31 March 2009

Greek cooking in East Sussex

Visiting loved-one in East Sussex, we decided (bravely) to have a Greek themed evening for our friends. This was a bit of a last minute idea, and not being the accomplished cook that Susan is, it threw me into a total panic!

Lidl to the rescue! The local store here was running a promotion of Greek food under the brand name of "Eridanous", so we managed to get together a good selection of mezes, including meatballs in tomato sauce, gigantes, and green beans. Together with some home made tzatziki, a nice salad with real feta and roast chicken and potatoes village-style with lots of garlic and lemon, we had our Greek meal - the house certainly smelt Greek anyway! (The only missing ingredient was some Greek wine which our local supermarket failed to stock.)

Our guests enjoyed it so much that they now want to come to Corfu on holiday this year, so I have done my bit for tourism too.

28 March 2009

Never say Corfu 'is a small Island' (or, what can go wrong, will!)

Generally speaking we have the island sort of divided up between us, Sarah and Susan cover the north, I do the south and we share the middle bits, so nowhere ever seems to be all that far away.

This week Sarah has been away, so Susan and I showed properties over the whole island, together. We had the programme minutely worked out, as follows:

09.00 arrive in town, finalise property list, Susan dropped car in car wash to be close, mine was miles away.

09.30 walk up to hotel to meet clients, discuss property viewings, pop back down to car wash, collect Susan's car, go and collect clients.

Only Susan's car broke down in the carwash, so after we met the clients I walked the usual miles back to my (dirty) car, whilst Susan tried to contact the car recovery people. Went to collect the clients. Drove up to Sidari to look at the wonderful Villa Oceanos (pictured above), drove down to Agnos to look at land, drove into Kassiopi to look at two headland villas - road blocked by bus and bulldozer. Drove over to Coyevinas and Avlaki, near Kassiopi, looked at two very nice villas. Felt urgent need for food, drove back to Kassiopi, parked, walked through mud/cement in search of lunch and had very nice lunch at the Kassiopi Star restaurant near the harbour.

Tried to get to headland villas on foot, more road block, mud, large pipe pouring water just in front of the villas. Even though it was still sunny, wind blowing a very cold howling gale. Walked round the villas, looked at beach, walked back through mud and through the village to the now, very muddy, car. All this time Susan was trying to establish what had happened to her car.

Drove to Kentroma, looked at Horizon Villa which is nearly finished and extremely unusual and very attractive. Got back in the car and drove as quickly as possibly down to south west coast to look at Kanouli Villas and Villa Oleander. Just got there in time to see the sunset, so that was nice.

Drove back to town, dropped clients at their hotel, drove Susan out of town to meet husband at Lidl to be driven home. Passed her car at the Fiat garage on the way, but of course they were closed. Drove home down to the deep south in Moraitika. Collapsed.

Despite Susan's Panda 4x4 breaking down, it turned out to be a just a 'failsafe' button, pressed in error by the carwash guys as they enthusiastically scrubbed the carpets. My Panda soldiered on all day, drove heaven knows how many kilometres and when I got home I had still only used a quarter tank of petrol. Not bad eh?

22 March 2009

The wonders of language

I think we can all remember the days of amusing menus, featuring such delights as roast kiddy and lamp chops, but this week someone brought to our office what must be the ultimate in 'babble translation' - the only difference being that this is supposed to be a serious document, outlining property insurance cover offered by one of the major Greek banks.

The introduction informs us that the house "encompasses innumerable significances and sentiments" and that we must not only protect against various dangers but situations that also occur "if by any chance happens the villain", and that their insurance protects us from "the unpleasant consequences of bad moment".

Included are such essentials as "fall lightning" and "fall planes, fall trees, terrorist energies, burglary of pipings, policies disturbances and malice energy", plus of course "damage the electric table and his wirings".

And finally, peace of mind for all, as this policy has "explicit and comprehensible terms and conditions, in order to you are absolutely sure for the covers his our and obligations".

There you are, now you know exactly what insurance cover you have should anything untoward occur!

Having said that, I do remember my mother in England having had home contents insurance for the last 30 years or so and never having claimed, had a fall, during which she cut herself and got blood on the carpet. When she contacted the insurance company to see if she could claim for a new carpet, they told her unfortunately not, as 'it was an accident'. In future in Britain, take note - if you are going to do any damage in your house, make sure you do it on purpose!

18 March 2009

Somebody loves us!

This month's Country Life has a wonderful article on the holiday rental market, and in their opinion 'outside of the Caribbean, the largest potential market is the Mediterranean, and top of the high-end rental wish list is the north-east coast of Corfu'. They do however, point out, as we always do to our clients looking for villa investments, that villas must be in an excellent location, with a pool and good outside space and views.

They also make the point that owners should not try to impose their personal taste on their rental clients, which always makes me laugh when I think how hard we try to get some of our selling owners just to clear the property a little bit, so we can take reasonable photographs. I do remember when I was a child, going on holiday to various holiday cottages in England where the furniture/equipment etc. always looked as if it was the stuff the owners had thrown out of their own house, and it was stopping in that particular cottage on its way to the rubbish tip. Not so now - Sky TV, DVD, Internet, Ipod dock and a plasma screen are becoming essentials in good villas.

Also of course, you have to get the knack of making the villa look 'like new' for each arrival - which is no easy task when you often only have two hours between one client's departure and the next's arrival. Plus, quite often we would be happy to have things in our own homes which might have seen slightly better days, but not in your villa - this must be why my own home always is at the bottom of the list when it comes to buying new furniture and it is me who gets the leftovers and the villas which get the best!

In the Country Life article, the point is also made of the correlation between holiday renters and buyers. And we all know that many of our buyers have been to Corfu many times and it is their affection for the island which makes them return to buy. How much better for them then, to not only have the option of a house on their favourite island but providing they buy wisely they can finance their own holidays by letting their villas to other holidaymakers (and, of course, we always hope that they in their turn might fall in love with Corfu, and return to buy!).

A pleasant surprise

My trusty Suzuki Ignis was due its MOT at the end of this month and as I will be away in the UK at the time it is due I decided to be organised (for a change) and get it done early. This is the first time I have ever ventured into the "men's world" of MOT testing stations, and I was absolutely dreading it, particularly if they were going to tell me anything technical as I have trouble understanding that in English, let alone in Greek!

There are two MOT testing stations, one near to Aqualand and a new, privately run one near to the airport, more or less at the end of the runway. Really easy to find - I drove up the driveway, and was met by a very polite gentleman who took my relevant documents and directed me into the office. The secretary then did her stuff, took my fifty euros and gave me all my documents back. There is a comfortable lounge with a TV, where you can watch your car being examined through the large windows onto the testing bay. Amazing! Ten minutes later I was outside with my new MOT certificate, and I even managed to understand that the only thing I need are two new back tyres - not surprising considering the amount of mileage I do and the rough tracks I regularly drive along.

K.T.E.O. is open from 8.00 am till 6.00pm on weekdays, and from 8.00 am till 2.00pm on Saturdays, and you can make an appointment on 26610 26610.

17 March 2009

This is a photo of Kaiser's Bridge, taken last Friday, when finally, after what seems like a very long winter, we had blue skies, and calm blue seas. However you know that it is still early spring, as if you look closely, you will see that a) it's too early to clean up the beach, and b) snow still covers the mountains in the distance.

However there are other hints of springtime. The usual ones, such as wonderful flowers by the roadside and everyone suddenly sitting outside, actually looking for shade instead of searching frantically for every available bit of sun.

However, there are other signs. For example, all of a sudden, apart from the roundabout creation roadworks, we have just sprung three sets of traffic lights between Moraitika and Corfu Town (one at Kaiser's Bridge, which is where I had time to take the photo whilst I was waiting). This does not bode well for summer traffic.

It stays light and bright so much longer and now, instead of having no guilt at all at closing the doors in the house and settling down with a cup of tea at 6ish - you feel as if you are doing something wrong and should still be out working.

Emails begin to arrive from prospective buyers actually being able to plan their visits instead of just sitting at their computers dreaming!

Some of our workers are celebrating the spring weather. The other day my husband called his main helper to confirm a day of 'concreting' on the first decent day in ages. Sorry, not possible, he was told - our 'worker' was taking advantage of the weather and had gone fishing! Other workers - who have been desperate for work during the winter months - have suddenly become 'unavailable' having been 'called up' by their summer employers in the usual rush to prepare for the summer.

Never mind, we love the spring time We always feel we should rush out and take new photos of absolutely every bit of property (difficult with 513 properties and rising!) as everything looks so 'picture postcard' at this time of year. It is the nicest time of year to show properties - not too hot and sweaty as we toil up mountainsides to show land and views, and too early in the season to be intruding on villa guests as we try to show houses with holiday guests in occupation.

Overall a lovely time of year. And having said that it will probably start raining again!

It's all in the detail

We see lots of pretty amazing top-end villas in our weekly outings in Corfu, so it is particularly good to be able to report that several developers are taking Corfu out of the run-of-the-mill and into the something special realms of Mediterranean property. There is a blueprint for a villa which is all too often copied religiously in Corfu. It includes lots of differently shaped roof bits, balconies, extended (unnecessary) bits, decorative plasterwork, etc. etc., and has the result of making us - all too often - wish for something different.

This last fortnight we have seen one very different villa indeed and another where the developer has really put all his energies into the not at first noticeable extras that make his property stand out from the crowd. I'm talking about the sort of things that make you say "Why didn't anyone think of that before?", or "What a good idea!"

First the really different one - Villa Gaia has been built for the international jet set market and is available for rent for in the region of 1,000 euros per day in high season. This price includes staff (of course) and the property sleeps ten easily, plus six extra (children perhaps?). Every room has climate control and a flat screen television (there is even a one in the door of the refrigerator), plus twin basins in the en-suite bathrooms and jacuzzi baths or high-tech. showers. Add this to the basic joys of Corfu - wonderful views and beaches and marina within easy driving - and you have the perfect ingredients for a wonderful holiday. Gaia is also available for sale, with its adjacent staff accommodation. Wow!

13 March 2009


Most mornings I drive past a gaggle of geese on my way to take my dog for her walk, and more often than not say hello to their owner who is usually feeding them at this time. The other day I stopped for a chat and I asked him if he ever sells a goose as I tasted roast goose at Christmas and loved it! He was fairly horrified, telling me that these were like pets, in fact more like guard-geese, making a lot of noise every time anyone goes up the lane.

He must have forgiven me for wanting to eat one of his pets because today he stopped me to give me some of their eggs. He then asked me if I would like some hens' eggs too and gave me more than a dozen lovely fresh eggs. No prizes for guessing what I'm going to be eating for the next week or so!

No two days are the same

One of the best things about being an estate agent is that truly, no two days are the same, last week we looked at spectacular land, a totally stunning villa and a completely ruined hillside house.

This week we were asked to look at a north-east coast property ‘needing a bit of work’ in a popular village. The lady showing it to us did not drive, so we arranged to collect her from her home.

We drove into the village, parked on near the pretty church and walked slowly up through the village, under arches and up steps, towards the house at the edge of the village. So far, a completely normal viewing. As the lady battled with her keys, she asked if we minded taking the oranges and lemons off the trees for her as she didn’t have any at home, so we began to collect her fruit for her.

We had a look around the house - not bad condition, (circa 1960’s renovation in the main house) and with a potentially very nice apartment completely separate from the house. Plus of course, the fenced garden with now empty fruit trees.

Having admired all the features, we began to close up the house and the seller walked around checking everything was secure. Then she indicated a chair and asked us to carry it back to the car so she could take it home with her. We began to walk, plus chair and bowls of oranges and lemons, back down to the car, only to notice that she was clutching a statue under her arm – something else she decided to take home from the house. On reflection, it seems that perhaps we served a dual purpose that day; the lady definitely wanted to show us the house for sale, but equally she wanted the chance to go and check the house, collect a few bits and pieces, and pick the oranges and lemons – and we provided the perfect opportunity!

9 March 2009

Some days are full of surprises

Now that the weather has improved (a bit!) we have started to catch up on our list of properties to view and put for sale on our websites, corfuhomefinders.com and corfupremierproperty.com. Some days are fairly mundane and we see a variety of houses and land, OK but nothing outstanding, other days we see property that seems saleable – until the owner comes up with a price, totally in the realms of fiction. Then, there are the days that seem blessed, when you see a genuine ‘wow’ property.

Not long ago, we had one of those ‘wow’ days. We had been planning for some time to go and see a large piece of land on the west coast which stretched down to the sea. The weather had been vile, so we kept on putting it off (knowing that land viewing very often involves a considerable trek) but finally, that day there was some sun so we arranged to go. We followed the owner through the olive groves and parked on the side of the track. It was a nice day for a walk so we headed off with him along a pretty but fairly ordinary track.

After two or three minutes the track headed down the hill and round a corner, and there it was – olives leading down to a turquoise bay, which led on to another headland, another bay etc. etc. At this point the track became more difficult, and we decided to postpone going down to the beach for another day. The owner then stepped on to a rocky outcrop and said ‘Look down from here’. One by one we did just that and underneath us were not just the blue bay, but clear white sand and a little fishing boat sitting in the bay - totally picture postcard!

It is a large piece of land, in a part of Corfu with relatively little development, and the development which already exists blends in with the olive covered hillsides. So hopefully, whoever buys Turquoise Bay land will keep everything in the spirit of the area, so that the landscape and the sea can give pleasure for many years to people living there.

4 March 2009

Rained off!

Kathari Deftera - the first day of Lent. Yesterday was one of the few occasions when Corfu suffered from bad weather whilst the rest of Greece was bathed in sunlight. The tradition for the first day of "fasting" is to fly a kite and normally the beaches and mountain tops, meadows and valleys of Corfu are crowded with families flying their kites with varying amounts of success. The early bird definitely caught the worm this year - as the weather did not break till midday, so morning kite-flying went ahead as planned.

We spent the early part of the day preparing huge quantities of traditional fare, so we ate well but left the kite in the cupboard till next time.

Just for the record, the menu included: taramasalata, octopus, garlic prawns, bean salad, humous, fava (split-pea puree), olive tapenade with fresh orange juice, pickles, lagana (unleavened bread), beetroot, roasted peppers, rocket, radishes, avocado, lettuce and more. To sweeten the palate, we concluded with halvas (semolina pudding with almonds and pine-nuts), little lenten cakes and fresh strawberries. And yes, we should all be the size of wardrobes by now!

1 March 2009


Traffic chaos is upon us. If anyone knows the turning in Moraitika, down to Messonghi village and the Messonghi Beach Hotel, they know that it looks as if the main road goes straight on (it is much wider than the 'real' main road) instead of around to the right. Since no one in the local authority seems to have been able to afford bright coloured paint to draw lines to help unsuspecting motorists, there have always been many minor smashes here.

When we came back from England I was most impressed to see the beginning of a roundabout system, as it seems the logical way to fix the problem. Gradually the roundabout and its bits took shape. Only one problem - there are four entrances onto the roundabout and on three of those entrances are bus stops!

So the other day, having already started out late to go to the office, I sat in a queue of cars waiting for all the bus passengers to get on/off the bus. That was just on one entrance; imagine in the summer season when (hopefully) there will be many tourists waiting to get on the bus to go down the coast, or in the other direction to Corfu Town. Chaos, just for a change.

I have long suspected that Greek bus stops are always put in the most inconvenient and dangerous places for other drivers (and for passengers getting on and off), usually on blind corners, but I think this one takes the prize. Mind you, I have seen quite a few drivers who do not seem to be quite comfortable with the roundabout system and who have taken short cuts around the side of the approaches, so maybe it just won't make any difference.

What's in a name?

We give up! Having decided that because we had changed the type of goods we stock in our shop we should change the name to reflect this, English Imports became Corfu Homestore.

Nearly a year later, we still forget to answer the phone with the right name, and more importantly, most of our clients still call us 'English Imports' or even just 'the English ladies'. New clients asking for directions to Corfu Homestore get blank looks, but if they ask for 'the English shop' they immediately get pointed in the right direction. So, what is the point in going against the flow? It's 'English Imports' - again!

We still bring a selection of lovely linens and household accessories (not a huge stock, but much nicer, we think, than what is offered in most of the other local suppliers) plus small items of furniture, as well as the 'nitty gritty' of greetings cards, newspapers and magazines, essentials like teabags and marmite (plus Easter Eggs, as the season approaches). And of course, we still act as the local 'information centre' helping as far as we can with questions from customers who find themselves a loss for one reason or another as they work their way through the various Greek bureaucracies. Welcome back English Imports!

We have had a few enquiries about buying our business, but nothing definite yet. Anyone out there want to have as much fun as we do? Price is negotiable - trouble is, the more we think about it, the more we want to keep going!