“Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder – the discovery of yourself” Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’
After three days we returned the car and went back to the routine of the first week with long days around the swimming pool, sunset drinks on the hotel terrace and seeking out different tavernas for evening meals. Some days when we tired of the pool we visited the scruffy beach which was across a busy main road and through a gloomy underpass, which we rarely used, preferring instead to take our chances against the traffic.
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Corfu: ”this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian” Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’
In the middle of the holiday we hired a flame red open top jeep for three days and set about visiting other parts of the island. Perama is just about right in the centre of the island so this was a good place to begin the day trips out. On the first day we went north bypassing Corfu town on the way and driving along the main island road along the eastern side of the island through the seaside towns of Gouvia, Dassia, Ipsos and Pyrgi, stopping frequently and finally arriving at the town of Kassiopi.
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After three days we returned the car and went back to the routine of the first week with long days around the swimming pool, sunset drinks on the hotel terrace and seeking out different tavernas for evening meals. Some days when we tired of the pool we visited the scruffy beach which was across a busy main road and through a gloomy underpass, which we rarely used, preferring instead to take our chances against the traffic. Actually the sand was nice enough, soft and golden, but the place was full of activities and games and was just the sort of beach that these days I would go out of my way to avoid. One day we did join in and Richard and I went out to sea behind a motor boat being dragged along on water skies. I had done this before but only on a freezing cold quarry in Leicestershire and doing it on the warm blue Ionian Sea was much, much better and I surprised myself, and everyone else, by being able to keep upright for most of the fifteen minute ride.
Towards the end of the fortnight we went on a day trip which turned out to be one of the highlights of the holiday, a full day on a Greek boat, with a Greek skipper and plenty of alcohol.
This was George’s boat and at mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the concrete quayside opposite the hotel and were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu and out into the Ionian Sea. As soon as George had completed the tricky bits and negotiated his way out of the harbour the fun began when the wine was opened and passed around and drunk from plastic cups and he began an amusing narrative and a stream of jokes, which were corny to begin with but got ruder as the day progressed.
Eventually someone had to be the first to use the on deck toilet which was located within a sort of canvas modesty tube and this was the moment George was waiting for because as soon as they were inside he scooped up a bucket of sea water and then to everyone’s amusement (except the young girl in the loo) he poured it through the open top and drenched her. Her shrieks could probably be heard on the mainland and the whole boat was in fits of laughter. After this there was no stopping George and his next party trick was to scoop up more water and then discharge this over unsuspecting people minding their own business and sunbathing on pedalos bobbing gently on the water. HELLOOO! he shouted just as he emptied the bucket load all over them. Some thought it was funny but some didn’t share the joke. Everyone found this hilarious and encouraged George to repeat it over and again at every opportunity.
George took us first to a remote beach that was inaccessible from the land and he dropped anchor and invited us to jump from the prow of the boat into the warm crystal clear water below and we stayed there for a while swimming and diving and then sitting on deck in the sunshine drinking more wine. After the swimming break we set off again for a stop at a small village for a barbeque lunch of fish and salad and yet more local wine. It wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever tasted but sitting by the water with a cool breeze rippling the sea and the table cloths it was delightful and we could easily have stayed much longer than the time allocated and before we were really ready we had to set off on the journey back with more wine, more japes and a thoroughly good time.
Eventually the fortnight and an idyllic holiday came to an inevitable end and we had to reluctantly leave Corfu. It had been an excellent holiday, perfect weather, Greek beer called Fix, Ouzo, Retsina, Moussaka and Greek salads. Lovely people, good sightseeing and the best boat trip I have ever been on even now. I have never been back to Corfu, I have been twice to Cephalonia which is similar but my favourite Greek islands are really the Cyclades and I have generally chosen to travel there instead.
I’ve googled and checked and 25 years later George’s boat is still running:
Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:
Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town
Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia
A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia
A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales
Gondola Ride in Venice
Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros
Posted in Europe, Greece, Greek islands, Greek Taverna, Hotels, island hopping, Travel
Tagged Aelolos Beach Hotel Corfu, Corfu, George's Boat, Greece, Perama
In the middle of the holiday we hired a flame red open top jeep for three days and set about visiting other parts of the island. Perama is just about right in the centre of the island so this was a good place to begin the day trips out. On the first day we went north bypassing Corfu town on the way and driving along the main island road along the eastern side of the island through the seaside towns of Gouvia, Dassia, Ipsos and Pyrgi, stopping frequently and finally arriving at the town of Kassiopi. This is where Odysseus may or may not have visited, where the Roman Emperor Tiberius may or may not have visited and where Richard the Lion Heart may or may not have visited but, for the record, we certainly did!
Here we had lunch under the shade of trees and far more water melon than we really needed and after walking around the pleasant little harbour spent the long hot afternoon on a beach just outside the village. On the way back we bought some wine for just a few drachmas from an old lady, dressed all in black, who was selling home grown produce by the side of the road but when we got back and tried it wasn’t that good so we left it and went to the hotel bar for a beer instead.
On the second day we drove north-west over the mountain spine and through some of the most attractive scenery of the island first to Roda and then to the village of Sidari, which has red rocks softly eroded into unusual sand sculptures and nice beaches. In 1984 Sidari was a quiet, almost remote place, with a dusty main street with only a handful of tavernas and shops off the main road but today it is one of the liveliest places on the island and a favourite with youngsters. After a walk around Sidari we used the narrow minor roads of this part of the island and drove to what some claim to be the most picturesque part of the island, the town and bays of Paleokastritsia. As we drove high along the side of the mountain Paleokastritsia suddenly came into view and looking down over the green fringed beaches and looping ribbons of sand we were inclined to agree with them. Actually this was the best of Paleokastritsia because down in the village the scenery didn’t really compare with the elevated panorama and we found it rather fragmented and disappointing.
On the final day of car hire we drove south driving first through the infamous resort of Benitses, which at ten o’clock in the morning was still recovering from the night before and didn’t live up to its dangerous reputation at all, no dead bodies or burnt out cars and we drove through entirely without incident. For the first part of the journey the road followed the coast but then cut inland and cut through the pine trees of the interior as it bisected the narrow southern part of the island on the way to the fishing village and tiny port of Kavos at the very bottom of the island where we stayed for lunch and enjoyed the lazy streets of the town and the ambiance of the harbour.
In the afternoon we visited the Achilleion at Gastouri, in between Perama and Benitses, which is a casino and a museum now but was once a summer Palace built in 1890 by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria who was a curious woman obsessed with the classical Homeric hero Achilles and with all things beautiful (including herself). The Palace, with the neoclassical Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism and escapism and is filled with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the gardens, depicting the scenes of the Trojan War.
The dazzling white Palace has a wedding cake like appearance and the beautiful Imperial gardens on the hill look over the surrounding green hill crests and valleys and the azure blue Ionian Sea. The centre piece of the gardens is a marble statue on a high pedestal, of the mortally wounded Achilles wearing only a simple cloth and an ancient Greek hoplite helmet. This statue was created by German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter and the hero is presented devoid of rank or status, and seems notably human though heroic, as he is forever trying to pull the arrow shot by Paris from his heel. His classically depicted face is full of pain and he gazes skyward, as if to seek help from Olympus. In contrast, at the great staircase in the main hall is a giant painting of the triumphant Achilles full of pride. Dressed in full royal military regalia and erect on his racing chariot, he pulls the lifeless body of Hector of Troy in front of the stunned crowd watching helplessly from inside the walls of the Trojan citadel.
In 1898 at the age of sixty the Empress was assassinated when she was stabbed by an anarchist whilst walking in a park in Geneva, Switzerland. After her death the palace was sold to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II who also liked to take summer holidays on Corfu and later it was acquired by the Greek State who converted it into a museum. It is a beautiful place with grand sweeping gardens befitting royal ownership and we enjoyed the visit and even went back later to see the sunset from the Kaiser’s chair, which is an area at the highest point in the gardens where Wilhelm would go in the evening to enjoy the end of the day.
Posted in Athens, back packing, Cyclades, Europe, Greece, Greek islands, Greek Taverna, History, Hotels, island hopping, Travel, World Heritage
Tagged Achilles, Aelolos Beach Hotel Corfu, Corfu, Gouvia, Greece, Hector, Kavos, Paleokastritsia, Perama, Sidari, Trojan War, Troy
“The Greek Earth opens before me like the Book of Revelations….The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, expanded my whole being.” Henry Miller – ‘The Colossus of Maroussi’
I visited the Greek island of Corfu in the summer of 1984 and this was my second visit to Greece in a short time following a holiday on the island of Kos the previous year. but this was my defining visit because this was when I realised that I was in love with the Greek Islands.
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Posted in Athens, Europe, Greece, Greek islands, Greek Taverna, History, Hotels, island hopping, Natural Environment, Travel, World Heritage
Tagged Aeolos Beach Hotel, Albania, Benitses, Corfu, Corfu Cricket, Corfu Town, Greece, Ionian Islands, Perama, UNESCO