Corfu, to me, was always an intriguing place for a couple of reasons. One, I had read Gerald Durrell’s book – My Family and Other Animals – and the island sounded like a nature lovers paradise. Secondly I knew it was a bit different to the other Greek Islands. It was nearer Italy, further north and greener. It was also, at one stage in its history, ruled over by the British (like most places :-)) and retained some of the British peculiarities, like playing cricket. The island looks as if it has been kicked by the heel of Italy into the coast of Albania (which is only a 2km swim away if you were so inclined)
We only had a week available, for various reasons involving kids’ commitments, and booked a villa on the north-east coast of the island, in a small village called Kalami.
We picked up our Nissan X-Trail from the airport and soon experienced the trauma (I think that is the right word) of driving through Corfu Town. The airport is very close to the centre of town so the newly arrived visitor is plunged straight into aggressive city driving, narrow streets, optional traffic lights, and crazy junction lay-outs. The Corfu roads, outside the city, are pretty good but can be very windy and steep. A few of the coast roads have precipitous drops with only flimsy (or missing) barriers between you and the rocks below. This concentrates the mind but doesn’t stop local taxi drivers overtaking on blind corners.
We arrived from the wettest, grayest summer in English history into the glorious climate of the Mediterranean. Deep blue skies, with only inconsequential puffs of white cloud, were the permanent backdrop to our stay. The temperature was in the high 30s centigrade (95-100 F) most afternoons but this was not a problem if you could use a pool or dip in the sea. Corfu has countless small bays and coves around its coastline. They all have beaches of rounded pebbles. I personally prefer this to sand. It is easier to clean-off after a swim and makes the sea clearer for snorkelling.
The island is situated between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas and, especially the north-east coast, is very sheltered. The sea was calm and crystal clear. It was also warm enough for only the slightest of shocks as you jumped in. Then, with goggles and preferably a snorkel, a beautiful world of fish opens up. We are not talking Great Barrier Reef or the Red Sea here….but it is fun to see.
Greece is going through a financial crisis at the moment but you wouldn’t have guessed it. The tourist trade seems to be pretty healthy, and the well-positioned restaurants were pretty full.
One of our favourites was the White House in Kalami. It used to be the house of Laurence Durrell (author and brother of Gerald). Here is an evening picture of the White House.
Prices were similar to the UK (2 courses with wine £20, say $30, per person). You are really paying for the location. The food is local and delicious.
When on the island you can spend your time going from beach to beach, either by car or by boat (these can be hired locally by the day). It is also worth a trip to the capital….Corfu Town. If you can go by an organised boat trip I would recommend this over driving..it is a very confusing city to drive (and park) in.
When we visited Corfu Town I was pleased to find the Cricket pitch (North American readers…think baseball). It is a small patch of grass sandwiched between a car park and a row of restaurants. Our waiter, as we sat waiting for our lunch, confirmed that the Corfu people were crazy to play cricket there and the hard ball smashes countless windows of the parked cars…you have been warned!!