We celebrated one year on the road by taking our longest ‘break’ yet – staying a whole six nights in one place! Katie (my sister) and her husband Andy had invited us to join them for part of their summer holiday in a quiet corner of northern Corfu. A minor children-to-bedrooms counting error meant that there wasn’t quite room for us in the villa, but they weren’t getting rid of us that easily, so we stayed in a very peaceful little studio just down the road and spent our days freeloading from the villa-dwellers.
To be honest, we spent the vast majority of our time on Corfu eating baklava (I wanted Katie to do a guest post on her tasting notes but she kept eating them before we’d had a chance to take a photo!) but we did manage to clean the honey off our sticky paws for long enough to do a couple of activities…
The 14-minute monastery visit
Mum had visited Corfu on a cruise when she was 15 years old and recalled that the view from the Monastery of Paleokastritsa, which is perched on a rocky headland, was absolutely magical. Unfortunately, in the intervening years there has been quite a lot of development along this coastline and it took us rather longer than expected to get there. So, true to form, we screeched into the carpark at 12.46, knowing that the monastery would shut for the afternoon in just 14 minutes. No matter, Oli and I thought – we’ve explored monasteries in literally half this time! It didn’t help that the church and museum had closed early, but we still managed to admire the flower-filled courtyards and see the view down to the turquoise sea below, which was just as gorgeous as billed.
On our way back, we stopped at a viewpoint for an ice cream and an absolutely epic panoramic view of the coastline. Corfu is incredibly mountainous, which does make for some slightly hairy driving conditions, but it is so beautiful as a result.
The boat trip
Last time we were in Corfu (also as a family), we hired a boat for the day and had the most hilariously disastrous time that we still cry with laughter when reminiscing about it. Short of sinking the boat, pretty much everything else went wrong, including losing all the lifejackets off the back of the boat, getting caught in the wind and veering dangerously close to the Rothschilds’ yacht, leaving a crew member behind while a restaurant full of judgy boaty-types looked on, and dredging the harbour with our anchor.
We were roughly evenly split between those who thought we’d come a long way since then (with very little evidence of why this might be, may I say) and those of us who were convinced that our luck would run out this time and we might actually sink the boat.
We set sail from Agios Stefanos with a new captain (Andy – Dad had demoted himself to the rank of Ship’s Dog this time) and headed up the coast to The White House, famous as being the Durrells’ house (of My Family and Other Animals fame).
We still got laughed at by people dining at The White House as we moored there for lunch (but this time for dropping just one life jacket in the sea – they should have seen us last time), but otherwise, the day was glorious and almost incident-free!
The seafood feast
Oli are I aren’t big seafood eaters, but we hate to miss out on local specialities, so we tagged along on an evening expedition to a place simply known as the fish restaurant (at least among us – it turns out it did have an actual name!). There was no menu; instead we were invited into the kitchen to pick from the catch of the day, which would then be prepared for us and served with some simple (read: very generous) side dishes.
Of course, we got totally carried away and selected a genuinely enormous seabass to share, plus a couple of squid just because they looked good.
By the time we’d gorged on the plates of fried whitebait and baskets of fresh bread served with local olive oil that were brought out as a complimentary starter, we were filling up and more than a little apprehensive about what was to come. In the end, though, it was some of the best fish I’ve ever eaten, and between us we very nearly did it justice.
We couldn’t believe it when they told us that the seabass had been prepared with no salt or pepper – it tasted so perfectly seasoned, but we concluded that must have been the salt from the sea doing a great job. When the lovely staff brought us a complimentary dessert (a tenet of Greek hospitality that still somehow takes us by surprise every time), we were in real trouble and there were some very full bellies that evening.
The pool party
William turned six while we were in Corfu, so naturally he had a pool party to celebrate. This included activities such as pin the tail on the donkey (which resulted in no injuries except to the donkey), and a water fight (which resulted in so many injuries to both teams that we had to set up a field hospital).
Unfortunately, the kids’ diving competition had to be cancelled because the adults got slightly carried away by a lilo surfing display. Even though everyone agreed that this was a recipe for disaster, the display continued to chants of “Lilo surf! Lilo surf!” until the lilo had had enough of the abuse and abruptly burst in the pool.
Katie was still lamenting the loss of her new lilo when we realised with horror that it was spilling millions of tiny, sparkly confetti into the pool. The villa’s owner had made very clear that we should be really careful not to put anything into the pool in case the filter blocked, so we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening armed with nets, brooms, sieves, colanders, and (my favourite) a tea strainer trying to clear up the mess we’d made. We actually got most of it, but we all agreed that any undue good fortune we’d had in not sinking our boat a few days ago had well and truly run out today!
The next morning, Oli and I were due to leave, which seemed like excellent timing given the villa’s owner was due to come round for daily pool maintenance and would surely spot the pesky last few pieces of confetti. In the end, he said it wasn’t a problem and instead recounted a tale of how previous guests had deliberately poured spaghetti bolognese into the pool! But by this point, we’d skipped the country and were on a ferry bound for Albania…