Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vacation to Corfu, Greece

After last year's smashing success with a last-minute EasyJet vacation, we had to try it again. So we did. And it was almost as awesome.

That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but it is. It's just that Ischia was a once-of-a-lifetime vacation. That place is as close to perfect as I can ever hope to visit and this time was different. We're dragging a kid around now and real-life worries like searching for an apartment infringed on paradise.

And, yet - my memories of it (we went last August) are still sterling clear and glowing. It was beautiful. We ate and swam like kings. Rarely have we felt richer vacationing and more at peace in spirit.

Corfu Ratings:

Ratings will be done in Greek salad. We had so many delicious Greek salads.

Transportation in Corfu

2 Greek salads - Completely reliant on buses with stops that are not very marked, workers that are not overly helpful and buses that run somewhat sporadically.


3 Greek salads - It was an all-day affair getting to our hotel, which is to be expected for an island. We found easyjet holidays that covered 7-nights accommodation and flights for around 450 euros each. We had to figure out the rest of the transport ourselves.

We practically sailed in as the airport and landing strip are so tiny and so close to the water. We later spent an hour watching planes come in and out which was a total highlight. Felt so close we could touch 'em. 

To do that - however - we found it easiest to rent a car, as well as get to some other destinations on the island. This ended up costing us 60 euros for its use for one day (the absolutest cheapest we could find) and was totally worth it. We went all over Corfu that day and all the way up to the monastery.
For the rest of our trips, we simply walked to different beaches around Messonghi, took a boat tour for a day (around 20 euro per person and included wine & lunch) and took the bus in to Corfu city for one day. Simple, cheap, relaxing. Ok - mostly. You have to have a little faith that you are in the right line at the bus station in town and if you are not at a main stop it can be a little harrowing waiting for the bus.
Getting out of Corfu was another story. We took the bus back towards Corfu Town again and had no trouble getting off at the airport. Once we arrived we saw we were in trouble. The tiny airport was flooded in people. We checked in quite easily (only had hand luggage, but needed to check the stroller), but then joined the throngs waiting to get through security. It got so bad - Mad wailing, everyone grumbling - that eventually some personnel came and pulled us to the front of the line. However, there were people behind us needing to get in for a flight that was about to leave, so then they started pushing those people ahead of us and it was just a bottleneck of misery. When we finally did get though they were so overwhelmed they simply waned people through security. So pro tip: arrive early - just in case - in summer months as traffic is apparently up a bazillion percent from what they can handle.

Accommodations in Corfu
3.5 Greek salads - Really nice hosts. Nice having a pool. Good location .Room was bare bones but a/c was nice.

3 Greek salads Like I mentioned before, we've grown fond of these bargain basement Easyjet deals but recognize they are far from luxury. This hotel was not luxury. But it worked for us. Each had a very basic kitchenette and itsy bathroom and shower. The shower was the only real disappointment. It did not work amazing.

But the a/c was heaven, wifi worked, it was about a 8 minute walk to the beach, a little balcony looked onto the river and small pool and the family that runs it was very accommodating. They wrote me back about the questions I had before we booked (wifi, baby, etc) and on one of our last nights we sat out front with the son and dad with our little girl and heard stories of running a hotel in Corfu over wine from our host.

If you prefer somewhere else, there are about a kagillion other options. And bonus for English and German speakers - everything is in these languages.

Sights in Corfu

4 Greek salad - I knew the beaches were gonna be good, but Corfu Town was way cooler than I expected. The nature was great. The monastery was so cool.

4.5 - I think this is the essence of rustic beauty. Just on its own, the place is perfect. The beaches are idyllic, some with sand (or sand brought in), warm perfectly clear waters and you can rent an umbrella with two drinks and wifi all day in the Messonghi area for between 3.50-5 euro. BEACH HOLIDAY PERFECTION. Of course there are also fancier resorts (like actually staying in the Messonghi Resort) and there are people bathing off the side of the road for free. Doesn't matter where you are - the water is fine.

We also took one of the many boat tours on offer and can't remember if we paid 15 or 20 euro per person, but that covered an all-day adventure (10am - 4pm) wine all day and a lunch. After our success in Ischia we gave it another try and were once again over the moon at seeing places we couldn't even imagine in our dreams.
On the popular Blue Lagoon tour which - despite Brook Shields on the posters - seems to have nothing to do with the movie, we experienced some incredible scenery. We jumped off the boat like ballers - carefully handing mad over in her floaty once we were in - saw sand that appeared absolutely rose colored and went to the Botanical gardens. We got off at the Botanical Garden last and lost. our. shit. The plants. The hammocks. The ice cream I had at the top. Some kid asked his mom if they could stay there next time and I knew exactly what he meant. It was heaven. We grinned like fools. We had brought some silly little swim goggles and even those were amazing. If you snorkel, be ready to be amazed.

Also - Corfu Town was much more beautiful than expected. Inspired by the likes of Venice, how could it fail to impress? We went in the fortress, ate pizza, bought a jingly toy and wandered all over the city. And as I mentioned with the car, we saw a monastery straight outta island paradise, Old Perithia (oldest village) was a dusty break from seaside, beaches like Sidari and Lefkimmi an just dug driving and listening to cheesy pop. Mad was a little less thrilled with driving all day, but she dealt.

And we should also note that despite the land's obvious beauty, there are an impressive amount of half-built buildings and abandoned projects. There is definitely some evidence of a struggling economy. But that hardly detracted from the island's allure for a couple of expats from Berlin.


Dining in Corfu

4 Greek Salads - Fantastic service. Had all the classic Greek dishes. Great atmosphere. Definitly splurged a bit on food, but it was worth it.

4.5 Greek Salads We ate so many Greek salads. It was fascinating to see the same ingredients put together just a little differently. And being there for a week, we had ample opportunity to sample almost every major restaurant in Messonghi. While service was welcoming, it was perhaps less generous than in the past, less freebies. Whatever, we come from Berlin baby! We were pleased that people smiled and chatted.

Besides the salads, we ate giant prawns, all sorts of fish, Keftethes (love a meatball), Sofrito (beef steak cooked in a garlic and wine sauce), Yemista (Stuffed pepper), Kelftiko (over baked lamb), Souvlakia (meat on skewers), stewed rabbit, Tiropita (puff pastry filled with feta) and of course we had gyros. And french fries. Lots of french fries. Oh - and Frappe! Made from instant coffee and with a history all its own, it has no right to e this good but is perfect on a hot day.

Note that Tzatziki is usually sold separately and kinda silly expensive. I guess that is just a tourist tax. And we never got a ginger beer, even though it is supposed to be a specialty. It was not listed or they were out. I was happy with my cheap house wine and some surprising microbrews.
I also bought the most expensive Baclava ever in Corfu Town. I was just feeling the love and they were so pretty, dressed in chocolate and fruit that when she asked how many i just threw out a number. I think we got about 10 for 20 euro. It was a stupid, rookie mistake. A stupid delicious mistake. Another deliciousness was the Kumquat syrup that is sold everywhere and can be bought as a souvenir. 

Among our favorite restaurants:
  • Minori Taverna - Just up the road from the beach, the owner is a gem and the lamb is divine. 
  •  Zak's Taverna - Located on the main road (next to the bus stop) this place is covered in grape vines. The waiters are expectedly dapper and charming and the food is a good deal in a great atmosphere. 
  •  Bacchus Restaurant - This is the only place we went to twice. The most distracted service, it was bustling and chaotically fun, right on the water. And it had the best Greek salad. 

*WARNING: Those pathetic looking stray cats that cover most of Greece are here as well. And while not dangerous, they did pee on the baby when I let her play on the ground at Minori Taverna. Not cute kitty.


4.5 Greek Salads - It really is a paradise. The boat cruise was amazing. Renting the car was amazing. Corfu town was amazing. it was just nice to relax and enjoy the beach too.

4 Greek Salads We are liking this new thing of taking relaxing vacations...especially when they are located on a perfect island. That is our first family vacation - just the three of us. Some of the pictures of Maddy on this trip are my favorites.

Shorty after this trip we got a great apartment (whew!), Matilda started Krippe, Mad turned one!, money got crazy tight and my parents visited. Now out on the other side I can look at that week like a moment in time where everything was about to change but we didn't know it yet. I think of the fortress or the boat ride or lying on the beach and everything is bathed in light.

I suggested to Ian, especially now that we have Matilda, that we actually consider going back to places. She's too little to remember playing with her dad in the pool or getting sand everywhere. While she'll have the pictures, I really want her to see these places for herself (again) someday. So we've made a tentative plan to re-visit our favorites 10 years out. She'll be old enough to enjoy it and we will see if they live up to the hype we've created in our head.

In the meantime I suggest you go to Corfu. Eat the salads. Be a lazy tourist. Get sand everywhere.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Beautiful photos! I love Greek salads. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008