Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A relaxing afternoon

Lunch at the beach bar  was delicious … there were all sorts of salads, six or seven different types of olives, ranging of big, glossy green ones, over medium-sized purple ones, to tiny, strong flavoured black ones. Larges bowls of sliced cucumber, juicy tomatoes, crunchy red and with onion slices, the traditional Greek salad with creamy feta cheese, a large bowl of tzatziki (greek yogurt with cucumber and garlic) … warm pasta dishes, fresh meat and fish which were grilled to perfection by the chef while you stood waiting. I think they fashionably call it ‘show cooking’ … And then of course there were the desserts … This what I had ...

Dessert: a strawberry flavoured tiramisu,
a vanilla panacotta and Greek yogurt with honey.

I only had a selection of salads, my first – but NOT last - generous helping of the yummy tzatziki and dessert, as I would be having dinner later that evening with my SIL.

After lunch my new friends and I parted for the day. They were going up to their room to have a nap – we all had gotten up at 3 a.m. and fatigue was setting in. At first I thought of doing the same thing, but then I thought it better to set out and discover what else the hotel had to offer. Moreover, at 3 p.m. I had an appointment with the representative of the travel agency who had met me at the airport that morning. He was going to enlighten me on what to see and do during my short stay. While waiting for him, I wandered around the pool area, the two hotel’s private beaches, the small marina and the souvenir shop.

Deck overlooking the beach and the sea.

Right on time my 3 o’clock appointment was waiting for me in the lobby. He showed me a map of the island, explaining the possibilities. However, as I had booked an individual taxi tour for the next day, there wasn’t much more he could tell me. So we spent a pleasant half an hour talking about his job, and his working and living conditions on the island. It was his first summer and job as a ‘host’ and you could tell that, although well informed and very efficient, he was still trying to get organized. At 3.30 p.m. – on the dot – a couple who had been on the same plane, walked over to where we were sitting and introduced themselves as his next appointment.

We said goodbye and he told me he would be back every day at the same time in case I needed him. He also gave me his mobile phone number. In case of an emergency I was to call him 7/7 – 24h/24. I was impressed by the level of service … luckily I didn’t need his assistance during my stay.

A excellent Mojito with lots of fresh mint.

Having the ‘official’ part over, I decided to treat myself to a nice cocktail in the comfortable chairs just outside the hotel bar, overlooking the pool.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Settling in and making friends

The French speaking people in the hotel lobby who – like me – were waiting for their room, turned out to be a dynamic and adventurous couple of eighty-year-olds living in Brussels. Especially the lady named C., was very talkative and determined to make new friends. After 15 minutes we got on like a house on fire, and before I realized it they had agreed to accompany me on my next day’s 6 hour private taxi tour of the island.

A room with a view to die for.

I had booked the tour via the internet in April. There are several private taxi companies on Corfu that you can book for a 3 -4 –5 or max. 6 hour tour. The majority of their clients are people cruising the Mediterranean on huge and luxurious cruise ships which dock into local ports. Most of the time the passengers are given 4 hours ‘shore leave’ to visit the main tourists sites. The cruise ship offers coach tours, but some people prefer the individual approach. But more about that later.

Hotel lobby and bar.

Around 1 p.m. the girl at reception came to tell me that my room was ready. The hotel had several types of rooms, ranging from bungalows with private (mini pool), garden view rooms, bay view rooms, sea view rooms and junior suites. Before I forget, they also have a Presidential suite (penthouse)! When I had booked my holiday in March I had opted for a bay view room. When you’re on an island you want to see the sea, don’t you? However, watching people ‘grilling’ in the sun on a beach is not exactly my cup of tea. So I thought that the bay view would offer more entertainment. And I wasn’t disappointed, as I was given a lovely and spacious room on the 5th floor, with a balcony overlooking the marina and the mountains! Super! It was facing south-west, a guarantee for some spectacular sunsets!

A trendy and spacious room on the 5th floor.

It had a queen-size bed, flat screen TV, a mini-bar and free safe. The bathroom was really trendy, with a nice bath and shower, an interesting collection of toiletry goodies, slippers and a fluffy white bathrobe.

On a small table sat a complimentary bottle of red wine and a bottle of still mineral water. On the balcony were two chairs and a small table with on it, an ashtray. I haven’t smoked since I left university (so many decades ago), but the ashtray would come in handy as a paper weight …

I unpacked my luggage, changed clothes and went down for my first lunch on Corfu. The hotel grounds’ were huge, but the beach bar and restaurant were easy to find. While I was overlooking the place, trying to figure out how to proceed next, I noticed an eager hand waving at me! It was C. and her husband P. ‘Come and sit with us’ she mouthed. And so I did … it was the start of what would turn out to be a lovely stay.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Rush hour in Kerkyra

Compared to Brussels’ Airport, Corfu’s is really tiny. No long corridors and only 6 departure and arrivals gates. I very quickly retrieved my luggage from one of the three carrousels. In the arrival hall a representative of my tour operator was waiting. He was easily recognizable by his orange shirt with company logo. ‘The bus to your hotel is waiting outside. It’s bus number 108. See you later at the hotel!’ I stepped into the bright sunlight to find some 30 or more coaches lined up in front of the airport terminal.  

The still empty bus 108 and its driver – Spyros according to the badge he was wearing - were waiting on the other side of the road. I made sure he was going to my hotel before handing over my suitcase. It took a while before all the passengers had arrived and I spend the wait doing some more people watching.

Corfu airport: a common sight ... scooters and black taxis.

Finally, after about half an hour another representative of the tour operator stepped on the bus and off we went. My hotel, at 6 km from the airport, would be the first drop off point. People who were staying further up north were in for a bus ride of well over an hour. 

By the time we left the airport, rush hour had started in Kerkyra – Corfu town. Traffic, mainly coaches, black taxis and hundreds of little buzzing scooters was slow and chaotic. Pedestrians crossing the streets often risked their lives, walking in front of moving buses and meandering scooters. 

Here’s a photo that I shot of the traffic ahead of us. The quality is not very good, due to the long zoom, the progress of the bus and the tinted windshield. It gives you an idea, though.

I also got my first glimpse of the Ionian Sea and the mountains of Albania. We drove along the seashore and Port of Corfu Port where two large cruise ships and ferries to the mainland and Albania were docked. I tried to shoot more photos of the houses and their flowery balconies, where very often clothes hang drying. But the potholes in the road made it impossible to get a sharp image.

Half an hour later, the bus turned off the main road towards the peninsula on which my hotel was located. I immediately recognized it from the photos on the website. Some 20 people or so got off the bus with me. The rest continued their journey up north. Although we had been informed that check-up would not be possible before 2 p.m. some people started grumbling when they were asked to wait. Although I was tired – I got up at 3 a.m., remember – I didn’t mind too much as there were plenty of new things to discover … starting with the lobby, the pool area, the wooden deck overlooking the two sandy beaches, the small green island offshore the peninsula, the mountains of Albania and the hotel bar! The seats were comfy, the view magnificent and the beer delicious and cool.

My first glimpse of the Ionian Sea and the mountains of Albania.

While I waited, I phoned my mother to tell her that I had safely arrived. She sounded relieved, especially after all the uncertainty caused by the power failure at the airport the previous day. While I was watching the activity around the pool, I could help eavesdropping on the elderly couple that was sitting in the seats behind me. They spoke French and had arrived on the same plane as I. They too were waiting for their room to be ready …