Now that I am back home and have wifi that doesn’t run at a snails pace I have been able to upload a selection of photos from the trip for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Last days of a holiday are always difficult as there’s the packing up, checking out and then the hanging around at the airport. Fortunately for us our flight wasn’t until 9pm and we still had the hire car so we could make the most of the day.
We spent all the afternoon back in Corfu Town this time visiting the Old Fort and the park below it where they seem to have encased Lawrence Durrell in carbonite…
After an early evening meal we made our way to the airport where the plane, full of rowdy pensioners (and us), left early!
Back to reality with a bump as we made our way back home with late road closures and the overhead matrix signs as usual not reflecting reality.
Now time to plan our next adventure.
It’s our penultimate day in Corfu and we are beginning to struggle to find new things to do, part of the problem to coming to an island so small and not being the sort of people to just sit and relax by the pool!
We have been so lucky with the weather so far but today looked like it might not continue as the clouds over our first destination, Achilleion Palace, were very threatening but also mesmerising to watch. However, when we got there the clouds parted and it was lovely and sunny. The rest of the day continued in the same vein and so still haven’t seen any rain.
We didn’t actually go into the palace as we have been before and it is expensive for what it is. However, there is a cafe right next door called “Bella Vista” and it really isn’t overselling – the view is stunning.
From Achilleion we drove down to the coast and walked across the split back to the Vlacherna monastery and then took a boat over to Mouse Island, so called because it is apparently shaped like a mouse although it is impossible to tell that from the ground.
Finally we drove to Kaiser’s Throne just a few kilometres from the hotel. Apparently Kaiser Wilhelm II used to holiday in Corfu at Achilleion but loved the view from Pelekas which is where the “throne” is and you get some fantastic 360 degree views across the whole island and beyond.
Our final evening was spent in the “posh” restaurant of the hotel where it is much more selective and not self-service. There just a few places and they are all outside overlooking the sea. A great way to spend our final evening.
While Corfu is a small island traversing it can take a while as the roads are narrow, windy and not very well maintained. So a trip from Ermones to Kassiopi which is about 25 miles takes an hour and a half. Of course it’s not a bad view as you make your way over but you do have to be alert to not dropping off the side of some cliff.
Our first stop on the way was Angelokastro a beautiful fortress at the top of a set of steep steps, although nothing like those at Kotor. It’s a great place with a fabulous view.
From there it was on to the seaside town of Kassiopi from where we could stand and look across the water to Saranda in Albania where we were yesterday. We had some food in the same taverna that we eat in last time and I shied away from the calamari remembering just how much I got before.
Back at the hotel in the evening there was the most enormous electrical storm which thankfully didn’t last long but did take out all the electrics in both our hotel and the one opposite the bay.
An early start for a trip further afield today with a trip to Albania. Now before today all I really knew about Albania was that it was the country that America went to war with in the film Wag the Dog. I’m also told by the world’s biggest Liam Neeson fan (hat-tip Tim) that the antagonists in the Taken films are Albanian so all the signs weren’t good.
Prior to going we had to provide our passport details and there was a concern that as the FCO website stated that a full six months needed to be left on your passport and I only had three I might not get in. Despite repeatedly checking I got through with no such issues and from what I saw I wasn’t going to be outstaying my welcome.
A coach took us to Corfu Town were we then caught the ferry to Saranda and then another coach to the archaeological site at Butrint. As this was an organised tour we were herded round the highlights with little time to stop and enjoy each site. This is the price you pay for not doing it your self. As there were five coaches of British and German tourists there were quite a few of us to herd but I still managed to get a photo of the amphitheatre looking empty which I consider to the be the greatest achievement of the day!
It was a beautiful place however and very well preserved given that it has been occupied at one time or another by the Greeks, Romans, Turks and French.
From there we were taken for lunch and then finally back to the port town of Saranda where we had an hour to kill filled by a drink at a seaside cafe and a hunt for an Albanian football strip!
Today we decided to do a walk around the area local to the hotel. We did this a couple of years ago when we were here last and knew it to be a pretty walk but that the instructions were somewhat inaccurate.
With the instructions that I had amended after our last time we set off reasonably early in order to avoid the heat of the day. We weren’t overly successful and by mid-morning we were pretty hot.
The walk takes in a number of local villages all of which to me sound like medical complaints.
“Ooh my Glyfafa’s flared up something rotten again.”
“Oh well my Pelekas is aching and don’t get me started on my Vatos!”
At the highest point you overlook the sea and the beautiful clear blue waters. From there it is down what can only be described as a track meant for mountain goats. Last time this rough track was worth the effort as it went through a lovely olive grove. We were disappointed to see that in the intervening time there had been a fire which left the trees as charred stumps.
The hot four mile walk had taken us a couple of hours which I guess isn’t that bad all things considered.
After a lazy rest of the day around the hotel reading we went back into Corfu Town for the evening.
Corfu is a small island and so it is difficult to find new things to do but today we stumbled upon somewhere we hadn’t been before. On our way to the very beautiful Vlacherna Monastery we stopped at some Roman ruins that we had seen before but never got round to.
Opposite was an unprepossessing entrance with what looked like a pretty garden the other side. On closer inspection it turned out that this was the birth place of our very own Phil the Greek! Having recently been round his latest home it seemed rude not to also see his birth home too. While the grounds were extensive the house itself was pretty modest but still more stately and grand than our own home. He wasn’t slumming it!
We drove on from there to Vlacherna which is a tiny monastery on the outskirts of Corfu Town. The last time we visited it seemed a really peaceful place but, as you can see from the image above, it is also in the flight path for Corfu airport. While we were there three planes came in to land. Not so peaceful after all.
Finally, we drove to Corfu Town itself and wandered the streets in search for two things: a cafe that Helen had said had great coffee and an Olympiacos shirt. After going round in circles we eventually found the Cafe Bristol and I’m told the coffee was as good as Helen remembered.
After a leisurely start to the day that included a talk from the Thomson rep telling us of all the wonderful things we could do while on the island we set off in our little hire car to the pretty seaside “town” of Paleokastritsa.
When we were here two years ago at roughly the same time there wasn’t much going on as most things had closed for the season. This time however there was much more going on and we were able to catch a small boat out to the caves.
If I thought that it was rocking on the cruise ship I was wrong as this little boat with just five of us swayed left and right (should that be port and starboard?) as we made our way across the bay. The colours of the water were amazing but I was grateful to be seeing them from above not below. In my mind I was thinking that my new Pebble watch would be OK as it was waterproof – never mind that I’m not!
Late afternoon we went to the next beach on from our hotel which turned out to be more, ah, commercial than picturesque shall we say. Certainly some of the flesh on display wasn’t that appealing to the eye and we quickly beat a hasty retreat!
Apropos of nothing if you are wondering why I haven’t uploaded more photos it is because the WiFi in the hotel is akin to dial-up speeds. In fact the WiFi on the boat in the middle of the Mediterranean over a satellite link was quicker – just a lot more expensive. Photos will have to wait until we return.
So today was our last day at sea sailing over night from Montenegro back to Greece to leave our floating hotel for one on terra firma.
The whole cruise operation is a slick one and with a ratio of two guests to every crew member it is hard not find someone no matter where you are on board. Thomson style themselves as the friendliest cruise and we can attest to that with every crew member keen to offer a smile and a cheery hello. This makes for a happy ship but if you are going from one end to the other that’s an awful lot of hellos!
We got chatting to the two stewards that were working in our section of the ship – one from Egypt and the other from the Ukraine. They work for a stretch of between seven and nine months and then get to go home before the “company” (Tui in this case) call them up again in what can be as little as after two weeks at home. They can get to leave the ship and visit the places it docks but in a number of cases they need a visa. It must be tough and I’m impressed they continue to smile.
The biggest smiles, however, are held by the members of the entertainment team and in particular the ten that make up the troupe that put on the show each evening. This usually consists of 45 minutes of song and dance numbers – one evening it was Broadway hits, another it was The Beatles and the final night “Africa”. It is surprisingly good fun, if a little camp, with the quality probably better than you should expect given that it is included in the price.
So at 9am we were off the boat and onto a coach to take as to the airport where we picked up a hire car and drove over to the hotel. We were here two years ago and we were pleased to see that it was just as we remembered it – complete with the abundance of wasps. Tomorrow we start phase two of the holiday!
I’m going to try and sound less like a card carrying UKIP member today…
The final stop on the cruise before returning back to Corfu was Kotor in Montenegro. We had read that the sail into port was the closest you could get to the Norwegian fjords without actually going there but had to be up early to see it. So at 06:30 we were up and on deck for a breathtaking sail in.
Being up and about so early meant that we were also able to be off the boat by 8am and into the town. There was some method in our madness – Kotor is another walled city but this time it had a fort at the top of 1,500 very steep steps. The temperature was due to reach 27 degrees so starting early meant we could do it in the cool of the day.
It was a good job we did as climbing up was hard, hot, work requiring many rest stops before we reached the fort at the very top and some spectacular views. After such a climb we were disappointed not to find a coffee shop at the top and so had to wait until we reached the town again before we could sate that particular desire.
Coming down was a real pleasure as it involved passing others on the way up and offering support “oh you’re nearly there!” for those near their goal, encouragement “it’s worth it for the views” for those half way up and an under-the-breath dismissive “well they’re never going to make it” for those struggling at the bottom. One particular highlight was hearing an American claim “well that wasn’t too bad” having made the short climb from ground level to the entrance with the actual 1,500 steps still in front of her!
The town of Kotor itself was very pretty with the usual touristy shops in amongst the winding streets. We even managed to find one selling Montenegrin football shirts, result!
It was back to the ship for an early sail-away for the last time this trip. Tomorrow we are back on dry land.