Tuesday we visited the island of Corfu, Greece. We didn’t really have any expectations for the day because the island didn’t seem to “fit” with the other ports. It almost seemed like an opportunity for a beach day thrown in with the historical ports, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We were blown away! Our driver, Spiros “2” from Corfu Taxi Tours was fantastic, and everything about the day was memorable.
There were four of us in a vehicle for our “Corfu Taxi” tour, and thankfully we all have a similar travel style…learn about the culture, stop and smell the roses, get off the beaten (tourist) path, eat local cuisine – basically see and do the things that you can’t on a crowded ship’s tour because of numbers and because they’re catering to the masses. Spiros was one of the many guides we had on this trip who “got” us, and he very effectively tailored the day to make it perfect. We started with a drive up into the mountains and stopped a couple times to admire the gorgeous scenery. Even though the day was hazy, we had abundant warm sunshine and stunning views.
We saw the villagers getting ready for their day, and marveled at their easy, comfortable lifestyle. There is a small store and café, but for fresh food the locals rely on the daily arrivals of the fish truck and bread truck. Talk about fresh…the fish is caught in the early morning hours, then brought directly to the customers! I think the local cats were also fans of the fish truck!
We stopped to see Angelokastle (Castle of the Angel), but at Spiros’ recommendation we didn’t make the climb! The acropolis (walled city/fortress) is perched atop a cliff at the highest point of the island. The earliest records of inhabitants at the location have been traced back to the 5th-7th centuries AD, and the complex played an important role in protecting residents during sieges as well as being a cultural and market center for many centuries. Today the renovated castle is open to the public as an important Greek cultural site.
Our next stop was a shopping stop, but not one we minded – it was at an Olive Wood shop in the tiny village of Krini. This was more than just a shop…it was a place where they craft and carve the gorgeous pieces. We all bought some small items, but I really wanted to buy some bowls/baskets (as if I don’t have enough). Alas, I was stopped by the limitations of our suitcases and Lufthansa’s weight restrictions so I passed. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a larger piece soon though…the internet is a wonderful thing!
Spiros asked if we liked bread and wine…obviously he was still getting acquainted!😉 He made a quick stop at a bakery (see the sign…I’m not even going to attempt to type it!) and then we were off to George’s Cellar for a wonderful, relaxing lunch of bread, olive oil, tomatoes, feta, and olives.
I couldn’t get over how fresh and delicious everything was, including the wine! It’s all grown locally, and George’s presses their own olive oil and makes the wine on site. Jim and I were intrigued enough by the wine to buy a bottle, and we were shocked at the cost. It set us back €3.50!😮 The best part of it was we avoided the $18 corkage fee on the ship because the wine looked more like a bottle of balsamic vinegar than wine. It was in a clear bottle with no label, and it had a plastic stopper instead of a cork. The security guy at the ship took a long look when we sent Jim’s bag through the scanner, but he didn’t ask so we didn’t tell! You can see bottles of red wine on the shelf in the next picture. The big barrels? Olive oil…gallons and gallons of liquid gold!
Here’s a funny side story about the wine — when they asked us if we wanted wine with lunch they also asked us if we preferred red wine or white wine. Of course my first question was what kind of red wine. The answer I got was, “It’s made from red grapes.” When I asked what kind of red grapes the waitress shrugged and said, “Just red grapes.” Come to find out, George’s makes four kinds of wine. You can get dry red, sweet red, dry white, or sweet white. I still have no idea what kind of grape was used to make the wine, but that’s not important because it was good.🍷😁🍷
After lunch, wine, and a dessert of candied kumquats (also grown and made on site) we visited Paleokastritsa Monastery, a gorgeous, tranquil spot overlooking the Mediterranean. In addition to the monk’s cells, numerous cats, and an abundance of flowers, the monastery has a working olive oil press and a small museum with artifacts dating back to the Byzantine Empire.
A leisurely drive towards the port brought us back to Old Town Corfu, where Spiros dropped us off to explore. It was interesting, vibrant, and eclectic — we found everything from t-shirt souvenir shops to produce stands to expensive art all existing in the same cramped spaces. We enjoyed our short stroll around the town, but we also got turned around and had a hard time finding our way out of the maze! Google Maps wasn’t much help, in part because all the streets were narrow, winding, and had names we couldn’t pronounce, let alone type! We finally asked a shopkeeper where we should go, and sure enough the correct way out was counter-intuitive to what we were thinking! It’s a good thing we finally put the tech toys away and went old school!
Spiros dropped us off at port around 3:00, a good two hours longer than we had booked and paid for. What a fantastic day! We had a preconceived idea about this port, and we were unexpectedly delighted with both Corfu and our tour. We arrived thinking it was going to be a wasted day, and we left thinking Corfu needs to go on our list of “must return” places!
Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill with our touring friends. It probably wasn’t our best meal of the trip…our waitress was obviously new to the Pinnacle and service was slow. Still, we had plenty to eat in a quiet, relaxing environment with good company so no complaints.
I was exhausted after dinner and could tell I was coming down with a cold, so I went straight to bed while Jim went exploring the night life. I needed my beauty sleep because we had a big day coming up with a tour to Bosnia, or did we? My next post will be about making lemonade when you’re given lemons!