Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I chose to visit Corfu to experience two things: the setting for Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals and the famous Corfiote beaches. I grew up in a seaside town and hated going to the beach - we looked down our noses at the tourists who flocked to the sea to do nothing but sit on the sand. Now I'm one of them!

I knew that Corfu is now a top package tourist destination and has become really built up. I also knew not to expect the island to still be anything like what it was in the 1930s when the Durrell family lived there. Even so, I wasn't quite prepared for the urban sprawl of Corfu Town. The run down buildings seemed to sweat in the heat. I was disappointed.

Our apartment was in a resort in the built-up town of Gouvia, with an amazing swimming pool but no real beach to speak of. The kids loved it. Gouvia itself was a little seedy, with empty shops and too much litter, but it had character and it was on all the major bus routes.

A day trip into Corfu Town revealed the charming old town, presided over by two Venetian fortresses. Narrow alleys, colourful shop windows, street cafes and horse drawn carriages ... this town is well worth a visit.

The town's charm lies in its lively atmosphere, grand Venetian architecture and leafy streets, and enables the visitor to overlook the dilapidated state of the buildings.

But the best thing about Corfu isn't the main town. It's the small villages and the lush vegetation that you find when you get away from the built-up areas. And the beaches. The best sandy beach we visited was at Paleokastritsa, a series of coves with dramatic slopes covered in trees dropping down to the crystal clear sea. The beach is shallow and the waves gentle, so it's ideal for kids. Boats take visitors to the sea caves that dot this section of coastline. Paleokastritsa is also so popular that the tourists busses arrive in droves.

My favourite place on Corfu, though, is without a doubt the quiet and unspoilt village of Kalami. And not only because it is the area immortalised by both the Durrell brothers.

Though the village now boasts dozens of holiday villas and several souvenir shops, you can still easily imagine how Kalami looked in the halcyon days of the 1930s. Perhaps it's because the village is at the base of a steep slope and not accessible to tour busses. Or perhaps it's the fact that the beach offers few boat excursions or water sports. Or the fact that the beach itself is made up of large pebbles and impossible to walk on without shoes. For me, all of these things are bonusses - and the best thing of all is that you don't get sand into everything!

At one end of Kalami beach lies The White House (pictured below), Laurence Durrell's former home and now a taverna that makes excellent seafood. I highly recommend the swordfish.

I left Corfu with a lovely brown tan, infinitely more relaxed and happy than I arrived. Our next stop was Santorini, perhaps one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations. But I was sad to leave Corfu. There was still so much of this island I hadn't yet seen and still so much of that lazy, friendly island life to soak up. Oh well, next time ....


  1. My little green eyed monster is jumping up and down on my shoulder about Corfu and your lovely brown tan! I don't blame you for not wanting to leave :D

  2. Ooooh! I am as green eyed as Lacey. You lucky thing. Fabulous photos Romy. Makes me want to go even more than I did already (which was quite a lot).

  3. What I wouldn't give to be able to teleport myself there right now! Sounds absolutely divine you lucky thing!