Monday, September 7, 2009


Saturday, October 27th, 2007 Exploring Corfu & surrounding towns….

The hotel room was very quiet last night as the last airplane was at 11 pm and they didn’t start until 7 am this morning. Did have a couple of mosquitoes in the room from having the window open but once I put the “Downey Dryer Sheets” out they left us alone. That trick really does work! Before breakfast Jim talked to the front desk about the air conditioning; apparently something got lost in the translation…there is no air conditioning at this time of the year. Europeans are very practical in that sense when it comes to waste and the air conditioning is turned off this time of the year. The heater works fine and I’m enjoying the warm room; Jim is just too warm blooded. But we’ll leave the sliding glass door open this evening again and enjoy the cool evening on the balcony.

The weather today was predicted as overcast and rain; it’s a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and actually hot. After breakfast and it was definitely a 5-star breakfast buffet, we headed south to the town of Achillion and the Royal Palace built in 1891 for Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) of Austria as a summer palace by her Uncle King Otto of Greece . The palace was dedicated to the warrior Achilles and is beautiful with many statues and original furnishings. It definitely has a feminine touch in the home and gardens. At one time it housed the Casino for Corfu; when it became a Museum the Casino was moved to what was the Hilton Hotel and now is named the Corfu Holiday Hotel where we are staying.

After touring the Palace we headed back down the hill toward the old town of Corfu passing Mouse Island and the International Airport on the way. We arrived back in town and found parking along the quay near the old Venetian Fortress and the restaurant where we were scheduled to meet George and Mary who were arriving today on their cruise ship. We checked out our “special parking place” but it was already filled with cars; guess we can mark that one off our list. We had half an hour to kill so walked the narrow shopping streets that were filled with tourists off of the cruise ships that were docked in the harbor. Finally decided to get a scoop of ice cream and wait to see if our friends would arrive. We’d sent an email and heard from them so we were pretty sure they’d meet us.

Within minutes of our scheduled meeting time they sauntered down the street and also had their traveling friends Maria and Emil who live in Pasadena. No one was really very hungry so we left The Rex and headed around the corner to the same place we’d eaten dinner yesterday known as The Liston, a row of tall arcaded houses that are now cafes that were built during the French rule around 1807. Across the street is the Platia Spinada that is a large grass lawn that was used for the famous cricket pitch and is still used today for cricket and also marching bands. When the Germans occupied the island in WWII it was used as the gathering place for Jews that were being deported to concentration camps; some memories are not so pleasant. The waiter suggested two platters of mixed appetizers to go along with our Greek beer and we spent an hour enjoying good food and wonderful company from home. The four of them had walked about forty-five minutes from the cruise ship to meet us in the old section of the city so they definitely needed time to let their feet recover.

We all agreed to tour the old Venetian Fortress since it was in the area, lots of walking and some climbing, especially for those that went all the way to the lighthouse on top. From there we could see their cruise ship in the old port and being Saturday; what seemed like hundreds of sailboats out in the Ionian Sea. After we finished touring the old Fortress we headed back across the Cricket Field and found the Church of Agio Spyridon that houses the mummified body of St. Spyridon aka St. Spiridon. The name Spyros is a favorite name for boys that are born in Corfu after their miracle working patron saint.

From there we headed to the Taxi stand after Maria found a doll for her granddaughter, Jim found a package of Saffron (much more expensive in USA) and Mary gave up trying to find a Christmas decoration. We promised to keep looking for a Christmas ornament from Greece to bring home to her when we return at the end of November. They found a taxi for only ten Euro that would take the four of them back to the cruise ship in time for cocktails before they depart and head for Dubrovnik in the Balkans.

We headed for the Museum of Asian Art that is located just north of the cricket grounds in the Palace of Sts Michael and George. Built in 1819 it looks like a Georgian English country house and was used for the British Lord High Commissioner’s residence. It contains an impressive collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, bronzes, screens and sculptures as well as several rooms of original furniture including a throne room for the British commissioners.

Afterwards we walked back into the shopping alleys and finally purchased the Greek worry beads that we’ve been inspecting for two days as a souvenir from Corfu. It is the men who use them; you see men of every age holding a set in their hands; sometimes mumbling prayers and at other times just fingering the beads back and forth through their fingers, much like tapping ones toes or jingling the change in your pocket.

We headed over to the Internet CafĂ© and signed on for about fifteen minutes to check emails before going back to the car and up the hill towards the hotel; suddenly saw the Mouse Island again and also spotted a Monastery that we recognized from post cards in town; but how to get to it was the mystery. They were located down below the cliff on the water. Finally after much driving we discovered a narrow road that led us down to the water and along the beach. The church was named Vlacherna Monastery of Panayia, built on a tiny island just off the beach and connected by a causeway with boats parked all along it. Many local people were fishing and we watched a fisherman clean an octopus by beating it was a stick and then pulling the black insides out. He said that it has to be white before it would be ready to eat. The beating with the club helps to break down the “black stuff” that has to come out and also helps to tenderize the meaty portion that will be eaten. He said this one would feed at least four people. He turned and smiled and said, “four Greek people”!

By this time it was nearly 7 pm and we headed for home at the hotel. We got out the last of our jam and bread from yesterday’s breakfast and enjoyed an evening supper of jelly sandwiches on our seventh floor balcony. Not too many planes tonight, one or two landing and a few leaving. Will be a quiet evening compared to last night. Weather report really looks like rain tomorrow. Jim is watching a French movie with Greek subtitles. It’s a documentary about WWII; ….it’s TV what can I say.

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