Saturday, 28 September 2019

Greece Is The Word - Corfu, 2019


Kalispera! We'd arrived in the mountain village of Paleokastritsa on the Greek island of Corfu. In Prospero's Cell (1945), Lawrence Durrell described it as being drenched in the slither of olives on the north-west coast. The little bay lies in a trance, drugged by its own ordinary perfection - a conspiracy of light, air, blue sea and cypresses. The rock faces splinter the light and reflect it both upward and downward; so that, staring through the broken dazzle of the Ionian sun, the quiet bather in his boat can at the same time look down into three fathoms of water with neither rock nor weed to interrupt the play of imagination and, some 75 years later, its breathtaking natural beauty remained unchanged.


Within minutes of stepping off the bus and casting our eyes upon this view the incessant rain, gale force winds, unseasonably cold weather and the full-on craziness of our 2019 festival season seemed but a dim and distant memory.


The Paleo Inn, our base for the week.


When we first went to Corfu in 2017 we'd visited in June, before the tourist season had got fully underway. The tiny deserted cove to which we'd previously laid claim was now lined with sunbeds and beach umbrellas, presided over by local fisherman Spiro. Breaking the habit of a lifetime we rented beds - but declined the services of Spiro's grandson who'd run up and down the precarious steps carved out of the cliff to collect lunch from the village tavernas and deliver it direct to your sunbed - instead opting to bring a picnic of freshly baked village bread, tubs of homemade tzakizi or olive pate along with juicy misshapen Greek tomatoes the size of your head. 


We thought that after more than three months of blisteringly hot weather Corfu would be starting to look a bit parched but it was as green and lush as it was on our first visit and we soon realised why. On the first evening, whilst sitting beneath some ancient plane trees in the village sipping an ice cold Alpha beer, we were mesmerised by the brilliant lights illuminating the night sky, until it dawned on us that it was a huge electrical storm somewhere over the Ionian Sea. When it finally reached Paleokastritsa we were forced to run to the nearest tavern to shelter from torrential rain, thunder and forked lightning. Such was the violence of the storm that the village lost its electricity supply for eight hours and we had to dine by candlelight. We might not have been able to see what we were eating but we can verify that it was delicious. It turns out that Corfu gets quite a lot of rain - but at least its warm rain.


Much as we'd have been content to spend a week on our sunbeds, basking in the 30°C sunshine punctuated with a swim in the calm and crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea, it would have been a sin not to explore the rest of Corfu so, after three days of sun worshipping, we headed to Kérkyra, Corfu's foremost town.


Corfu's public transport system is pretty good, with bus stops clearly marked with the latest timetables printed in both Greek and English. While the buses aren't always on time and often cancelled altogether if it rains, at 2.50€ for a 40 minute journey, they're a lot cheaper than at home. Halfway to Kérkyra a couple of tourists realised in a panic that they'd caught the wrong bus so the driver pulled over whilst the conductor escorted them safely across the dual carriageway and led them to the correct bus stop in order for them to continue their journey, excellent service!

The Esplanade approaching the Old Fort.

When we'd visited Kérkyra back in 2017 (see HERE) we explored the forts and the town's two main museums so, after a restorative iced coffee from one of the swanky cafes lining the esplanade, we decided that we'd just wander without a plan.

Greece's first president, Ioannis Kapodistrias (1827 - 31)

Although carved reliefs featuring athletes with clubs and balls dating back to Ancient Greece have been discovered, the modern game of cricket was only introduced to Corfu during British rule (1815-1864). Our visit, on a Sunday, coincided with a match being played. When asked where in the world he'd most enjoyed playing cricket, former England captain David Gower replied, Corfu Town.


We'd loved Kérkyra when we'd first visited and this time was no different, the joyful atmosphere as Greek families dressed in their Sunday best, strolled leisurely along the esplanade, gossiped over ouzo in the shady cafes or ran after errant toddlers on tricycles really was something special.


Kérkyra has a relaxed, old-world elegance featuring predominately Venetian architecture peppered with French and English-Georgian building styles which reflect the influence of several centuries of foreign occupation. 


Erected in 1807, the elegant arcades of the Listón border the west side of the esplanade and were inspired by the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. 


Described as Greece's largest living medieval town, the Old Town is a fascinating maze of narrow streets, steep stairways and arched alleys squeezed into the northern half of Kérkyra between the esplanade and the port. The marble-paved, traffic-free streets are often compared to a miniature Venice (obviously without the canals) and still retains the Venetian name, Campiello.


In Venetian times the town was surrounded by the city walls (demolished during the 19th Century) and with Corfiots forbidden from living outside these fortifications, the only way to expand their dwellings was by building upwards producing the area's unusually high architecture. 


The only sight to speak of was this pretty 17th Century Venetian well on the Campiello's Platia Kremasti where a mega posh restaurant, also called The Venetian Well, usually sets out its tables. It was closed when we visited so we took advantage of the deserted space for photos.



 How fortuitous, my 1970s Anokhi dress matches the plaster!



 Cafe culture.



On the upper storey of Kérkyra's oldest bank, the Ioniki, which was built in 1846, you'll find the Banknote Museum which was a lot more interesting than it sounds - honest! Who knew about Greece's Raisin Crisis which nearly bankrupted the country in 1893? It's free, friendly and fascinating - go!


Lunch was taken under the colonnades on the Listón at AegliKérkyra's oldest restaurant. Needless to say, we ate Greek salad washed down with a bottle of Mythos and were delighted to be served by the same waiter as our visit in 2017.




With washing strung up across alleyways, elderly women sitting on stools weaving or watching babies and cats snoozing in tiny sun-splashed squares, the atmospheric back streets were a wonderful place to walk off our lunch.



Kapodistriou Street runs behind the Listón to the southern end of the town and is lined with handsome townhouses, most of which were built by the Venetian aristocracy. Like much of the surrounding area, many were destroyed after the heavy bombing by the Germans in 1943.










Wherever you look in Greece you're overwhelmed by its beauty - just look at this tiny Orthodox altar in the middle of the bus station.



Cultural trip accomplished, we jumped back on the bus to Paleokastritsa only to find this lot waiting for us outside our room (the word was obviously out, those crazy British cat people were back with their endless supply of biscuits!)





There's more, much more.....see you soon!

55 comments:

  1. Mythos beer, yum. I have a hard time finding it here for some reason. What a beautiful place. And cats!!!!

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    1. Same here - we had to bring a bottle back! x

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  2. we have never been out of the country vix , loving england and not being sun worshipers but this could seriously tempt us xx

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    1. It really is gorgeous, even if you never went near a beach you'd find loads to see and do! x

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  3. I think I have my dream destination to save my pennies towards. Thanks for sharing the stunning views and lovely streets.

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  4. I spent a fantastic holiday in Corfu in 1983 and your post makes me want to return!

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    1. You should! Corfu is beautiful.
      I'm considering revisiting Crete - like you, I last went in the 1980s! xxx

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  5. Jon and I had our first holiday together in Corfu, in 1995 off season in September, loved it! Have you been to Rhodes? Lots of exploring to do there, collapsed Venetian palaces etc and the city walls are still intact. Both lovely for different reasons. Love your photos as ever xxxx

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    1. September's a great time to visit, isn't it?
      I've been to Rhodes a couple of times, once on an 18-30 to Faliraki with a girlfriend (I know!!) and with Jon when we stayed in lovely Lindos. We were planning to go this year but the flights were astronomical. Maybe next year! xxx

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  6. Every one of your photos looks like they could be postcards-so beautiful. That's amazing the waiter remembered you!

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    1. Thank you! I'm a restless person but on Corfu I can actually sit still and stare at the sea for hours, it's unbelievably gorgeous.
      I know, 10 million visitors a year and we get recognised! xxx

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  7. I am so envious! I have always wanted to go to Corfu and visit the Temple of Artemis. Of all the Greek styles, I dig Minoan the most. Plus that part of the country seems to beautiful and not overtaken by tourist. Again, your pictures tell a good story!

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    1. So much history in the region it's breathtaking!
      I visited the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in Turkey in 1987 and it blew my mind! xxx

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  8. It looks absolutley stunning. I've only ever been to Corfu once and, although it was the holiday from hell (long story,) I remember clearly how beautiful it is there.
    I'm so happy you were able to relax after a busy season. X

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    1. Oh no! I think we've all had one of those holidays!
      Corfu really is stunning, isn't it? I can totally understand why the Durrells fell in love with it. xx

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  9. Thank you for reminding me what a beautiful place Corfu is and especially the places you've highlighted. I absolutely loved our visit there in 2017 with my middle grandson and I need to find the time to go again. It all looked so familiar and so beautiful including you and Jon!

    There must be a cat telegraph in operation - what a lovely array of cats.

    Looking forward to more of your Corfu experiences....
    xxxxx

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    1. Isn't it incredible? I'm so happy it lived up to expectations on our first visit and continued to do so on our second.
      Those cats were so naughty - the black and white kittens used to squeak at the patio door every morning and demand cuddles on the bed. I hope the next occupants of our room loved cats as much as we did or they'd be in for a nightmare holiday! xxx

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  10. Oh it does look nice there.
    Glad you had a good time.
    Hugs-x-

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  11. now i´m neon green with envy!!
    such a beautiful town, yummy food, sweet cats and fab hotel - and you and jon look as happy & relaxed as one can be..... the day our roof is new renovated i´ll start to safe for a trip to corfu!!
    <3 xxxxx

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  12. Such a beautiful sight, you in your summer dresses... yes, and Corfu too! :)
    Looking forward to more! Much love!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I've squeezed a few blog posts from my plethora of photos. xxx

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  13. What an absolute delight to read your post and see your gorgeous photos on a miserable day like today. The sunshine, the blue of the sea, and Kérkyra: you have truly transported me there. Kérkyra looks absolutely delightful, the perfect place to wander without an itinerary. It's wonderful to see your fabulous frocks in such a setting too. I bet those cats were pleased with their treats. We'd do the same ... xxx

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    1. Are we sharing miserable weather again? It's been so appalling since we got home that I'm beginning to wish we'd stayed longer!
      We can't help ourselves when it comes to cats - the first thing we did when we'd unpacked was to track down cat biscuits in the local shops! xxx

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  14. The Anohki dress is indeed the perfect costume of the day for Corfu! A picnic with a view, iced coffee on a posh patio, cricket in Corfu Town, Jon poised to consume a real Greek salad among café society...as you say, this is far, far away from the chaos of Festivals 2019. You've earned this treat!

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  15. Welcome back Vix it all looks beautiful! What a fab post xx

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    1. Thanks, Shelagh! We loved Corfu, just the ticket for a relaxing week away! xxx

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  16. What a lovely post, Vix.
    I'm sure you and Jon had a wonderful time.
    I love how your dress matches the pink building and the cats are so, so cute. X

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    1. Thanks so much, Jess! You'll have to go to Greece one day, its beauty will blow you away! xxx

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  17. Looks like you had a fun time! I would have a hard time leaving if I ever go on holiday there. Those cats look so cute!

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    1. We did and yes, it was hard tearing myself away. I'm a member of the I Love Paleokastritsa page on Facebook and am insanely envious of all the people still there and posting photos! xxx

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  18. Corfu looks amazing. I can feel the sun shining from these photographs. This city is adorable, it's a shame that the walls surrounding it weren't preserved but it is lovely to see its unique architecture. That little orthodox chapel at the bus station is so lovely. Details like that are exactly what I think of when I think of Greece.

    You look so beautiful in your gorgeous dress. A vision of summer! Jon looks really stylish and happy too. Great moments captured on cam. I need to visit Greece some day.

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    1. It is lovely, I think it would feel so much like Croatia with the Venetian heritage and cobbled streets. The intricate artwork and opulent colours of those Orthodox icons are incredible, aren't they? the artists must have been inspired by the colour of the sky and sea! xxx

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    2. Yes, I definitely think that is the case. In traditional old christian paintings, colours were more important than shapes or precision, they had a language of their own and think that is often the case with orthodox christian paintings, they retained the symbolism of old painting ways. Greek Orthodox churches and chapels have a unique look to them, I'm sure it is because the artist who made them were inspired by the Greece itself, with the colours of the sky and the water.

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  19. What a great break for you guys after all your hard work.

    Those cats have you wrapped around their tails ; P

    Suzanne

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    1. Just what the doctor ordered, Suzanne! I think those cats knew we were coming! xxx

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  20. Oh, I can feel the warmth of the sun and the stress just fading away! It looks amazing, and reminds me very much of Venice and Cinque Terre in the architecture.

    Aw, cats of Corfu! Seriously, the cats of whatever place I see just delights me. Thank you for sharing your pictures, Vix! Welcome home!

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    1. Thanks, Sheila! Those faded colours and wonky architecture are just a delight to behold. You've just answered a question - I Googled Cinque Terre after reading your comment and recognised it immediately as somewhere an acquaintance on Facebook went to last year, I was desperate to know, it looks stunning. xxx

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  21. woww, your pics have put a smile on my face!, love to see all the picturesque streets, the atmosphere, the cats!. Also loving previous post on Corfú, the quotes are so inspiring and evocative!, I'm a huge fan of Gerald Durrell too!. Totally in love with your posts and your fabulous attitude!
    besos

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    1. Thank you so much!! I'm glad you had a wonderful time on your trip, too - sunshine and sightseeing is just the best way to relax. xxx

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  22. What a lovely, colourful place. Glad you soaked up the sun, food and attractions.

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    1. Hello Suzy! We love Corfu, it really is a beautiful part of the world. xxx

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  23. Stugnning photos. And that one of you in the Anokhi dress against the pink building could be in a Vogue fashion spread!

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    1. Thanks so much, Theresa! I do like to be at one with my surroundings! xxx

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  24. Ah, that looks charming! I guess the good thing about the rain is that the island doesn't run out of water - can't imagine peak tourist season and water restrictions. Those kitties look very happy too.

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    1. It really is a beautiful place, with or without the rain!
      Those cats were gorgeous, I wanted to steal them all. xxx

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  25. What a beautiful place. And I love that you took cat treats!
    xx

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  26. The Paleo Inn looks like a lovely place to spend a week. Even though I'm not a sun-worshipper, I could hang out by that pool or by the sea, read and eat bread and olives for several days. I love seeing people's photos of cats whenever they visit Greece. I would be the Canadian tourist with treats!

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    1. You could spend an entire week just staring out at the sea, it's mesmerising.
      I'm not generally a fan of hotel pools but the Paleo Inn was adult only so at least there weren't screaming kids dive bombing those who chose to sit there. xxx

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  27. So nice to see Corfu again in your photos! I love that you took cat biscuits along. We bought some today to feed the cat that seems to have been in our garden for over a week. It spent a lot of time in our house today but we are not sure what to do about it as it looks in good condition so we suspect it is someone's pet. We've given it food but had to put it outside as we have no littertray and feel so so so guilty as it mewed constantly for at least an hour! We've put a message on our local facebook group in hope someone has lost it but we love her already even though she is very demanding!!!! We've nicknamed her Popper after a famous cellist!

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    1. Awwww, your little cat! It sounds like she's sniffed out some kind hearted people. When Ginger Alan started visiting Jon built a little cat shelter in the garden out of pallets which he lined with an old wool coat, maybe you could do the same until you've established if she's a stray. xxx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix