25 November 2008

This is a first!

Usually, when we go to see and old village house for sale we have to pick our way through old cookers, fridges and furniture that 'might come in useful' or mounds of potatos and onions, so this trip was a complete surprise.

An English owner came in to the office and discussed selling her house in Xlomos - an old village house needing almost complete renovation.

There were three surprises awaiting me when we arrived.

Firstly it was in fairly reasonable condition by 'renovation' standards.

Secondly it has three floors - not terribly common in Corfu - and opening the possibilitiy of a roof terrace.

And thirdly, it was virtually empty!

When I commented on this, the owner said that it had been used for storage by several of her neighbours and up until last week had been full of various bits and pieces, but when she told them she was selling the house she also told them that if they did not remove their valuables she would do it, as she wanted the house clean and empty.

By the time we went to take photos it was empty of all valuable bits of wood, old sinks etc. As I say, that really is a first!

Yes, winter is definitely here!

The other day I was sorting out this summer's photographs of the villa we let through Meon Villas, to pick out some more up to date ones for their website. They were all sunshine and blue water and made it all look just like paradise.

On Sunday I went back over to Halikouna to measure up for some new curtains and upholstery.

The wind was so strong I had trouble opening the double gates as they kept blowing back on me, then it began to rain and the water was being blown so hard it felt as if you were being attacked with needles.

The sea was higher than I have ever seen it, it seemed to be almost halfway up the cliff underneath the house and it seemed incredible that only two weeks ago we opened up the house to air it in the warm sunshine. Such is Corfu!

24 November 2008

Beaujolais Nouveau Evening

The Pomo D'Oro restaurant in Corfu Town is hosting themed evenings again this winter. I was there on Thursday with some friends to enjoy the Beaujolais Nouveau evening - advertised at 22 Euros all inclusive of food and wine. There will be a themed evening each week, on a Tuesday or a Thursday evening, and the details are available in Mesogio shop (newsagents/tobacconists), next door to McDonalds, as well as at the restaurant.

In a lovely setting just behind the well-known Serano coffee shop, Pomo D'Oro has a lovely warm welcoming atmosphere and tasteful decor. We took our seats and the evening began.

Our chef poured us all a glass of Beaujolais and served a tasty first course of chicken terrine with mixed salad. Then followed the main course, slow roasted pork with mushrooms and another glass of Beaujolais. The dessert was a French classic - mille-feuille with creme-patisserie and a kind of fudgey sauce. All totally delicious and beautifully presented. Not having to choose from the menu and the wish I'd chosen something else was an added bonus for me.

We waited for the bill, expecting some hidden extras like the bottles of water and the extra glasses of wine, but sure enough, it was 22 Euros per head. All delighted and having spent a very enjoyable evening we donned our coats and the chef held the door open for us. As we left, we were each presented with a bottle of Beaujolais to take home - I am drinking mine as I type this.

22 November 2008

More Doggy Tales

Some time ago I wrote on the blog about the accident that resulted in the arrival of a second dog into our family. According to my husband it wasn't just a case of me running the dog over. Apparently the dog was lying in wait for me, and with polished precision leapt in front of the car and triple somersaulted out of the way of the wheels and then lay in the middle of the road acting its heart out to resemble a mortally wounded creature in need of rescuing. Yeah, yeah, I said - at the time. However, there is now a second installment that makes me wonder...

Yesterday morning I got bored waiting for the two dogs to finish eating grass 20 yards up the road from our house, expecting them to follow me home. They didn't, and this morning, more than 24 hours later, they were both still missing. Driving, with Sarah, to our first appointment of the morning we found senior dog heading for home but no sign of the second one. Ten minutes later we met our first client and followed his car to the house he is trying to sell - up a back street in a nearby village. He pointed me into a parking space on the side of the road and as I opened the car door a small woolly head appeared and - yes, you guessed it - there was dog number two. If we had been two magnets we could not have come together in a more precise meeting place. Coincidence? Or a VERY clever small dog?

18 November 2008

Bargain Property of the Day

It may be just a glorified shed, but this sweet little building could be turned into a country style cottage within walking distance of shops and buses, and only a short drive from the northern beaches at Arilas, Aghios Stefanos and Sidari. Newly reduced in price to only 20,000 euros.

17 November 2008

Christmas Is Coming

Last weekend we went for lunch in Petriti, sat by the sea and got too hot in the sun. This weekend, in the rain, we took delivery of Christmas stock for our shop, Corfu Homestore (formerly English Imports). For the first time in ages I wore my 'shop' hat and even though we have unpacked stock for the shop every year for the last 14 years, unpacking christmas bits and pieces is still as much fun as ever!

It took 47 boxes and 7 hours but eventually it was all done and we do actually look like Christmas is coming - no actual decorations up yet, I think 1st December is soon enough for that - but loads of cards, wrapping paper, calendars, gifts, mince pies, icing, marzipan, christmas puds - all the usual goodies. For some reason some boxes of carrot cake slices sneaked into the food order, so of course we had to open one to check they were OK - and yes, they were very nice!

14 November 2008

Bargain of the Week

The Old Pharmacy in Magoulades has always been a top favourite of mine and Susan's, epitomising all the best points of a traditional Corfiot village house. Tastefully and lovingly restored, there is still potential for some personal touches to be added and for the various outbuildings to be utilised. With its faded grandeur and jasmine strewn bodzo (covered balcony), this is like stepping right into one of the Frankie Cranfield paintings we feature on our website!

I almost got carried away with the beauty and atmosphere of this house, and forgot to mention that the price has now been reduced to 260,000 euros - not a lot for a real slice of history and a comfortable family home too!

13 November 2008

Dogs And Builders

Sorry Di, I disagree, in my house builders and dogs DO mix!

As you can see, Roma made herself very comfortable while loved-one (my favourite builder) spent two days installing my new wood-burning stove. She's even more delighted to be able to curl up infront of it in the evenings now that it's lit!

12 November 2008

Credit Crunch - Difficult Times

The topic of the moment is how to save money in today's economic climate, with articles in newspapers and magazines everywhere giving hints and tips on household economies. Trouble is, I'm already doing all of it! No one has any suggestions for someone who already cuts the toothpaste tube in half to get to the last of the contents, and has shopped at charity shops for years. I always use half a tablet in the mozzy machine, clean the windows with newspaper, cut out zips and buttons from old clothes before recycling them to the dog's bed, or using them as dusters. We put on an extra sweater rather than turn up the heating, and always dry the clothes in the fresh air. My cellar is full to the brim of suitcases and boxes stuffed with clothes that might one day come back into fashion and, yes, they do! My today's ensemble consisted of a raincoat bought shortly before we got married, a mere 32 years ago - and it was admired!

My grand-daughter is about to inherit all my original Winnie-the-Pooh books, plus a wonderful Edmund Dulac Fairy Story tome inscribed with my father's name and the date 1922. This one has travelled from his native Australia, via New Zealand, England and Athens to Corfu.

I have extracted an enormous amount of pleasure from these economies - especially the shopping at Oxfam, Help-the-Aged, etc, but I admit to being a little bit concerned about my sanity when instead of being horrified for the gypsies who earn a living by scavenging from the city tips, I found myself thinking .....mmm, that might be fun!

8 November 2008

Bijou Property In Need Of A Little DIY

Of course, if you look at the photo above you will realise immediately that the property concerned is in need of considerably more than 'a little DIY' and if we truly advertised it in this way, our credibility would definitely suffer.

In fact, we often have discussions on how to describe properties, since one man's ' in need of DIY' is another's 'total ruin' and even amongst ourselves, the definition of 'habitable' is open to many interpretations. So in most cases we prefer to err on the side of caution rather than oversell - in fact one client the other day looked at me very hard when in answer to a question of 'What is this one like,' I said 'Aabsolutely vile'. It is, but in fact with some work (serious work, not DIY) it could actually be a great investment and a lovely spacious house, but if I had said that first he would have been disappointed when he saw the house in its present state.

However, it seems that not all estate agents share the same philosophy. I looked today at a handout from a local Greek agency and recognised a property which we also have on our books. The property description was of 'an estate' with main house, stables, etc. 'in very good condition' and a very nice photograph, making the property look like the bargain of the century. Don't misunderstand me, I love the property, it is one of my favourites and it is indeed a very good price for what it is. But the photograph must be more than 20 years old, many of the buildings shown on it have virtually collapsed and it needs a massive investment to restore it to its former glory. Once restored it will be fantastic - but anyone travelling to view it on the strength of that agency's description and photo will feel completely deceived when they arrive. On the other hand, with the right information and expectations, at some point I am sure the right buyer will appear, knowing what to expect, and able to fall in love with it as we did.

On reflection, I think we will continue with our rather more factual descriptions.

7 November 2008

Corfu Is All About Fun, Not Funds

After my last blog thank heavens for a wonderful Corfu article!

This is by Justine Picardie and was published in The Sunday Telegraph. We think it presents Corfu as we know it - something for everyone!

"If you followed the recent yachtgate scandal, you might have the impression that Corfu is overrun with British politicians, Russian oligarchs, international media moguls, hedge-fund managers and members of the Rothschild dynasty. All of which could be a little off-putting if you are in search of a quiet Ionian idyll for next year's summer holiday. But Corfu defies categorisation, and that is why I keep returning, from my summers as a student backpacker to nowadays, as a mother of teenage sons. If you arrive on a charter flight in August, and fight your way through its heaving, humid baggage hall, all human life is here: cheerful hordes on their way to the southern tip of the island; legions of middle-class families heading north to the quieter coastal villages; and the occasional, incongruous politician or other celebrity."

Read the rest of the article...


5 November 2008

Bargain Property Of The Day

Third time lucky maybe for this little terraced property with wonderful south views? Almost sold twice, the paperwork is ready for immediate completion and quotes are in place for renovation into a two double-bedroomed house with courtyard garden. Only 20,000 euros.

Before And After

The phrase "before and after" is one we quite often use - with illustrations - in our line of work, usually to show how an old wreck can be turned into a lovely village home.

The two photos here could also be entitled "before" and "after", but in this case to illustrate how NOT to restore a neglected stone property. I leave everyone to draw their own conclusions as to how well smooth plaster and aluminium windows look in a traditional village.

All Saints Day - A Ghostly Coincidence

Spent the weekend in Brussels with friends, and during an after dark photography session at the Chinese Pavilion, where the weather was distinctly chilly, I happened to remark that I was glad not to be alone in the ghostly atmosphere created by a combination of evening mist in the floodlights, the elaborate and unoccupied building and a background singing noise coming from the basement. Whilst the photography enthusiast in our midst set up a tripod and experimented with different light effects, I took a couple of snapshots, one of which is attached. It really isn't a ghost...I think!

4 November 2008

Why Is Everyone 'Bashing' The South?

Just in case it passed you by 'Corfugate' has been the main topic of conversation/newspapers/TV in the UK for the past two weeks. Never mind the collapsing world economy, US elections, disaster in the Congo - a supposedly private conversation on a boat and in a restaurant in Agni, have held the British public spellbound. This has then opened the door for the British press to salivate over the 'rich and famous' who have homes here.

Of course, anyone who is anyone has their home ONLY on the stretch of road north of Barbati and 'not for them the cheap, ugly apartment blocks and mass-tourism hotels of the island's south' (this is from the Sunday Times this week). Earlier in the week, in another newspaper article, a local agent quoted the south as an 'aesthetic no-go zone' and mentioned 'destroyed parts of the island, particularly in the south'. Are they all too afraid to venture down to Boukari or the deep south-west coast and its spectacular drive down to Asprokavos?

Presumably these people never drive up to their luxury villas to appreciate the stunning architecture of the hotels and apartments of Dassia and Ipsos, or the supremely unspoilt area of Barbati. In fact most of Corfu is much like anywhere else - stunning areas, mildly pretty areas, and areas you wish you hadn't seen,(and all parts of the island have their fair share of all of them) basically a mix of all the good, and not so good, all over the island!

Some other areas are as stunning as the famous 15 mile stretch, some less so, but I personally do not think that there is any part of the island where you can't find, very close by, some stunning views to appreciate.

We understand the appeal of the north-east coast, but at Corfuhomefinders, and Corfu Premier Property we have great properties all over the island. For example both this villa near Karoussades (above) and this one at Paramonas are stunning - and neither is on the north-east coast.

Incidentally, apart from name-dropping, (which I believe is one of the things our visitors come here to avoid) the one sensible thing in the article was that these people come are here because of the 'great natural beauty, friendly locals and relaxed atmosphere, where 'you don't see many high gates and security cameras'. She got one thing right then - and perhaps it is something we take so much for granted, that we forget to emphasise it to people considering purchasing property here.

3 November 2008

Is this winter?

Sunday 2nd November and there were still swimmers at Ipsos as I drove through on my way to Spartilas.

Up in the village, it was my friend's birthday, so we sat outside in her garden to have coffee and cake and we all got TOO HOT and had to move into the shade!

Later on, we spent the afternoon gardening, and again sat outside in a t-shirt and jeans to have a cup of tea. It was bliss, there were robins chattering to each other, eagles shrieking, and to top it all, we found a baby tortoise. For me, this is as heart warming as seeing a dolphin; one of those happy moments to cherish.

After a hard day's gardening we came home and barbequed a couple of fresh fish bought from the new fish shop at Tzavros. This is a godsend for me, as I love fish, but hate cleaning it, and the lady in the shop does this as part of the service.

What a lovely weekend.