Travel with Friend's snapshot of summer 2011 in Corfu

Kalo Himona! Have a good winter! The words ring in our ears as another summer season draws to an end. Where did it go?! Is it another sign of the passing years that each summer seems to fly by faster than the last?
What a wonderful summer we have had!  Wall to wall sunshine from mid May to the beginning of October, except for a couple of minor storms it has been the longest driest summer any of us old hands can remember. Corfu succeeded in quickly lifting the depression of its many visitors who mostly had left behind wet grey skies by wrapping them in hot sunshine and warm hospitality.
It seems most of Europe enjoyed an amazing spring; we all swam in a heat wave at Easter, cooled off a little in May then sailed on to days of clear blue skies and perfect temperatures, with rarely a cloud to be seen. The end of July brought a rash of forest fires, at one point many raged all at the same time pushing our firefighting resources to the limit. Mind you we were all a little complacent, July we know, is going to be hot, occasionally for those of us having to work in it, almost unbearably hot; it did not disappoint, but the heat wave waned as we went into August with a wonderful maestro wind which made the air clear and cool again. We even had to wear cardigans......just for one night, but then not again until Early October! Temperatures soared again up into the 30s and stayed there right through September. It delayed our usual end of season second spring, when autumn crocus and wild cyclamen normally burst into flower, and bright green grass reappears both on the fire scorched mountains and in the olive groves, but suddenly they could hold out no longer and they gingerly popped their heads up in early October. The flowers make startling patches of colour everywhere in amongst the rocks where this years baby tortoises, perfect miniatures of their parents, plod around planning their winter survival strategy. 

Travel with Friends has ridden the storm of the world economic crisis well, welcoming most of our regular visitors back again, and now welcoming the second generation of guests as now the grown up children of our “regulars” are following in their parents’ footsteps, reliving childhood memories with their own children and partners. We have also had the pleasure of introducing many new guests to our small and friendly modus operandum, we hope that we will see them again, in fact some have booked already! We are sure they also feel that timeless quality that holidays with us have. Soon they too will feel, as others already do, that this holiday is a truly relaxing experience, they feel they are visiting friends.
We, Carole and Sue, are SO conscious that many are having to watch their pennies (or cents!) and are searching for the best value for money holiday; we have reviewed our pricing policy. With the exception of Beachside Bungalows (more on that in moment), we are now quoting prices per night based on just accommodation with maid service and sheets and towel changes, this has meant price reductions in most cases! With so many flight options now available you can come for any length of time so this enables you to have a truly "unpackaged" holiday. As everyone now has a mobile phone we feel "reps" visits are largely unnecessary. Though there will of course always be our 24 hour medical emergency helpline and you will always have a copy of our comprehensive villa holiday guide which is jam packed with local information, details of your accommodation, and will tell you how you will know about check out and departure times etc. You can even use your iphone and blackberries to e mail your queries to us whilst in resort, and our reliable owners are also always close at hand to offer assistance. 
Beachside Bungalows in Acharavi are different in more ways that one. Their stunning and peaceful location ON the beach  has made them our most popular property, and according to our survey, and listening to your comments we realised that here everyone agreed that they really liked having a welcome pack in the house on arrival, tea, coffee, milk, sugar, bread, butter, jam, eggs, biscuits and a bottle of water AND a bottle of wine, so that will continue.  
The owner, Vangelis' major renovation of Beachside Bungalows was the biggest success this year. We had been brain storming trying to think how we could keep ahead of the game and decided to make an investment  by adding some homely touches at Beachside such as cushions and throws. Vangelis was so impressed at how much better the rooms looked he was inspired to do some more major upgrading himself. Lovely Mediterranean tiles were laid throughout all the houses, kitchens were improved with new cupboards and work surfaces, and doors and windows replaced with modern aluminum ones... with fitted mosquito nets in most. For 2012 The front Thalassa houses will now have microwave ovens.
The studio has now become a reception area, whilst not used much as such, there is a benefit to all as it is a courtesy room for guests to use who have a late departure. This means that if you are unable to keep your own house on, there will always be some where to leave luggage and shower and freshen up before departure.

Read on below about Vangelis special breakfast and dinner offer! An opportunity to save money and budget for your holiday!
It was a shock to hear that First Choice have dropped all their self catering accommodation and going to concentrate on All Inclusive holidays. (Sue’s pet rant; debate the subject at your peril!) 
However, never slow to miss an opportunity, that now means that Travel with Friends will now be offering Nireus apartments on our apartment programme.
Nireus, like its neighbour Matoula has been a popular choice in Acharavi for many people for many years. They are modern apartments with a pool and separate children's pool, just minutes from the beach and village centre. They have been recently refurbished and have TV and air conditioning. Nireus’ architect owner is also going to discover how much easier and pleasant life is when dealing with a smaller company. 
We are sure too Nireus' guests will very quickly come to discover what a pleasure it is having an “unpackaged” holiday, and dealing with a small personal company. We will remember who you are and be able to answer your questions from knowledge gained through too many to mention years of experience. Many of you will already know Sue through Castaway Travel.
For those unfamiliar with the idea of an independent holiday; we are happy to help you organise your holiday from beginning to end. 
Just e mail us at to check the availability of your chosen accommodation. We will hold it for you whilst you check out your flights and finalise you holiday plans. We can arrange transfers for you too.

We are happy to book your private taxi or minibus transfers to meet you and take you straight to your door. No more lengthy round the island tour transfer coaches. Booking them through us gives you the security of knowing that whatever happens; delays....missed flights... you will have our emergency contact number, so you can contact us and we will make sure your taxi will be there to meet you.Some people have a taxi on arrival, then once settled in, rent a car for the last few days of their holiday and take themselves back to the airport.

You will very quickly see, small is good!

To keep you up to speed with your flight choices;  all tour operators still sell seats on all their regional charter flights we now have many “no frills” cheap flight options:
Ryanair from Stansted.
Jet2 from East Midlands , Leeds Bradford and Newcastle.
BMI baby from East Midlands
Easyjet from Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Luton
Monarch from Manchester, Gatwick, Birmingham and Luton.
Regional charter flights can easily be found through the simple flight search engine on our website. You can fly to Corfu from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Bournemouth, Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, East Midlands, Doncaster, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Through our Travel essentials page you can take out your holiday insurance, book your airport hotel and airport parking.
 As many airlines now charge extra for luggage. Many are learning how good it is to travel with hand luggage only, its not only the cost, just think how fast you can travel through the airport, no luggage to check in and no luggage to collect on arrival… straight out to your taxi! Look at mother and daughter! Pauline (on the right) is an old hand; she had a two week holiday with what you see in her hand. Her daughter Kirsty, on the other hand had to come with everything including the kitchen sink!
(You could change the names however… Sue would be Kirsty and Carole would be Pauline!)                                              

From a very different angle the benefit of small is our 24 hour emergency contact. An elderly guest who was taken ill in the middle of the night whilst on holiday and needed treatment in the local clinic realised immediately the benefit of holidaying with a small caring company. Their relief at having us to help with their plight was tangible. Carole showed up with coffee and croissants to start the day, helped with taxis to and fro resort,liaised with doctors, spoke to the insurance company and calmed a worried spouse; that is a comfort and reassurance without measure and leaves the patient to concentrate on getting well. Thankfully it is a service few have had to test, but we do know exactly how reassuring it is to know we are there in the wings ready for any emergency.

This is perhaps an appropriate point to share some of testimonials we have had this year:
Dear Carole
I just wanted to thank you for our third wonderful holiday with Travel with friends. The name of the company was never more fitting than this time, as we were so badly prepared for the worst, in more ways than one ! As ever, we found Kaminaki breath takingly beautiful and loved being back in Prokopis, I do hope we can keep going as a family tradition as the children grow up ( though at 5 foot 10 I hope Ellas's stopped !).
We feel very safe and looked after when we travel with you which means a lot to us all in different ways, I blab on to you but although Richard barely says anything, he is very appreciative of the support you give us.
My knee is fine, the hospital said I was lucky because its an awkward looped gash, and the doctor in Corfu made a very good job of stitching it up.
I do hope this is a good year for you business wise, its clearly a difficult time for everyone financially
until the next time
lots of love
Anna xxxx (Clayton)
Hi Sue and Carole. 
Back in chilly England!!  Just wanted to say a bit thank you to you both for all your help and welcoming to Acharavi.  Especially the "assisted" bit!  You were right, it was brilliant!
Thanks for being wheelchair in chief Carole!
Sorry we didn't get to say good-bye Sue but if you will take days off!!
We didn’t get to say good-bye either to Eleni and husband as they disappeared too! Left some wine and a thank you note (but don;t suppose they could read it!) please thank them for their friendliness and everything. Back into the old routine now, no sitting on the beach but Wimbledon starts on Monday and I have tickets for Men's semi-finals.
Hope you have a good summer and hope to see you next year.  A big thank you once again to you all.
All the best, Margaret Hunniset
(Sue would just like to point out that what Theo says is a day off is actually only a rare day taken to catch up with domestic chores NOT a day on the beach! I wish…! )

Acharavi  itself is keeping optimistic, only a few businesses have downsized, moved premises or closed, and we have had some new small businesses open. A new meze bar opened on the back road. The Captain Aris  bar has reopened under the management of Petros and Karen and their sons. They have live music some nights. The very useful "kiosk" has opened next to Captain Aris. Stella stocks everything from cigarettes and drinks, sandwiches, sweets, gifts, to nail files, toys and breakfast cereals! George at The Central bar has been busy and also had an excellent Greek night. Though holiday makers numbers were undoubtedly down on the island, some places did very well.
Captain Aris Cruises had a particularly good year, partly due to the amazing weather. Many were pleased to see the return of the old Turtle bay 
BBQ on our own private beach on the north East corner. Corfu town cruises both by day and evening were again very popular; very understandably, Corfu town is so atmospheric , the architecture predominantly Venetian and the shops plentiful.  Captain Theo was back at the helm this year which meant people saw more of Sue in Castaway Travel in the evenings.
Captain Aris daughter Georgia, now a beautiful young woman completed her tourism and hospitality degree and is working in the luxury hotel Imperial Palace where they hosted the King of Qatar this summer, and also the Queen of Morocco.
Aris’ son Tassos is still at Merchant Seaman College, following in his father’s seafaring footsteps.
Many were sad to see Yiannis grill close but Filaraki filled the gap for a good value Greek grill and has been full to bursting most nights.
The Maistro Greek night just keeps getting better.      
The Apnoea, Skondros, Acharavi Park & Pumphouse remain as popular as ever though undoubtedly there were less bums in seats in general than in previous years. Afros with its quirky arty style and fish centred menu, and Faros remain popular on the beach. Avra, a little way out along on Almiros beach is a peaceful haven serving delicious home cooked food. Many still make the effort to go to Georges even further down in Almiros. His food and hospitality has been known since time began in Acharavi, have you noticed how he just never seems to look any older?!
Vangelis' Akrogiali (Beachside) restaurant with is perfect position right on the beach, continually seeks to please with varied daily specials and very special prices. We think he has come up with a brilliant idea for 2012; a breakfast and dinner special offer package. Blocks of vouchers for a minimum of 4 days will give you the pick of ANY of the breakfast choices (full English seems to be the most popular with all nationalities!) and a three course evening meal, again the choice is ANY Starter, Main and Dessert from the a la carte menu; all for only 15 euro per person per day.  This will give you the freedom to budget for some of your eating out days within your holiday and still try elsewhere, or eat in some days. Though aimed primarily at Beachside guests as they are nearest, the offer will be available to anyone . Vouchers can be prepaid with your holiday. Vangelis recognises that many have to tightly budget for holidays, and this will allow people to eat a good breakfast and a varied home cooked evening meal at a remarkably good price, and what’s more sit in a wonderful location on the beach listening to the sea and watch some of our spectacular sunsets at the same time. It doesn’t get better than that!
Katerina Apartments also added some soft furnishings to create a brighter, more homely look. We have added many new photos to the gallery which give a much better idea of what good family apartments they are. Her free wireless Internet has been appreciated as has her washing machine facility.

Agios Stefanos: The area like other parts saw the regulars return to enjoy the huge sandy beach and inland walks taking advantage of the quieter times. Vangelis and Anthoula continue to look after the guests in traditional style with offerings from the garden and fresh eggs from the chickens! The WI FI in the houses has also proved an attraction as are the continual small upgrades carried out every year. Spiro and family at the Hotel Nafsika are still as welcoming as ever, happy to see both old and new faces trying out their specialties!
A new place to try is the Akrotiri bar, opened last year on the headland between Ag Stefanos and Arillas, right on the top it has amazing view over to the outlying islands and Manthraki, Orthoni and Diapolos . The sunset views from there are mesmerising. If you are thinking of proposing to anyone any time soon this is a really romantic setting!
Just around in the next bay at Arillas a wine festival is now well established as a September event. A lively evening with a barbecue and live music. Last year's vintage was consumed in copious amounts! 
It seems the mud made from the rocks at the north end of the beach has made a name for itself as a  therapeutic mud bath, melt the mud in the sea and cover your body, let it dry, then rub off, the exfoliation feels wonderful and then rinse off in the sea. Very refreshing. Try it, don't worry about how silly you look!

Kaminaki also now is creeping into the 21st century with WI FI now available at Spiro's taverna , a wonderful spot to sit and catch up, right next to the sea! Prokopis family are hoping to carry out some small  upgrades on the apartments to reflect the space and coolness inside. Mrs Prokopis now finds walking difficult but still tries to come down every now and then. Niko from Vitamins taverna regularly joined the other lovers of that magical time of day at sunset on Kaminaki beach.He took his two young sons into the sea every day; one is just two and the other a babe in arms, but daddy lets them bob about without a care in the world in the clear safe waters, watched in both wonder and admiration from the onlookers, perhaps with a touch of envy that it can be a daily treat! It certainly beats joining the rush hour any day!!!!
This has been Kaminaki's timeless appeal over the years for all ages, couples and young families love the clean safe beach,  finding hidden rock pools, exploring deserted coves by small boat . Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones Diary, is certainly in agreement, she is more than happy to return year after year with her young children and do just that. Another popular feature of a Kaminaki holiday is visiting other nearby tavernas by boat of an evening. Boats from the bays of Agni and Kalami will call in and pick up from the jetty to have a night trip by sea to a beachfront taverna. Shopping at Aphrodite's supermarket on the main road has far more style than Internet shopping at Tesco's; sit on the beach, give her a call, make your order and she will deliver to your door. 
Anna and Stros of Kaminaki boats cracked open the champagne when Dimitri graduated from Queens Belfast with a first! Who said Greek education is substandard? It can’t be that bad can it?!  Anna's youngest daughter Cassie expanded the business this year by advertising her reliable baby sitting service for visitors which, proved very popular amongst young families for both children and parents alike.

On a personal note there was much celebration this summer when Elena (Sue’s daughter) graduated from Bournemouth with a 2:1 in Psychology ( where did those 3 years go, too?!) She is now looking at post graduate study back in the UK. 
Sue’s lab puppy now fully grown, Cheka has taken her rightful place tripping people up in the office doorway, but she is often welcome pet therapy for those who have left dogs at home. She is happy to take all the pats and strokes she can get (though she would rather have biscuit!) The cat population has remained static, despite a vet, TWF guest’s best attempt at making it increase it to 4! Luckily Alison our wonderful Beachside maid stepped into the breach for the poor little kitten rescued and treated by Zoe. 
This summer saw Carole house having quite a few long term visitors. Carole's mother now 88, likes to spend the long hot summers lazing on the balcony and enjoying long leisurely lunches at the beach, it beats the English summer. Also Carole's niece, who has been coming to Corfu since she was 6 months old, needed inspiration for her 
attempt at writing her first novel. She says the ever changing landscapes  and natural beauty of the island are perfect inspiration for creative minds! It seems Corfu's reputation as the island of dreams could indeed be true. Like Sue, Carole's cat population remained  the same as sadly the rescued Siamese died in Carole's arms this summer, but then an abandoned snow white kitten was found at Kaminaki looking for a home and was taken in by Xenya who christened her "hionati", Greek for snow white.
Sadly our old dog Roy, after a short illness is now chasing rabbits in the sky, so the house is a little bit quieter, but Lily and Bruno are still charging around, stealing Izzy the donkey's bread at every opportunity!

We often think about one of our favourite subjects; epicurean delights.Some of you might like to have a more haute cuisine meal one evening, and may like to know that Etrusco in Dassia is now known nationwide having featured on Greece’s own nightmare kitchen programme. 
The Kima in Kassiopi has built up a good reputation for fine food as has Trilogia also in Kassiopi for those who want a special meal out.

We came across this blog recently which you may enjoy too. Ellinois’ passion is wines, especially Greek wines. As you probably know, Carole and Sue like we are learning some of the more sophisticated things about Greek wines which are at last beginning to take their rightful place at many a fine dinner table. 
Even Retsina is being given attention, there is now a fine wine Retsina too, called the tear of the pine, (what a lovely name!) . Historically Wine amphora were lined with pine resin to keep it from oxidising, nowadays pine resin is added to the vats to create the same acquired taste. Once acquired there is no looking back, BUT, in our opinion it is best enjoyed ice cold sitting near the sea! 
He also catches the Greek psyche well;
I like the way Greeks take every opportunity to socialise. It is one of the reasons life in Greece is never dull. If you want to meet people, you don’t need to make an extra effort, it simply happens naturally.
He also has an interesting take on Greek driving which those who have rented cars will smile at! 
Tsipouro the Greek grappa, has now become so popular, and local friendly competition as to whose is best so common, that bar owners are making their own in local stills. It is often given as a digestive after dinner, best not to be driving home if you drink it!
We know that our little buzzing friends can at times be a nuisance to some who just seem to be mosy bait whilst the rest of the family sits smugly with nary a nibble! Our regular client John asked us to recommend the mosquito lotion they can’t live without; Mosquit-ex made by Riemann available on line and at most airports. It is deet based but long lasting.
Its been a while since anyone did a good series on Greece and Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey looks promising and positive for once! Her aim is the same as ours... to make you want to buy a ticket to come here!

We didn’t want to dwell on the current darker side of life in Greece, but we are sure the world press has made sure you all know that life here is hard, and getting harder as the government brings in more and more austerity measures, but we love our Greek island home, warts an’ all. If we must be poor somewhere in the world we both agree we would rather it is here than anywhere else. 
We are all too aware that Greece has mismanaged its finances but the history that brought us to this point should not be ignored, this article makes the point well, click the link.
“We will no longer say Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”. Churchill's well known phrase captures the spirit  of how Greeks will face the coming months of economic struggle. They have their own Dunkirk spirit; they have battled and won attacks on their borders, occupation, and world wars. A mere economic crisis will not break them.
Strikes seem to be becoming a part of life all over Europe as people voice their frustration to their governments over the economic muddle we have been reduced to. On a lighter note , a star has been born during the Athens protests, have you seen Loukanikos (greek for sausage) the riot dog ? When you watch the news, watch out for him, he is always there! 
But miles away, Corfu carried on in a world of its own, the taxi strike did cause a minor hiccough but minibuses and private transfers meant that none of our guests were inconvenienced, AND as a result of it, we now have a much needed bus service from the airport to the bus station in Corfu town, lets hope that continues next year. If you really want to economise and meet the locals, go by bus! 

We again have a contribution from Angela our friend, scribe, and long time Corfu resident.
Every year, when October comes, and the days grow shorter, and the air is scented with wood smoke and a tantalizing aroma of fermenting grapes – I get a yen. 
A yen to put my foot down on a car accelerator and drive faster, and further, than these island limits permit. To drive a long distance, on a looping,
undulating highway, with unfamiliar landscapes opening up beyond and behind me. To be somewhere where no-one knows who I am, and where the sole topic of conversation is not the economy and its effect on tourism.
This state of mind is called ‘island sickness’ and corresponds to what prisoners experience - a state called ‘stir-crazy’ by those inventive linguists, the Americans.
Once, a good few years ago, I used to spend October escorting earnest Grecophiles round the ancient sites of the Peloponnese and northwestern Greece. It was too hot to clamber over ruins in the heat of summer and October was the perfect time for it. 
Pale cyclamen flowers sprang from every shady crevice between stones that were slowly losing the heat they had absorbed through the long summer months. Rain fell from time to time, its moisture soon erased from the marble but greedily absorbed by the earth; thunder boomed and crackled from one lofty mountain crag to another. The skies would soon revert to that vivid autumnal blue though, the umbrellas would be put away, the quest for history soon resumed for it was not yet winter.
Wherever we went, autumn housekeeping was underway. Grapes were being pressed, and it was still possible to see apparently intoxicated family groups standing up to their necks in the giant barrels used for treading grapes. (Wasps? Yes indeed, and they were all trodden into the must that would be turned into wine. )
The sound of chain-saws buzzed through the groves and orchards, and neat piles of freshly-cut wood appeared beneath overhanging balconies and beside barns and outhouses. Shepherds could be seen, bringing their sheep and goats down from high summer pastures, bells clattering in a distinctly alpine cacophony. Chests and cupboards were emptied of winter bedding and clothing on every sunny morning, their contents draped over every window sill and balcony railing to air.                              
 Early mornings were sharpened by a chill that would very soon carry the scent of snow with it, but still the days were balmy and inspired a lazy indolence that could very easily make us skip one historic monument or another in favour of a glass or two of ouzo or tsipouro while admiring the view.                              
 The rivers and cataracts of Greece, unsuspected by summer visitors, fed upon the autumn rains and were soon  plunging again in wild abandon through gorges and gullies and under the impossible arches of old stone bridges.
Where there had been catastrophic brush fires, new green shoots emerged within a matter of hours after the rain, a tangible 
harbinger of hope and renewal. Mountainsides were bright with purple heather and golden bracken, a reminder that the Mediterranean region is not all palm trees and bougainvillea. Hotel food was always bland, but in the country tavernas we began to have a choice of more robust seasonal dishes.Wonderful fassolada, stifado made with hare or rabbit, mustalevria, a sweet jelly made from freshly-pressed grape must,  sprinkled with cinnamon and crushed walnuts. Oh yes – the fruits of autumn – nuts of every kind, dried figs and quince, the last of the fresh grapes, crisp, with a pink blush, street vendors roasting chestnuts on a brazier..

I have a yen now as I write, for those long-ago October journeys that can never be repeated in quite the same way for me. Those were the days of my youth, gone but never forgotten.
Corfu still displays many of the same autumn aspects that I found so long ago as I drove on the looping mountain roads of northwestern Greece – people still make their own wine and chop their own winter wood supply, still air their winter clothing and bedding and cook fassolada and make mustalevria. People - but why is it always the women? – still plant potatoes and other winter staples while those elusive men go off and shoot small birds. This winter (why do the words ‘of discontent’ come to mind?) more people than ever will be saving on housekeeping bills with home grown vegetables and a little shooting and fishing, but that is nothing new in Greece’s turbulent history. 
But for me, and no doubt for others, the great appeal of those autumn journeys was to escape the confines of the island, geographical and social and emotional. 
It can still be done, and it still feels good, that final fling before winter sets in. New roads in Epirus make a weekend escape from Corfu feasible. New inroads into the isolation of Albania make its breathtaking scenery and its archaeological heritage accessible to us.
All too soon winter will arrive in earnest and whatever the weather does, the human factor will obey the urge to close up, batten down, shut out the outside world and gather round the camp-fire. 
But if you visit Corfu in autumn, don’t ignore the possibilities – break out! Join me, in spirit at least, on the autumn highway!
Angela Papageorgiou 12 October 2011


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 are ready now to take booking for 2012, so dont delay! Contact us soon, we look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes for kalo Himona!
Sue and Carole
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