In June 2017 Grace and I visited Corfu as guests of The Ionian Estates. We both fell in love with the island and I have since been back three times. More recently my husband and I went with family and friends for an extended stay starting in mid-May.
For us its appeal is manifold. First and foremost the Greeks are an extremely friendly and welcoming nation. Corfu is a lush and beautiful island with much to offer every type of visitor. We love the food, the Greek Rosé (Domaine Costa Lazaridi – €11 in our local supermarket! See below for details), the tranquillity and the vista.
When we arrived in May the Spring flowers were in full bloom. Apart from their vibrant colours there were so many multi-coloured butterflies flitting around. Plus the air was full of the sound of buzzing bees collecting pollent. When I mentioned food earlier I should have said that a bowl of the locally made Greek yoghurt, berries and some of the local honey drizzled all over could be one of my all-time favourite breakfasts.
Of course the Durrells TV series has re-ignited interest in this island. So lunch at The White House on Kalami beach, where Lawrence and Nancy Durrell lived, can give you a taste of this long forgotten lifestyle.
If you want to experience more of this literary genius then book a couple of nights into The White House villa. I understand it still has the desk that he wrote his book, Prospero’s Cell, on. Check out all the photographs of the Durrells as you will then see how well the TV series was cast.
Lawrence described the White House “…set like a dice on a rock already venerable with the scars of wind and water” in his book, Prospero’s Cell. The pace of life has not changed very much since the 1930s when Lawrence lived there. This is what gives Corfu its secret ingredient – the ability to relax, slow down and embrace a more measured pace of life. The Italians call this ‘Bella Figura’ – I am not sure what the same phrase is in Greek. However I can sum it with the Greek words, ‘para calor’ meaning ‘you’re welcome’, uttered whenever you ask for anything or thank them for their service.
We also visited Old Perithia, Corfu’s best preserved and oldest heritage protected mountain village. The village, once inhabited by approximately 1200 people, was one of the wealthiest on the island, surrounded by vines, oak trees and thousands of sheep that roamed across the mountainside. To this day, with its cobbled streets and ancient houses, the atmosphere retains its warmth and friendliness. Encircled by eight churches and nestling beneath the island’s highest mountains, Old Perithia is set amidst beautiful countryside with views to the sea, it was once a hideaway from Pirate attacks. Back in those days, the ‘best land’ was in the mountains and land by the sea was practically worthless and unsuitable for farming etc. That all changed when tourism began to get a foothold in the 1950s-60s, and the village population migrated to the new found wealth & jobs in tourism.
It is a long drive up the mountain north of Kassiopi. The road is good by Corfu standards! If it is hot I would suggest driving up there in the early evening and enjoying dinner at one of the five rustic restaurants producing authentic and delicious food.
Locally made ginger beer is a popular choice of beverage, but the home made wines and selection of Corfu beers are also very tempting. Before you begin your meal take a walk around the village to the Bee Hives and buy a large jar of honey for €15 and some Royal Jelly. Both are very popular but when we were there a Swiss pharmacist had just bought all of his supply of Royal Jelly! We returned a week later to purchase some from his next batch.
Chef Rick Stein chose the taverna ‘O Foros’ to feature in an episode from his mediterranean series. The owner Thomas will give you a warm welcome and help you to choose a selection of dishes from his menu. Make sure you leave room for the Walnut Cake…..it is out of this world. Also I can highly recommend the Moussaka which has an unusual addition of a little cinnamon. Thomas’s wife cooks everything.
We stayed at The Rou Estate as we have done on previous occasions. It is a restored village on the top of a mountain above Agios Stefanos in the NE of the island. It has 16 stylish villas all very much reflecting the history of the site and the surrounding mountainside area. The old village wellhead remains a centrepiece of the site. Rampant vegetation – plumbago, honeysuckle, wisteria, climbing rose, lavender, pomegranate – covers the villas, while olive, cypress and mulberry trees provide vertical accents. Each of the villas on the tiered hillside is different, but all have a private pool or plunge pool. There is also a 20m infinity pool with some of the most breathtaking views across the sea to Albania. If you want peace then I would challenge you to find anywhere more so, especially outside school holidays!
I got into Yoga and had about 8 lessons. Grace is always encouraging me to take it up as she loves it. The Rou Estate has a Yoga platform with spectacular views so what better place to start. We were lucky that there is an English teacher, Jess Grant, who lives locally and came up early in the morning. Her patience and sense of humour were vital as we were all beginners. She teaches Vinyasa Yoga. I even got my kids doing it, yes even the boys!
Since I posted some of my pictures from Corfu on Instagram readers have been asking me for recommendations so apart from the above I will list some of our favourite restaurant and haunts.
- The White House, Kalami – service and setting exemplary, great choice of menu – all cooked to perfection and served imaginatively.
- Taverna Agni on Agni beach – traditional Greek food cooked really well. Fun atmosphere. Water taxi service from San Stefanos which makes the whole evening so magical.
- Toulas Taverna, Agni beach – exceptional food, very creative. A little more expensive than other restaurants but worth a visit.
- Taverna in Koloura bay – this is my favourite bay as it is so unspoilt. The 16th century Agnelli villa is on the point and there is a tiny church which is open on Sundays. There is a small taverna, open all day, which serves great breakfasts. The perfect way to set you up. From there you can do a coastal walk and then come back for lunch! No need to book.
- Taverna Kerasia, Kerasia beach – first-rate fish restaurant, very popular. Walking distance from Agios Stefanos. Tel: +30 2663 081521
- Yannis Supermarket, Sinies – stocks everything that any British holiday maker would want though Horseradish did flaw him. He also stocks the best ice-cream made next door. Mix the Mango sorbet with they Vanilla Yoghurt – sublime! He has a great deli counter with lots of homemade options. We loved the Chilli Homous.
- Water-skiing with Harry and Louise at Corfu boats – Kalami bay. Can also be booked through the White House. Harry and his son Nico are geniuses at getting everyone up. My sons had not water-skiied for some years and had never mastered mono-skiing. Harry got them both up first time.
To book at the Rou Estate contact Lesley at Ionian Estates on +44 7540 472 746