This post was originally published on my first travel blog on 29 July 2014.
Every July I go away for a week somewhere hot and sunny, to ensure that whatever happens with the British weather, I will get at least a few days of sun! I wasn’t sure where to go this year, so I did a bit of searching, and cheap apartments and hotels on the Greek island of Corfu kept coming up, so, having never been to Greece before, I decided to give it a go.
I wouldn’t normally go for an apartment as it feels like too much space for one person, but this was by far the cheapest option accommodation-wise this time. I booked in at Minore Apartments in Messonghi, in the south of the island. I was initially a bit concerned that there were no TripAdvisor reviews for this place (there is one now!), but I reasoned that most people will generally only bother putting reviews on TA if something is very good or very bad, so there was probably nothing to worry about. It turned out to be a great decision; the studio apartment was basic but had everything I needed, it had a balcony with a bit of a sea-view, it was a few minutes’ walk from the sand and the beach-side restaurants and bars. And the owner was fantastic; I had emailed to ask if they could help me to arrange an airport transfer, as I was finding them expensive and their blurb on the booking pages said that they could help with this; their aid was actually the owner himself turning up to collect me from the airport, and dropping me back there the next week, and refusing to accept any payment for it! Once settled in on the Wednesday night that I arrived, I relaxed on my balcony drinking some local beer and listening to the Greek music drifting up from the tavern below, watching the sun set over the sea, and ready to start my holiday.
I spent Thursday lazily, just adjusting to being on holiday; lots of lying on the sand, swimming in the gorgeous but chilly sea, and eating and drinking: gyros (legitimate doner kebab!) and Greek beer for lunch, and prawns in tomato and ouzo sauce and feta cheese, with local wine, and baklava for dessert, for dinner…yum. My initial impressions of Corfu? How green it was…it looked like a tropical island with the forest enveloping the hills. I was also struck by the friendliness of everyone I had encountered that day; in the restaurants and the shops they welcomed me to Corfu, and no one questioned or commented on the fact that I was alone.
On the way back to the apartment that evening I stopped off at the supermarket to buy some bottled water (tap water in Corfu should not be drunk) and local wine to drink on my balcony, and was presented with a shot of kumquat, the local liqueur, at the till – lovely, but bizarre!
I had decided to take a boat trip on Friday. There are several travel centres in the area but the TripAdvisor Messonghi forum suggested that it was cheaper to go down to the Messonghi River in the early evening and book direct with the boat owners, so on Thursday night before dinner I had done this, booking with Captain Homer, again on the recommendation of posters on the TA forum. The trip departed at 10am, sailing out from the beautiful river and south along the coast. The Captain and his wife were both welcoming and friendly – again, no comment about me being on my own – and there was a really lovely atmosphere to the whole trip. Our first stop was Petriti, a little fishing village, which was wonderfully isolated and peaceful; boats, sand, a solitary taverna, a few people walking along the road every so often. I took lots of photos! Back on the boat, we headed out into deeper water for a swimming stop – blissful – being greeted with a little cup of ouzo and lemon after clambering back up the ladder; it was only 11.30 in the morning, but it was perfect after a swim! Another swimming stop in shallower water – a bit chilly – and it was time for lunch; a delicious spread prepared by our host – Greek salad, tuna salad, bread and olive oil and tsatsiki, with some local wine to wash it all down with. It was all very lovely.
Our final stop was at Notos, which was like a tropical paradise; palm trees and flowers everywhere, hammocks to laze in at your leisure, and the sound of crickets filling the air. I climbed up the hill for a bit to enjoy the view, then chilled out in a hammock until it was time to board the boat again to head back to Messonghi – a glorious way to spend the afternoon.
We arrived back at 4pm and I was left really sleepy – must have been all that sea air – so I went back to the apartment for a nap before heading out for dinner; sofrito, beef in garlic sauce, a Cofriot speciality, and then back to the apartment to chill out on the balcony with a book.
I slept badly (partly due to an epic dream in which I was in the Hunger Games!) and didn’t wake until late on Saturday, so I decided to have another lazy day; beach, swim, food, wander. In the evening I walked along the beach after night had fallen and there was the most beautiful full moon, shimmering over the water; I tried to take photos on both my camera and my phone but sadly I couldn’t get any of them to come out. I stopped at the supermarket for water and wine again and was once again given kumquat at the till; I could get used to that!
On Sunday I woke up with my skin feeling a bit dry and sore, despite all the suncream and aftersun I’d been using, so I decided to stay off the beach today to give it a bit of a break. In the morning I walked up to a little village called Chlomotiana; a very steep two-mile climb from the Messonghi-Moraitika road, but one which is totally worth it for the amazing views and the pretty village at the top. It’s a proper little Greek village; white houses, flowers everywhere, old women in traditional clothing chatting in the street (I would really have liked to take a photo of them but felt it would be too rude to do so without asking, and my Greek is pretty much non-existant!). I found a café and sat outside with a couple of other tourists and some locals, drinking my first (and last) Greek coffee – disgusting stuff, like the granules left at the bottom of a filter coffee mixed with sugar – no wonder it’s always served with a glass of water! After taking a few more photos, I headed back down, walking into Moraitika to have a wander and some lunch.
My plan for the afternoon was more walking, this time to Boukari; I had read that it was a pleasant three-mile walk along the coastal road. However, not realising this meant the minor road right by the shore, I walked along the main road and ended up heading inland on a very steep climb…after a while of panting my way around another corner to find yet another winding hill, I realised I’d very much taken a wrong turn! It was such a trek and scorching hot, but the views of the coast were wonderful, as were the close-up views of the forest and crags as I climbed higher, so I kept going for a while! After all of that the lure of a swim in the cool blue water was too strong, so I reneged on my plan to stay off the beach and went for a quick late afternoon dip.
After dinner I decided to treat myself to a cocktail in one of the beach bars, choosing one – “Barocco” – with lots of comfy-looking sofas and cushions right on the beach. It turned out to be a gorgeous way to spend the evening; sipping a cheap but strong Black Russian, watching the sun set over the sea. Feeling very blissed-out, I headed to the supermarket for my usual bottled water and shot of kumquat before taking up position on my balcony. It was World Cup final night – Germany vs. Argentina – and I heard a cheer rise from the village; there were lots of German tourists around!
I got up early on Monday to catch the bus into Corfu Town. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing with the bus, but I figured if I stood at a bus stop and got on a green bus that stopped there, it would all work out! It turned out to be a very organised operation, with a conductor on the bus taking fares and giving change. It was just 2 euros and 20 cents for the 25 kilometre journey, which is super-cheap compared to bus fares in England! The journey took just under an hour and followed the coast for most of the way, so I was glad I had deliberately selected a seat on the sea-side of the bus just in case – it was a gorgeous view.
(It’s worth noting that, although there is officially no bus service from Corfu Airport, this bus was letting people off a few roads away, by the Avis car hire, and picked people up from there too on the way back).
In the bus station I picked up a map and a bus timetable, intending to take my usual approach of just wandering around to explore the town. First I came across the magnificent New Fortress, then the port; brilliant blue sea, with gigantic cruise ships parked up, and ferries arriving, I think from the mainland. I then found myself in the Old Town, where I was continuously taking photos – so pretty! It reminded me a lot of the nooks and crannies of Naples last year. There were lots of shops selling jewellery, trinkets, olive oil etc. too. I found St Spyridon’s Church (the patron saint of Corfu) but couldn’t go in as I wasn’t appropriately dressed; I was wearing short shorts, and hadn’t thought to bring a scarf or wrap to cover myself up with.
After lunch I headed up to The Liston – the elegant esplanade that was once reserved for royalty only – and then the old palace, finding next to that the gorgeous Old Fortress sitting out in the bright blue sea, ships all around it, and people bobbing around in the water. I spotted one guy swimming out from the beach to the fortress, and really wished I’d brought my bikini and towel! It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me a lot of Malaga and Naples; that Mediterranean city feel.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you have probably noticed that my lack of direction and spatial awareness is a general theme throughout any trip of mine; coupled with my inability to read maps, I got totally lost navigating my way back through the town to the bus station; I have no idea how I managed it in the end, but I did!
That evening I finished off my souvenir shopping in Moraitika before dinner, then followed my new routine of dinner and a cocktail on the beach. There were two little girls playing at the edge of the water, and slowly they began to play together; their parents were enjoying a drink and they were both amusing themselves. They had only just met and didn’t seem to speak the same language, but they bonded over picking up handfuls of wet sand and chucking them into the sea; it was really sweet to watch!
I woke on Tuesday with the feeling that I must make the most of my last day! I decided to try walking to Boukari again, taking the correct road this time! I was hoping to find a bit of beach along the way but had no luck finding anywhere decent until about two-thirds of the way along the road, when I spotted a little rocky cove, with what looked like a swimming platform (it had a ladder) past a rickety plank, extending over the rocks into the deeper water – obviously I was going for this! The water was surprisingly warm and I had a wonderful swim, with the whole thing to myself. Afterwards I lay out on the rocks, enjoying the sun and listening to the sea.
When I eventually could bring myself to move, I completed my walk into Boukari and located some lunch; now with sore feet – I should have worn trainers for this three-mile walk! Boukari was exceedingly picturesque; lots of little boats and fishing platforms, and the water was a fantastic blue in between the darker shades of rocks and seaweed.
When I stepped out of the tavern, I realised it was raining – boo! It was a cold drizzle and there was a wind getting up. I started my walk back to Messonghi, and by the time I’d reached my little cove again, the drizzle had stopped, so I decided to sit there for a while. The sea was rough and was tossing the swimming platform around, so as much as I wanted to swim, I decided it would be silly to attempt it, with no one else around. So I just sat, enjoying being out on a rock amidst the choppy water, a little crab tickling my toes. It was very peaceful and I sat here for ages – I spotted Captain Homer’s boat coming back in for the day, but not close enough for them to spot me waving sadly!
After getting back to Messonghi, I went for one last swim in the calmer shallows, before dinner and a final cocktail (OK, maybe two, as it was my final night!) on the beach.
I was leaving first thing for the airport on Wednesday, but I got up early to watch the sun rise over the sea from my balcony, then walked down to the beach for one final view of the sea. It was scorching hot already and shaping up to be a beautiful day. I really didn’t want to leave, but was struck at how lucky I was to be enjoying that view that morning, and to have spent the week there; to be seeing the world very slowly, one country at a time.