Another hot sunny summer season
has drawn to an end.............
......And Corfu now awaits your return...........
The last charter flight has departed and officially winter has started, but for us, still enjoying sunny days with blue skies and still being able to swim in a warm clear sea you could forgive us for being fooled! The flowers are certainly fooled as Judas trees, which normally flower at Easter, suddenly flowered again, and Sue’s garden is full of colour with wild cyclamen and crocus little splashes of colour among the rocks, whilst the bougainvillea is still full of vibrant prink flowers, Jasmine and bright trumpet vines add colour and spring like scent on the air. It was such a long hot summer again this year we all feared lots of plants which we struggled to keep watered would die, but nature knows best and sends many plants into a kind of hibernation to boldly come back to life with the first autumn rains.
With blue skies outside and the sun rising over the mountains we hear talk of Christmas in England, this seems very hard to get our heads round when we have not even put away the beach towels away yet!
Our winter views however show the new season, as wisps of smoke snake into the sky from the many bonfires as people clear their olive groves to lay their nets ready to collect what looks to be a bumper crop. Pity it doesn’t fetch a better price on the market! As with most agricultural tasks, it is physically taxing, out in all weathers, rain or shine, heaving laden sacks to the press. The reward is watching that golden liquid trickle from the press into the barrel, waiting for the test to prove the acidity is just right, or better still, low enough to be called virgin oil.
At the start of this holiday season, the island was very worried, anticipating a very quiet time after much negative publicity written in the press about Greece's financial woes. Once our general elections in June were behind us though, it seems confidence was restored. Britain took its time to enjoy its Jubilee celebrations and thrilled us all with an amazing Olympic Games and soon thoughts turned to getting away from the rain and needing to feel hot sun on the skin. We know that loyal Corfu lovers are never put off, knowing that Corfu is not affected by shenanigans in Athens, so very far away. It was heartwarming too that many said they wanted to come to help by holidaying here. We asked them to be the amassadors for those who were still unsure as to what they would find here. Both they and first timers were all welcomed as usual with warm open arms. Taking stock at the end of the summer, and taking into account world finances, it was a much better summer season than anticipated, with the above average temperatures tempting many into taking a last minute break to escape what was apparently a record breaking bad summer, weather-wise, in northern Europe.
Many of our Friends have asked how the crisis is affecting us personally. It is the elephant in the room that cannot be avoided , but we in Corfu are lucky by comparison to many places because we do have tourism which creates some employment, and allowing many to keep their small businesses going. Life is not easy, and like many we do have to juggle our lives to make ends meet. The news is full of the latests demands from the EU and banks. People are angered by the situation and those who created it. But as with all things life goes on. There is a big feeling of we are in the this together, we have a catch phrase; "Oloi mazi mporoume".. together we can. Collections are made in supermarkets for the needy that have fallen through the net; unemployment is high, it is always a worry as to how secure your job is. The overall feeling though, is determination to ride out the storm, to get rid of the cheats and move on. Greece has shown its grit before and will again. We are luckier than Athenians too as it is easier to lead a simpler life here, and most can live off the land to some extent, have a garden, olives, chickens,fruit and those that have share with those that havent.
One thing in Greece will never change whatever happens to the banks.......the sun, the sea and the scenery... and in case you need reminding; please allow us:
In fact the weather carried on right till the last days of the season and was perfect boat trip weather. The bonus of late season visitors, and the weather, meant that Sue was actually able to go on one of her own Captain Aris cruises to Corfu town! The 24th October saw Theo on the Captain Aris with a full load of holiday makers enjoying a sea “like oil” , or we might say like glass, so still that the sea was like a mirror. The water was beautifully warm, and as most of those on the boat were staying in the all inclusive hotels where there pools were now pretty chilly, they found the sea to be like a warm bath and couldn’t wait to get in it. They even swam in the harbour in town after their sightseeing and again on the return journey and were reluctant to get out to make their way home! They have some wonderful memories of their holiday.
Corfu still manages to attract a wide spectrum of visitors as has been very well reported in the current TV programme on British ITV. Corfu, Tale of two islands for those who didn’t see it you can see it on youtube ; apart from the content there are some wonderful shots of Corfu’s staggeringly beautiful scenery. Its been fun for us watching people we know on “the box”! For our regulars, you will surely relate to the draw of Corfiot hospitality, the feeling of “coming home” and visiting friends made here as family, thoughts that so many of our own guests express every year.
In retrospect, though the news programmers were enjoying reveling in Greece’s problems, we didn’t do so badly on the positive front, we did after all have visit from Joanna Lumley in her Greek Odyssey too, also with some wonderful atmospheric shots and slightly off the wall incidents and events to show us.
On the subject of the famous, Corfu still drew a stream of rich and famous visitors; the princess of Morocco enjoyed a return visit to the island and actually took over the whole of the water park Aqualand for the day for her and her entourage!!.
As usual the exclusive East coast saw its fair share of celebrities including Brad Pitt, Tim Burton, and Helen Bonham Carter to name but a few! Ken Livingstone has now made Kaminaki his favourite regular Corfu getaway, seen most evenings enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Spyros beachside taverna and its good home cooked food! Bon Jovi was spotted coming ashore in Corfu town too.
Some Acharavi regulars will have met Sue’s daughter Elena working in her new summer job at Binelikia, a little family run taverna on the beach near the Beis beach hotel. She was topping up her funds before heading off to Swansea to complete a masters degree course in Psychology in September. Of course Mother is still busting with pride.... and looking forward to a chance to see the Gower Pensinsular, even if it cant be at the best time of year due "other commitments!" Hard to believe that this is the girl that only yesterday it seems was shinning up poles outside the Captain Aris bar!
Carole's home life seems to revolve around her animals and this is still true. Though she lost yet another of her rescue cats, this was soon replaced by a cheeky Jack Russell cross that had been taken in by the Donkey Sanctuary and was looking for a home. So, on a Sunday afternoon visit to the Donkey Sanctuary, instead of another donkey, a dog came home!! Though the smallest of the gang, he obviously thinks he is the boss, much to the other dogs' surprise! He is a perfect playmate for Lily three times his size, giving poor old Bruno, the rescued GS, a little peace in old age. Izzy the rescued donkey who believes she should live in the house is a rather fragile old lady now, but happily plods around the land enjoying the grass and company and is tucked up warm at night in her stable.
Sue is hoping to get a chance to spend a little more time taming her “natural” garden this winter, though the new canine addition, Abbey the puddle dog, thinks she should be paying more attention to talking her for long walks, which as you probably recall, is Sue’s other pastime, and one she intends to give a great deal of attention to this winter, starting with an Autumn to trip to... you guessed it....
Zagoria! Abbey does help get the gardening done “quicker” by retrieving all the weeds that have been pulled up and thrown to one side and putting them back where they came from! She has also shown her mettle as a Labrador retriever by bringing tortoises back. She has a problem fitting them in her mouth so has to turn them upside down! Luckily she has a soft mouth and though feeling a little sea sick the tortoises were released and plodded off to look for safer feeding grounds. Theo was pleased to have them removed from his tomato patch. The cats are not impressed with the extra attention she gives them, but she is learning that a cat is not always a good playmate and stops dead to wait for the claws to be released from her face when she has taken one liberty too many. Cheka on the other hand has been rejeuvenated even if sometimes a reluctant playmate. Theo having taken the boat out of the water now has time to tend to his vegetable garden and is nurturing his newly planted grape vines in expectation of a vintage wine in 3 years time. Castelli Nouveau has a nice ring to it, wouldnt you say?! Meanwhile we will drink our natural wine made from bought grapes and make do! Checking the fermentation and clarity is an daily routine, I bet he tries some everyday!
Now is the time of year when all hands are helping on the land again; organizing the nets for the olive crop and storing chopped wood for the fire. Xenya has now grown into a very tall young lady, and it seems impossible to believe when Travel with Friends was in its early years, she travelled around in the baby car seat visiting clients with Carole as many of you will remember. Now that she is in her teens, she thinks it is very "uncool" to have to have to help in the winter tasks of olives and wood, she is far more interested in how her hair looks and the colour of her nail varnish, much to her fathers confusion!! She seems to have the travel bug, as she is at her happiest when on an aeroplane, it dosn't seem to matter where its going, she enjoys being on the move; this year was the first year she flew on her own and she was not at all fazed and is already planning her next trip!
The Edward Lear bicentenary.exhibition in the beautiful setting of the Palace of St Michael and St George was very successful and attracted a large number of visitors. Many of the exhibits were on loan from local houses. Edward Lear loved Corfu. He visited the island no fewer than nine times and spent more than three years here. He wrote in his diary, in 1866, “Can I give no idea of this Paradise island to others?” He loved Corfu’s light, something which strikes many visitors still today to the island, and continues to inspire so many artists like Richard Hewlett mentioned in the ITV programme.
Corfu is unusual for a Greek island in its love of Cricket; a game introduced during the British protectorate. The first cricket match in Corfu was on 23rd April 1823 between officers of the British Navy and the Garrison. Corfiots learned the game, formed two teams and start taking on the British. Originally matches were played on the famous Esplanade in the centre of Corfu Town, but because of the increased space given over to car parking a new ground was recently built at Gouvia Marina. The Esplanade is still used for important matches and this year the European Cricket Championship was hosted in Corfu and was another great success; attracting teams from South Africa and Australia. The large crowds cheered on the local team whilst enjoying a cool drink of equally British ginger beer on the Liston.
Whilst the economic climate has certainly affected some parts of the island, Kaminaki and the surrounding East coast area are still largely untouched. The tavernas, although perhaps a little quieter, all remained open, in part due to the fact that they are all family run; with mum in the kitchen and children helping out, they also grow their own vegetables, all helping to cut costs and keeping them competitive and good value for visitors. Spyros and Sue were busy at the beach taverna at Kaminaki, with Spyros continuing his cooking traditions and offering a choice of local dishes, and those cooked over charcoal, as the Greeks do so well. Sadly the small micro market did close, mainly a victim of the economic climate, but the ever enterprising small super market on the main road made daily deliveries down to the village. Clients were able to phone through their order and do their shopping on a regular basis; the next best thing to internet shopping!
Anna and Asterios continue still run the boat hire business with the help of their children in the summer. The long hot days this year proved too much for driving around for many, so they soon discovered the joys of messing about in a boat along the picturesque coast line with a cool sea breeze in their hair; some of them also picked up their shopping on the way! Much to many people’s amazement Mr. and Mrs. Prokopis are still going strong, although the days of them coming by donkey to clean maybe over, they still walk up and down to their house in the hills even though they are both now well into their 80s. Mr. Prokopis says it keeps him fit, and he surely evidence of the benefits of exercise and the great Medierranean diet?! (Rick Stein explored the delicacies of a good Corfiot diet too on his Mediterranean escapes series)
Agios Stefanos, always a rather sleepy village on the west coast, has been rather surprised to find itself in the limelight; thanks to the ITV programme Corfu a tale of 2 two Islands which features the lives of Noula and her friends. For Carole this is when age catches up with you! She can remember her as a little girl helping her father Vassili when he first opened the first mini market in Agios Stefanos and here she is, a TV personality! The area has been affected by the current crisis; with many of the newer shops and bars remaining closed this summer. Elsewhere the old established family run tavernas including the Nafsika, Manthos and Waves though are still going strong. With work hard to come by, youngsters are joining their fathers going fishing and selling the catch at the harbourside every morning. Vangelis has been doing this now for the last two years and sells fish to the surrounding tavernas. Like many Vangeli and Anthoula still live off the land in winter collecting their olives, very much living life as their parents did. Vangeli and Anthoula plan to renovate the one bedroom apartment for next summer.
Sue had her own wake up call about her age this summer. Many Acharavi regulars will recall Aleka; the cheeky little girl at the Gloo Gloo taverna, Takis and Katia’s daughter, who used to love practicing newly learned English words. Katia was pregnant with Aleka when Sue first joined the family. It seems only yesterday she was carrying school books in her back pack! Well just a few days ago she married in Acharavi church... it was a huge gathering of all the Gloo Gloo clan and a wonderful time was had by all helping the newly weds to celebrate their big day. Everyone left their money worries at home and celebrated as only the Greeks know how. Dancing started as soon as the couple had led the first dance almost as soon as they arrived, and the younger members were still going strong many hours later, and even the not so young members of the Gloo Gloo Greek dance team, Tassos, Adonis and Grigory had not lost their touch, and threw their hearts into some energetic dances ... long after Sue admitted defeat and headed for home! As it was a leap year last year, an unlucky year to marry, there have been a rush of weddings Kostas and Eleni; the bakers, saw their 2 daughters marry within two months ( ouch !) so again the village indulged in much traditional celebrating
The circle life sadly also brought its sad news, George of the Old Red Lion pub passed away, only a few days ago, just one week after losing his father.
Acharavi was very quiet at the beginning of summer but became busier like elsewhere after our elections in June. It was always going to be hard once First Choice followed their plan to drop all self catering accommodation and so the popular apartments like Matoula and Nireas were slow to get going and the familiar faces who used to stay
there were much missed. Luckily many have now discovered that they can book Nireas apartments through Travel with Friends and have a tailor made holiday; booking a flight from their nearest airport with the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet and having a nice air conditioned taxi to meet them and whizz them to the apartment door in a flash, instead of trailing around on long tiring coach transfers. That said, many who had to be more budget conscious took advantage of online sites for booking coach transfers, which maybe not so fast or quite so comfortable, but delivered people to their favourite place saving hard earned pennies to spend having a cold beer on the beach.
There were a few closures this year; Yiannis from Apnoea didn’t open this year, and Votsolakia is now closed as the owners have retired enjoying a more leisurely pace of life on their smallholding. As elsewhere to be able to cope with the crisis here, many places such as our board room, the Skondros, scaled down, the family ran it themselves, with Yiannis and son Spiro together with Kostas at the front and Yiannis’ wife hard at work in the kitchen. The result was some wonderful home cooked food enjoyed whilst sitting virtually ON the beach. Diehards like the Maistro and Pumphouse also pulled in their belts on the staff front but were still pretty busy all summer. The Maistro continued with its great Greek night which often ends with locals having a jamming session.
Ag Martinos (Theo’s village) is home to Alkos Glykiotis a talented bouzouki player who was discovered as a young man and went to Athens where he played with the likes of stars like Dalaras. This summer saw him kicking his heels in Acharavi where we all enjoyed some of his music as the local Panagieri (festival) and the central bar too. (When you watch this video clip watch how he manages to grab a puff of his cigarette whilst playing!)
The beach like Ag Stefanos was definitely quieter but no one minded having more space to spread out, and also enjoyed the peace and quiet. The well known donut man still patrolled and some may remember Thenasis who started it all; he has also achieved some fame having been the subject of a documentary;
Chatting to clients about what makes Greece special as a holiday destination, Alison told me how when buying (another!) ring from George at Meandros Gold, he was to adjust the size and post it to her, he suggested she pay for it next summer! She had to insist to leave a deposit! I think Debbie another TWF regular, who is also a regular customer at Meandros would identify with that story!
We also conducted our own informal survey about how people felt about Corfu and what they thought about prices this year. It was a pleasure to hear everyone full of praise. Without exception everyone felt that Greece was still good value for money and many were surprised how prices in bars and tavernas had barely changed. Some of this of course was due the improvement in the strength of the pound for our British visitors which meant both their holiday cost was less and their spending money went further. You can eat out with starters, main course, salad and wine for around 14 euro per person, with also most tavernas offering children menus at a very reasonable price. A carafe of local wine is in the region of 6 euros.Don’t forget too when comparing prices, compare like with like, bear in mind that you are getting fresh produce, made to order, and usually in idyllic surroundings. To shop in the supermarket is undoubtedly a little dearer than the UK as we do not have any big supermarket chains , but you can still shop economically by purchasing own brands of goods and not buying imported products. We still recommend you bring your own tea bags and favourite cereals as these can sometimes be difficult to find!
Its to think about summer! Flights are now on sale; Ryanair
has announced a new route from Manchester to Corfu. So between Easyjet flights and Ryanair, the two main no frills carriers to come to Corfu, Britain is pretty well covered. Ryanair flies from: Glasgow, Manchester, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, London Stansted, but also from elsewhere in Europe; Milan, Dusseldorf, Oslo, Billund, Brussels. Easyjet cover, Manchester, Bristol, London Gatwick and Luton, from Europe they fly from Berlin, Milan, Rome, and Paris . Monarch
flies from Luton, Manchester, Birmingham and Gatwick, Jet2
fly from Newcastle, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and also ManchesterNOW is the time to book to get your bargains, especially for high season dates. This means if you can be flexible on dates you can find a holiday without too much pain in the pocket. Perhaps sneak in a long weekend... or two?! With so many flights now on offer we too can be flexible with arrival days and durations.TWF summer 2013 programme is now on sale.Of course most holiday companies will sell seats on their flights too, TWF flight page has links to most of them. Travel with Friends summer 2013 programme is now on sale and now is the time to get a flight bargain.
Vangelis special meal offer at Beachside taverna was much appreciated by many this summer, and in these cost conscious time was amazing value for money. A fixed price for breakfast and dinner. This means you could start the day with the full English breakfast and end the day having any starter of your choice, followed by steak or prawns or perhaps one of the home cooked daily specials, and finishing with a wicked dessert making a huge saving. You can buy vouchers in advance, all we ask is that it is for a minimum of 3 days, and then just let the taverna know the day before you want to use one, so you can be totally flexible and not miss out on the boat trip etc! You can purchase vouchers through us in advance and pay with your holiday balance or see Vangelis on arrival.
Our aim in our newsletter is to keep you up to date with snippets of local life from your favourite place and to tell you of anything new in our programme with the hope that you will then feel that little tickle in your mind that wont let you go until you book another holiday. We cannot help too using it as a platform to introduce you to the many things that we love about Corfu, Greece and the Greeks, we hope we convey our love of Corfu and have been able to give you a little insight into life here beyond the beach.
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We still have some availability throught the summer so its never too late! Contact us soon, we look forward to hearing from you.
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Sue and Carole