Sunday, October 13, 2013

Corfu - caught my imagination because of Gerald Durrell

Dispatch from London! 

From the moment I read My Family and Other Animals, Corfu was put on my list of places, "I had to visit". Reading the other two books, which continued to bring the island to life, cemented my slight obsession with the island.

This year I was finally able to make good on my promise to visit it one day.  Disappointed I was not!

A truly wonderful place with a history that includes occupation by the Romans, the Venetians (for some 500 years or so), the British (for about 50 years) which means that the layout of the towns is a splendid mixture of cobbled streets and narrow alleys to architecture that is Venetian and Byzantine, not to mention Parisienne in Corfu Old Town.

It is home to over 4 million Olive Trees which were the primary industry for the islanders for most of their past, and to this day practically every single family still relies on the olive tree for their income when the tourist season closes.

If you're wondering what there is to do in Corfu, the truth is that you're limited only by your imagination.  In addition to being a paradise for those who simply want to relax on a beach since there are so many from which to choose, it is also a haven for the more adventurous and active with a plethora of activities - from horseback riding, hiking, diving and snorkelling to sailing around the island and to other islands in the vicinity.

                                             Monastery of the Virgin of Vlachema, Corfu Town

Accommodation comes in all forms, from private rental apartments to all-inclusive deals all over the island, which is quite large.  There is definitely a north / south and east / west divide.  Staying in the extreme north of the island, which looks out to Albania, was a one-hour bus journey to the capital, Corfu Town.

Getting around the island is easy by public transportation. One simply needs to keep the bus timetables handy and be open to them running about 10 mins or so late. It does not appear as if there is a public transportation system for the south of the island. Renting a car is, of course, another way of traversing the island.

The Corfiots are friendly, welcoming people and were always happy to chat and talk about their island.

Sights and Sites

There are way too many sights and sites to talk about, however, here are a few of my favourites.

Looking at Albania from the North Coast of Corfu

Kalami Bay
Seeing this was a must because this is where Gerald Durrell and his family lived in the 1930s and actually where they still have a home.

Located in the North West of the island, travelling from the bottom to the top of this area on the narrow, winding road has to be experienced. To put into into perspective, this is the road on which the car chase in For Your Eyes Only was filmed.  Despite the hair-raising experience, the views are incredible. The photo below is a view looking down into one of the bays in the area.

Paxi and AntiPaxi
Taking a cruise to one or some of the many islands in the area is a must.  Here's some of the scenery along the way to Paxi and AntiPaxi.

Port of Paxi

Corfu Town
To visit Corfu and not spend some time in the capital, Corfu Town which is comprised of the Old Town and the New Town, would not do justice to your visit to the island.  There is much to see in do in the capital despite its size.  There are two fortresses, Byzantine cathedrals, Neo-Classical Palaces (well one), Roman ruins of cities, museums, excellent shopping...and the list goes on.

New Fortress against the new town

The Old Fortress

There is so much more to experience on this verdantly green island, from admiring the scenery inland and out to sea (the Ionian and the Adriatic seas border it), to eating wonderfully fresh food (seafood, vegetables,meats, pastries and cakes), not to mention the abundant flowers and plants everywhere, being able to sit in a local taverna and wander through sleepy towns and villages, it's impossible to fully describe the experience in one blog.

Suffice it to say, a trip to Corfu would definitely not go amiss for anyone, whether couples or families.  It's definitely a different world.

Inside Aphrodite's Cave

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