The apartment was perched up a steep hill, as if the climb into the village had not been high enough. The balcony was a typically Aegean affair, stone the colour of turmeric, with black iron grills. Plastic table and chairs, dark wood shutters, cream stone tiles. From those plastic chairs was the view of the curving bay, a crescent that was kissed by stony beaches backed by forests of pine. The trees clung to the rocky slopes, and everywhere the forests tumbled into the ocean in masses of emerald needles. The air was constantly alive with the sound of birdsong, the tingling smell of the pine, the mountains of Albania cloaked in a blue haze on the horizon.
This was Durell country. Not the Corfu of high rise package holidays, not the Corfu with throngs of tourists, but the Corfu where we found an apartment to rent in an olive grove. Like the pines, the olives hugged the rugged slopes, gnarled branches bleached by a 40 Celsius sun. In the cooler patches orange and lemon trees grew rife, like moss in a Northern European garden, so much fruit that the branches sagged under their weight. Roadside shops sold seedlings and vibrant Bougainvillea, the flowers that adorned so many of the white village houses.
We were great fans of the books by Gerald Durrell and following his footsteps, Layla and I rented a boat from the small taverna by the village beach. "Here are the papers" the boatman said, handing us a pile, "in case the coast guard stops you. Oh, and also, don't go too much to the right there, that's Albania and they don't like it". He gestured vaguely to an area on the map. It was a small speedboat, easy enough to master. The sky was bright blue, that colour that you only find in the tropics, not the muted pastels of Europe. Our boat sent white foam flying with the breeze, other boaters gave us a passing wave, we got sunburnt. All the while those Albanian mountains and their haze lay on the horizon, like the "sleeping giant" Durrell had so vividly described in his books. We passed cove after cove of deserted golden beach, the water beyond brochure blue, the hulls of yachts whiter than the movies, the sun sharper, the spray a cool blast. Our hair was tangled from salt water, shoulders beyond repair.
The evening faded into a chorus of cicadas. I don't know why, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I'd been out in the bush on safari but this place had the feeling of being more alive than anywhere I'd been; like the hills and groves held stories. That from among the crumbling stone walls you could imagine a shepherd leading his flock of sheep; that out of the olives could emerge a herdsman, that the deserted hillsides were not quite deserted. It was the kind of place where you could sit, at a plastic table and chair, listening to the grasses and branches hum with life, since there was not much else to listen to. By the time it was dark, the hills were enveloped in a silence more deafening than the cicadas themselves and the moon was a bulb, suspended over the still mirror of sea.
Practical stuff My sister and I spent about a week in Corfu in July and it really was the best week ever. We were choosing between a couple of Greek islands but we really couldn't have chosen better, it's a beautiful place and the photos don't do it justice. I've never seen bluer, clearer water or more epic coastline (and I've seen a few)
We decided to go self catering which was a great decision, I would totally recommend the place we stayed in Nissaki in the quiet north of the island. It's called the emerald coast and it's a good choice because there are pockets of all inclusive high rises etc but not here! The Amalia apartments were pretty simple but beautiful among the lemon trees, close to the town and beach but in general pretty quiet. The kitchens are well equipped but they're also close to the buzzy cafes and tavernas by the beach; there are 3 supermarkets in walkable distance. vegetables that are super fresh + actual sheeps feta cheese is dinner done. Greek yogurt + strawberries and oh my goodness the peaches and that's breakfast done. For lunch, take a picnic or find a little taverna. I could just sit on those balconies forever. There is AC too, which is great in the summer.
I will talk a bit more about things to do and transport etc in part 2, I think I've talked too much already. I hope that you enjoy these travel posts (but don't worry there is Apple pie and cookies coming this way shortly). If you've ever been to Corfu or are planning on going, please let me know! For more photos you can check out my instagram, and you can subscribe so you see part 2! Also shout out to the sister (Layla) for being such a nice looking person in my photos. Hugs xx