31 January 2011

Home thoughts from abroad

Well here we are on our annual escape to the sun before we return to our seven day working week in what I gather has been an icy Corfu. Where we are staying is somewhat surreal by comparison with Corfu – the hotel is VAST (not my choice I add, other half likes this type of thing, I don’t, but I suffer in the interests of good relations) and everything is totally perfect. To the point that, as illustrated above, they have sand boxes for cigarette ends (about 50 of them at least I should think) and someone goes around permanently stamping the emblem of the hotel in the sand.

The place runs like a production line for accommodation and food, and reminds me of Disneyland or Las Vegas where you basically have to suspend real life and just accept that you have entered a different world, where not a blade of grass is out of place, no insect dares to fly, the maids battle each day to come up with a new design of towel sculpture, and the gardeners collect baskets of flower petals for the maids to sprinkle all over the bedrooms and bathrooms. Just bizarre in every way!

I think the total verdict is Dominican Republic - efficiency 9 out of 10, hotel personality 2 out of 10. Corfu – efficiency 4 out of 10, personality 9 out of 10. I know which I prefer.

Fresh Pasta in Corfu at "Antichi Sapori"

Welcome to the new pasta fresca shop located at Marasli 31 in Corfu town. We took home salmon stuffed ravioli and something triangular shaped (a sort of ravioli, I suppose) stuffed with walnut and ricotta plus a whole grain tagliatelle and a mixed vegetable tagliatelli. Lovely and well recommended.

The door to the kitchen at the back is left open so that the customer can see the staff at work preparing the various types of pasta (and hear them speaking Italian). Different types and fillings are available daily.

I hope they start to do a selection of accompanying sauces as well.

28 January 2011

Give blood!

The blood bank at the Corfu General Hospital is in desperate need of donors. The donation department is open every day at the new hospital at Kontokali from 8.00am to 2.00pm and again from 4.00pm to 8.00pm. The whole procedure, including a quick blood test takes around 20 minutes, and is on the lower ground floor of the hospital.

We thought it was already a done deal

I found the following announcement on the internet this evening, and have to admit that I thought Aegean and Olympic had already merged. Certainly there are fewer flights from Corfu to Athens and they are all operated by Aegean. I wonder if this will mean a return to competitive prices on our internal flights? We had all noticed that there seem to be fewer special rates since the disappearance of Olympic. I'm going to watch the Greek news on TV tonight and see if it is mentioned.

Greek airline merger blocked by Europe
A proposed merger of Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air has been blocked by the European Commission.

After a 10-month investigation, the Commission decided the tie-up of the two Greek airlines would lead to higher prices and reduced quality of service for four million customers.

The airlines said an opportunity had been lost and the decision would have negative consequences for the Greek economy.



It's not often in Corfu that I have to scrape the ice from my car, but the frost was thick and white on Wednesday morning when I went for my usual walk. The temperature in my area at 8.00am was 1 degree, which is pretty cold for Corfu. There was a sprinkling of snow up in Spartilas, and lovely snowy peaks on the mainland for us to admire.

18 January 2011

Every cloud ...

The price of heating fuel has risen this winter - that's the bad news. The good news is that we don't need heating when the weather is so incredibly, gorgeously sunny and warm! Greece is fighting back - we may be broke, we may be the whipping boys of Europe, but the sun shines on and on. Long live Greece.

(Photo taken in Analypsis on Sunday.)

17 January 2011

Hospital - follow-up visit

When we left the hospital after our previous visit when the arm was put in plaster, we were given an appointment for 9am on Tuesday of the following week. All well and good, I thought...

Telling Diana and Susan that I would be back in the office later in the morning, we set off for our 9am "appointment". The double parked cars outside the hospital car park should have warned me that this was not going to be as easy as our last visit, but we carried on optimistically, found a space to park and headed off to the reception area to hand over our appointment confirmation. Without exaggeration, there must have been about two hundred people queueing at the reception, all clutching their IKA books and various bits of paper like ours. There were two queues, and a very stressed security man trying to keep control of the crowd, and we were pointed in the direction of the shorter queue - only about fifty people in this one! An hour and a half later, our bit of paper had been stamped, and we headed off to the radiology department for another X-ray.

Once here, there was comparative calm as the receptionist took the paper, and invited us to sit and wait until our name was called. This was fairly quick, only about ten minutes, and then another ten until the X-ray was ready to be collected and taken to the orthopaedic doctor to look at. Again, we head off to the orthopaedic department, only to find a throng of people surrounding the door into the examination room, and no receptionist to take our bit of paper. We waited another fifteen minutes or so, before I realised that as there was no receptionist you are supposed to shove your bit of paper at the doctor inside when he opens the door to let the patient inside come out. Hah! This must have lost us at least another half an hour, but we did eventually get called inside to the doctor.

The X-rays were scrutinised by the two doctors in attendance, and it was agreed that the fracture was healing nicely, and the plaster should stay in place for another four weeks or so. As loved-one was intending to fly back to the UK in a week's time, they quickly wrote out a "fit to fly" paper, so that he won't have any problem at the airports, and sent us on our way. All very efficient and professional.

So, be warned if you are given an appointment at the hospital on a Tuesday or Thursday morning in particular, as these seem to be the days that all the follow up appointments are carried out, and everyone has been given the appointment time for 9am. If I had to do it again, I would be at the reception desk by 8am to be first in the queue.

16 January 2011

Man in coma after fight over properties

I saw this on an international property website, and it sounds rather like something from a comedy sketch ...

'It’s a problem most of our readers would love to have - buyers fighting over their properties and paying more than €600 just for a place in the queue to view the first phase.

A developer in a city close to Shanghai caused panic this weekend when it issued more queuing tickets than it had apartments available.

Dandy Holding Group Co sold approximately 660 tickets for the right reserve property in its 448 apartment block in Hangzhou. Buyers were put in 22 buses holding 30 people each, in lot order but when someone did the maths all hell broke loose.

Buyers confronted the developer and demanded lots were reallocated. When a representative from the developer refused a riot broke out and one man was put into a coma after being badly beaten in the ruckus.

If ever there was a story that illustrates a market is in crazy bubble territory it is this one. Calling the end of bull market is impossible but I would bet the house that the Chinese asset bubble will burst sooner than most investors are expecting.

If you can develop the contacts, targeting affluent Chinese overseas property buyers is a no brainer.'


14 January 2011

More Medical Matters

It's good to be able to make positive comments on the workings of the Greek system - Sarah's blog on the new hospital attracted quite a bit of attention, and my own recent experiences are equally encouraging. Admittedly I pay quite a large monthly amount into my "national health" insurance scheme, but needing medical attention this week I was able to go straight to the appropriate specialist's surgery, from there to the X-Ray man and back with the instant results to the specialist all within one hour and for the vast sum of 3 Euros! The Greek medical system, that allows immediate visits to the appropriate specialist really has many plus points - no waiting around in the GP's clinic and no subsequent waiting for a referral to the specialist. Corfu has a wealth of doctors' surgeries, many of them listed in the Yellow Pages and many of them affiliated with one or other of the national health insurance schemes which means that you usually pay nothing at all for a consultation. Even private visits are usually not likely to break the bank, 30-40 Euros being the normal charge.

13 January 2011

Bird spotting

This afternoon I spotted a really pretty bird which I've never seen here in Corfu before. Small, about the size of a sparrow, but with a long tail and a yellow breast, it was flying around the lane near my house.

Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough with my own camera, but I've identified it as yellow wagtail, probably en route to the UK for the summer.

6 January 2011

New Hospital

I had the misfortune to test the new hospital at Kontokali this afternoon. Loved-one had an accident while having his olive trees pruned and the falling branch got the better of him. When I arrived on the scene he was nursing a bump on the head and with his left arm in great pain.

We set off (gently) for the hospital, parked in the lovely spacious car park and made our way through empty corridors to the accident department. A few people in wheelchairs were waiting outside, but we were quickly ushered through, saw a doctor who sent him straight to the radiology department for an x-ray. Again, attended to straight away, and after a couple of minutes we had the x-ray ready to take back to the original doctor. He called an orthopaedic doctor, who came very quickly and diagnosed a fracture and proceeded to put the arm in plaster and a sling.
All this took less than an hour and all the staff we saw spoke excellent English.

So far so good, Let's hope that the long awaited hospital continues to provide such brilliant service once the summer season begins and the population of the island increases.