The ‘C’ Word
This year, more so than any I can think of, we have needed some escapism, to get off the roller coaster of life and to give our family a sense of normality. It is no secret that the travel industry like many others has been suffocated by the ongoing pandemic and I’m sure like many of you, we felt we were firefighting on a daily basis to keep our travel agency alive. Whilst we have been one of the lucky ones, reopening our doors – we are (or were) exhausted and needed some ‘us’ time.
So what to do – I closed my eyes and thought of the place that makes me happy, an island that is filled with age old memories and where I knew I would be able to get the biggest (and much needed) cuddle from one my best friends…
… That is my ‘C’ word – Corfu
Like most of us that have travelled this summer, the build up to jetting off to our chosen destinations was slightly over shadowed with the quarantines regulations constantly changing and the slight apprehension of mask wearing in the airport and on the plane. However, putting all that to one side we are all so glad that we bit the bullet, packed our suitcases and headed out to the sunshine.
It is true, that feeling of walking off the aircraft and the sunshine hitting your face is one of the best feelings in the world and its never made me smile so much.
Driving north along the east coast of Corfu is always so spectacular, views across the rugged coastline across to Albania, passing through the coastal villages along winding roads lined with olive trees and smiling faces is just the best start to a holiday. We were already beginning to relax when we arrived at the Katia Studio’s and Apartments on the outskirts of Kassiopi.
You may remember me staying at the Katia Apartments last year with my lovely friend Kirsty when we came out to visit Lucy, and luckily Nick and Holly instantly loved it as much as I do. I’ll quickly remind you. The Katia is a small, family run complex with a great pool area and gardens that take you down to a natural un-serviced (therefore very quiet) pebble beach. It’s a very happy 2* complex, with basic self-catering facilities, a fantastic restaurant that serves delicious homecooked Greek food ( plus to Nicks and Hollys delight a great English breakfast – all day) To me it’s set in the perfect location, a gentle 20 minute stroll into the beautiful, bustling harbour town of Kassiopi or a 5 euro taxi ride and owned by the delightful Alex and Joanna. The staff are characterful, full of fun and very friendly – it really is a great base for a Greek escape.
We came out for 11 nights and spent the first few days by the pool and on the beach, recharging our batteries and then we decided to have an adventure!
I was trying to work out how many times we had been to Corfu, I think mine is around 8 or 9, Nick 4 and Holly is 5, and we have never explored the northwest coast, we have followed in the footsteps of the ‘Durrells’ and stayed in the beautiful areas of Kalami, Nissaki, Agni and Kassiopi (and I thought nowhere would be as beautiful but …) so we hired a car and headed out on an journey of exploration, hysterics and hysteria.
We were just so excited as we jumped into our Red Suzuki Jimney – trust me there was nothing flash about this car but we grew to love it like a comfy old armchair and it never let us down. With our free map of Corfu in hand our first stop was the Old Town of Perithia – one of Corfu’s oldest villages and a heritage protected site. 130 houses , many built in Venetian style stand abandoned and in different stages of disrepair but it’s amazing to hear that the village built back in the 14th Century, perfect for sheep farming and the cultivation of olive and vines was fairly prosperous, unfortunately its demise came when tourism brought a wealth of jobs to the coastal areas and locals moved further down the mountain in search of work. Although often classed a ghost town, Old Perithia has a village square with a handful of Tavernas and is a favourite spot with locals for Sunday lunch, filling the village with laughter and delicious tasting mountain fare. We stopped for at ‘Gabriels Steps’ Taverna where I just could resist having homemade apple pie for breakfast (yes you read that right) and were presented with home grown figs for us to try – perfect start to the day. It’s very rural here so expect to see all sorts of wild life including snakes – we nearly stepped on a baby viper, so got a bit of a sprint on thinking ‘where there’s a baby viper, there’s a Mummy viper!
In our haste to get up the mountain we forgot to fill the car with petrol, so for the first hour Holly was panic stricken that we were going to get stuck, in what would literally been in the middle of nowhere, never to be seen again, so we drove back down the mountain to fill up – actually there are petrol stations all over but at this point we hadn’t realised!
So after a bit of toing and froing up and down the mountain our next stop was to head over to the famous Palaiokastritsa, now I told a bit of a fib earlier – Nick has been here before, about 30 years ago on his inter-railing days so he was really looking forward to reminiscing – Falling of mopeds, sleeping on the roofs of hotels and swimming in the turquoise waters. I don’t think he was disappointed, and Holly and I certainly weren’t. Although I’m sure it is a lot more commercialised than it was all those years ago ( can I say that 😊) the resort is still stunningly beautiful, arguably one of the most picturesque villages on the island with a beautiful monastery, lone rocky coves and the main Agios Spyridon Beach looks like somewhere that you would find on the shores of Thailand. We arrived too late to spend time on the beach on our first visit so headed back to spend a few hours there a couple of days later – we just could not come home without swimming in these beautiful surroundings. The snorkelling here is unreal, there are so many different colourful fish and the water is so clear. I’m not going to lie, it is busy and they have made the most of the tourism with trendy beach club style bars and souvenir shops but once you are nestled on your towel or swimming in the coves it is pretty perfect. Now if you have been to Greece during the summer before, you’ll know that the sea is a good temperature and after a little bit of faffing about its pretty easy to get submerged. Word of warning, the sea in Palaiokastritsa is freezing, it’s up to 5 degrees colder than sea on the north east – now I am not one to make a scene, but there was a lot of screeching going on when Hols and I were trying to get in.
On our first visit to this area we took a mountain route, through some amazing villages such as the beautiful Lakones which is gifted with spectacular views over Palaiokastritsa. The main street through the village is very narrow, so only allows for one-way traffic at one time, and works on a traffic light system so you may have a small wait to pass through it. Trust me when I say that the driving isn’t easy and the roads not great but gosh the views are insane so completely worth it. Nick did make the driving look pretty simple so I thought I’d give it ago, so of course at the top of a mountain I insisted that I drive so Nick could have a turn at looking at the views. Let me set the scene here, I’m looking pretty cool, my curly holiday hair, pretty headband, oversized sunglasses and the jeep roof down, feeling dead confident. So can you remember the car chase in the James Bond Movie – For Your Eyes Only, the cliff edged hair pin bends, roads that you can just about squeeze two cars past each other – yep that is literally the road I drove down. We started off with jovial giggles, which turned into raucous belly laughter, I then turned a corner and came face to face with a bus to which I swerved so hard that poor Nick ending face to face with a bush that came through the window. From that point the hysterics turned to hysteria, Hols just could stop laughing (nervously) and from that point the only words Nick shouted was “you’re on the wrong side of the road” We finally parked up and I burst into tears – with a mascara stained face and my hair looking like a lions mane, I silently thanked god that we had made it alive. I am not sure Nick saw any of the view after all and he drove for the rest of our car hire adventures.
After all the excitement we were starving, and both Nick and I were wanting some seafood. One of the best things about having friends living here is the recommendations that they can make for restaurants, so that evening we ate at the Taverna Glyfa. We booked a table for 5pm so we could soak up the incredible view whilst eating fried shrimps, anchovies and sword fish steaks – amazing!
The next day we stayed fairly local and headed up the coast to Kalamaki Beach. The east coast is renowned for it pebble beach and clear waters, but here the beach is sandy and offers such safe bathing for families. You can walk out a long way in the water and the sea only comes up to your knees so its perfect for babies and toddlers to have fun. The water is so warm, all I needed was some bubble bath and rubber duck and I’d have been on cloud 9. That said – frappe, donuts, watermelon and good company comes a very close second. Take your own beach towels and find a your own perfect spot or because Kalamaki is a serviced beach so you can treat yourself to a pair of sunbeds and a brolly for just 7 euros for the day. There is plenty of parking at Tavernas and as long as you buy a coffee or snack the owners are really happy for you to use the facilities. The drive down to the beach isn’t for the faint hearted and test your breaks its really steep but makes for a great day out.
That evening, we ate in possible the most special and best restaurants I have been to, not because it was fine dining, or cosmopolitan, but because it was true Greece. Chasing the most incredible sunset up the mountains to apparently one of the highest restaurants on Greece we arrived at the family run Boozoovey’s Café and Tavern. The food here is grown in the garden and is homecooked. We just didn’t know what to choose so we went for it and ordered a full meze for starters – Spicy Tsigareli, ‘Tigania’, Roasted Stuffed hot peppers and for mains, rabbit Stifado. The wine was rustic, the service unbelievable and the food the best I’ve tasted in Greece.
As I mentioned earlier we spent part of our final day with the car in Palaiokastritsa and then headed up the west coast to a watch the sunset at Agios Georgios. Another beautiful drive over the mountains, and just as we though we couldn’t beat the last view, we turned a corner and were wowed again. We even met the famous Costa Provatas. He and his wife are Artists and Jewellery makers and sell from the side of the road in one of the beauty spots. I joked with him that he must have one the best office views in the word. They have had been selling their hand made products in the same spot for over 10 years – quite unbelievable to be honest. Nick was delighted that we managed to get a hand painted fridge magnet!
After a few wrong turns, some exciting reversing we pulled up just in time to see the sunset in the charming Agious Gerdiuos whilst eating delicious salad and chips. We chose the Athina restaurant and were so glad we did, the service was brilliant and the setting perfect! After another adventurous journey in the dark on the way back, we said goodbye to our old friend Jimney and relaxed with a well needed Ouzo and lemonade.
We decided to stay put for the next few days, apart from arranging an evening boats trip to Corfu town, a recommendation from one of our customers that had done it last year. Unfortunately, the weather turned and although it was really warm the wind really got up and our trip got cancelled. We were really disappointed as wanted to explore the fortresses and get lost in the old town, but as we drank wine in the Venus bar overlooking the sea in Kassiopi, we thanked our lucky stars it had been, the waves were crashing against the rocks and the swells were massive. It would have been scary to be out there but it was stunning to watch on dry land and we made a lovely new friend – Philipa the cat. We managed to get the last table in a restaurant we had wanted to eat in all week – Kima which looks over the harbour and ate grilled octopus, village sausage and seafood linguine and risotto – delicious.
Kassiopi is just so delightful with great character. Over the years I’ve been coming it has changed, not for the worst and not for the better – It’s just different and that why we can keep coming back. Its great for all ages, for young families the eateries are children friendly, there’s a lovely ice cream and smoothie parlour and a great little park. For young adults there a handful of music bars and water sport services on the beach and if you like good restaurants there is plenty to choose from at a range of different prices. We actually ate in Best Kabab one evening, the chicken giros are amazing and Holly said the tzatziki was the best in town! For a great cocktail or if you love a good chocolate crepe head to Jasmine and say hey to Lucy whilst your there ❤️
If you like a good mooch like we do, there are some lovely shops from homemade crafts to fashion boutique selling beautiful clothes and jewellery. If your feeling energetic head up the hill and explore the old castle ruins.
Our last day was filled with fruit salads, ouzo and friends sat on Avlaki Beach – this is a small beach about 20 mins walk from the Katia in the opposite direction and really popular with the locals. It’s fab watching the paddle boards bobbing by gracefully and hearing the kids laughing. A meal in our favourite restaurant Cavo Barbaro was the perfect end to our holiday, of course more tears as we said goodbye to our lovey friend Lucy and her family but we know we’ll be back to our bolt hole in the sun very soon.