We had an ok trip getting to Corfu. There was some stress due to congestion on the M25 and only just getting to the bag drop and check-in on time, but Helen was really good. She did complain a bit as I was putting her back to sleep that she missed our house and her heart bed and our car (we have hired an almost identical Nissan Micra here, but forgot to bring her Beatrix Potter CDs). But I think she'll be fine after a good night's sleep.
I'm sitting on the balcony of our apartment (in Glyfada), looking out at the bay and listening to the waves coming in on the beach, which is maybe 150m down the hill. It's a pleasant temperature and very quiet out — there's hardly anyone on the beach yet — so I'd really like to go for an exploratory walk — and hunt down a coffee — while C + H sleep and before it gets stinking hot, but I don't want Helen to wake up in a strange place with Camilla still asleep. She was asleep when we arrived at midnight last night, and didn't get to orient herself properly.
I've managed to fit in a forty minute walk and no one else has woken up yet... just wandered along the beach and got myself a coffee. Only a handful of people up yet, even though it's after 9 here: one family in the water, a few people walking or jogging, one table having breakfast where I got the coffee. So it's either past peak tourist season or this is more a "night life" kind of place. (Also, Glyfada is basically a giant resort, there's no village as such, so there's no "ordinary life" happening.)
I knew it was hilly, but it's steeper than I expected from looking at Google Maps — the water is maybe 100 metres away, but must be 30 or 40 metres down. The drive into Glyfada (which Camilla had to do at night, on the wrong side of the road, though at least in a familiar model of car) is switch-backs all the way down from Pelekas, and walking across to Elia Taverna on the next beach along will clearly require some indirection as there's a whopping cliff on the direct line.
We're sitting on our balcony and Camilla and Helen are doing some watercolour painting. As the sun comes up, the distant hills on one side have faded into the haze, while the closer ones on the other are a shining dark-light green mosaic. In front of us are the bleached terracotta tiles of other apartment buildings, and behind them the banded blue-green-purple (wine-dark?) sea. People can be heard talking, but the rhythmic swoosh of the waves still dominates. Time to go for a swim!
A late start, but we fitted in some swimming at the beach below our apartment, lunch, a drive to Paleokastritsa, some more swimming, a visit to the monastery, and dinner in the restaurant next to it.
There's been a bit of cloud, and there was a good wall to hide under at the second beach, so I've managed to escape most of the sun and it hasn't been as unpleasantly hot as I'd feared. And we got there in the evening, but the monastery at Paleokastritsa must be like an oasis in the heat of the day (though probably busier with tourists too).
Both places we've eaten so far have been overpriced (ie, UK kind of prices) places in tourist areas, with menus to match, but the food has been good nonetheless. We hope to try more Corfiot specialities in the next few days.
My two literary connections to Corfu go back to when I was ten or eleven. I was a huge Gerald Durrell fan, and read pretty much everything he wrote, hunting down his books in secondhand shops. So for this trip I picked up a copy of _My Family and Other Animals_, his comic account of his family moving to Corfu when he was ten, and I've been re-reading that. The other book that was a big influence on me was Thucydides, where the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War involves a conflict between Corcyra (modern Kerkira/Corfu) and Corinth (roughly analogous to Serbia and Austria in the outbreak of the First World War). Hard to imagine a trireme fleet pulling itself ashore on the beaches here, but it must have happened!
We spent our second day in Corfu Town. We parked on the Esplanade and wandered around the old city, with its narrow marbled streets and mix of retail (mostly catering to the tourists) and residential, staying surprisingly cool in the heat. For lunch we tried out local specialities sofrito (veal with rice) and pastitsada — these were both excellent but Helen barely touched her food. She isn't well: she's had a runny nose and been rather subdued.
Then we drove to Mon Repos while Helen napped and had a drink in a cafe right on the water, with great views of the old fort and across the water to the mainland. Camilla swam around looking at fish, but though I took Helen in for a bit when she woke up, she didn't want to get in the water properly. Then we drove back to the Esplanade and went into the Old Fort, where we looked at some nice mosaics and a little exhibition on the cartography of the last big siege, I climbed up to the peak, and we had a good dinner.
Helen only ate a bit, but after dinner she suddenly perked up and wanted to play chase around the open areas of the Fort. On the way back to the car we wandered through a nice garden (with statues of the Durrells and others) with a playground, and there were children and families playing on the grass area of the Esplanade; it was now a much more pleasant temperature (and we slept without the air-conditioning for a change).
We had lunch up the hill in Pelekas, then drove to Paleokastritsa again. We did more swimming, visited the aquarium, and then had dinner in the Castellino restaurant, perched up on the hillside.
We visited the folklore museum in Sinarades, then ended up (due to some confusion) at the nude beach Mirtiotissa. We had lunch in Elia Taverna there, and I walked back to our hotel in Glyfada (after a bit of confusion trying to find the track). And we had dinner in the restaurant in Glyfada.
It took us something like fourteen hours to get home, door to door from our rented apartment in Corfu, due largely to terrible traffic on the M25. But everyone stayed surprisingly cheerful, especially given Helen was just recovering from a cold and Camilla and I were going down with colds.
The trip was good fun, though we only saw Corfu Town and a small bit of Corfu's west coast, from Sinarades up to Lakones. (Corfu is about 5% of the area of the greater Sydney region, but its roads are much narrower and more winding.)