Mixed reflections on Corfu

It’s my last day. Sadly I am not going to find that romantic island, caught in the warm words of ITV’s The Durrells, better known as My Family and Other Animals, which I vaguely remember reading for O level 50 years ago. Nor will I recreate my 16 year old youth when my folks took me to on a Club Med holiday as a skinny, rib-showing teenager. I stayed in a grass hut, use beads as money, fell in love and learned how to water-ski. Yes folks, hard to imagine the hippy Mark. To get my Premier Vague badge I had to sit on a pontoon, the speed boat would swing by, a guy with a rod would grab the handle, you grab it tightly refusing to let go, take the slack and around you go in a big circuit, finally coming back in to the beach, letting go and sinking gracefully into the water while the boat goes of to collect. the next punter. Imagine my delight when the person in front of me on the pontoon is an attractive young lady who I am far to shy to even acknowledge except fleeting glances from under lowered eyebrows. Half way around, in the far distance the top of her bikini flies off. She cannot let go of the handle and so comes around back to the pontoon and sinks into the water in front of a line of eager, wide-eyed, hormonal boys.

Anyway, I digress. Corfu’s wonderful coastline is best read about in guide books and viewed from a distance with turquoise waters, wooded craggy headlands, crescent shaped bays, sandy beaches and distant horizons. It is best appreciated from the high coastal roads around the mountains through gaps in the old olive trees and the mixed woodland.

By actually going down into the ‘white-washed, fishing villages’, a different picture is revealed. Each one looks very similar to all the other with a bay of sand/stones, lined by rather a lot of bars and apartment and small hotels and cheap restaurants. Nothing quaint or traditional. I am not going to say anything about the range of humanity that holidays here. Suffice to say someone needs to run workshops on sun safety and covering up. You get a lot of flesh for your money – most of it lobster red or leather brown.

The best places to visit are by taking the car into the mountains that form the spine of the island and find the peace of the small inland villages. A small clutch of homes, 50% relatively new and 50% overgrown and dilapidated, will huddle along a contour or around a small shaded square and church which provides a centre to the community. All the churches have stand-alone bell towers alongside from the place of worship.

I have told you about Doukades. 350 folk live here around a small square with a shop/bar, a church and three tavernas. Spiro runs one. He used to run restaurants at the high end of Milan and Genoa. He came back to the village of his birth. When busy he does a good imitation of a steam train blowing down. Glorious, cheap, local dishes and local wine.

The locals are very friendly, quick to welcome and chat. If all the time was spent in the mountains amongst ancient olive trees, with locals, eating local food with local wine and overlooking the wonderfully picturesque coastline then Corfu would be a wonderful place to visit.

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