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Published: November 15th 2020
After hoarding Avios points for years we finally cashed them in. The downside is that to get the best value
the only airline you can use them on is British Airways and you have to fly from London. There are other ways to use them, but you don’t get as good a deal. Price wise perhaps this isn’t the route to a massive bargain, but it’s still free. For our outward flight we ‘paid’ extra and treated ourselves to the Thistle Hotel near Heathrow, drawn by the appeal of its restaurant overlooking the runway and a free driverless shuttle pod to the terminal; very sci-fi. Because of covid, the restaurant was closed and the shuttle pod wasn’t running. Ah well.
We got to the terminal early the next day, as our Club Europe status gained us access to a posh lounge with free stuff. We wanted to savour the luxury. In the event they shepherded us away from the really exclusive lounge into one slightly less aristocratic. It was too early for alcohol for me, though my wife did quaff a Bucks fizz with her bacon butty. It was a mellow place to await the call to the gate, if you’re
a nervous flyer this does make the experience more pleasant.
On the plane we got nicer accommodation than cattle class, BA left the middle seat empty to give us more room. They also put us on the plane first, which afforded me an opportunity to sneer haughtily at the plebs making their way to their wooden benches further down the plane. I felt a little uncomfortable at first, as the lower orders kept staring enviously at us, emitting covetous grunts, jealous of our superior place in the social order. Thankfully, shortly after take-off, our maitre’d shut the curtains to give us privacy. I certainly didn’t want to watch the great unwashed clacking and chewing on dry crusts with their mouths open.
I chose to have a couple of bottles of champagne to chase away thoughts of the proles’ hideous table manners. Anyway, this is a travel blog!
Upon arrival at Corfu airport we sped off in a taxi to the 4 star, Akrotiri Beach Hotel in west Paleokastritsa. A very nice place set on a rocky peninsula with gorgeous views overlooking the beaches and sea. Our splendid room faced west, so we got yummy sunset views. Breakfasts
were good, though corvid curtailed the normal buffet service. Importantly, it had a pool with an attached bar that opened till 10.00 at night. The perfect way to finish the day. Akrotiri Beach is a very good hotel with plenty of spacious sunbathing, sitting areas with ocean views on every side in the grounds. It is one of the priciest in the area and we paid around £100 a night for B&B. To put that in perspective though, a youth hostel
in Hawkshead, with a shared bathroom
cost £120 during the same week. And they were sold out…
There are plenty of nice places to eat in the area, in fact the hotel’s restaurant did not have a good reputation. On the first night we ate at Meraklis Taverna. To assist my acclimatisation, I had the giros special which turned out to be ‘grits n chips’, but it was fine, just what I wanted. The memorable element of the evening was the choice of wallpaper muzak to set the tone, namely the seminal 1970s album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Demis Roussos’.
There are about five beaches in Paleokastritsa. All are of them are picturesque. Agia Triada was
the nearest to our hotel and was our favourite with the Poseidon Taverna at the back. It cost €10 for two beds with sun brolly and a bottle of water. One day we went for a walk to the main beach at Agios Spiridon. It did look very nice but rather busy for our tastes. Just around the corner we found Ampelaki beach (a sweet little cove). It was pretty and charmingly undeveloped, apart from a handful of sunbeds. The water taxi back cost €20 and it was a pleasant little trip. The beaches were a mixture of sand and pebbles, consequently the water was very clear. You would be wise to wear beach/reef shoes. I snorkelled a little off the beach, but I’ve seen more interesting fish in my local chippy to be honest.
Everywhere we go we find a little cosy, quiet bar that becomes our favourite. Petroino's Garden Bar took the prize here. It doesn’t have a sea view, but I still loved it. Petrino’s had a nice chilled atmosphere with relaxing music, shaded by cool trees, and all drinks 20% cheaper than the competition. Overall Paleokastritsa isn’t cheap for food and drink. Not madly expensive but with a weak pound it was noticeably dearer for a beer than at home at €5 a pint. House wine was cheap at €6 for half a litre and it tasted fine. Meal prices are generally similar to those in the UK.
We were five nights here, and it was an enjoyable stay. We did go to a restaurant in the hilltop village to dine with the great view and that was splendid. There is a monastery and we intended to go but we were busy doing nothing. And with good beaches, good restaurants, good sunbathing, and good beer, what’s not to like? For the last eight nights of our vacation we were off to Parga and, to break up the trip, we had two nights in Corfu Town. I’m very glad we did.
We caught an air-conditioned bus across the island. A taxi would have cost €40, the bus was a mere €2.50. Taxis are insanely expensive in some Greek resorts. I didn’t know what to expect of the island’s capital. Having been part of the Venetian Empire, this left a noticeably Italianate mark on its architecture. It’s not a big place, set as it is in and around two medieval castles. I expect Corfu New Town spreads further afield, but I didn’t see that.
I think it would be a perfect minibreak to add the Old Town to one’s repertoire. Lovely views, little beaches, great restaurants and a bohemian vibe. Naturally, there are bits that are touristy, but it’s a place with a noble character. We had a fabulous meal at Pizzeria a Mano, the pizza chef singing along to his opera CD as he prepared the dishes. It has great reviews and one can see why. If classy pizzas, little tables set out in a cutesy side street, candle light, are your thing then this place is well worth a visit.
The next day we had a stroll around for a few hours. There was a narrow street given over to selling only leather goods and carved olive wood ornaments. I bought nothing, but it smelled nice. It was rather hot, so we went for a nap after a disappointing lunch which reminded us of the value of checking out TripAdvisor reviews. You have to use it sensibly, a new place won’t have many comments, but it might be great. It’s wise to give the more recent reviews more ‘weight’. That evening we went to a place called Da Giovanni. Tip top in every respect with a free limoncellos and an odd basil liquor thrown in too.
We stayed in a little apartment called Gregos Rooftop Suites. We paid around €90 per night (the price does vary). It has everything you’d need, very central, but quiet, with great views from the roof. The décor was imaginative with a uniquely artistic nautical theme, quite OTT in some sense, but it really worked. A smashing place to stay.
The next day we caught our ferry over to the mainland and, eventually to Parga.
Should you go?
The people were friendly and welcoming everywhere we went. We stayed on one side of Paleokastritsa, Its coves swept away westwards from our hotel. It isn’t so much a town as a group of bays and beaches on the coastline. A road connects them, accommodation bars and restaurants are along that. There’s no centre with shops and squares, etc. The area doesn’t suffer from overdevelopment and has a definite Greek character to it. It is a beautiful place, full of charm, with fetching views as the attached video shows. The food is good and relatively inexpensive. There’s not a great deal to do (or we didn’t do it) but it’s a superb place to chill out and catch the sun.
I was quite taken by Corfu Town. It’s cosmopolitan and chic in a low-key kind of way. I’m glad we visited Paleokastritsa but I’m not sure I’d return, but Corfu Town is on my radar. If we see some cheap flights, we’d answer the siren call and be back there.
BTW, we flew home economy… ☹
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