31 December 2008

Collecting olives - the British way

Despite the fact that I have lived in Corfu for more than twenty years, one activity I have never been involved in is picking olives - until yesterday! But as my loved-one was keen to point out, we did it the British way.

Not for us the laying of nets under the trees and waiting for the olives to drop off. This way takes months and involves going to the nets regularly to collect the olives. We decided to go for it in one shot, wanting just enough good olive oil for our house and to give some away to selected lucky friends. So we wandered around to choose which trees had the most fruit, then laid the nets underneath and used rakes on the end of broomsticks to drag the olives off. Sounds easy but we really needed the regular coffee and mince pie stops to keep us going.

A whole day's labour yielded four sacks and this should give us about twenty litres of oil - more than enough for our summer salads.

27 December 2008

Happy Christmas

We took a long time to decide on our Christmas Card this year - in fact we took so long it is now virtually a New Year card.

We went through all the ideas of Corfu in the snow, beaches in the snow, Santa fishing off a jetty - you name it, we considered it! In the end we decided the best greeting is the one which shows the Corfu so many of us know; the one you see when you arrive by boat and which makes you give a little sigh of happiness at being 'home'. A bit sentimental probably, but there you are.

It comes wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Corfuhomefinders and Corfu Premier Property, including Lorraine and Wendy in the Corfuhomestore shop who are often the first contact people have with our company and who rarely get a mention! There are also too many people to mention - lawyers, civil engineers, builders - who support us in helping our clients throughout the year and I know they share our sentiments.

23 December 2008

Just another working day

The view from the roadside as we were at work on Friday last week! And yes we do realize how lucky we are that it isn't the M25.

22 December 2008

Christmas Carols

On Sunday evening, the Holy Trinity Anglican church in Corfu Town was packed with those of us eager to join in the Nine Lessons and Carols. The new vicar, the Rev. Canon John Philpott, led the service, (both in voice and spirit!) with readings in English and Greek from members of the congregation.

Afterwards, refreshments in the form of mulled wine and lots of goodies were served in the library, giving everyone the chance to chat and pass on their news.

On the evening of Tuesday 23rd, there will be carol singing around the town, meeting first at the church at 5.30pm, followed by more mince pies and mulled wine.

17 December 2008

World War Three Averted

My kids are both coming home for a short time this Christmas holidays and, naturally expecting all the comforts of London, they want Sky TV, not just in the house, but in their rooms! In the past I have spent hours connecting Sky boxes and cables, only usually to find that something has happened and at least one box doesn't want to work.

No more. Having had new roof, bathrooms etc. I decided no more wires and arranged to have at least three rooms permanently wired for Sky. And, unlike most plans made during our building project, this one worked. Friendly satellite engineer arrived, climbed up into the loft and 30 minutes later, not only all three rooms wired to satellite with no wires across the floor, but all boxes tuned in to extra channels I didn't even know you could receive.

We were talking about the 'early days' around 15 years ago when you could originally only receive BBC Prime and how every time you found it on one satellite it moved, and you had to have the dish moved to find it again. These days I believe it has gone for good (think I have heard people saying that they can no longer recieve it) and the engineer said that he could easily re-align an existing dish and connect to a freeview box with card for 250 euros.

This would give Channel 4, Channel 5, some kids programmes, some news channels - and loads more which I can't remember. More channels seem to be available all the time, so if you are missing your fix of UK TV, just give us a call at 26610 47692 or email us at info@corfuhomefinders.com and we will put you in touch with the engineer.

16 December 2008

Everyone should consider 'Going Greek'

A cheering article in Place in the Sun magazine recently highlighted the success of Greece at this year's World Travel Market and linked this with a steady increase in the popularity of Greece as a second home destination. Of course, the small but steady increase of tourism in Greece, particularly in the villa rental market, does favourably influence the potential for holiday letting income for second home buyers.

The current economic climate is, as we all know, fairly dire, particularly the exchange rate suffered by English buyers. But with this in mind, some sellers are realistically repricing their properties to encourage potential buyers, so that with careful selection it is possible still to find your ideal property at a reasonable price and, in many cases, to also receive a comfortable income from your purchase. Shortly, on the blog, we will compile a list of properties we consider now to be our 'best buys', but in the meantime the majority of properties we have available are at corfuhomefinders.com and corfupremierproperty.com.

14 December 2008

Cataracts on Sunday

Welcome to sunny Corfu! As well as never ending economic gloom, it seems we now have to put up with never ending gloomy weather - a far cry from the days in late October and November when we were smugly talking about 'sitting having lunch in the sun by the sea'.

Today being Sunday, we had planned to go out for lunch and we were not going to let the weather stop us. When we left home (south) the rain was fairly nasty, but by the time we started to go north of Corfu Town it was TORRENTIAL! As we headed up the coast it got progesssively worse until, as we reached Spartillas we were actually in the clouds/fog and driving through what seemed to be a roaring river. The photo above, if you can make sense of it, is the torrent pouring in cataracts from the road on one of the hairpin bends and there were similar ones on each bend. We reached higher up the mountain and in Strinilas had the usual wonderful Sunday lunch at Oasis. By the ime we left the rain was even more spectacular and had reached us in the south.

Much of our journey home along the south coast was spent driving through water that could have been sea or could have been rain water - impossible to see which piece was the road. We also encountered several cars which had given up the ghost in the face of water which reached up to the doors - making me appreciate our sturdy Fiat Panda 4x4 even more.

I also heard two classic comments today. Firstly 'I expect this reminds you of England' - well, no it doesn't. I always think of England with semi-permanent drizzle, not monsoons. And secondly 'We need the water'. No, I think we have had enough now thank you!

13 December 2008

New Resort

An interesting item was picked up this week by Diana on a Google alert.

It seems that Fairmont Hotels and Resorts plans to open the Fairmont Corfu Resort and Spa in 2012 on the north east coast. The property will include 240 rooms, 6 restaurants, banquet and meeting facilities and a Willow Stream Spa featuring 17 treatment rooms and a health club.

There will also be 10 residential villas, a beach club, tennis academy and a marina.

Wow! It seems that Corfu is heading up-market in a big way.

Christmas Lunch

On Wednesday we celebrated the season by having lunch at "27" on Alexandras Avenue. It's actually not that easy to find restaurants open at lunchtime in Corfu town - lots of tavernas, but we wanted something a bit more special, and this was our third Christmas lunch at this venue which we really like a lot. It's also close to the office so we get there quickly when we shut up shop at 2 p.m. Present were Corfuhomefinders staff and the ladies who work in our shop - Corfu Home Store (English Imports as was).

We had a selection of starters, including chicken and feta dumplings, stuffed mushrooms, and camembert with redcurrant jelly. Main courses included chicken breast with parmesan and baby tomatoes, linguine with prawns and ouzo, penne with cashews and balti sauce and meatballs with yoghourt sauce. All accompanied by a very palatable dry white wine.

None of us were able to manage desert - very unusual that, so we must have eaten very well indeed!

St Spiridon's Day

December 12 can be an expensive day if you have lots of friends or family called Spiros or Spiridoula.

St Spiridon is our island's patron saint, and apart from the celebrations in the church which houses his bones, there will be smaller celebrations going on in very many homes on the island. A day off for all, it marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities for many of us, and I usually put up my Christmas decorations on this day.

Spiros' and Spiridoulas all over the island will be "at home" ready to recieve any friends or family who would like to pop by to wish them "Xronia Polla" and share a drink and a bite to eat. I have three friends with this name, who I visit in turn during the evening, ending up with the one closest to home.

My car, as you see, is loaded up with their gifts!

11 December 2008


Impossible to ignore the national news this week, and we have all been watching television coverage of rioters in Athens who are setting fire to shops, banks and office blocks and cars. There have also been incidents in Thessaloniki, Larissa, Patras, Corinth, Chania, Iraklion and many other Greek towns. We even had a minor riot in Corfu - with paint bombs being thrown at the local police stations.

The trigger for all the violence was the shooting of a 15 year old student by police in Athens on Saturday evening. Blame is being laid squarely on the policeman who fired three shots, one of which fatally wounded the student. The incident occurred in an area of Athens renowned for violent incidents between students and the authorities and no-one seems to be asking why there was a gang of young people throwing stones and bottles at the police in the first place. However, the results of the inquest will - one hopes - bring some answers. The police have obviously been instructed not to intervene in the present riots in order to avoid further fatalities, but the result is anarchy in the streets.

Greece holds its students and young people in great respect - with the result that it is anti-constitutional for police authorities to enter the University and Polytechnic grounds, and nobody seems prepared to intervene when these young people express their opinions in a violent manner. It has always been perfectly acceptable for high school students to lock themselves in their schools whenever they feel the need, and teachers seem not only to allow this behaviour, but to approve it. The present rioters are obviously not, in the main, ordinary students, but they are being treated with kid gloves in just the same way.

I'm glad that I don't have to find the solution to bring normality back to the streets, but somebody needs to take action, and maybe start by explaining to those students who are involved in the riots that respect has to be earned, and that whilst believing in something enough to join a protest is admirable, it is possible to protest in a non-violent manner.

10 December 2008

Property on the north-east coast

This week we have been out and about (in a variety of weathers including near hurricane winds!) to catch up on looking at some of the properties just coming on to the market for sale. Property on the north-east coast tends to be at the higher end of the scale, so it was a pleasant surprise to find three all with great locations, two with amazing views, the other in an absolutely prime location, and all three with reasonable price tags.

Geranium - this is a new apartment with STUNNING VIEWS, two bedrooms, open plan living room/kitchen, bathroom and balcony. It is on a very small development, and is just a few minutes drive from the beach, shops and restaurants. Completely ready for occupation, and ideal either to live permanently, or to visit as a holiday home, and perhaps to let in the periods when you are not in residence. The ideal home in every way, and only 165,000 euros.

Nissaki Bay View - this is a traditional 200 year old Corfiot house, situated in the tiny hamlet of Apolysies in the hills above Nissaki. The upper floor has the master bedroom (wake in the morning, and the first thing you see is the VIEW!) and living room with balcony. Stairs lead down to the middle floor, with a large kitchen, bathroom, double bedroom, plus a further room with mezzanine floor and utility room. Outside steps lead down to a spacious area, currently being used as a workshop, but which could be easily converted into further living space. Also outside is a small plunge pool situated at the corner of the paved patio - another place from which to enjoy the views. The house also has parking. Currently the house is let during the summer through a major tour operator, which means that as well as a great family home, or holiday home, it also offers a commercial opportunity as a letting investment. At the price of 249,000 euros, this is an exceptional property and could qualify for the title of Bargain of the Year.

Last but not least is San Stefanos Cottage. It is incredibly unusual to find economically priced property in this area, especially so close to the centre of the "film set" pretty harbour at Aghios Stefanos. The house is situated approximately 100m along a pathway leading inland from the centre of the harbour. It has a small entrance patio, with the front door leading into a basic kitchen/dining area. From here a door opens into the large living room, and two bedrooms, one double and one single. The living room and double bedroom have French doors leading out on to an attractive paved patio, and access to the bathroom. The house is in generally good condition, and although it would benefit from general updating, particularly to the kitchen and bathroom, it is an absolutely charming house and could be an extremely good source of rental income. At 198,000 euros this will sell really quickly!

4 December 2008

Rained off

Today was a really wild one. Force 10 gales buffeted parts of Corfu, particularly the south - according to the local TV News this was the first time such strong winds have been recorded.

Out and about in the north, three of us - Diana, Helga and I - were forced to retreat to a local coffee shop from where this photo was taken!

Christmas is here

Now that the weather has turned so totally vile here, and we can watch UK television with its scenes of snow (nice to watch, not so nice to go to work in?) we can all start to feel a little 'Christmassy'.

In the spirit of this, the British Vice Consulate would like to invite everyone to a mince pie and mulled wine morning, between 10 am and 12 midday on 11th December.

This is a chance, for people who don't already know them, to meet the Vice Consul and her staff at the Consulate. We will defnitely all be popping in there.

Since we all have to work Christmas week, we have decided we might as well enjoy it, and will be offering mulled wine to all our Corfuhomestore and Corfuhomefinders clients from the Monday of Christmas week until Christmas Eve in our shop/office. Look forward to seeing you!

3 December 2008

Currency Update

We have received the following email from our contact at Foreign Currency Direct and thought we should pass it on to as many people as possible:

Apologies for the informal nature of this e-mail but given the recent volatility on the currency markets and the massive shifts in the value of the Pound, I thought it was important to make sure all of my clients were aware of the impending interest rate decisions for both the UK and the Eurozone on Thursday.

The anticipation of interest rate cuts have seen the GBP USD rate fall by 5.5 cents and the GBP EUR rate to fall by 3.75 cents today alone- both of which are very sizable movements. Given the scale of the rate cut at the November meeting of the Bank of England, and the fact that no-one can be certain of the size of any potential cuts, many of you may wish to consider getting something done before Thursday to avoid possible volatility.

If I have not spoken to you recently and you would like to update me with any pending currency requirements (either near or long term) then please feel free to get in touch.


Christmas is Coming

Despite the unseasonally warm weather (with heavy rain at the moment) Christmas is indisputably on the way. Starting last weekend with two craft fairs, the local shops are now full of Christmas gifts, decorations and party wear. Christmas trees are springing up all over the place, and advent calendars are being opened, counting down the days to Santa's arrival. Of course, in Greece, we are awaiting the arrival of St. Basil who brings presents on New Year's Day, though I think most half-and-half families still celebrate Christmas with their children and leave mince pies out for St. Nicholas.

The three-day annual Craft Fair, held at Casa Lucia in Sgombou, was as usual an opportunity for friends - kept apart by the activities of a busy summer - to meet again, arrange coffee mornings and exchange news and views.

Contributing to the Christmas cheer, mulled wine and nibbles were on offer, and tempting displays of brilliantly made Christmas cakes, chutneys, cards, jewelery, knitted items, olive wood sculptures, painted tee-shirts and lots lots more.

The other fair - at Holy Trinity Anglican church - also an annual must-go, must-be-seen-at event, was on Saturday morning and included tombola, white elephant stall and a raffle.

Before we know it we will be into carol-singing, Christingle service, and all the Corfiot pre-Christmas celebrations. There is one notable exception this year - no Christmas charter flight, for the first time in sixteen years. I'm going to miss the social event of waiting at the airport for loved-ones with the arrivals hall full of familiar faces. This year everyone is coming in dribs and drabs, spread over Olympic and Aegean flights so it won't be quite the same.

2 December 2008

The Musician's Houses

Just when you think you have seen all kinds of property in Corfu, something pops up and surprises you!

This week, on our ‘out and about day’, we were asked to go to Vatos to have a look at a trio of stone houses which were regretfully being put up for sale by the owner, due to ill health. We made our way up there, expecting the usual Corfiot style stone house, and what a surprise when we arrived.

Three houses, constructed of stone, with galleried upper floors, vaulted wooden ceilings, stone floors, and in the two guest houses, stunning bath and showers in the main living room. (Loos and auxiliary washing facilities in privacy as well, of course!)

The main house has an open plan lounge/kitchen area with the main bedroom and bathroom leading off to the side. It also has an amazing auxiliary room, off the kitchen, which almost looks like a small chapel. Upstairs is a large gallery, great as a second bedroom, office or extra living space.

The small houses are rounded in shape, with living room on the ground floor and small kitchens and spiral stairs leading up to the ‘loft style’ bedroom. Each of the houses has a paved outside area, and views across the Ropa Valley. Each house also has a piano!

Three totally unique properties, just when we thought we had seen it all.

Telegraph Travel Awards

Nice to see that in the annual Telegraph Travel Awards, Greece is voted the second favourite European destination. Seeing this makes me feel that here in Greece do not 'blow our own trumpet' enough. The second best tour operator was Kuoni, of which CV Travel is now a part, so more kudos to Corfu.

Perhaps this last year we will be best known for Mr. Mandelson and George Osborne's 'Corfugate', but bearing in mind the adage that 'all publicity is good publicity' perhaps we will see a great increase in our upmarket visitors in 2009.

As an island where the main source of income for most of the population derives from tourism, the debate at present is very much based on looking ahead to 2009 with a certain amount of trepidation. One school of thought is that almost no one will go on holiday (What? Will they all stay and suffer in the U.K. in the rain?) or they will go to Turkey or Bulgaria because they are cheaper. As for Turkey, some friends on a trip from Corfu to Istanbul, returned saying that it was far more expensive than they had anticipated, and as for Bulgaria - well, just the sight of tourists lying on the beach like sardines waiting to be tinned, makes me think that they are almost certainly not the kind of tourists we would have had anyway!

Our own feelings are that perhaps people will be more careful with their holiday budgets, but there is no doubt that Greece, and Corfu in particular, offers excellent value for money both in terms of both accommodation and entertainment and eating out - well eating out IS entertainment isn't it. Adding that to the relatively short flight from the U.K. and hopefully Corfu will still remain one of the popular destinations for Brits for their holidays.

And of course, as estate agents, we cannot help being optimistic that many of them will earmark Corfu as one of the places they would like to live, if and when they decide to escape the gloom and doom of the U.K. Of course, we also have a certain amount of gloom and doom, but then the sun comes out and you walk the dog on an empty sandy beach in December and everything looks better!