we approached Ayros Stefanos (a different one from yesterday), sea mist was descending, but it had lifted by the time we’d left the harbour with its collection of old fishing boats. We could now see the tall white cliffs.
Canal d’amour, Sidhari
We drove on to the resort town of Arila with its sandy beach and lots of people. From here to Afonas the road had a really bad surface and umpteen steep hairpin bends - we thought that we might have a repeat of yesterday’s disaster! The sat nav had now gone flat, so I had to revive my navigating skills. From Agros we took a road across the green mountains with lots more hairpin bends up and then down. We stopped to get fuel - the first time in this car.
We turned off to drive through Ano Korakianna a large mountain village set on different levels. We were really pleased to see a signpost to Agio Markos - where we had visited the Health Centre, so it wasn’t long before we came to the coast road at Ipsos. We stopped to buy a loaf of bread, but couldn’t get a small milk. We got back at 5.20 and enjoyed a cup of tea under the sunshade.
Later we ate our meal outside, with the company of the cats of course but enjoying the calm!
Friday 27th April Last day in the north of Corfu 78km
Another beautiful day as we sat on the terrace with our boiled egg for breakfast.
We left at 10.30 to see a bit more of the western side of the island. At first we repeated yesterday’s homeward journey as far as Skiperos. From here we continued through Donkades -the prettiest village we have seen. We had been enjoying seeing so many flowers - a bonus of this time of year. We particularly have been surprised by the abundance of colourful roses and the best brilliant red bottle brush trees of anywhere.
Finding a place to stop was as difficult as ever. I spotted a small pull-off, and as we went to turn round, another car pulled in. It was then that we saw that it was a spring. The man filled his water bottle and left, so we sat on a low wall with wild flowers, in particular deep red poppies, around us, and the steep orange coloured mountain up behind.
We made for Paleokastritsos - an area of bays and beaches surrounded by green mountains. It was busier than we’d come across. We made for the little harbour before driving up a steep hill - where most people were walking, to the monastery. We were both wearing vest T-shirts, but the monk handed just me a scarf to put round my shoulders before we walked in! The views down from here were spectacular.
Nice coffee/tea stop beside a spring
Seeing all the fishing boats, we were hoping to get some fish to barbecue tonight, but here everything is geared up for tavernas, not for self catering, and we couldn’t get any, even when we tried Supermarket Kathy. Adrian did get some tonic, but no fresh milk either.
There was nowhere to sit in the shade round Paleo, so we set off southwards. Just after missing our turning, we came to a little chapel with a shrine. The bench around the church made an ideal place to sit and eat our egg sandwich lunch.
We drove on down to Ermones, where there were huge rocks, but also a large new development.
Lunch in the chapel shade
Just south of here was Myrtiotissa Beach, apparently described by Lawrence Durrell as ‘the prettiest beach in the world’. How he managed to get here we don’t know, as it is down a ridiculously steep road. We stopped some way above it, with no desire to either drive or walk further! We could see the small beach, now known as a nudist beach, quite busy with people.
Now it was time to return to Olive Press for our last night before our few days in the south.
We stopped at Lidl at Potamus, where, as before, we were able to buy both fresh fish and milk.
We got back at 3.45, and after a cup of tea on the terrace, had another delightful swim in the sea. The temperature today has been 29°C.
Looking down to Myrtiotissa Beach
We ate a lovely last supper here, starting with a Greek salad followed by barbecued fish with spinach and new potatoes and then bread and butter pudding for afters, coming in at 9 o’clock.
Last night at Olive Press
We ate our last breakfast on the terrace, attacked by naughty cat, whose name we found out is Mia. Costas came to water his plants before he and Vicky leave for Munich to meet up with their only daughter, who lives in Saudi Arabia with her husband. We said our goodbyes to them and told them how much we had enjoyed our stay. We also saw Diane to say goodbye to.
It took us a while to pack up, but we had been told that we could stay as long as we wanted, as no-one else was arriving yet. We were able to talk on skype to Louisa to wish her happy 10th birthday for tomorrow. We spoke to Nicky and the others too.
For the first time, some other people had arrived on the beach, one snorkelling along the bay. After having coffee, we said our goodbyes to the beach, and to this lovely place.
It was 11.30 when we set off southwards, turning inland at Gouvia to drive across to the western side of the island. We reached the large wonderful old Greek village of Sinarades, driving through the narrow twisting lanes which wouldn’t be for motorhomes!
Saturday 28th April To a new place in the south of Corfu 76km
Farewell to Olive Press
Soon afterwards we had a view down to Agio Gordios through some pretty grasses. It looked idyllic, until we saw the development! We descended to the town, which was crowded and busy. There was a leak from a large hose by the beach spraying water everywhere, so we turned around and got out of the town! We did get a glimpse of the pleasant sandy beach, but it wasn’t the place for us!
Brilliant bottle brush and bell tower in Sinarades
We continued south, but could find no shade with anywhere to stop for lunch. We drove through the pretty village of Pendati, with its narrow streets, stopping soon afterwards to eat our sandwich in an old olive grove. Nets were rolled up on the ground, which was covered with ramson type flowers. We sat against two large rocks. It was quiet and shady.
Agio Gordios, which is where we think Mum & Dad Cape and Renee & Lena stayed in 1971
The road now zigzagged down to rocky Paramonas beach, where we had to ford a stream. It was quiet and undeveloped here.
Cool and shady lunch stop
South of Agio Matteos we joined the main road, reaching our accommodation Anna Studios at Marathia Beach at 2.50. We could find nobody to let us in. We walked across to the wide sandy beach, which was very hot, then back at the villa, Adrian phoned. Very soon Costas (another one) appeared from the nearby taverna. He showed us to our room, on the first floor. It had a balcony from which we could just see the sea. Of course we knew that it would be nothing like Olive Press Cottage, as this is only an apartment not a villa , but we soon got settled in, and found homes for our stuff for the next 5 days before having a cup of tea on the balcony. Costas’s large vegetable patch, which he is very proud of, adjoined the property.
Fording the stream at Paramonas Beach
As we sat on the balcony with our aperitifs, it had a really rural feel, with swallows swooping down - until a man disturbed the peace with a strimmer!
We walked over to Dimitris, Costas’s taverna, where the only other diners were a couple from Krakow, Poland - Aga and Barto. Costas brought the menu, but not everything was on offer. We settled for artichokes (A), from his garden, and fried cheese (R). We had a glass each of his own wine (on the house, as the ouzo which followed was too.) The food was good. We had a long conversation with Aga and Barto, a hard working young couple who finish their week’s holiday tomorrow.
Our shady balcony and Costa’s vegetable garden at Marathias Beach
We then chatted to Costas, who was eager to please, and reminded me of David Kossof in the film ‘Innocent Sinners’, from the book by Rumer Godden ‘An Episode of Sparrows’. It was a family business, with his wife cooking, and one of his sons waiting. It was 10.00 and dark when we wandered back.
Chatting to Aga and Barto from Krakow
Sunday 29th April To the far south of Corfu 55km
For the first time, it was cloudy when we looked out, but it had cleared by the time we walked up to the Taverna for breakfast. It was strange not to be getting our own breakfast, but it is included here. We even did a bit of the website before going over. The man was strimming again!
The German family who are staying here were noisily having their breakfast - a little girl Leah and her one year old brother Finn, who enjoyed waving and smiling at us.
Costas2 (we shall have to call him!) suddenly dashed off in his car for bread - being Sunday, there wasn’t any locally. It was very fresh. We ate it with boiled egg, tomato and cheese. We didn’t leave our place until nearly midday.
Today we were going to visit the extreme south of the island. We drove up to the main road, bypassing Perivoli and Lefkimmi and turning off through pretty Kritika to sandy Kavouka beach, which was completely undeveloped. Here we were ‘accosted’ by a Spiro-like character called Tom, who came up to our open window and started chatting. He had lived in Seattle for 30 years and had now retired back to his birthplace, so spoke reasonable English. He was a pleasant enough chap, but didn’t stop to listen, and just liked to give his ideas of life.
Looking back to our room (pink building with balcony) from the taverna and back to the taverna from our balcony
There was no shade on the beach, so we continued towards nearby Kavos, which is written about so disparagingly in both our guide books as being the place not to go to.
This extreme southerly tip was a haven of green trees, but once again with nowhere at all to pull off with a bit of shade to sit in for our lunch. It was almost a repeat of yesterday, as we managed finally to park by another shady olive grove, but this time we sat in the car, with our feet out of the open door. It was really peaceful and quiet.
A mile or so after this, we came to Kavos - a ‘place to avoid at all cost’ as our book said. It is supposed to be the hang out for drunken lager louts. Maybe it has changed since our books were written (the latest versions, but at least 15 years out of date). At this time of day/year it seemed quite pleasant, with attractive buildings, just a few tourists, and a long sandy beach.
Just before reaching Lefkimmi, we turned down to the ‘port’, where a boat leaves from for the one hour crossing to Igoumenitsa. The vast expanse of car park was virtually empty. There was no-one about, and the boat stood with its bows open - we could imagine driving on and arriving in mainland Greece!
Kavouka Beach - no tourism here!
We drove on through pretty Potami, following the Himaros River to Bouka beach where the sand was very hot. Lots of small pleasure boats and a few genuine fishing boats were moored beside the tranquil river.
The ferry at Lefkimmi Port, about to leave for Igoumenitsa on mainland Greece (in the distance)
We drove back and through quaint, old-fashioned Lefkimmi with its narrow streets. It is very unpretentious for Corfu’s second largest town. We drove north a short way to Alikes, with its barren, rocky edged harbour, then continued through the verdant countryside with tall trees back to the main road.
On our way back to Marathias, we drove through Perivali, with its very old houses, arriving back at Anna Studios at 3.15.
The shady balcony meant that it was cool enough to have our tea/coffee, missed from this morning. Costas2 came over with two new guests, so we were able to say that we weren’t coming over to the taverna tonight.
A bit later we walked down onto the wide sandy beach. It was a bit windy, with more waves than yesterday. The orange coloured hill up behind made us think of Golden Cap in Dorset. We walked along for quite a way, coming back to sit on the sand before wading back across the stream which comes out to the sea here. The temperate has been 30°+ today.
A fishing boat on the Himaros River just before Bouka beach
We had decided to eat here tonight, so I made a ‘risotto’, using up some of our food. We ate it on the balcony before walking down to the beach to see the sunset, and the full moon rising.
Supper on the balcony - the full moon rises as the sun sets over the sea
Monday 30th April Lake Korission and around 60km
A sunny morning. There were two other couples at breakfast. We had a sort of eggy bread and then the delicious fresh bread with cheese and jam. Costas2 was eager to please as ever. He said that he was cooking moussaka tonight, then remembered that we don’t eat meat, so hoped to do a veggie one for us.
We were really upset to get a message saying that our dear friend Bill Bruce had died.
We left at 11.00. Today we planned to visit Lake Korission, a large artificial fresh water lagoon formed by the Venetians.
First we were looking at the bit of coast before it. We had to drive back to the main road, then through the incredibly old and crumbling village of Argirades with its narrow, twisted roads. A massive olive tree was growing opposite a church. After taking a picture of this, we stopped to photograph the narrow lane when a lady called Layla(?) signified to Adrian that she would direct him (although we weren’t lost). She spoke no English at all, so did everything by mime and signs. She led him up the road, saying that she knew that we were heading for Agios Georgios, on the coast. She gesticulated for Adrian to reverse the car down the next bit of road - this was so that he could negotiate the tight hairpin bend.
Having successfully accomplished that, we waved our goodbyes, and headed for Agios Georgios.
Our books described this place as ‘a mess’, but once again, at this time of year it was quiet and pleasant. The little harbour was rather barren, but the ‘resort’ appears not to have developed as people feared it might.
Being directed in Argirades
We found our way back to the main road, in order to get to the western end of the lagoon, which looked more accessible. This necessitated a long tour round. Soon after turning off the main road again, we passed some ancient 13th century byzantine ruins - Ghardiki Pyrgos, which we said that we’d stop at on our return.
Just afterwards we passed a thriving nursery with rows of rose plants.
We came down to Halikanna Beach, stopping by a desolate taverna, which maybe would be done up and opened for summer. As it was, there was a bench where we could sit and eat our potato salad and sandwiches for lunch. It was a good place to stop, with masses of low growing pink and white convolvulus, but Adrian didn’t appreciate the mozzie bites he received! We had two spots of rain as we got back into the car.
The harbour at Agios Georgios
We were at the northern end of the lagoon, which you could walk around, and we would have done once. It was a reserve, and was supposed to be a haven for wildlife, but we saw very little. We drove partway on a sandy track along the southern edge, which was fringed with juniper trees. The lake had much weed, and didn’t look that attractive. We spied a group of white birds across on the other side, and a lone egret, but apart from that, just one group of waders. (Much later, we passed a dead glass Lizard - looks like a snake - on the road). There were one or two more taverna shacks - people arrived to erect palapas at one.
Interesting place for lunch
On our way back to the main road, we did stop at Gardhiki Pyrgos. We discovered that it was the ruins of a fantastic huge castle. It was a lovely visit in the warmth - really quiet, with just birdsong and butterflies.
Back on the main road, we took a minor road north to the pretty, narrow village of Strongili, and then to the east coast. We were surprised to see a picnic table high above the sea - the first we have seen. The east coast main road held little interest for us. We reached the resort towns of Moraika and Mesongi. We followed the river to the sea, where it was fairly quiet today, but it wasn’t my scene.
13th Century Gardhiki Pyrgos
The onward bit of coast to Psara was unspoilt and undeveloped. We then turned inland and climbed to 300m on steep, narrow winding roads with many hairy hairpin bends to the village of Hlomos.
The first picnic table we’d seen on Corfu
The river at Mesongi
We descended towards the western side of the island, with a view of the lagoon.
We crossed the main road to come down to the southern end of Lake Korission. We found that the road to it was just a narrow sandy track. The road on to Issos beach wasn’t good either, so we returned to Anna Studio, getting back at 4 o’clock- time for a cup of tea on the balcony.
Later we had an aperitif on the balcony too, deafened a bit by music from the nearby disco.
We walked up to ‘Dimitri’s’ for our meal. Costas wasn’t there at the start, so his wife Anna served us initially. Costas soon returned - it seemed he had been to fetch something for the German family, who soon left. The moussaka which Anna had cooked was excellent. Costas2 came to join us to chat, over a glass of ouzo. It transpired that the business has been in the family for many years - Anna’s father owned it in 1976. Her grandfather is still alive aged 102. Both Costas and Anna were born in the village.
It was nearly bedtime when we walked back to our room. The full moon was shining, and we saw fireflies darting, as we had done last night.
The main road through Hlomos and the view to Lake Korission
Route map for south Corfu
Tuesday 1st May A quiet, unvisited bit of coast 24km
A sunny morning, but quite cool until the sun reached us.
There were four tables of people at breakfast this morning, including the Dutch couple who were leaving. They were annoyed yesterday that there were no ferries to Igoumenitsa today, being a bank holiday. Anna had decorated the little man statue outside the taverna with roses for May Day. The two little German children seemed fractious with colds.
We had decided to see the bit of coast north of us, so set off at 10.15, through Marathias and Perivoli to Kaliviotis Beach. This area has very few tourists, mostly because the beaches are of mud and pebbles. It looked quite attractive, with fishing boats in the harbour.
We stopped soon afterwards to have our tea/coffee on a seat by the beach. Even though it was a bank holiday, there were no other people around. A bit further along, at Notos, we had to travel inland to get to Petriti. On the way, there was no sign of tourism at all. Everywhere looked very genuine Corfuan.
A quiet spot for coffee on this May Day Bank Holiday
At Petriti, where there were fishing boats in the harbour again, people were setting up ‘for the season’. We were able to drive along by the coast to Boukari, where the gardens were bursting with bright, colourful flowers.
From here we took small roads back to Marathias, which Adrian thought would be more interesting than the main road. They certainly were! We drove through the decrepit village of Korakades on a narrow archaic road which many times made us wonder if it would go through. It then went down 2km of hairily steep narrow, partly surfaced road back to Petriti. Hence there are no photos - it was too scary! We passed a man with a dog sitting on his scooter!
We got back to our room for lunch on the balcony, including scrambled egg on toast, which we managed with difficulty to cook with the limited facilities.
We had seen masses of cars parked, so after working a bit on the website, we walked down to the beach. We couldn't believe the number of people enjoying the bank holiday. Some were eating at the taverna in front of us - which hadn’t opened until today. Hundreds more were lying on sunbeds or playing ball on the sand. Children were having fun in the stream. Before there had been just one or two people - what will it be like tomorrow we wondered.
Later we shared a dark beer on the balcony, deafened by the booming music from the beach disco.
We walked over to eat at Dimitris, surprised that there were no extra people dining. We had fresh fish - we went into the kitchen with Anna to see - memories of Greece in 1963 - with good chips and salad. Costas2 brought us a drink afterwards - not ouzo, but distilled from grapes, without the aniseed. I preferred the ouzo! Many cars were leaving, but a few were still arriving. Costas2 said that people came from a long distance, like Corfu Town. We came back to our room at 9.00, with the music still booming.
May Day on the beach
Wednesday 2nd May Our last day in Corfu 32 km
It was really quiet again after yesterday’s frenzy! All the cars had disappeared, and the music had stopped.
Total distance driven in Corfu 728 km
We had pancakes for breakfast today. We chatted a bit to the German dad, who seems very hands- on with his children.
We walked down onto the now almost deserted beach, coming back a different way.
Costas2 in his taverna
After coffee on the balcony, with a piece of cake from breakfast and watching the swallows swooping, we set off in the car. We needed to get some money as Costas wanted paying in cash. The nearby ATM, despite its appearance and a notice saying open from April, wasn’t working at all.
We’d planned to drive to the part of the beach the other side of stream just in front of us. By road though it was 6½ km, through Marathias and Perivoli!
We drove a few miles on to Gardenos beach, once more with a stream emerging. It was also very quiet, with just two tavernas. Again we walked onto the deserted wide sandy beach.
Nobody on the beach today - except us!
The nearest ATM we could find was in Lefkimmi, so we made our way there, trailing through the narrow streets, following a large lorry, which could just about get through.
Having got our cash, we drove back to Marathia beach, diverting to drive the roads at the western end, before coming back to our balcony to enjoy our last lunch.
The afternoon was spent in getting organised for our flight home tomorrow.
We went over to ‘Dimitris’ for our last meal. We ate sardines, with potatoes from Costas’ garden.
The only other diners were the German family. Costas came over to chat over our ouzo ‘medicine’.
We have enjoyed his company and his intelligent conversation, and have certainly liked staying here. It felt cool as we walked back, seeing lots of fireflies again.
Wednesday 3rd May Not a straightforward journey home! 33 km
We were up at 6 o’clock to get packed up. It was warm and cloudy as we sat on the balcony to eat our breakfast. The night had been warm too. Today was not supposed to be good weather in Corfu, but we had had such lovely weather. We walked down to have a quick look at the sea before leaving at 7.45.
We made our way to the main road up the east coast of Corfu. At Perama, we stopped to try to see the first villa which the Durrells had lived in, but it was not easy to work out. We saw a plane land and another take off from the end of the runway on the peninsula opposite.
We stopped to fill the petrol tank, and then we hit the morning traffic. It was now 8.45. Fifteen minutes later we arrived by Gold Car, at the airport. We were charged for the scratch received on our difficult hill start.
We were taken across to the airport, which was pleasantly quiet. We were called to board too soon, and waited a long time standing on the tarmac - not in the heat, as we might have imagined, but cool (22°C), grey and windy!
Our take off was a bit late, due to the late arrival of the plane because of the strong headwinds. Hence our pilot told us that our flight , with the wind in our favour, would only be 2 hours 40 minutes, and we might even arrive early. This was not to be! The plane was only part full - it was nice to have a spare seat beside us. We soon went into cloud, so no views - until we neared Gatwick. We circled this a few times before we received the unwelcome news from the pilot that we were diverting to Stansted.
There was an ‘incident’ at Gatwick, and we couldn’t land. So much for an early arrival! It appears that a plane was stopped on the runway, and although the problem was soon cleared, it was too late for us (and 7 or 8 others who were diverted to Stansted, Heathrow & Bournemouth!)
It was interesting to look down and see Southend pier, and the patchwork of green, brown and yellow fields as we came into Stansted. Refuelling and paperwork took a long time. We flew slowly back to Gatwick, where everything was ‘a mess’ and very busy. Our diversion had taken over two hours. The plane parked far out, so it was a bus back to the terminal, before the long walk to passport control, which was seething with people. We hadn’t asked for special assistance, but when a gentleman with walking sticks asked, and was directed to a much shorter queue, we followed, so arrived at baggage control before anyone else. Luck was with us, as our luggage soon arrived, and we were off the find the car park to collect our car. We had trouble as usual in finding the right level, then it was a slow journey back to Hermitage, via the M25 and then Bracknell.
We were amazed at the fresh green look of the countryside - in our two weeks away, the leaves had come out on the trees and the bluebells were out. We arrived home just after 6.00 - 8.00 to us, to find that our garden had come alive too. And at least now we could throw loo paper into the toilet and not in the bin!
Corfu had lived up to our expectations with great scenery, lovely weather and two different but superb places to stay.