By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Corfu is like no other Greek island. Debbie downers will tell you that Corfu has been spoiled by mass tourism and lost most of its charm but don’t let them spoil your thirst for discoveries. Successively ruled by Venetians, French and British before joining Greece in 1864 Corfu was able to take the best of each culture. It is a perfect example of Greek genius creating harmony and serenity instead of resentment and vain regrets.
From ancient heroes to Renaissance explorers or from romantic dreamers of the 19th century to modern times celebrities Corfu has irresistibly attracted foreign travellers. From north to south the landscape is very varied with hundreds of beaches, mountains and forests, unspoiled villages all bathed in an ever-changing light. Still today Corfu has everything to suit all tastes. You could say that Corfu is a true cultural melting spot with a Venetian architecture, French and Italian cuisine and relax British atmosphere.
Kalami Bay and Northern Corfu
The Durrell family stayed only a few years in Corfu but they probably are the most famous characters associated with the island. From Gerald and Lawrence’s writings we can get a wonderful insight into their desirable life on Corfu. Thanks to “My family and other animals” by Gerald Durrell and to “Prospero’s cell” by Lawrence Durrell Corfu now is part of our collective unconscious as an accessible heaven on earth. Of the four houses where the family lived in the 1930’s three are still private homes.
The “White House” where Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived and loved is located on the lovely Kalami Bay 30 km northeast of Corfu town. On your way from the capital you will drive on a picturesque road following the mountainous coast, pass lovely Gialiskari resort and finally get to Kalami. This small seaside village far from mass tourism is both lively and quiet. You will spot the “White House” at once, a square house with a vast outside terrace and a direct access to the sea.
A relaxed luxury stay at “San Antonio Corfu Resort”
During our stay we stayed at “San Antonio Corfu Resort” an adult-only 4-star hotel ideally located on a hillside overlooking the peaceful bay. The hotel is like a small village built in the middle of a century-old olive grove and is beautifully hidden behind cascades of flowers, palm trees and venerable olive trees. One of the most spectacular spot of the hotel undoubtedly is the overhanging swimming pool on top of the hill offering a breathtaking view of the Ionian Sea. Rightfully called “Bella Vista” the pool bar certainly is the one place to be for a sunset drink or for a light lunch. There is also a second pool at the bottom of the hill and the hotel has access to a pebbled stone beach from where you can go water-skiing, canoening, diving or snorkeling. Kalami is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, rich wildlife and great diving spots.
All the rooms and suites are nicely decorated in a sober yet comfortable Greek style. But most of all they all have an outdoor terrace offering unparalleled sea-view. Most of them have been recently renovated with super king size beds, modern style bathrooms, Nespresso coffee machine…
You’ll start your day with a delicious breakfast at “La Mandola” set at the foot of the hill. Have a sit on the outside terrace in the shade of an olive tree and enjoy a real à la carte Greek breakfast. San Antonio Hotel participates in the action of “Greek Breakfast” insuring you to get the best ingredients of the Greek and Corfiot land. In no time your table will be covered with freshly baked breads, Greek yogurt with nuts and honey, fresh fruit salad, local sausages and cheese, fresh eggs and vegetables, extra virgin oil, homemade rice puddings, cakes and pies, typical Greek “semolina halva”… All served with a big smile. You’ll find yourself nicely full and realise that you’ve been sitting there for more than an hour!
“La Mandola” is also open for dinner. Menu regularly changes depending on the different products available at the market place. Local specialities and traditional recipes are favoured. Have a sofrito, moussaka, pastitsada, sardines in the oven, stuffed squid, fava and tzatziki, Greek pies, Ionian seafood, roasted lamb or a bourdeto the most famous fish-dish of Corfu cooked with red sauce and spices. If you still want more treat yourself with Greek baklava, or a “galaktoboureko” (a custard filled pastry) or a “portokalopita” a delicious Greek cake… Made with authentic ingredients this Greek cuisine is both simple and yummy!
In a totally different atmosphere you can also have lunch or dinner at the beach bar and restaurant “Callao”. It is the perfect place to share a big platter of mezze, carpaccio or seafood ceviche with friends or family. The wine menu offers a good selection of Mediterranean wines and locally brewed beers and the mixologist always has a new cocktail for you to try. This is a good place to end your day till late at night in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere.
When we first get to “San Antonio Corfu Resort” we had many plans in mind to visit the area but the hotel was so welcoming that we spent most of our days there. We nevertheless took time to go swimming on close by deserted beaches such as Kerasia, Avlaki and Gialiskari or visiting the picturesque port of Agios Stefanos or tiny but trendy Kouloura resort.
The hotel opened on May 14 with a special “health first” protocol. More info and booking at https://sanantoniocorfuresort.gr/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny