30 May 2009

Men only?

Husband has gone on a "jolly" with some old schoolfriends. They are spending several days near Mount Olympus followed by a visit to Mount Athos in the north of Greece, a spectacular peninsular entirely given over the the Greek Orthodox church and a selection of huge, ancient and stunningly beautiful monasteries.

Mount Athos - Aghio Oros - is designated "Men Only" and the only way the female sex can take a look is from a helicopter or caique trip around the shore line. We have long argued - I mean discussed! - the rights and wrongs of this policy. I disapprove in principle, in the same way that I don't like women being excluded from the inner sanctum of all orthodox churches. You see all these little boys running about during church services, disappearing behind the altar into the holy of holies and coming out again, but if I were to want to see what was there I would be sent away, as would my tiny granddaughter if she were to fancy exploring in that direction.

Is it right? I can't justify the exclusion. According to husband, the monks in Mount Athos need to be able to do their work, pray, and live a totally religious life away from the distraction of the opposite sex. Well, okay, I can see that a bikini clad tourist might be inappropriate, but what about nuns? Surely they should be allowed to share the beauty and live the experience as well?

28 May 2009

The wonders of statistics

Listening to a local Corfu radio station a few days ago, they were discussing the 'crisis' of tourism in Corfu. All the usual culprits got a mention - lack of infrastructure, lousy roads, rubbish in Corfu Town etc. etc. But the conclusion was that in fact things were not all that bad because statistics prove that we will have a greater 'footfall' of tourists this year.

This, I understand, is represented by all the cruise ship clients who arrive at the airport mid morning, are bussed to their ship and after one or two weeks arrive back in Corfu, perhaps go on an excursion to Paleo, maybe spend a few hours in Corfu town and then leave! At most they might buy a cup of coffee and the odd souvenir - not exactly a great event for local people involved in tourism to get excited about. Still, it looks good on paper, and I suppose the passenger tax at the port contributes to something somewhere.

27 May 2009

Maybe we can look forward to a reasonable summer after all

All winter people have been saying, 'This is going to be a terrible summer.' Maybe it is, and certainly the resorts have been quiet so far, but yesterday we went to collect clients from a hotel in the south of the island and one of our friends who works there said that although May was fairly disastrous, as of yesterday the numbers have increased substantially.

This seems to be reflected all over the island. Down in Agios Georgios yesterday there were quite a lot of people around. Our own apartments were virtually full from our Scandinavian office from their opening day last week; our house with a UK tour operator although not booked until tomorrow (thank God, because it wasn't ready) is now booked straight through to October; and private villa bookings seem to be good. I also spent some time last week trying to find a villa for clients at the end of June and many properties were already booked - so let’s hope that after a late start, things will be bearable after all.

On the estate agency front things also do not seem too bad, with many previous clients deciding to buy after a couple of visits to view and consider, and many new clients arriving with lists of properties and a definite intention to buy. We are seeing clients from a variety of countries, some admittedly arriving hoping that Corfu has turned into a 'bargain basement' for prices, but still staying to buy even when they realise this is not the case.

O course, there will always be some 'bargain' properties, but generally, good properties at a reasonable price will achieve a sale, even if it takes some time, which in its turn shows that in the medium to long term, property in Corfu is still a safe and valid investment – as well as being a very nice place to holiday or live!

26 May 2009

Gruesome discovery

Last week, exhausted after watering our villa's garden, I decided to spend a lazy half hour on one of the sunbeds which were tidied away in the barbeque area. The sunbeds were stacked up in the corner, and behind one of them was this bird's wing. Close inspection revealed that it had been recently killed but the rest of the body was nowhere to be found.

It was a big wing, as big as my two hands, so the questions are, what kind of bird was it, and more to the point, what animal caught and killed it?

25 May 2009

A variety of OTE rants

If anyone has tried to get through to our office or the shop and cannot - none of our phones work. The shop went first. The fault was reported and finally an engineer came (the OTE lady said she forgot to notify anyone the first time) and told us we needed a new phone. Lorraine showed him, with another phone which we know works, that it is not the phone, it is the box or line. He sat down, broke the display bed, said that it was definitely our fault and left. At this point the office phone stopped working as well. Two days later they told me the note on the shop phone problem says 'need new phone'! They said the repair would be done 'urgently'. Still no phones.

Secondly, I called to order a phone line for some clients who had just bought a house. They took all the information, said it would be put in hand and 'no I didn’t need to do anything else'. A few days later they went to check the area/line etc. and called to say the phone would be installed in two days. No phone. Two weeks later Lorraine rang and was told there was no record of any request. (So how come they went up to the house - telepathy?) The ladies came to town specifically to fill in bits of paper and were told again, no record. The next day OTE called me and said they were going up on Saturday AFTER 10 am to put in the phone. At 8 am the engineer rang to say he was there - and the phone was installed. Since there is apparently no paperwork perhaps they won't ever get a bill!

Third rant.I bought ADSL internet for our house in Halikouna, last August.The phone promptly stopped working so it never got installed. Today, with the phone finally working, I tried to install it. The paper requested me to enter the code number and password, and gave me the code but not the password. So I rang them and the engineer said you have to use the password you had with your first installation. It then transpired that because we had an installation at our own house from about 15 years ago, this was not a new connection but a second one. How many people would have kept to hand an original code - plus the fact that the information on the paperwork is all wrong, even the phone number, therefore the original code does not even apply!

Therefore I have to jump through about a million hoops in order to correct their mistakes and my clients won't have internet. I used to think OTE were easier than DEH but now I think not.

23 May 2009

Alternative Panigiri

An "Alternative Panigiri" is being held at Triklino Vineyard, Karoubatika, this weekend. Ther's something for everyone, including children.

Saturday's programme includes exhibitions by the Corfu Quilters and three photographers, and the launch of the "Neuromantics" CD composed by Raul Scacchi, and sung by Kaliroe Raouzeou at 9.30 pm. Amazing video projections accompany each song!

Sunday highlights include sessions on the Creative Arts and Writing inspired by Corfu (6.30-7.15 pm and 7.30-8.30 pm), as well as the exhibitions. From 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm there will be a performance by the Karagiozis Shadow Theatre. Finally from 10.00 pm until late, there's live music, Greek, Blues etc.

In addition there will be all sorts of other festive activities.

18 May 2009

Welcome back to the Avra Hotel

Many years ago, in the 1940s, one of the first hotels in Corfu was opened by the Spinoulas family. The Avra Hotel became universally well-known and even featured in a book called 'Around the World with $20'! Recently refurbished, it has been re-opened by the Monro family - Andy, Sarah-Jane and Jamie - who are planning to keep up the 'family tradition' and warm welcome.

The hotel is in the village of Benitses, about 15km south of Corfu Town, in an ideal location just across the road from the beach and close to the shops, bars and tavernas in the centre of the village. It offers twins, double and family rooms - and of course a great welcome! The Monros have many years of experience in Corfu, (in fact Sarah Jane is one of the partners in Corfuhomerentals) so you can take advantage of their knowledge of the island.

17 May 2009

Dassia office moves (photo to follow)

Our office in Dassia has moved - but just how do we tell people where we are?

We used to say that we were opposite the Corfu Chandris Hotel, near to the flashing overhead traffic light. We have only moved two doors along, but we are no longer opposite the hotel. Telling people looking for us that we are between the Drunken Duck bar and the naked statue doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?

14 May 2009

Antiques on the roadside

Just past the Chandris hotels on the way north a new shop has opened displaying quantities of old furniture and bric-a-brac on its wide pavement. Looking rather like a cross between a shop and a selection of market stalls, this is a great place to stop and browse. Anyone looking for decorative items for their newly finished renovation project, or a special piece of traditional furniture might well find it here.

There are trays full of old watches - great for a collector, and rows of old stone and wood mortars which would make wonderful garden decor, or - even better - vast quantities of skordalia! Some rather strange stone statues jostle for space with old wooden threshing slabs (I've seen one made into a coffee table in one of the smartest villas on the island). I saw an old wireless and typewriters and Nazi helmets (don't ask!) as well as cutlery, glass bottles, wagon weels and even a couple of donkey carts. Inside are heavy wooden dining tables and benches, intricately carved dark wood sideboards that wouldn't look out of place in a castle, and quite a lot of furniture whose original purpose you need to ask about.

When we there at about 1.00 p.m. one of the large tables was being put to use by the entire family of the shopkeeper. Plates of macaroni and tomato sauce were being served and we were asked if we would like to join them just before they all crossed themselves and tucked in. Only in Greece!

11 May 2009


Roadworks seem to be spreading all over the south of the island. On the way from Corfu town to Moraitika there are now three sets of traffic lights, plus the occasional man with a red flag, ending in the brand new roundabout. A very nice roundabout - the only problem is there are no lines on the road to indicate who has right of way. And in some cases people have problems working out which way.

Then, when you go over to Halikouna, the bits of road that are not now tarmac have been covered in grit/sand - all except for the 50 metres or so outside my house. I begin to wonder if someone has something against us! However, when you look at the photo, perhaps we are better off just being left alone, if this is what happens to the road after roadworks and tarmac!

Lost in translation

There is a plethora of online translation software to choose from - some of which is actually quite good. This company obviously chose the wrong one.

This short extract is from something called "An Investors Guide to Buying Real Estate in Greece" and is, we think, supposed to be about buying land as an investment.

Investing into a concept in a assorted land is a bounteous selection and would order competent investigate and some visits. Planning a budget and employed by is advisable. It is sharp to ready opening options acquirable by studying the sellers mart as concept prices and situations dont rest constant. Professional instrument from a topical attorney or concept consultant would be the prizewinning artefact to move it. Factors same concept valuation, rentals and ontogeny possibleness are areas of skillfulness and it is prizewinning to lease the services of a proven consultant . A beatific discernment of the regulations for apiece land is also pivotal before language some acquire agreement. Be player certain if it is a partnership or daylong constituent deal.

Hospital praised

We met a very nice couple this week who are intending to buy a property from us in the village of Episkepsi. Unfortunately the lady was taken ill in the early hours of this morning with severe stomach pains and taken by ambulance to the Corfu General Hospital.

Once I heard the news, I phoned her husband to find out if he needed any help, and he told me that everything was in hand and he was hoping to take her out of the hospital today with some antibiotics, as the tests had revealed a kidney problem. I warned him that as doctors are in short supply on a Sunday it was likely that she would have to wait till Monday morning before being discharged, thus missing their flight home.

He called me again later, to say that there was a doctor in attendance who had discharged her with a prescription and a report to take to her doctor in the UK. Full of praise for our usually much maligned hospital, he said that they couldn't ask for anything more and that all the staff had been very helpful and polite to them. How nice to hear praise for a change!

7 May 2009

Berry strange indeed!

I wasn't quick enough to take a photo, and probably would have had a car accident had I tried to, but I am intrigued to know why a police car was full to its ceiling with boxes of strawberries. Right in the middle of San Rocco Square, there didn't appear to be enough room for two policemen to fit in.

Perhaps our Police Force are being encouraged to top-up their Vitamin C intake?

6 May 2009

Cricket in Corfu

For a few years most of the cricket matches in Corfu have been played on the comparatively new pitch at the Gouvia Marina. Last Saturday afternoon, however, saw a team from the UK playing against a local team on the Liston like in the old days. Makes for an exciting time for the spectators, as the cafes are very close and a "six" could quite easily end up in amongst the coffee cups, and if you love your car don't leave it in the car park! (Photo courtesy of Island Magazine.)

5 May 2009

A village shop with a difference

We had no intention of spending any money, but Heidi's little shop in Afionas village square drew us in like magnets. What a change from the all too common tourist shops elsewhere in Corfu. Her shelves are full of tempting souvenirs, not all of them traditionally Corfiot, but all chosen carefully to attract the discerning holiday shopper. From local olive oil sensibly packed in easily transportable tins, really pretty boxes of guest soaps, tablecloths in olive patterned fabrics, to more expensive pottery, artwork and jewellery, the shop is a treasure trove. Two out of three of us succumbed and left the shop with a selection of gifts for some lucky friends.

Stairway to Heaven

Visiting a lovely village in the north west today to check on a property for its hopeful owner-in-waiting, we looked at the house from a new angle and took the attached "optical illusion" shot. With the bright blue sky and balmy temperature it really looked as if the builder had a spiritual destination in mind instead of the flat roof of the building!

4 May 2009

Airplanes and orchids

I haven't been "blogging" very much in the last week, instead I have been very busy with a first-time visitor to Corfu (and Greece) trying to ensure that she appreciated our island despite the dreadful, unseasonal weather.

Loved-one's sister arrived just in time to catch a few rays of sun before the bad weather began, and left today just as the sun came out again. She mucked in (literally) helping to get the two villas and their gardens ready for our first arrivals on Friday, and then collapsed in a heap with us on Saturday. Unfortunately she didn't get to use her beach towel or sun-tan lotion, but she did make good use of my old trainers and socks.

It was lovely to hear her say that she felt very at home here, despite this being her first trip. That is exactly the feeling I had on first visiting Corfu, and I have it every time I go away and come back. What is it about a place that you just know it's where you want to be?

Seeing her off at the airport today and walking back to my car, I spotted orchids growing in a patch of ground between the airport and the road.Checking in my wild flower book, I think they are orchis morio - green-winged orchids. Who would expect to find orchids growing wild right outside an airport!


In one of those spectacular turn-arounds in which Corfu specializes, we have gone from winter to summer in 24 hours. I'm adding this to the blog so that anyone reading who is about to travel here doesn't worry too much about the weather. From central heating and two long sleeved sweaters, we are now eating outside and wearing short-sleeves. Hurray!

2 May 2009

Charter flights again!

Yes, I know Easyjet have been flying into Corfu since early April, but today is the first day of "real" charters - holidaymakers arriving for packages including hotels, villas, self-catering accommodation, etc. Unfortunately we have not been able to turn on very nice weather for the first day of the season. It's really quite cool outside - 15c at the moment - with looming clouds as well.

We were talking about the weather last week as we squelched through a particularly muddy garden to take photos of a new-build house for sale. It was pouring down, and not at all easy to take photos whilst holding an umbrella over the camera lens (and me!).

What do tourists do when the weather is not as they are expecting? We all know that nobody is responsible for this unseasonal surprise, but our first visitors of the summer are going to be staying in accommodation that has been closed up for the entire winter, accommodation that is meant for full summer weather - ceramic tiles or marble floors, and NO HEATING! Add this to the fact that most suitcases will be packed with bikinis, tee-shirts and flip flops, and I predict a few unhappy faces unless we can produce some sunshine fairly quickly.

Personally I really like watching the 'planes flying overhead, and the ferries steaming gracefully up the coast. It makes me feel part of a greater whole, somehow. The to-ings and fro-ings of travellers connecting Corfu with the rest of Europe.