Corfu (Kerkyra) travel information
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As the plane dips lower to skim over the lagoon prior to landing at Kapodistrias Airport, the level of anticipation rises. Very soon I will be in back in Corfu, the island of honey-scented air, silvery olive trees and soaring eagles. The island of smiling faces.
Our first visit was in the 1980s when we came as a family - my husband and myself and our two boys aged twelve and fourteen. We had been charmed by ‘My Family and Other Animals’, the delightful book by Gerald Durrell, so we were hoping to experience some of the magic of the place which Durrell had described so well.
We stayed in a small villa in the seaside village of Nissaki on the North East coast. The sea was five minutes’ walk away but there was also a shared swimming pool to laze in when the temperatures rose too high for comfort. The villa was quite basic (the boys slept on concrete shelves built into the walls) and the kitchen was rudimentary but we were happy with it.
Our sons were slightly nervous that there would be problems of communication but, once we had met one or two of the villagers and discovered that they all spoke some English and that they smiled a great deal, the boys relaxed. And it was not long before they themselves were throwing in the odd word of Greek and were rewarded with cries of ‘Bravo!’.
The holiday unrolled before us like a colourful magic carpet with moments of excitement (seeing our first scorpion); hilarity (the waiter making us laugh so much I spilled my wine); contentment (dozing with one eye open while the boys snorkelled among the rocks); wonder (seeing the casket of St.Spiridon, the island’s patron saint, with his tiny decorated slippers). And, of course, there was plenty of exploring which was always rewarded by some delight or other.
Wandering unrestrained in the hills behind Nissaki, which are the lower slopes of the island’s highest point, Mount Pantocrator, we watched the boats gliding through the Corfu channel against the backdrop of Albania’s coast line. We climbed up to old Sinies, a deserted village, where an old man was sitting on the edge of a well minding his goats. He gave the boys some walnuts, unrecognisable to them in their shiny, green cases. While walking along scarcely-perceptible tracks through the olive groves we came across a vegetable garden. The owner was sitting by the path with his eyes shut but he woke up and greeted us with a gap-toothed smile and filled our hands with plump and purple figs wrapped carefully in vine leaves.
These kind gestures are typical of the open-heartedness of the Corfiots. Their instinct is to give and to make strangers feel welcome. I regret now the cynicism with which we regarded the first bowl of fresh fruit which was brought to us ‘on the house’. We were sure it would appear on our bill. Of course the owner wanted us to return to his establishment, he was a businessman after all, but even today the offerings still keep coming when we visit our favourite tavernas all these years later. They are gifts, not bribes.
When the holiday ended, I thought my heart would break. Corfu is so beautiful and we had been so warmly welcomed that I felt that I was meant to be there. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched the island dwindle and disappear. However, blessed as I am, it turned out to be not the last but the first of many visits.
Nowadays, with both of us retired, my husband and I visit Corfu at least once a year and in all seasons. (We once picnicked on a sunny beach in January, wearing nothing but our underwear! No-one was offended because there was no-one to see us.) We always stay for at least two weeks and, having visited other parts of the island, we’ve come to prefer the much-talked about North-East corner. I think its popularity lies in the magical combination of impressive mountain countryside while being so close to the sea. Imagine spending one’s birthday sitting in the dappled shade of an olive tree facing a glittering sea, eating spinach pies and drinking wine while watching eagles glide across a wide, blue sky.
Inevitably, with time, things do change. Some of the paths have gradually metamorphosed from goat tracks into ribbons of asphalt and new buildings have sprouted like over-sized mushrooms among the olive groves.
Tavernas now offer smoked salmon as well as stifado on their menus which are written in Russian as well as in Greek and English and many holiday villas now have Wi-Fi. But, underneath the veneer, Corfu’s essence with its warm-hearted people has not changed.
More about AngieAngie’s first experience of foreign travel was in 1945 when her parents took her to a village in Northern France to visit some war-time friends of her father. She was captivated. After that experience she always felt that ‘abroad’ was much more interesting than home. She trained as a teacher and, for two years, she lived and worked in Beirut in the Lebanon, using her time there to explore the region. In order to see still more, she rejected the option of flying back to the UK and took the bus. She has always enjoyed writing, both fiction and travel journals, and in her journals she tries to capture the minutiae of life rather than giving an account of the well-known sights. Now retired, Angie and her husband Bev enjoy at least two holidays a year, one of which has to be in Greece which is her first love and abiding passion.
The following are recommended reading for anyone planning to visit Corfu:
- 'Landscapes of Corfu' by Noel Rochford in the series of Sunflower Countryside Guides
- 'Prospero's Cell' by Lawrence Durrell
- 'My Family and Other Animals' by Gerald Durrell
For the very best villa holidays in Corfu, Silver Travel Advisor recommends award-winning villa specialist CV Villas.
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