Corfu, I Love You!
The runway juts out into the transparent blue water, and I watched everyone beginning to twitch, nervously glancing out of the window and staring around them to check the other passengers’ reactions.
But of course, they were all too British to say anything!
About 25 years ago, I worked as a Rep in Corfu for six months. I loved it there. I was upset when the season ended and we had to go home.
As the plane touched down and taxied to the terminal building, I suddenly felt choked up and emotional. Would it be different?
I needn’t have worried. It was déjà vu. Nothing much had altered since my last visit, five years ago.
Even the potholes in the road were the same!
Driving along the coast road, we passed Pontikonissi, AKA Mouse Island, on our left.
More about that later.
We stayed at the newly-renovated 5* Marbella Beach Hotel.at Agios Ioannis Peristeron.
It’s an excellent hotel complex built across the road from the sea, up the side of a hill. It has the widest choice of rooms and suites that I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world!
See details at the end.
We were greeted with a selection of colourful Cocktails.
I chose a non-alcoholic drink of strawberry, kiwi and pineapple.
Then we ate in the poolside Dolphin Beach Bar, one of three restaurants in the hotel.
Earlier I’d mentioned that I was a great fan of pastitso, and the waiter rushed up to tell me that the chef had one portion of pastitso left. So that’s what I had to eat. Actually, I had no choice!
The next morning there was a typical Corfiot rainstorm. They’re usually short and very heavy.
This is why the island is so green and fertile. In fact, practically any green plant that you see growing is edible! They’re collectively known as horta. They are picked and used for salads, or boiled, fried, or used as a pie filling.
We decided it was a good time to go to Corfu Town.
The pothole-filled roads were flooded as usual, and the taxi driver, whose name was Spiro like half the males on the island, had to drive slowly. But by the time we reached Corfu Town the sun had re-appeared, and the temperature soon heated up.
I tried to get my bearings and remember landmarks, but it was too confusing in the many narrow streets.
A lot of the area, which was originally built by the Venetians, is now listed as a UNESCO Monument of the World.
At last we emerged near the Spianada, where cricket is still played, and you can enjoy a glass of dzitzibira, or ginger beer, like the old British residents and their eccentric visitors used to.
The air was full of a wafting floral fragrance. I stopped to breathe it in.
We went to visit the Old Fortress, which was also built by the Venetians. We spent a lot of time there, walking around and leaning over the thickly-walled battlements, admiring the view across the sea.
Then the men wandered off to visit another museum, and we ladies rushed back to the town to do some serious shopping!
Later we all met, and had lunch sitting outside a typical Corfiot restaurant.
The owner pushed together a selection of wobbly chairs and tables in the shade, next to a couple of very old bikes.
It was simple food, prepared with love. We sat by the road, watching the world pass slowly by. Lovely!
After our meal, we decided to go and visit the Church of St Spyridon. He’s Corfu’s Patron Saint of sailors and the locals pray by his mummified body, kissing his slippered feet where they poke out from his casket.
As the church was holding a sermon for Serbs, we tiptoed past the crowd and left.
Tom and Henry Herbert, AKA The Fabulous Baker Brothers, were staying in our hotel, and promoting their new cookbook, Glorious British Grub.
They are great fun. I christened them Ant and Dec.
Tom is the baker and Henry is the butcher. They’re 5th generation bakers at their parents’ Hobbs House Bakery.
Now the two brothers run a cookery school and they love it!
Tom has four children and Henry has one. They were both full of praise for their wives.
Although they’re celebrities now, it took 10 years of hard work to get where they are.
They started on Channel 4 and now they’re on Discovery.
I’ve had an article published called 20 Uses for Your Shower Caps, and I opened their book, and there was a photo of bread dough rising in a bowl, covered by a shower cap!
We’re all avid shower cap collectors.
In the morning our group had an early start. But we were all ready in time as we were looking forward to it!
The Marbella Beach Hotel owns a speed-boat which you can hire. And we’d got the use of it for the day!
Fran and Telemachos from the hotel management team came with us. They were pleased to have a break from wearing suits all day!
Telemachos was driving the boat, and he knew when to slightly turn the wheel so that we all got sprayed at the back! He thought it was very funny.
Oh the freedom to go where we wanted!
On the hill was Mon Repos, partially visible through the tree and bushes, where the Duke of Edinburgh was born, on a kitchen table, apparently!
As we passed close to Mouse Island, I said that I’d love to see it. So Telemachos moored the boat at the small jetty.
It seemed to be deserted, then we were enthusiastically greeted by Boo-Boo the dog, who escorted us up the steps to the tiny white church and the souvenir shop above.
Giannis the island caretaker shyly appeared. He lives there alone with Boo-Boo.
Not many tourists get the chance to go to the little island, so I loved my visit.
Every few minutes, a plane taking off or landing would fly over our heads. It seemed as though you could reach up and touch them!
Passing Corfu Town on our left, we decided not to stop as it was Sunday and most of the shops would be shut. So we cut straight across to the island of Vidos.
A ferry travels there from the port of Corfu every 30 minutes in the Summer.
It was deserted except for some workers. We sat drinking Greek coffee, staring across at Corfu, and then a school of dolphins appeared, leaping out of the sea and diving as they passed us.
It was very hot. A couple of us walked up to the Serb Mausoleum.
In December 1916, 150,000 Serb soldiers crossed to Corfu via Albania and settled on Vidos. The cold Winter, bad hygiene and general living conditions killed most of them.30,000 Serb soldiers are buried on Vidos.
Making our way back to our boat, we had to wait as the ferry was landing. It was full of Serbs, led by an enthusiastic Serbian priest.
Continuing on our journey, we moored at the end of a rickety wooden jetty in Messonghi and walked carefully along the rotten planks to a taverna on the seafront.
The husband and wife who run Bacchus were expecting us.
Oh Heaven! We sat under the huge canopy, eating a selection of freshly-caught fish.
We weren’t given a choice. The dishes were carried out and space was found on the table as they were prepared. First came the salads and bread, followed by delicate baby squid, home-made taramasalata, huge prawns, mussels, red mullet, potatoes, and more.
But we were beaten. We couldn’t eat another bite, even though the mind was still keen!
We sped back to the hotel’s private beach, admiring the view of the coastline.
What a wonderful experience! I want to do it again – soon!
Although the food in the hotel buffet is outstanding, with a huge choice, I wanted to spend my last night in Corfu in a local taverna. So a couple of us walked along the main road to Moraitika, the nearest town. It’s a bit hair-raising as you need to keep crossing from side to side along the winding, pavement-less road to face the oncoming traffic.
Finally we reached an uneven pavement.
Seeing a sign for the Bella Vista Taverna, we turned off the main road, and walked up – and up, and up.
But, oh, it was worth the trek!
We sat outside, gazing down at the coast as the sun set and lights popped on below us.
The food was fresh, flavour-full and cheap.
I didn’t fancy the walk back in the dark, so we asked Perikles, the owner, if we could order a taxi.
‘Oxi,’ he roared, ‘I’ll take you back!’
He left all his customers eating, and drove us all the way back to the hotel. And he wouldn’t take anything for doing it!
Oh Corfu, I love you!
500g (1lb 10z) minced beef
250g (9ozs) large tubular dried macaroni
100g (31/2ozs) kephalotyri cheese, or Pparmesan, or a strong Cheddar
1 lge onion, chopped
A lge pinch of fresh parsley
Rigani, which is oregano heads. You can use thyme & sage.
2 bay leaves
2 tblsps tomato paste
2 lge ripe tomatoes
2 eggs, beaten
3 tblsps butter
3 tblsps flour
Pinch grated nutmeg
6 tblsps grated cheese.
Brown onion & mince. Add grated carrot, herbs, bay leaves, seasoning & 200mls water.
Stew slowly for 20 mins.
Add chopped tomatoes & tomato paste. Stew for 10 more minutes.
Boil & drain the macaroni.
Oil a deep-sided baking dish.
Tip in the macaroni,
Pour over the beaten eggs. Sprinkle on grated cheese, add half the mince mixture.
Mix thoroughly & press down evenly.
Pour on the rest of the mince evenly.
Make the Bechamel Sauce and pour over the mince mixture.
Top with more grated cheese if you like.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Let it cool slightly before serving.
Serve with a mixed salad.
Classic Collection Holidays ( 0800 294 9318 www.classic-collection.co.uk) offers 7 nights for a family of four at Marbella Beach Hotel Corfu from a total price of £2239 based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a family room on a half board basis, (book before 31 01 2014 to enjoy complimentary upgrade from half board to full board) or from a total price of £2836 based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a family room on an all-inclusive basis. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Corfu and private transfers. Departs 12 05 2014.The No 1 Lounge
Open 4am – 10pm daily
Serving all flights departing from the South Terminal, No.1 Gatwick is the UK’s only winner of the Priority Pass Lounge of the Year Awards 2010 & 2011.
With a fully-tended bar, bistro-style menu, complimentary Wi-Fi and panoramic runway views, No.1 Gatwick is the perfect place for passengers to relax in style before they fly.
Adults £22.50 in advance/£27.50 on the door, for three hours’ entry. Children (2-11) £10 in advance/£12.50 on the door