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.
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’d like to say that I slept well and awoke rested but I didn’t. This was probably due to the novelty of sleeping alone, or at least that is what I am telling Helen. I remember all the years we took the overnight ferry to France how it was noisy and, occasionally, rough making sleep a distant possibility. A cruise ship is as different as a Mini is to a Jaguar. While you can hear the ship’s engines they aren’t intrusive and other than one occasion it’s been incredibly smooth. I’m sure once I am used to it there won’t be any sleeping issues.
The first day on all cruises we have been on is spent at sea. This apparently gives you “time to explore the facilities of the ship” so while Helen is currently in the wellness centre having a massage I am in the cabin watching “Live Free or Die Hard”! There is plenty to do on board, albeit mainly eating and drinking and some never leave when the boat docks preferring to stay on board. For us the boat is just a means to an end – to get to some interesting destinations, so being stuck on board all day can be challenging.
What we also considered challenging was how we were going to manage to get our daily 10,000 steps. As it happened that proved rather easier than we had envisioned. Four circuits of the promenade deck is, we’re told, one mile so twenty laps would be sufficient. We didn’t need that much in the end with trips to the buffet helping, although that somewhat negated the benefits of the walking. Our pace was blistering compared to many who were also choosing to burn some calories and there was an odd contrast between the two sides of the boat, as you can see from below.
This is our third cruise, the first being some 15 years ago. I remember being struck by the age of the passengers all those years ago, we were definitely one of the youngest couples there. It’s probably fair to say that the average age of the passengers hasn’t changed that much over the years but our age has come a lot closer to it! In my mind I still see myself as being in my twenties! This age difference is very obvious when there are large groups of passengers together, such as for the Captain’s Gala Dinner, an event that requires me to bring my suit just for a couple of hours use in a two week holiday.
What I said about the smoothness of the cruise ship above proved to be a mistake because as the evening arrived so did rougher weather. At one point hitting the boat hard enough to send glasses tumbling including one of icy water over Helen. I’ll be glad when we can get back onto dry land tomorrow.
Now when I go on holiday I do like to take a photo or two but even I was surprised when I downloaded them and found we had taken 1027!
Greece is a beautiful place and it is easy to get carried away with the snapping, especially now that everything is digital and there is no cost for processing.
Obviously, nobody is going to sit through that many pictures, even on a slideshow at five seconds per picture that is an hour and 25 minutes! So Helen and I went through them all last night with a view to reducing them to a number we thought people might stand. So here I present the 83 photos that best sum up our holiday. If you want to see them on a single page click here.
After the rains of yesterday we had expected it to be wet again today so were pleased to see that it was dry when we got up and so we quickly got in the car and made our way to Palaiokastritsa.
When you book a hire car you typically select from a group and are shown an example that you might recognise, so “Group B” might be a Renault Clio or a Peugeot 206 etc. However, in my experience that is rarely what you get, you are much more likely to get something that is a cheap equivalent and so it was this time when we were allocated a Suzuki Alto. It’s not a bad car, the gear box is reasonably smooth, but it is obviously cheaply made full of great swathes of grey plastic and incredibly tinny. That said it has done well bombing up and down all the hills we have taken it over the last week which has been numerous and pretty twisty. I cannot imagine that the gear boxes last long in any hire car but here you hardly get past third and they get a real thrashing up the hills.
The great thing about Corfu is its size – you can easily drive from one end to the other in a day and that has enabled us to explore all sorts of places, mainly in the north as the south tends to be where the yoof hang out! It’s an odd experience driving here as none of the roads are that big and there are additional hazards to dodge such as the numerous stray cats and dogs and Greeks on scooters. People, particularly the British tourists, go mad over these strays, you would think that they hadn’t seen a cat before but go all doe-eyed over the things. I see them simply as a mobile obstacle to be avoided.
We had decided to take part in one of the organised activities this morning – a walk to a local bee producers. About a dozen people including ourselves turned up to be taken by the tour guide just a short distance to the factory where the owner was on hand to show us round and answer any questions we might have.
What neither he nor us had bargained for was the gentleman from Scotland who was an amateur beekeeper whose eyes must have lit up when he saw that the tour was taking place. What followed was a boring dissection of the trials and tribulations of beekeeping. Most normal people would have been able to detect that this was clearly a discussion that wasn’t interesting to the rest of the party and that others were, in fact, laughing at him. I was surprised that his wife didn’t stop him but no he ploughed on regardless such that I am now an expert in the differences in treatment for the vine weevil between Scotland and Corfu… At least I will now have something to talk about at future dinner parties.
There are many things that one goes on holiday to avoid and in my case rain is pretty high up on that list. Leading up to us going away there had been rain predicted for the day we were due in Santorini but fortunately the forecasters were spectacularly wrong and we had a beautiful day. Rain was also forecast for this week but until late this afternoon we had been pretty lucky and then the heavens opened. Of course I have seen rain in the volume that landed here today before, I live in the UK after all, but there was a lot of rain in a very short space of time. In a traditional hotel this wouldn’t have been too much of an issue as you could walk down the corridors to reach the restaurant but not here where all the rooms are separate units with a long walk to the main buildings.
To make matters worse we had booked a special meal at the al a carte fish restaurant by the beach at the bottom of the hill and the funicular lift was out of order. Fortunately the hotel laid on cars to take people from their rooms to either the top or the bottom restaurants. Of course all the water was running down the hill and there were rivers of it across the entrance of the restaurant on its way back to the sea. None of this detracted from the meal, which was excellent.