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Of course everyone is different and is looking for different things from a holiday. Children, your work commitments and age (!) all affect when you are able to go on holiday.

 

Pure Sun?

 

Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. September newsletter.

 
If you are a sun worshiper, then July and August will suit you. Temperatures during the day will always be in the 90's and will regularly go over 100 (37c). Remember though, that Mid July though to the end of August will be the busiest time. Also in August it is possible to be caught in a summer storm - heavy tropical rain lasting for an afternoon.

 

Avoiding the crowds?

 

 

If the heat and crowds put you off, then go for the quieter periods; June and September. Warm summer days with cool evenings. May and October can provide spectacular holidays with quiet deserted beaches, but there is a possibility of rain. Bring the essential clothing just in case.

 

Mosquitoes
How to avoid Mosquitoes while on Holiday.
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Detailed reports for each months.
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A Winter Visit?

"Lazing on a beach in hot sunshine, dipping your toes in the sea to cool down and eating in the local tavernas for two whole weeks."
 
If this is your only idea of a holiday when visiting a Greek Island, or in this case Corfu, then you may not have considered a winter visit. Many of us have visited Corfu (or any other Greek Island for that matter) and thought what it must be like in the winter? When all the tourists have gone, how do the local people live in the winter when they have their Island back to themselves?

These two questions occur to me during every visit, and this year I had the opportunity to find out. Graham and I recently bought our own property in the village of Kendroma above Agni Bay, and with our own apartment to stay in, it made the accommodation situation easy for me. However there are plenty of houses available for winter rental with heating, which is definitely required during the winter months. My visit was for six weeks, through the whole of November and beginning of December, maybe this was not the worst of the winter months, but it certainly answered my questions and showed me Greek life.

I would mention that I spent this time on my own and without transport in an old traditional Greek village, very close to the sea and not far from our favourite Agni bay. Of course the three Tavernas on Agni beach were closed and I did not see a Taverna for miles around that was open, but I did on many occasions have Agni beach all to myself, apart from a few cats. On really nice sunny days, especially on Sundays, there would be a few of the local people down on the beaches fishing off the end of the little piers and many little boats on the sea, all trying to catch some fresh fish. Fishing seems to be a very popular sport at the weekends when no-one is working and the beaches and rocky coves are all free from tourists, but then perhaps even the fish are more laid back and easy to catch when the tourists are not around! It was quite warm sitting in the sunshine and there were many sunny days, not quite sunbathing weather, but I did on the warmer days see people swimming in the sea.

Our village, like most of the little Greek villages, is on a bus route, so getting into Corfu town is not difficult, but the bus service is limited and the last returning bus is about 2.30pm in the winter months, so visiting Corfu town has to be in the morning but there is time enough to shop before catching the last bus home and anyway the shops close at 2.30pm.

Of course cooking becomes an essential part of life with no tavernas and no transport to go further a field. There are some tavernas open which the local people use, mainly at weekends. most of them are in the larger resort areas such as Kassiopi and Acharavi especially, and of course Corfu town, but without transport not even those are available.

I had brought with me a book about Greek olive oil which contained recipes. This proved very useful, the dishes were delicious and simple to cook, I just had to make sure that I stocked up on plenty of herbs and spices, the vital ingredients to tasty Greek dishes. You can also find some very tasty recipes in the Corfiot magazine in the winter editions, if you come without a book. So no ready meals, frozen pizzas, or takeaways, just real Greek home cooking and very enjoyable it was. For someone who does not like cooking at home, I really surprised myself.

I visited the local Kafenion, where I suprisingly found many essential food items for sale. The local bakery is down the road in the next village. On Wednesday and Saturday the vegetable van arrived in the village square and I would walk up and sit in the warm sunshine with the older Greek ladies and await it’s arrival whilst admiring the stunning views towards Corfu town (on one or two occasion I had to do this in the rain, but it had no effect on the views, they were still stunning!!). The ladies would greet me and try to tell me the names of some of the vegetables, I just wish my Greek was better and I could have chatted with them. One Wednesday even the fish van came , they pointed him out to me and explained that he was selling fresh fish, so it was not difficult to get supplies and trips to the town were not needed very often.

If you bear in mind that you have to cook for yourself in the winter months, and buy the produce, this takes up some of your time. Visiting friends and people you may have met in the summer is also very enjoyable because they have time to talk and spend time with you and people who would normally be very busy in the summer are at last taking it easy and much more relaxed and they make you so very welcome.

My Greek neighbours are very friendly and they also made me feel very welcome, although their English is limited and my Greek even more limited, we were still able to convey a friendliness and I never really felt alone. I am sure, should I have needed help in any way they would have been only too pleased to assist.

A hobby or an interest of some kind makes a winter visit even more fulfilling such as painting, writing, reading and weather permitting, walking and the all popular fishing. Even just relaxing and taking life easy in general can be fulfilling and an escape from the hectic life and work at home. I had no television and I did not miss it, although it is available in some of the winter lets. I will of course confess to my one piece of ‘technology’ that I did have and that was my PC!! (well just how do you live without one in this day and age!!!) I was helping Nathan with his winter update on the website, which made my visit very interesting and occupied some of my time. Websites, PC technology and communication, are of my indoor interests and hobby, however, without it I really feel I could have still filled my time with the other interests that I have mentioned. Of course not many people would visit alone, and with such warm and friendly hospitality, not all of my time was spent alone, but with a partner or companion, even some old fashioned games would pass away the dark, cooler evenings, I had to play them on the PC!!

It is an excellent time of year to walk, and I spent many hours walking the coastal footpaths, visiting many beaches that I had seen so busy and full in the summer months. You can have every beach on the North East coast to yourself if you are lucky, but you may find one or two people around on the good days. I also walked up into the hills, where it is far too hot to walk in the summer and the views are fantastic. You can see so much more of life on foot than in a car. Walking up into the hills is a fantastic experience, it is nothing like the hard work it is in the summer heat and it is surprising how quickly you are high up into the mountains exploring the quiet and in some cases deserted mountain villages, a part of Corfu that some people never get to see.

So next time you wonder what it is like in the winter, save some of those well earned holidays and give Corfu a try in the winter months. I do believe that if you love Corfu, the countryside, reading, writing, painting, fishing, the simple things in life and all that nature has to offer, then you would really love a winter visit.
 

Agni Travel is currently offering suitable properties for winter rental. Contact Sofri at the Agni Travel office for details: sofri@agni-travel-corfu.com

 

Driving to Corfu

In the very early months of this year, 2003, having read some of the posts on the message boards about driving to Corfu, we were quite surprised as to how many people had actually made this journey.  Having read Nathan's write up of his own experience of this journey and wanting to take some goods out to our house, we were encouraged to give it a go and drive there ourselves.  As an update to Nathan's report this is how we did it, as a guide I have given the costs but this is a guide only as there are various options, and of course prices change.  I hope the report is of interest and useful to others who may be thinking of making this journey.
 
We decided to go at Easter, as we could then include some bank holidays along with those precious leave days from work giving us a two and a half week holiday using only nine days works leave.  Our journey may not have been the shortest or the cheapest way of driving to Corfu, but since we have done it, we now realise that there is no one set way of making this journey, it can be as short/long, cheap/expensive as you wish to make it.  We bought a copy of ‘Philip’s Multiscale Europe 2003’ maps which we found very clear and simple to use.
 
We left England on (UK) Good Friday afternoon about 4.00pm from Long Eaton in Derbyshire and drove to Harwich where we took the night ferry to Hook of Holland, arriving about 7.00am Saturday morning. We booked a cabin at a cost of about 60 GBP for two people (single journey), in addition to the standard fare for a car and 2 people of 105 GBP (single journey). The cost can be reduced by not taking the cabin and booking an aircraft type seat for about 10 GBP per person (single journey). Having had a meal, a good nights sleep and a good breakfast (meals are included on this ferry) we could then enjoy a full days driving feeling quite refreshed.  This is not the cheapest way to cross the channel, the short crossing to France would have been cheaper as cabins would not have been needed but crossing the channel very much depends on where you are starting your journey from in the UK, and how far you wish to drive before taking your first stop.  What is saved on a crossing would probably be spent on an extra nights stop in Europe.  We felt it was important to consider how long we would be driving for and as a safety issue not be feeling too tired at the start of the drive through Europe.
 
Arriving in Hook on the Saturday morning, we drove south through Holland passing through Breda and into Germany through to Koln.  We drove for most of the day passing through Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Nurnberg, and Munchen stopping at the motorway services two or three times.  If cost is important we would recommend using the shops on the services for sandwiches and snacks, coffee is also available, as it is much cheaper than using the café/restaurants.  By the end of the day we were in the south of Germany and now very close to the Austrian border. We stopped in the evening for a meal in a lovely restaurant in the small town of Rosenheim and would recommend making this an overnight stop.  There are many B&B accommodations in this area, so it would not be difficult to find accommodation out of the season, perhaps booking would be advisable in the busy Summer season.  Accommodation could also be taken at many of the Motorway service areas. (I do not know the cost for these rooms - we slept in the car overnight as we did not want to leave a car loaded with goods including computer equipment unattended for the night).  This is another part of the journey where the cost can be reduced by sleeping in the car, but taking into account the amount of driving done during the day and the remaining amount to be done, we would recommend taking a room for a proper nights rest as we did on the return journey.
 
The following morning we woke at dawn to see the beautiful Austrian mountains in front of us topped with snow.  A really beautiful sight and quite a surprise as it was dark by the time we had left the restaurant and parked up the previous evening.  We had a really early start with staying in the car, so we were off on the road again at about 6.30am after coffee and a wash and brush up in the service station. The toilet facilities in the services were excellent, and nowhere appeared to be very busy.  Had we taken a room for the night we would probably have had a little later start about 8.00am. We had pre booked the Venice–Corfu ferry which left at 3.00pm on the Sunday afternoon, so an early start was needed, especially as we later found out that we had misjudged the mileage on the last stretch of the journey by about 100 miles.
 
We continued the journey into Austria, which was the best part of the journey, through Salzburg and on towards Villach near the Italian border.  The scenery was breathtaking, as we drove through valleys and snow capped mountain passes.  We passed by some of the ski-ing areas in the little Alpine villages of Austria and if we could make a leisurely journey with plenty of time to spare we would certainly consider stopping and visiting some of the lovely villages in this area and in the South of Germany.  However, we had a ferry to catch and had to continue, so after passing through many tunnels and mountain passes we continued until we arrived at villach, it is here where we turn right for Italy and left for Slovenija, so we had to make sure we took the correct slip road on the motorway as we did not have time to make any mistakes !!
 
We managed to get it right and passed over the border into Italy where we stopped for a coffee and very late breakfast break at the motorway services in Italy, the standard of which is not as good as the German and Austrian services. This is were Graham had a brain malfunction as he suddenly declared “we are going the wrong way” the blood drained from his face as he looked up and said “the sun is in the wrong place, it should be over there”.  He had driven along way and as I was the one reading the map, following every twist and turn in the road and reading every sign, I had no doubt as to which direction we were going. So I just stared at him and replied that if he wished to continue the journey using the SUN as a guide to getting to Venice he could do so – on his own – as I was going to stay with the map !! (I think for a moment, he thought he was a Greek – an Ancient Greek!!)
 
It is the mountain passes that made the distance look much less on the map where the roads twist and turn through the mountains (and where the sun appears in the wrong place !!) and this is why we misjudged the remaining distance by about 100 miles.  As we did not have much time to spare for this stop we stood outside in the bright morning sunshine, drank our coffee and was soon away again for the remaining part of the journey. 
 
We continued on – in the right direction - towards Udine where the motorway splits left for Trieste and right for Venice, the last leg!!  Not much further to go now and we were really looking forward to seeing Venice as neither of us had been before.
 
We arrived in Venice at about 11.30am in good time to catch the ferry.  Boarding time was about 1.00pm, we had made it in perfect time, but should anything have gone wrong we would have struggled to make it.  It would perhaps be advisable to leave a little more time to reach the ferry but it worked out perfect for us.  We had no time to visit Venice but did not have to wait long before it was time to board to ferry. Not being able to visit Venice was not that much of a disappointment as when the ferry pulled away it sailed right along the Grand Canal and you could see all of Venice in front of you from the deck of the ferry!!  It was fantastic, a real birds eye view and it is well worth taking the ferry for the sail around Venice.
 
The ferry is like a small cruise ship, with bars, restaurants (al a carte and self service) spacious lounges, a large sun deck and swimming pool.  It is a 24 hour journey to Corfu so we booked a cabin, which really bumps the price of the journey up, at a cost of 175 GBP per person return. This is an option and it is possible to take an Aircraft type seat for 83 GBP per person return or a deck passenger ticket for 63 GBP return.  In addition to these prices is the vehicle cost of  77 GBP return for a normal vehicle up to 5.5 metres in length. If travelling as a deck passenger I think that you would have to sleep on the outside decks as we did see people on the deck in sleeping bags the following morning.
 
After a very relaxing afternoon, a much needed shower, a nice evening meal and a good nights sleep, we awoke the following morning, had breakfast and went up onto the deck of the ship.  It would have been about 10.30am by this time and we were by then cruising along the Albanian coastline and there was Corfu and her Northern Islands clearly ahead of us.  We passed Agni bay at about 11.30am, as the Minoan ferry does most mornings at about this time and at this point usually passes the sister ship going in the opposite direction.  The ships always acknowledge each other with a blast on the horn, and can often be heard when lazing on Agni beach.  As the boat unloads at Igouminitsa first, it is about 2.30pm before we finally arrived at Corfu docks.
 
As a guide to the distance and the actual cost of the trip, our mileage was 945 miles from Harwich to Venice and the same again on the return as we took exactly the same route. The Petrol cost was approximately 200 GBP (using a 4x4 Diesel Engine vehicle) including the return journey, bearing in mind that Diesel is very much cheaper in Europe than in the UK.  We had taken single journey tickets on the Harwich–Hook ferry as we were unsure as to the time we would be crossing on the journey back.  On the return journey we crossed during the day, so a cabin was not necessary, the cost was approximately 30 GBP per person and 40 GBP for the vehicle. We also had a Bed and Breakfast stop on the return journey (I would not recommend sleeping in the car) at a cost of 60 GBP for two people. The rooms on the Motorway I believe would be less than this.
 
The total cost of our journey was therefore approximately 952 GBP plus meals and snacks on route at 2003 prices.  These prices are only a guide and will vary according to the time of year and current exchange rates. 
 
When comparing the costs with flying, the summer charter flights are obviously the cheapest, but travelling out of season we estimated the air fare via Athens to be about 260 GBP each, but do not forget to take into account about 250 GBP car hire for 2 weeks and about 100 GBP for airport car parking, then the cost is not so much more than travelling by air.
 
It was a wonderful experience, a lovely journey with so much to see on route even without stopping and visiting places of interest.  We shall certainly be making this journey again next year and as soon as we can spare the time we shall do it over a much longer length of time and visit some of those places of interest on the way.  I think on that occasion it will probably take us about a week or more to get to Corfu.

 


 

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