30 July 2009

Hot off the Press

We have received the following notification from Foreign Currency Direct Plc:

Good afternoon

I do not normally like doing block e-mails, but it is the easiest way to let all of my clients know at short notice, and I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the upcoming Bank of England interest rate decision. Whilst interest rates are expected to be left on hold the main talking point is likely to be whether, and by what amount, the Bank of England will extend the policy of quantitative easing “printing money”). Policy makers such as Kate Barker have recently hinted that something will happen in August as she stressed QE had not ended and was merely on hold whilst its relative success was measured.

In the past the Pound has experienced a sharp drop when these measures have been announced, and combined with the recent National Debt figures and unemployment levels, this prospect of further easing has weighed down heavily on Sterling. Given that the outcome is as yet unknown, you may wish to get in touch sooner rather than later to discuss any transfers either to or from Sterling.

Likewise if you wish to discuss any other currency matter please feel free to get in touch, or pass my details on to friends or family if you think they may benefit.

Best regards,


Daffodils in July!

Now that we are fully into high summer, there are not a lot of wildflowers to be seen, mainly grasses and herbs. However, at St Spridon's Bay on the north east coast, there is the most wonderful display of Sea Daffodils (pancratium maritimum). They look as though they have been deliberately planted as a border at the back of the beach, just between the trees and the sunbathing/sandcastle-building area.

I'm sure they must grow in other areas of Corfu, but I've not seen them myself elsewhere. I once tried, very unsuccessfully, to transplant a few bulbs but they obviously are very fussy plants and like St Spiridon's Bay best.

28 July 2009

It must be summer

I know it must be summer, because we are lurching from one disaster to another - not on the estate agency side, but on the side where I wear my 'other hat' as a 'letter' of holiday villas.

My estate agent's hat was showing the wonderful 'Beachfront Villa' at Kanouli a few evenings ago, when an agitated villa client called to say that the maid, promised at midday, had not appeared at all, and all the laundry had disappeared, so no bed linen. Called the maid who said she didn't go to the villa as the clients were in, so she just did next door (which was empty!) and she did all the washing. She washed clean and dirty laundry, and hung it multiple folded on the line, which meant nothing had dried. So at 9pm I went with more linen and made beds for the clients.

The next day I took another maid down to clean for them, in between showing the previous evenings clients various pieces of land in the Boukari area - where we all got covered in those sticky little ball things that never come off! Then I collected the second maid. I reminded the disaster maid that we had a villa changeover on Saturday - and she told me she couldn't do it as she has another job on Saturdays. Second maid became grumpy at the thought of extra work and all this because our original No. 1 maid has gone off on two weeks holiday, at the insistence of her husband. Next year, over my dead body.

On Sunday there was a power cut at nine in the morning so, with no chance of doing any work, I went to have coffee with old friend. Just casually asked Sea Horse Villa guests what time they were leaving on Monday as we have new guests arriving at 2 pm, and he told me 'after 8pm as our flight is at midnight!'. Cut coffee short, went home to discuss with husband. For some reason they didnt think general hotel practice applied to them and were determined not to leave until late. I finally convinced them and offered them an empty villa to use for the day, which meant cleaning it yet again.

When I got home the power cut has zapped my computer so I was stuck again. Daughter was here for the weekend so I borrowed her laptop, fought my way through all the music, to be able to catch up on emails. Pretty much the end of a disastrous three days - however on a happier note, the guests who suffered the non-appearance of the maid and my bedmaking, have recommended Strawberry Villa to their family, who just called and booked it for three weeks - so not all bad!

25 July 2009

Going batty

Ever on the lookout for our furry rodent friends, we noticed some small droppings on the terrace of our villa - strange because they kept reappearing in the same spot, but not anywhere else.

Close inspection to the roof revealed these lovely little bats all clustered together in the space between the roof beams. As darkness fell they woke and flew outside, sweeping over our heads with their fluttering wings.

21 July 2009

And we think we have the occasional property problem

Most people probably know the background of the property ownership disputes in Northern Cyprus, but reading this recent article on the internet, which looks at the implications on several levels, I began to appreciate that although we often think we have technical problems here in Corfu (multiple owners, boundary disputes etc.) absolutely nothing compares to this:-

Meletis Apostolides was given permission to reclaim land in northern Cyprus which he held ownership over before being forced out of the country. The land in question was acquired by a British couple, Linda and David Orams, who invested £160,000 building a dream villa after deciding to spend their retirement in northern Cyprus.

The situation has been ongoing for some time now as an earlier Greek Cypriot Court had ruled that the villa should be demolished and ownership returned to Meletis Apostolides. However, when the ruling was challenged in the UK and a formal transfer of ownership instruction entered into the UK justice system, this was rejected and a UK court ruled in favour of Mr and Mrs Orams. The ruling by the ECJ is ultimately the definitive action in the case and a decision which cannot be appealed and the UK courts are now obliged to follow the ruling.

While the official ruling from the ECJ contains instruction for the villa in question to be demolished and the land returned to its former owner, who would like to replant a citrus grove, the likelihood is that compensation will be sought through the UK courts. Quite how any compensation payment would be calculated and on what basis remains to be seen as many former residents of northern Cyprus operated businesses from their land before being forced to flee.

When you consider that some 5,000 Britons hold properties in northern Cyprus, whether as investments or retirement homes, the potential compensation outlay could be enormous. In effect those who acquired properties in the region could be forced to "pay twice" as the likelihood of those now living in southern Cyprus return to the north would appear to be fairly remote. We will now see an army of lawyers and advisers come to the fore which could potentially add millions of pounds to the cost of the operation.

This ruling could have far-reaching consequences for the northern Cyprus tourism industry with the potential for villas and hotels to be demolished in the event of successful compensation claims regarding property ownership. However, as suggested above, the likelihood is that some kind of compensation will be agreed, although this could quite literally push many businesses in the region to the brink of collapse.

The Cypriot tourism industry is a vital element of the economy and any impact in this region could have wide ranging implications for the economy as a whole. As a result of the ruling, property investment in the region is likely to collapse with international investors likely to give the area a wide berth until the legal arguments have ended and a plan for the future has been announced. With so much money at stake this stage of the operation could literally take years to conclude which could potentially ruin the Cypriot economy in the short to medium term.

While the ruling from the ECJ regarding ownership issues refers to properties acquired after 1974, and involves those who had been forced to leave the area, this could take in a substantial number of properties. In the short term we could see a significant number of property investors leaving the region and pressure on short-term property prices. With the UK pound having suffered a substantial fall against many currencies around the world, a number of UK investors may be happy to call it a day and move to calmer waters.

This is probably the last thing the Cypriot property market needs as a number of investors and observers already believed that property prices in the region were excessive. If nothing else, the ECJ ruling will give investors a reason to demand lower and lower prices and put more and more pressure on those who may at some stage be on the end of a compensation claim.


20 July 2009

Hot off the Press!

Corfu now has a third sushi bar! Following the announcement in last month's Pelekas News of a new sushi bar at Kontogialos (Pelekas Beach) - and another at Agios Gordis - my informants report the exciting addition of Ku Ku Tsi to Corfu's repertoire of interesting places to wine and dine. It is located next to Starbucks in Kanoni and has been open about two weeks. Not tested yet, except by the waiter at Starbucks, who had never eaten sushi before so couldn't really say whether it was good or not!

17 July 2009

Pretty village

Viewing new properties for our website took three of us yesterday to the village of Varipatades (literal translation: "heavy footfalls") just a fifteen minute drive from Corfu Town in the central part of the island.

Between us we have lived for 85 years on Corfu and our knowledge of this village was absolutely nil! think I have driven through it maybe once or twice, Diana and Sarah reckon they never have. So it was a delight to park in a proper car parking area on the edge of the village and take a stroll through the narrow streets to the square and beyond.

The village has four churches but not a single shop or cafe. A local lady, who popped out from behind a seemingly closed door to find out what we were up to, told us that it is too close to Corfu Town and supermarkets and other facilities for a village shop to have any chance of success. What a shame. Not even a cafenion. I wonder what the old men do in the evenings?

We couldn't help remarking that if this was Britain each and every one of the charming village properties would have been renovated up to its eyeballs, lovingly restored in a traditional manner and lived in by a townie with aspirations to country life. Another culture difference - here the opposite is the case and villagers mostly aspire to town living, even if it means cramming their family into a small-roomed flat with no view.

12 July 2009

Mother-in-law's advice

When drying your oregano, don't place it in the sun as it goes a brown colour. In order to keep it looking green when dry, the stems should be hung upside down in a well ventilated but shady place.

Restaurants. Again

Somehow I seem to be writing about food rather a lot, but 'not so well known' restaurants definitely seem to deserve a mention. his one is Plori, just along from Paramonas beach near Agios Matheos. In fact when I say 'just along' this is exactly what I mean, the road goes down to Paramonas, past the little hotel, and you keep going, almost IN the sea, for about 40 metres, once you turn the corner, there it is, on its own, almost in the sea.

Since last year it has been one of our choices for those really hot nights, when you are just desperate for a cooling breeze, but the food definitely deserves a mention. As with so many seaside tavernas, their speciality is fish - but at Plori they also offer interesting variations - I had a massive stuffed squid, husband had a vast portion of beef in tomato sauce, and we had already begun with garlic bread, courgette and cheese fritters and super fresh gavros (sort of whitebait). Along with wine, the bill for all this was 35 euros - and there was plenty left to give bits to the little dog which adopted us as soon as we sat down, plus a little 'doggie bag' for the large dog at home.

This year, there are complaints generally about higher prices in restaurants, but our experience is just the opposite - of the 7 or 8 restaurants where we regularly eat, the prices still seem to be very reasonable - and the food wonderful!

11 July 2009

Take your scissors!

If you are out for a walk in the hills and mountains of Corfu this month, remember to take your scissors with you. This is the time of year when the lovely, strongly scented herb oregano is ready for picking.

I keep seeing locals from my village with armfuls of oregano which they have gathered, and decided to have a go at collecting some myself while walking the dog. I hadn't realised how tough the stems are, so this morning I remembered my scisssors and picked this lovely big bunch.

Oregano (rigani) is one of the most popular herbs in Greek cooking, but my favourite way to use it is on the stem, as a sort of basting stick. Take a few stems of oregano, dip them in a mixture of oil and lemon juice and then splash the basting mixture onto the meat or fish. Messy but very tasty!

8 July 2009

When I woke up this morning ...

What strange weather we are having this year. More than a week of rain and low temperatures in June, to be followed by an early July that it more reminiscent of late September than full summer. Cool evenings, misty and damp mornings, it doesn't seem as if summer has started properly, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to open the shutters this morning and see - well, not much! We have a really nice view from our upstairs verandah, but this morning it was obliterated by thick, thick fog. Definitely autumn then?

Doing business - Corfu style

I bet if you said to someone "Just going to pick up my computer from the repair man", it wouldn't conjure up this picture. Only this is Corfu, and our computer repair man happens to live on the beach in Acharavi. In the bag is Sarah's computer de-bugged and ready for use.

6 July 2009

Some Have Them and Some Don't

In the same way as the weather can be really good in one part of the island and pouring with rain in another, it appears that certain insects are common in one area and never seen in another.

It hadn't really occurred to me until a discussion arose over Sunday lunch in Antiperni. Admiring the abundant flowers in the garden, we asked our hosts how they dealt with the grasshoppers that have eaten the new shoots and tender flowers from most of our own garden just a few kilometres away. "Grasshoppers?" they said, "What grasshoppers?"

As far as we are concerned these green, slightly prehistoric looking insects are as much a part of our daily life as ants, wasps and flies, so how come they don't have them in Antiperni?

Apart from decimating our plants, they are also indoor visitors and leap from wall to floor and back again. Unfortunately they aren't particularly afraid of humans and quite often hitch a ride on a shoulder, head or leg. Most annoying of all - they don't sleep at night. If you make the mistake of going to bed without checking walls, floors, curtains, etc, you are likely to be jumped upon and bitten! Okay, so they don't draw blood, but they nip hard enough to wake you and once you are awake and know that one of them is around, you have to get up and hunt it!

So we have them in Skripero and I wish we didn't!

5 July 2009

How perfect can you get?

Don't need any words to go with this photo, do we? This view can be
yours for 1,220,000 Euros, and a pretty splendid villa to go with it!

4 July 2009

Homefinders finds a new home

So finally we moved and we are now at G. Markora 43, in between Xenoglosson and Moustakis book shops, just a few steps to the left after the San Rocco Square traffic police

We have been looking for new Corfu Town premises for what seems like ages, our original building might have been quirky and atmospheric, and it was very nice to have a garden, but unfortunately it was also ancient, damp and prone to flooding whenever we had one of those wonderful Corfu downpours.

We scoured newspapers, spoke to other agents, considered a total move out of Town, rang up about premises which were 'just about' suitable, to find that they carried vast amounts of 'key money' costs with them, to the point where we had just about given up for this summer, and resolved to start looking in the autumn. Susan and I decided to have one final walk around, and look at one of the 'possibles', and by chance took the road up towards the market - and there before us was an empty shop, in good condition, with a 'for rent' sign in the window. We phoned immediately and it transpired that the owner was, in fact, one of our shop clients, and was very happy to show it to us.

To cut a long story short, we decided it was practically a gift, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and the usual bureaucratic morass, the builder moved in. First job to cover up the 17 holes in the ceiling left by the lights taken by the previous tenant, and after that a thorough paint and clean, our shelving was fitted, and we were ready to move.

The lorry came at 2pm last Wednesday and by 6pm, and 4 lorry loads later, we were IN! That is to say we were in in piles of boxes, bin bags, parcels tied with string, you get the picture. We were also in a complete state of exhaustion, and remembered why we always swore we would never move. The next morning, the shop took shape rapidly, although much of the methodology here seemed to be to move everything to the back into our (smaller) office.

OTE excelled themselves, and having told us originally that we had to wait in line after the 250 phone lines for the Foreign Ministers Conference, we actually did not wait at all and the wonderful OTE engineer connected not only phones but internet, so before we have one stick of furniture, we had our internet connection. The aircon people, not quite so fast, but as of yesterday, we pretty much have everything we need - that is not to say we have actually found everything, we still have piles/bin bags etc. in the office, but we will get there!

House looking for a new family

Sometimes when we are out and about looking at new properties just on the market, and showing houses and plots of land to clients, we come across old favourites and wonder why they haven't sold before now. One such is Francesca's House at the quieter end of Sidari - along the beach road in the direction of Agios Ioannis.

This is a much loved, but now outgrown, summer house, whose family spent many happy months there each summer. Close enough to the sea for the children to walk on their own for a swim, but far from the bustle with which Sidari is normally associated.

The house is set in large, fenced grounds, simply designed for ease of maintentance and child-friendly for playing and having fun. There is plenty of space for a swimming pool if desired, and the house itself is traditionally rustic in style, with four double bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The price is also very reasonable - just 320,000 Euros.