28 September 2011

"May you live in interesting times"

Whether or not the above wish is Chinese in origin or not, it is most definitely intended as a curse, and most definitely very relevant to life in Greece at the moment!

When I first came to live in Greece in 1974 I used to scour the British newspapers for items about Greece and NEVER found anything at all. It was as if Greece simply did not exist. This situation continued even after Greece became part of the European Union. Any comparative tables of life in Europe almost pointedly omitted to mention Greece so that we never could work out how well, or badly, we compared with the rest of continental Europe.

Now that Greece is constantly in the news how we wish for a return to the peaceful days when nobody cared about what was going on here.

One of my favourite articles recently compared Greece with the front bumper of a car about to crash into a brick wall. Favourite because, for once, someone seemed to be spreading the blame a bit and suggesting that there are other countries out there in a pretty bad state as well. I suppose it shouldn't be comforting to think that worse is to come, but we are all rather fed up of being the world's whipping boy/scapegoat/bad guy.

12 September 2011

The very very long, short season!

Does it seem to anyone else that this season seems to have gone on for ever and yet seems to be quietening down at possily the earliest date ever? All of sudden the island seems to be more peaceful and perhaps to have reverted to being Corfu again, not the frantic non stop traffic jams we have had for the last six weeks.

I am hardly in a position to complain - the reason that I haven't contributed to the blog for what seems for ever is because I have been caught up in the family villa and apartment rental business, and life seemed to consist of running backwards and forwards with laundry and defusing potential disasters.

We have had all nationalities of guests, the majority absolutely wonderful, and some true disasters including people booking for 4 people, adding a 5th, and arriving with a 6th (and then raucously disturbing the entire neighbourhood); people not realising that the villa is booked as soon as they themselves leave and wanting to stay in residence until 2.00am because that's when the ferry leaves; people expecting the same TV channels they get in their home countries (whichever country they live in!); expecting us to 'do something about the mozzies'; or to 'do something about the seaweed on the beach'; expecting me to change mattresses in their villa instantly because they are too hard; using the jacuzzi as the kids pool and then letting the kids do unmentionable things in it; others throwing up all over the outside furniture and into the jacuzzi.

Plus the gem of receiving a call from a guest in the apartments at 3.00am to say that the lady next door was screaming for help, at which point we went to see what was happening and I spend a happy 10 minutes on the phone to the Benitses police trying to explain where the apartments were (next village, turn left 100m after the petrol station, not rocket science) and they NEVER did get it, at which point we told them not to bother. Good job it turned out not to be that serious and all the other clients had a sense of humour. (Same fighting couple win my 2011 award for how to trash your holiday accommodation.)

It has all been a bit of a new experience for me, even though we have been letting villas for over 20 years. The bulk of guests are wonderful and we keep in touch with many of them. This year also, 95% of them have been fabulous but I suppose it is the 5% disasters that stick in the mind and today the final straw of some incoming Italians who threatened to call the police because they insisted they had booked a villa when they had actually booked and paid for an economical studio. I offered them my phone and the number of the police station, refunded their money on the spot and suggested they go and find a villa at the same price. Then, with great relief, we switched off our phones for two hours and headed off to the beach!

There is still more of the season to go but somehow this time of the year is gentler, more relaxed, and I look forward to more occasional quick trips to our candidate for 'best beach in Corfu' (in the south, of course). This genuinely is one of the times of the year when it is easy to discount some of the national problems and remember why we came to live here and still stay. And why so many people are still keen to change their lifestyle and move out here, either for as long holidays as possible or permanently.

Ryanair flights in November

Anyone looking for a quick Corfu "fix" in November might find it worthwhile checking out Ryanair. Flights continue right until the end of November and the twice weekly option means that a mid-week or long weekend break is entirely feasible.

Prices are still very low (though increasing daily - I have been checking). Carry on hand baggage allowance is restricted to 10 kilos, but for those able to travel light it should be just about possible to avoid paying the extra required for a suitcase, and the rather inexplicable admin fee for each case which can double the cost of the original quoted price.

Obviously the above also applies for those of us living here who would like to visit Britain on the cheap in November, though Christmas shopping might be difficult without paying for the extra baggage allowance!