Tag Archives: Lawrence Durrell

The Durrells in Corfu

Corfu Post Card 1984 Old Town

“If I could give a child a gift, I’d give him my childhood.” – Gerald Durrell

Every now and again, and I am not sure why, the story of the Durrell family living in 1930s Corfu gets remade into a television series.  There is a new one right now on the BBC in the UK.

I had visited Corfu almost thirty-five years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

Corfu Tonn Greece

This third visit to Kalami continued to nudge my memory and from what I can remember it hasn’t really changed a great deal at all – the Venetian elegance of Corfu town, the lush green vegetation of the interior, the twisting roads, the soaring mountains, the views that so enchanted Edward Lear and Henry Miller, the limestone ribbed bays where we spent our lazy days were all very much as I remembered them now and suddenly it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t paid attention to these details all those years ago because now my head and my camera were full to overflowing with all these unchanged images.

In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’  all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from quite different perspectives.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Previously I had stayed south of Corfu town in the resort of Perama where it turns out that Gerald Durrell lived with most of his family (his mother, brother and sister).  I say most of his family because although his book, ‘My Family and Other Animals’ (and the TV series) would have the reader believe that he lived there with all his family it turns out that he didn’t live with older brother Lawrence at all.

Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived some distance away in Kalami in the White House and curiously Gerald doesn’t even mention her once in any of his Corfu books possibly because they were written twenty years after the event and Lawrence and Nancy were long since separated and divorced.

Nancy Durrell

The White House claims an association with younger brother Gerald but it seems he never lived there at all.  In fact it is entirely possible that he never even visited the place because Perama is over forty kilometres away and eighty years ago there were no asphalt roads or cars or even public transport that would have made an afternoon visit comfortably possible.

White House Kalami

Gerald it seems was prone to extreme exaggeration and although his books are entertaining they miss the truth by a mile.  Actually I tired of them.  I enjoyed the first but the second was written when Gerald was in his fifties and had clearly lost touch with his childhood and with reality and I gave it up half way through.  He said himself that he didn’t enjoy writing them and only did so to make money to finance his naturalist expeditions and this I am afraid is blindingly obvious.

Gerald never mentions either that is mother Louisa was hopelessly addicted to the gin bottle.

I much preferred the work of Lawrence with his sublime descriptions of life in Corfu (and equally curiously he doesn’t ever mention the other members of his family who lived here at the same time), a diary of vivid memories that for me at least bring the place to life.  How wonderful it must have been to live in this place all that time ago and experience a life of bohemian indulgence.

Sadly the truth turns out to be that Lawrence was a misogynist, a bully and an abuser and the idyllic life he describes may only have been spasmodic or one sided.  Henry Miller refers at one point to ‘black eyes for breakfast’.  I find it a shame that a man who could write such elegant prose should also have such a darker, unpleasant side.

As for Henry Miller – I found the ‘Colossus of Maroussi’ rather self-indulgent and heavy going but whilst I have abandoned Gerald Durrell I will return to Miller.

Kalami Bay Corfu White House

I have one last comparison to make.  For ten years I have been in the habit of visiting the Cyclades Islands, specks of volcanic rock in the space between mainland Greece and Turkey and have gleefully declared them my favourites but now that I have been reunited with the Ionian Islands I have to reassess this opinion.  In ‘Prospero’s Cell’ Lawrence Durrell describes the sighting of a Cretan boat in the bay of Kalami and this seems to me to sum up perfectly the difference:

The whole Aegean was written in her lines…. She had strayed out of the world of dazzling white windmills and grey, uncultured rock; out of the bareness and dazzle of the Aegean into our seventeenth-century Venetian richness. She had strayed from the world of Platonic forms into the world of decoration.”

No words of mine could improve on that wonderful comparison of the harsh, barren Cyclades and the soft, abundant Ionian.   So which do I prefer – impossible now to say, perhaps it may even be neither but the Dodecanese instead which is where I am bound for next.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

Postcards from Corfu

Greek StampsCorfu Postcard 1984

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu Achillion

Corfu Town

Perama Mouse Island

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Assessment

Corfu Post Card 1984 Old Town

I had visited Corfu almost thirty years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

This second visit to Kalami in as many years continued to nudge my memory and from what I can remember it hasn’t really changed a great deal at all – the Venetian elegance of Corfu town, the lush green vegetation of the interior, the twisting roads, the soaring mountains, the views that so enchanted Edward Lear and Henry Miller, The limestone ribbed bays where we spent our lazy days were all very much as I remembered them now and suddenly it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t paid attention to these details all those years ago because now my head and my camera were full to overflowing with all these unchanged images.

In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’  all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from very different perspectives.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Previously I had stayed south of Corfu town in the resort of Perama where it turns out that Gerald Durrell lived with most of his family (his mother, brother and sister).  I say most of his family because although his book, ‘My Family and Other Animals’ would have the reader believe that he lived there with all his family it turns out that he didn’t live with older brother Lawrence at all.

Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived some distance away in Kalami in the White House and curiously Gerald doesn’t even mention her once in any of his Corfu books possibly because they were written twenty years after the event and Lawrence and Nancy were long since separated and divorced.

The White House claims an association with younger brother Gerald but it seems he never lived here at all.  In fact it is entirely possible that he never even visited the place because Perama is over forty kilometres away and eighty years ago there were no asphalt roads or cars or even public transport that would have made an afternoon visit comfortably possible.

White House Kalami

Gerald it seems was prone to extreme exaggeration and although his books are entertaining they miss the truth by a mile.  Actually I tired of them.  I enjoyed the first but the second was written when Gerald was in his fifties and had clearly lost touch with his childhood and with reality and I gave it up half way through.  He said himself that he didn’t enjoy writing them and only did so to make money to finance his naturalist expeditions and this I am afraid is blindingly obvious.

I much preferred the work of Lawrence with his sublime descriptions of life in Corfu (and equally curiously he doesn’t ever mention the other members of his family who lived here at the same time), a diary of vivid memories that for me at least bring the place to life.  How wonderful it must have been to live in this place all that time ago and experience a life of bohemian indulgence.

Sadly the truth turns out to be that Lawrence was a misogynist, a bully and an abuser and the idyllic life he describes may only have been spasmodic or one sided.  Henry Miller refers at one point to ‘black eyes for breakfast’.  I find it a shame that a man who could write such elegant prose should also have such a darker, unpleasant side.

As for Henry Miller – I found the ‘Colossus of Maroussi’ rather self-indulgent and heavy going but whilst I have abandoned Gerald Durrell I will return to Miller.

I have one last comparison to make.  For ten years I have been in the habit of visiting the Cyclades Islands, specks of volcanic rock in the space between mainland Greece and Turkey and have gleefully declared them my favourites but now that I have been reunited with the Ionian Islands I have to reassess this opinion.  In ‘Prospero’s Cell’ Lawrence Durrell describes the sighting of a Cretan boat in the bay of Kalami and this seems to me to sum up perfectly the difference:

The whole Aegean was written in her lines…. She had strayed out of the world of dazzling white windmills and grey, uncultured rock; out of the bareness and dazzle of the Aegean into our seventeenth-century Venetian richness. She had strayed from the world of Platonic forms into the world of decoration.”

No words of mine could improve on that wonderful comparison of the harsh, barren Cyclades and the soft, abundant Ionian.   So which do I prefer – impossible now to say, perhaps it may even be neither but the Dodecanese instead which is where I am bound for next.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

Read here about all my Greek Island visits…

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Injuries

Kalami Bay Corfu

“Corfu is spectacularly beautiful. The mountain spine that runs down the centre means its core is still rugged and wild. The lower slopes are clad with olive groves and cypresses leaning towards the sea. There are white beaches and clear blue water.”  –   Nancy Hines, daughter of Nancy Durrell

We visited Corfu town a couple of times this week, both times by speedboat and both trips ended with a potential disaster.

On the first occasion the skipper of the boat collected us from the harbour for the return journey to Kalami but the journey in a glass bottom boat was to include a short leisure stop for a swim in a secluded spot and a visit to some caves which allegedly could only be reached from the sea.

I rather like going into caves so I was quite looking forward to this but as we approached I knew instinctively that I was going to be disappointed.

It wasn’t so much a cave in the sense of the Blue Grotto on Capri or the Drogarati Caves on the island of Kefalonia it was nothing more than a hole in the limestone cliffs carved out by sea erosion but going no further under the cliffs than just a few metres or so.

At the small horseshoe bay with a white pebble beach shelving steeply into clear water and where the reflection of the cypress trees growing on the very edge of the limestone cliffs turned the water from blue to green the skipper invited us to jump into the water.

After a day in the dusty streets and the heat of Corfu town I was ready for a swim and like an Olympic athlete from the ten metre diving platform I lunged from the boat and like a kingfisher speared the water as though I was a stiletto dagger splintering the water like glass and sending silver shards splintering like a kaleidoscope.

Well that’s how it seemed to me but I am prepared to concede that for anyone watching it was all rather less elegant than I imagined.  The water was soft and warm and I fell through a shoal of small fish scattering them in all directions and then I stopped falling and started to rise swiftly up through a chain mail of bubbles and surfaced in an explosion of white foam.

Party Boat Antiparos Greece

The swimming here was good, the water was soft and salty, deep and cool and and so clear that from the surface I could see my shadow stalking me along the sea bed.  The skipper encouraged us to swim to the cave entrance that was sucking at the sea like a chain smoker and I have no explanation for why I did it because I knew that there was nothing to see in there.  Kim wisely refused but while splashing about in the sea was stung by a jellyfish.

Inside, there was no cavernous chamber with magnificent stalactites, no curiously back-lit coloured water, no interesting marine life to speak about just a dark space accessed through a saw edged rock entrance and then a sea bed littered with sharp rocks.

And this is where I had my accident.

As I was approaching the edge of the water a sudden wave coursed through the entrance and made me stumble and my right foot slid between two rocks and a felt a stabbing pain in my little toe.  I knew it was serious so turned around immediately and swam for the exit of the cave so that I could carry out an examination of the damage.  There was a lot of blood from a cut on the joint but worst of all was that the toe seemed to have adopted an angle that I am not normally familiar with in the normal arrangement of my toes.  I grabbed at it and there was a sort of popping sound as it returned to its normal position and there was a savage pain that reached as far as my knee.  The water was quite cold so I think that helped numb the pain so I stayed there as long as I could but eventually there was nothing I could do but return to the boat.

Hopping like a frog and with blood splashing onto the deck this behaviour soon alerted the attention of the skipper who produced a first aid kit and invited me to pick over the contents for some emergency assistance.  I found some cotton wool and wipes and after I had dried the toe, some sticking plaster to apply to the wound.  The skipper poured me a glass of razor blade white wine and with my pain thoughts swiftly transferred from my foot to my throat the stabbing sensation started slowly to ease away but for a while I worried that the rest of my holiday may well be ruined.

With my foot throbbing like a bass drum beat the boat now returned to Kalami, stopping (it seemed to me) unnecessarily several times at more equally unimpressive caves searching for sea life but eventually we came across somewhere that I found interesting.

A short way out of Kalami we came to a cove where many years ago an icon of St Arsenius was allegedly washed ashore after a storm.  A fisherman found it and built a small shrine set amongst curiously carved white rocks where once a year a service is held and the congregation approaches by boat.

That isn’t the interesting bit – but this is: In the 1930s this cove became Lawrence and Nancy Durrell’s “private bathing pool”.  Where they spent leisurely days, dropping cherries into the water which lay “like drops of blood on the sandy floor two fathoms below” and Nancy “like an otter” would bring them up in her teeth.

For obvious reasons I didn’t enjoy the swim to the cave but I was intrigued to come across this hidden location as I had read Durrell’s account of their sunbathing and swimming in his book about his time on the island, ‘Prospero’s Cell’.

Back at the beach I assessed the damage to the toe and was alarmed to find it swelling and turning to a crimson several shades redder than my sunburn.  I bathed it in the sea, did some sympathy fishing and being unsuccessful in this decided that I probably needed some sort of anaesthetic  so I found a table at the adjacent bar and ordered a Mythos beer.

Nancy Durrell

Nancy Durrell, wife of Lawrence

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Greek Dancing

Kalami Corfu Greece

A little scare with the weather passed by as the grey clouds dispersed as quickly as they gathered, the wind disappeared and the previously agitated sea returned to normal which enabled us to return to our now familiar routine of beach and swimming pool.  The local people lamented the fact that it wasn’t going to rain but we of course were selfishly glad of that no matter how much the place needed precipitation.

In the evenings as the cicadas settled down we would walk through the twisting paths by the sun baked gardens and the flower beds of straining woody geraniums and sprawling succulents and back to the sea front and ate in our favourite tavernas where good food was served by the attentive waiters and where we chose plates of Greek traditional dishes and sat by the water’s edge lit up now by a copper moon over a bottomless ink black sea and silent but for the sound of the occasional wave and the contented murmur of fellow diners.

And if the children didn’t fall asleep then we would finish at the hotel bar where there was nightly entertainment.

Whilst I am not an enthusiast of quizzes and karaoke a holiday in Greece is just not complete without going to a traditional Greek food and party night and this really must include participative Greek dancing and one evening we were delighted to find Greek entertainment.  A real enthusiast will prepare for such an evening by purchasing a CD of Greek music to practice beforehand but this is not strictly necessary and all you really need to be able to do is to recognise the opening chords of ‘Zorba’s Dance.

Greek Dancing

What you really need to do to get ready for a Greek night is:

  • Abandon high culinary expectation
  • Prepare yourself for copious amounts of cheap retsina
  • Be prepared to make a complete fool of yourself on the dance floor
  • Have your travel insurance documents handy, as they will be needed at the hospital.

In ancient Greece, dancing was believed to be the gift of the gods. Sacred dances were held as offerings to the deities, as commemorations of key events, and as a way of keeping communities together.

Most Greek dances are danced in a line and the line moves generally to the right and the person on the end with their right hand free is the leader.  Everyone else follows the leader who calls the steps that can be quite complicated.  Beginners are supposed to join the line at the end and it is considered bad manners to barge into the middle.

One of the most common dances at Greek party night is called the Zembekiko, or drunkard’s dance. After a few glasses of retsina this one is quite easy because it has no specific steps and involves stumbling around precariously to the rhythm of the music. In the Zembekiko there are several dancers down on one knee clapping around a particular dancer, and then they’ll swap places now and again. There are no rules. You can dance alone or join the clapping for someone else. As long as people are having a good time, that is just fine.

The Greek night here in Corfu was good but the best that I have been to was in Mykonos in 2005, which was held in a rustic bar in a village in the hills and as well as the food and the wine and the dancing also had table dancing, setting fire to the floor with lighter fuel dancing and plate smashing.  Breaking plates is linked with the Greek concept of kefi, which is the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy.  Some say that it wards off evil spirits, others that breaking plates symbolises good luck (especially for potters I should imagine).  Whatever it means it is a lot of good fun.

Breaking plates like this is now considered a dangerous practice due to flying shards, and perhaps also because of intoxicated tourists who have poor aim and may hit innocent bystanders. It is officially discouraged and in Greece, as well as in the United Kingdom  a bar or restaurant that wants to do it requires a license and probably has to satisfy a long list of EU regulations.   Tucked away in the hills, I doubt if this place had a license but it didn’t last long and they very quickly substituted the plates with paper napkins to throw around.

Mind you if you think plate smashing is dangerous in the old days they used to throw knives at the dancers feet as a sign of respect and manhood.  This was a bit reckless and not surprisingly, due to countless injuries, that tradition gradually changed to the present-day flower throwing alternative, which is a bit pansy but a whole lot safer.

As it got later the children tired so we returned to the room and the balcony which overlooked the bar and with a final ouzo listened to the pulsating beat of ‘Zorba’s Dance’ against a background of velvet sky with a scattering of stars all reflected in the placid sea where boats rested like fireflys on the water waiting for tomorrow’s adventure.

Greek Night Corfu

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Sunburn

Kalami Corfu

“Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something more – the discovery of yourself”  – Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’

We had chosen to stay at the village of Kalami, north of Corfu Town where the English author Lawrence Durrell once lived so I thought it appropriate preparation for the holiday to read some of his work and also that of his brother Gerald ( ‘My Family and Other Animals’) and also Henry Miller who wrote about his stay on the island in 1939 in ‘The Colossus of Maroussi’.

They had nothing but good things to say about this place and at this moment as I stepped out of the room if someone had tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to pay a bit extra for this view I would gladly have done so.  Laid out in front of me was the silvery blush of olive trees, a cornflower blue sea, the smoky lifeless hills of Albania set against a chorus of cicadas chattering in the twisted branches of the black olive trees and the cracking of seed pods in the early morning heat of the sun, red and ochre tiled roofs like the colour of the soil, soaring ragged cypress trees, stony white pebbled beaches.

If I were an artist I would have immediately got out my easel and palette, if I was a poet I would have reached for my pencil and notebook.  It was breathtaking, it was wonderful, I was glad to be here again.  It gets my vote in a poll of best holiday views ever!

Would the Durrell’s recognise this even after eighty years or so?  Yes I think they would, even though it is a holiday resort it is nicely understated, no commercialism, no silly beach attractions, good traditional tavernas and views of ravishing unspoilt beauty.  Lawrence himself might even recognise the White House although it has been restored of course because during the Second-World-War the Germans saw fit to bomb it for some totally pointless reason.

The children didn’t notice any of  this as they made their way to the sea past grand villas with rusting iron balconies, peeling stucco and creaking fading plaster once certainly crimson but now bleached and faded to pastel pink by the relentless and unforgiving summer weather.  It reminded of an observation from Durrell – ‘Corfu is All Venetian Blue and Gold – and utterly spoiled by the Sun’.

Kalami Corfu

Through the narrow alleyways dainty butterflies were dancing, swallows were swooping in and out and nervous crickets were jumping as we alarmed them with our noisy approach until we walked through a taverna with green check tablecloths and onto a white pebble beach with a gentian blue sea and a daffodil yellow sun scattering diamond dust on the dazzling surface of the water.

On the beach our feet crunched through fine shingle and clattered over polished pebbles as we walked past people sunbathing and whose length of stay could be assessed by the extent of their suntan.  We walked past people displaying various shades of bronze depending on how long they had been here lounging in the sun. From deathly white (arrived yesterday) and then like walking through a Dulux paint chart through the full colour spectrum to tango orange (been here for quite some while).

Now, I’m not much of a beach person I have to confess but with three small children to amuse I had reconciled myself to the prospect of long days of hard work but here was a place to be by the seashore listening to the sound of the sea frolicking at the water’s edge, teasing the shingle and constantly rearranging the pebbles and although I wasn’t absolutely looking forward to spending more time on a beach in a single day than I would normally do in a fortnight as I looked out over the picturesque bay I thought that it really might not be that bad after all.

Boats were gently swaying in the whispering breeze and resting on a multi coloured sea which was butter milk cream over the wave polished stones, vivid blue over the butterscotch sand and imperial purple over the swaying weed and all I needed was a Mythos to make this moment perfect so when everyone was settled I made my way to a nearby beach bar and made the essential purchase that would make the moment absolutely wonderful!

As I suspected it was a long stay at the beach as the children made friends and played in the water and at the shoreline but that provided an opportunity for a late lunch of Greek specialities consisting of deep fried courgettes, spinach pie and taramasalata and a another Mythos as the sunbeams danced on the water and the rasping shrill song of the agitated cicadas reached a mid afternoon crescendo.

After everyone had tired of the beach we collected our belongings and took the short walk back to the apartments stopping for a while on the way to do more swimming but this time in the hotel complex pool and after an hour or so we returned to the room.

From the balcony the view was, if possible, even more magnificent, the green sweeping hills, the sea in its multi coloured splendour and the bleached beach, a crescent of sparkling shingle, decorated with white umbrellas like scallop shells each sheltering a pale creature who had come here in search of the sun but now retreating from its remorseless intensity.  I surveyed the screensaver view over and over again and even after only a few hours of being here I was happy to declare it to be one of the best places that I have ever chosen to stay.

There were to be no sunset pictures here though because our view was to the east and eventually the sun began to slide away behind Mount Pantokrator to the west which at over nine-hundred metres is the highest mountain on the island and gradually the day slipped through twilight and dusk.  The day visitors packed their belongings and left as darkness descended, the raucous chant of the cicadas was replaced by the spooky whistles of the Scops Owls and the twinkling lights of the sea front tavernas began to illuminate the edge of the beach inviting diners to drop by like candles attracting moths.

As I looked across to the White House I imagined Lawrence Durrell sitting on his balcony and enjoying exactly the same view while searching for literary inspiration and discovering himself.

My end of day assessment was that everything had gone very well indeed and then as I prepared for bed I saw the sunburn for the first time – I had spent far longer than normal on the beach and in the sea and despite the factor fifty sun protection parts of my body were turning a shade of crimson only normally associated with a nuclear accident – I was in for an uncomfortable night!

Kalami Corfu Greece

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Arrival

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu: ”this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian”                           Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’ 

In 2004 I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with family on the Greek island of Santorini.  On the final night I treated everyone to a birthday celebration meal in a taverna and drank far too much Mythos Beer, Ouzo, and Metaxa Brandy and rashly declared that we would do the same thing in ten years time when I would be sixty.  I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it.

My children didn’t forget.  As 2014 got ever close they kept reminding me about the offer that I had made that night and so eventually I had no option but to deliver on the promise.  Sadly the Boss Bar in Santorini  closed down sometime between 2004 and 2006 and so I needed to find a suitable alternative and decided upon the village of Kalami on the island of Corfu which we had enjoyed a couple of years previously.

We were allocated seven seats on the plane, six altogether and one a row behind.  Kim thought she was being clever by bagging the solitary seat so she could stay away from the children and read her book in peace but I had to laugh when someone turned up and claimed the seat next to her with a small baby in her arms!  Luckily the flight passed by without incident.

The landing and arrival were just as I remembered them as the plane approached Cofu, shaped like a ballerinas balancing leg and over Pontikonisi Island, the home of the monastery of Pantokrator.  Then over the ‘chessboard fields’ of the Venetian salt marshes before landing on the freshly ploughed runway which gave everyone on board a rough welcome to the island and through the window I could see the same hopelessly inadequate buff coloured and tired airport terminal as the plane came to a gentle stop as the engines slowed from a high pitched whine to a gentle hum.

Passport control  was surprisingly chaotic with an unusual diligence not normally a feature of Greek border control and the line shuffled forward agonisingly slowly as the official at the desk took his time checking passports and ID until a second man came along, opened a gate and ushered us all through with only the customary glance at the documents that I am more familiar with in Greece and then, reunited with our luggage, we found the transfer coach ready to take us to Kalami.

At first the driver made slow progress through the growling traffic of the outskirts of the busy town with boxcrete apartment blocks with peeling facades, sagging washing lines and precarious balconies all decorated with satellite dishes and television aerials but eventually he nudged his way through the traffic and we were on the scenic coastal road that took us through Gouvia, Dassia and Ipsos and towards the mountainous north of the island where the road climbed in extravagant sweeping hairpin bends up one side of the coastal mountains and then dramatically down the other side.

It was late evening by now and the journey seemed to take forever, not helped by having to make a twenty minute detour to drop just two people off at a swanky hotel before having to double back to the main road to complete the journey.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem but I was beginning to panic that as the minutes ticked by that the hotel shop might be closed and I would be unable to purchase essential supplies like milk for the children and (more importantly) Mythos for me!

Kalami Bay Corfu White House

I really shouldn’t have worried because we arrived a few minutes before ten o’clock and as we checked in the receptionist assured me that the shop was going to stay open for some time yet so we settled into our rooms and returned to the street to make our essential purchases.

Having been here before I knew what to expect – the rooms were basic with furniture held together with blu-tack and string, dodgy plumbing and only very basic facilities but this was more than compensated for by the magnificent view from the balcony which overlooked the crescent bay, shaped like a Saracen’s sword, pine fringed with limestone layer cake rocks, boats lolling in the languid water and the White House ‘set like a dice on a rock already venerable with the scars of wind and water’ of Lawrence Durrell.

Back in the land of ancient gods I felt immediately home and opened a bottle of Mythos to reassure myself that they hadn’t changed the brewing recipe and then we all wandered down to the seafront to our favourite beach side taverna, Thomas’ Place, where we plundered the menu for Greek specialities and began the holiday as we meant to continue before climbing back to our rooms and taking a last look at the night time vista before retiring to bed and looking forward to the next day.

During the night we experienced the downside of having a cheap and rustic studio apartment – it was incredibly loud!  The air conditioning chattered like a cicada, the fridge kept switching on and off with an ancient motor mechanism that sounded like a battering ram and every so often the shower head in the bathroom filled with water and discharged with a splash into the tray.  This was bad enough but worst of all were the beds, Kim’s croaked like a frog every time she turned over and mine quacked like a duck every time I moved and eventually after a disturbed night we were very glad that it was morning and we could start the holiday.

Thomas' Place Kalami Corfu

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (4)

  

It’s nice to feel useful (4) …

Every now and again I start to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

P&O Pride of Rotterdam

All of my reports  in this post  are about travel related questions. Firstly this one – Ferry Crossing Hull to Amsterdam Horror Stories”.  I am not sure what the enquirer had in mind here, perhaps it was the story of the woman who threw herself overboard or perhaps the suicide statistics on the nearby Humber Bridge, maybe it was the on board catering arrangements which, actually, I have to say were excellent!  Either way here is the post that I wrote about the otherwise brilliant ferry crossing – Hull to Rotterdam.

Spain Postcard Map

Second in this category is is there mountain driving throughout Spain?” What a dumb question – with an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres it is second highest country in Europe after Switzerland so of course there is mountain driving and to be honest most people could work this out by consulting a geographical atlas.

To be honest however I have to admit to having been caught out by this myself and on a recent visit to Catalonia I was forced to abandon a drive to Andorra because the mountain drive was just too difficult – An aborted drive to Andorra.

Ryanair Cabin

Next in this section – How long is Ryanair airplane seat belts?” and quite frankly how the heck should I know and do I really care. I first wrote on the subject of Ryanair in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again. – Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Next, I like this one – Lawrence and Gerald Durrell – how tall were they?, honestly, what sort of question is that and unless you were their tailor or their undertaker why would you want to know.  I did write a post about the Durrells when I visited Corfu where they both lived so perhaps this is where the enquirer ended up – “Corfu, In the Footsteps of Lawrence and Gerald Durrell” and I will be returning later this year so hopefully I can provide more missing detail!

Sagrada Familia Cathedral Barcelona

How about this one – How long would it take me from Sagrada Familia from England?  Without further information that is a tough one because unless you have discovered time travel which is very unlikely then the options seem to me to be restricted to road, train or airline.  The motorway option will take a couple of days if you test the motorway speed limits to the maximum and the train option is probably more or less the same but a flight from London Stansted will see you in Barcelona, or nearby Girona (Ryanair) in under two hours.

I flew to Girona recently and this is my post about Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral – The Sagrada Familia.

Finally in this section I have found a question about Morocco – Buying a rain jacket in Fes” which just makes the mind boggle.  You can pretty much anything in Fes but it doesn’t generally rain a lot in Morocco, except when we went to the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech so when I was there rain wear was not very prominent and we had to make do with a travel umbrella – The Souks of Fes.

edam

Moving on from travel I have found a couple of health related queries.  I am not a doctor or a dietician but I think I know the answer to the first one – is edam good for your liver?” and my response, unless there is medical research to the contrary, is probably not.  I did write a post about a visit to a Dutch cheese factory so perhaps this is where the enquirer was directed – Heritage visits and Museums.

And then this one – “Banana Death”  

I confess that I have never been a great fan of bananas but except for the time when my dad and I fell out one tea time because I refused to eat one in a sandwich I have never really considered them to be especially dangerous. 

My dad loved bananas and it is an interesting fact that they are now the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales.  I wrote about bananas once here – Banana Sandwiches or Chip Butties?

Tourists The Grand Tour of Europe

Finally to sex because it is estimated that well over half of all web searches are about this subject.

Firstly “Places to get laid in Europe” and believe me if I had the answer to that one then I would keep it to myself.  Perhaps the enquirer was thinking about the red light district in Amsterdam or perhaps they found their way to my post on the Grand Tour of Europe?

But I have saved my absolute favourite for this collection util the very last and this is it:

Did Vikings have large penises?”

Vikings

Well, I am not an archaeologist or an anthropologist but what  sort of odd question is that to put into a web search engine?

I find myself being completely unable to help with this subject but on a recent visit to Iceland I did get to visit the rather odd Penis Museum but I don’t think that will have the answer to that one either.

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Corfu, Journal and Picture Album

“Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth”, Henry Miller – The Colossus of Maroussi

Corfu: “this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian”, Lawrence Durrell – Prospero’s Cell.

“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

“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.

Corfu, Reflection and Assessment

Corfu Greece Kalami

“No other spot on earth can be fuller of beauty and of variety of beauty” Edward Lear.

A week that started slowly with endless days of sunshine spent on an idyllic blue flag beach suddenly gathered pace in the final two days and they seemed to slip through our fingers with astonishing speed that we couldn’t decelerate until it was almost time to pack and return home and this was my opportunity to reflect and assess.

I had visited Corfu almost thirty years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

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