Greek Salad (lots)

Trip Start Aug 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Corhu Mare

Flag of Greece  , Ionian Islands,
Friday, August 27, 2010

We both commented on the journey about how much we love traveling around Europe. It's a wonderful change from the long flights to and from Dubai. The Hotel Corfu Mare is a bit outside of the old town (to the West by the new port). The hotel is quite nice. It reopened in July 2009 following an extensive refurb. However, the service seems to let the place down a bit. Just a few little things that could easily be fixed to bring the place up a notch. We didn't get to bed until 2ish, so we awoke just in time to catch the end of breakfast, and then spent the rest of the morning chilling out in the room and prepping laundry. Oh, the joys of an extended stay – we'd been waiting to get here knowing that we had a 7 day stretch to get laundry done, which we thought would be no problem.  How wrong were we? After being directed to the nearest launderette (Gouvia - two towns away) to find it was closed and a dry cleaners anyway, we then found another closer to Corfu town but it was closed on Saturdays afternoons. Argh. So, tired and sweaty, we’d no choice but to go back to the hotel and spent the remaining few hours of sunshine sitting by the pool. Despite the otherwise kinda dodgy location, having a readily accessible pool makes it all worth it. Still feeling quite tired and at the recommendation of the hotel desk staff, we found the local strip and tried a fish restaurant named (Douwa or something, it's all Greek to me). Initial appearances were a bit basic and expensive, not a good combo. However, everything turned around once the food started to arrive at our table. Greek salad. Grilled octopus for me, mussels in white wine sauce for Aileen, and a carafe of house white wine. Not that I'm an octopus expert, but it was easily the best grilled octopus I've ever had. Incredibly tender. Simply grilled with some oil and fresh lemon juice on top. Perfect. We contentedly strolled back to the hotel (passing by some scary bars/clubs...the kind where they need to hose off the sidewalk each morning - uugh). Slept well after a few skype calls to home to confirm we were still alive.  Despite not getting into town to see much of anything, it was good to take it relatively easy.

Sunday was again a pool and admin day as there was no chance of getting any clean clothes.  After the busy days in Rome and Croatia it was kind of a shock to the system.  On Monday, Eda at the hotel found another laundrette for us, and this time actually in Corfu town, the only thing was that she didn’t have the exact directions, and by the time she was free to drive us to the area and help find it, the place wasn’t going to have our stuff done in the same day!  At this stage, there are no clean t-shirts – in future I’m going to heed Mel’s advice to do laundry at any chance you get as you don’t know when you’ll get another!  Anyhow, with the laundry awaiting collection the following morning, we figured we must at least see some of this town, so kept on going.  Old Corfu is decidedly run-down.  It’s also a UNESCO heritage site, but you get the feeling it needs a bit of TLC.  Many buildings have plaster and paint peeling off, the streets are not kept and there’s rubbish all around.  We couldn’t help wondering if things are the way they are because of the financial trouble the Greek government is having – maybe they’ve stopped some of the civil services in order to save money?  Either way, every tourist town will have some tacky souvenir shops selling gross t-shirts, but this town seemed to have just one street too many.  We had high hopes that visiting the old town would be all-redeeming, but we’re not convinced.  We visited the old fort, took photos from Faliraki and did two walking routes which were good, but that’s about it.  We did however eat fantastic moussaka and gyros at Mouragia, a recommended tavern which didn’t disappoint. 

All in all, there’s not a lot of English spoken outside of the hotels, but restaurants cater for this through menus printed in about 5 different languages and there’s a lot of finger pointing going on.  I guess the menus are there to cater to the many, many package tourists on vacation here from England, Germany, Russia etc.  Some of the towns have really lost their charm as they’ve become oriented to this form of tourism.  But we were determined to find some other parts of the island that would fit our expectations of the Greek islands, so for the next two days we took a hire car and explored a bit.  The main roads are mostly okay, however there were some interesting moments on the secondary roads – I was very glad Dave was driving.  The north west is beautiful with graceful cypress trees everywhere.  We had a lovely drive to a gorgeous beach at Agios Stefanos where we walked along the strand and stumbled across Cape Drastis where the cliffs are absolutely stunning.  If you ignore the tourist towns along the north coast and make your way to Kassiopi in the north east you will be truly rewarded.  A beautiful hillside town built around a small harbor.  We travelled from there on some of the scariest roads I’ve ever travelled on in order to make it to the tiny cove at Agni where there are three tavernas and nothing else.  The views across the bay to Albania are gorgeous and the water crystal clear.  We had a beautiful, romantic meal at Taverna Agni as the sun went down and headed home.

The second day we travelled around the mid island.  The south west in particular we were told to avoid so concentrated on the areas just to the south and west of Corfu town.  I hadn’t quite realized, but the island is only 10km wide at some points.  After navigating through the town, not easy when the signs are in Greek and your map is in English, we hit the main road to Gastouri.  We had thought to visit the Achillion Palace where Prince Phillip was born, instead had a rest in a road-side café and made our way to the west side of the island.  Glifada is a lovely town with a viewing point, the Kaiser’s Throne, at the top of the mountain which rewards you with stunning views of both sides of the island after you’ve walked up.  Then a visit to Paleokastritsa and the lovely beach there.  We stopped at an olive wood workshop to get a few gifts where the local wood is turned into kitchen and household implements and then back to the hotel to rest by the pool for the afternoon.  While we still had the car we went slightly north of town to Kontakali and ate at Roula, a recommended seafood taverna.  We ate greek salad, squid and a fantastic seafood spaghetti with garlic, herbs and chopped tomato – crazy how something so simple can taste so amazing.  After getting home we tried out the hotel bar for a glass of the local speciality kumquat liquor.  Not bad, kind of like an orangey limoncello.

Our last full day in Corfu we were both coming down with colds, and the weather outside was raining for the whole day, so we stayed in bed.  This was our last day in Corfu, but we felt we’d seen all we were going to see, so we did some admin, slept, read books and took it easy. 
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