29 September 2010

Time wasters!

I admit that I have been out of touch for a while, not busy blogging as I should be. I have a very good reason, as this photo shows. She is the new addition to my family, Nellie the boxer puppy, and she has become great friends with Jimbo the tabby cat. They spend hours chasing each other in and out of the hedge, and I waste lots of time watching them!

27 September 2010

In Corfu this is nothing new!

Although this article is very worrying for the Caribbean Hoteliers, I cannot help but find it slightly amusing, as the tour oeprators have been doing this to Corfu accommodation owners for years. Every year hoteliers and villa owners sign a contract around June for the next season, sometimes they are even given a 1% increase. Every winter the tour operator starts making noises about bad seasons (NEVER ever about good seasons!) and every spring they call the owners in for a meeting to 'discuss' a rate reduction, only the discussion is somewhat one sided, ie 'Take it or leave it'.

'The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association has threatened legal action against Thomas Cook if the operator does not drop its plan to deduct 5% from payments for August and September.

The CTTA joins the worldwide chorus of disapproval at Thomas Cook which says it is dropping payments for UK customers’ rooms to hotels worldwide as it needs to recoup losses.

The CHTA said it was rejecting the “unilateral move” by Thomas Cook and would take a “strong collective stand”. It added that hotels had been told verbally about the cuts but not in writing.

Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa has been sent a letter by the Cancun Hotel Association saying that unless he withdraw the 5% cut, the operator will have a legal battle on its hands.

CHTA director general and chief executive officer Alex Sanguinetti said: “CHTA is polling our members to find out how far and wide this unilateral policy by Thomas Cook has spread.”

He added that the CHTA would be sending a letter to Thomas Cook on behalf of its member hotel associations expressing concern and rejection of the plan.

Added Sanguinetti: “We can’t have any company taking unilateral and unauthorized monetary deductions because they experienced a drop in their earnings, no matter how steeped in history and credibility they have accumulated over the years.

“Tour operator contracts have been negotiated and are currently in place. Contracts are to be upheld by both parties and when this breaks down unilaterally it undermines the entire contracting system.”

I couldn't agree more! Best wishes to the Caribbean Hoteliers, I hope they have better luck than Corfu ever did.

21 September 2010

New shoots

Not quite three weeks since the huge forest fire near us at Skripero and the green shoots of recovery are already in evidence in the midst of the blackened hillside. The burnt smell has at last disappeared as well. If only the local council, or the land owners concerned, would organize some bulldozers and strimmers the mountain would return to normal much more quickly. As it is, the taller burnt bushes and trees will probably remain as charred landmarks for several years.

15 September 2010

Great furniture for sale

Due to a recent house sale, there are a few items of unwanted furniture going for a good price if anyone is interested. The photo shows a medium sized sofa (amazingly comfortable) and footstool. There is also a matching armchair and a nest of coffee tables. No reasonable offers refused, and when you check the original prices you can see that these are top quality items just waiting for a new home on Corfu.

13 September 2010

Bye Bye Bollards!

The attached photo was taken on Thursday 9th September barely two months after the installation of the cycle lane bollards in Corfu town. As it shows, they have nearly all been broken off. Did anyone really expect anything else? Well yes I suppose we did actually expect that they might be strong enough to withstand normal road usage for a bit longer than this!

Somewhere to stay whilst househunting?

Apart from the estate agency Sarah and I have some holiday rental villas and apartments, so if you want somewhere to stay whilst on the hunt for property in Corfu (or even just for a good holiday!) have a look at Sarah's lovely villa with swimming pool, in a very central location on the outskirts of Korakiana. Great place to relax in between viewings!

Alternatively, if you are looking in the south or central area, have a look at a selection of our own studios, apartments and villas in several locations.

Plus, if you fancy a small convenient family run hotel, look no further than our friend Sarah Jane at Corfuhomerentals, our long term rentals associate.

Just a thought, instead of trailing through hundred of unknown properties on the internet, we might just have something that suits you

11 September 2010

Helga interviewed


Now we really entering the world of hi-tech (some people with whom we work are somewhat scathing about our understanding of such things as Youtube etc.). This is an interview which Helga gave the other day, at the request of someone interested in raising the profile of Corfu in more ways than just nice pictures of Mouse Island and the Liston. Good for you John Yannopapas!

Queen Victoria

The beautiful Queen Victoria liner from the Cunard fleet was in Corfu today. With classic sleek lines and just about every luxury imaginable on board, she looked very elegant compared to the ship next to her - I could see her from a distance across the bay from Nisaki.

Reading through the details, she seems to be setting sail for Venice before embarking on a 12 day cruise around the rest of the Mediterranean. Having read that ladies travelling alone can be accompanied in a waltz by a gentleman dance host and that there is an on board kennel with kennel master (I could take my new pup along), I am thinking of stowing away.

10 September 2010

Coffee time again

Another coffee stop/meeting and I don't know what this one is called, but it is next to the new banks on the on the outskirts of Corfu Town. It's very hard to park but very useful for a pit stop whilst moving from one bank queue to another! Sitting there on Wednesday swapping memory sticks and conversation with Wendy and Lorraine our erstwhile shop ladies, they started 'twittering' and everyone else in the place all looked in one direction.

I wondered what on earth was going on until Lorraine said 'It's Sakis' and indeed it was indeed Sakis Rouvas, one of Greece's most famous singers and a Corfu native. I am ashamed to say that I am not very well informed when it comes to Greek music so I didn't recognise him but certainly everyone else did and he even came over to say' Hello, how are you' to us, since Lorraine knows him. It's surprising the things that happen when you are just peacefully having a coffee.

9 September 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes ...

September always brings the first misty mornings of autumn and today was no exception. Going north later in the morning we drove through thick mist/low cloud at Aleimatades but it soon cleared and became a bright, bright, sunshiny day.

'Foreigners' tax?

Several of the well known Corfu blogs are full of messages about a 'foreigners' tax, and whilst I would never say that something is firm and definite in Greece, we did make some enquiries from accountants and lawyers, who presumably know what they are talking about, and this was the end result:

This is a tax aimed at the multi-home owning set who declare miniscule incomes, NOT specifically at foreigners.

Property taxes are one of the few ways that the government can directly tax people who otherwise avoid taxation.

When you buy a property here you provide pink slips to prove that you brought the money into Greece legally and it is not laundered or the product of working here 'black.'

If you own a property you will be bound to prove that you have the money to support it, either legally earned and imported from your home country, or earned here via legal employment, or earned here from a legal EOT endorsed rental situation.

If you have a home here which you barely use, then your utility bills will support this, and you can provide them with your tax return.

If you declare income from your villa rental in your home country you should consult both a local accountant (which EVERYONE should have anyway) and an accountant in your home country, so that you do not end up with double taxation.

What we did not definitely establish was if this is ALREADY a law and will apply for the 2010 tax return, or if it will probably become law and therefore apply in 2011, or if it is still in the 'before parliament' stage - research into this continues.

The people who will have a problem are those who have bought properties and who support themselves entirely on income obtained here through casual labour, with no IKA or validated paperwork.

I cannot help but feel that people should expect some kinds of taxation on properties - Greece has never taxed property, which might be one of the reasons it has never managed to get a fair shake from all its citizens. Now the system will be that if you own property here, you will have to declare enough documented income to prove that you can support all your houses/cars/boats/swimming pools etc. It does not matter what nationality you are. In other European countries people always expect to pay some sort of property taxes, Greece is just catching up.

Research into the details of this is still in progress, but it is certainly not something which is just aimed to 'fleece' foreigners which seems to be the theme of some of the articles on blogs we have seen recently.

7 September 2010

Another wonderful book

I know that I have recently written about how busy we are, but I always always have a book on the go and seem to have honed my multi-tasking abilities to perfection when it comes to being able to read at the same time as doing other jobs (except when I walked slap bang into an overhanging olive branch whilst walking the dog). Anyway, I have just reluctantly finished a thoroughly enjoyable book about renovating and living in an old house in Italy. Bit of a busman's holiday, but this book - Under The Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes - describes a way of life that is remarkably similar to ours in Corfu and made me really appreciate things that I have been taking for granted. When you live somewhere for a very long time it is easy to forget that what has become quite normal is very special indeed. Mrs. Mayes has the ability to share her love of Italy with her readers and to describe daily tasks in a way that bring them to life. There are so many similarities between the Mediterranean countries, that I can thoroughly recommend this book for lovers of Greece as well as Italy. If nothing else, the two chapters giving seasonal Italian recipes got me straight into the kitchen trying out familiar ideas with an Italian twist.

6 September 2010

What a difference a day makes

Με την πρώτη σταγόνα της βροχής σκοτώθηκε το καλοκαίρι (With the first drop of rain, the summer was killed).

How particularly appropriate, this year, is the above line from Odysseas Elytis' wonderful poem. From bright, hot, full summer, in the space of 24 hours the temperature dropped more than 10 degrees and rain blanketed our parched island, bringing relief to our struggling flowers and vegetables, extinguishing the last smoldering trees from the various forest fires, and fulfilling the poet's words. The change was gradual but comprehensive - from Friday morning the cloud cover was complete, and by the afternoon rain was falling over the entire island. All night and all day Saturday the rain continued to fall. "It's just like England" said my husband, and indeed it was!

For anyone reading this who is travelling to Corfu this week - Don't worry, the sun is out again and everything is sparkling clean.

4 September 2010


Wednesday was a lovely hot summer's day with a stiff breeze blowing from midday onwards. Around 5.30 p.m. I was sitting watching the progress of a forest fire in the valley below when I realized that there was rather a lot of smoke around the house for it to be coming from such a long way away. A glance out of the north facing window and we went into instant panic mode - thick smoke coming straight at us from the heavily wooded mountainside. The wind by now was blowing very strongly and we couldn't see enough through the smoke to gauge the level of danger so we jumped into the car and drove up the hill to be met by a wall of flame sweeping down the mountain, but also more smoke from slightly below the house. At any rate, it was enough to send us rushing home to fill the car with essentials - photos, documents to prove who we are, the computer and the dog! - before I fled to the safety of a friend's summer house a few kilometres away where I was joined by my daughter and her two little ones. (Thank you, Nancy, for accepting the refugees and providing cups of tea).

As I was leaving most of the village were arriving at the fire to see what help was needed and the fire engines had left the valley fire and sped up to this new, much bigger, threat. Husband stayed to help the firemen find our hosepipe and taps if necessary! Because of the strength of the wind, the small Corfu-based 'planes could not fly, so it was necessary to await the helicopters and larger fire-fighting 'planes from the mainland. What a relief when they started dropping water on the flames which they did until nightfall around 8 p.m.

Two very anxious hours later - during which I tried to contact husband with no success (picturing him frantically pouring water over our smoldering house) because he had packed his mobile into my car with the valuables. Just as I was on the point of despair the phone rang - from our home number. All was well, and an hour later, having been given the final all clear, I returned home. Walking up the hill to survey the scene at midnight we realized just how lucky we had been - and also that there was still considerable risk from burning trees ready to burst into flames again. The firemen were in evidence throughout the night and water lorries trundled up and down the hill at regular intervals. We slept fitfully with lungs full of smoke, and finally rose when the helicopters returned at daybreak.

This is the third big fire we have experienced whilst we have been living here, and most definitely the closest. In daylight it was obvious just how very lucky we had been - with charred trees and shrubbery just five metres from the road next to our garden.

Heartfelt thanks to the firemen who were still in situ this evening, 48 hours later, despite the steady rain now falling. Who cares if the house and surroundings smell like a giant ashtray - we still have a roof over our heads, which was in considerable doubt for quite some time!