Fancy coming to Corfu? For a birthday party? For the weekend? Well I didn’t need asking twice… actually scrap that – I did need asking more than twice as the majority of the party people were/are childless and I had to pull in several favours to sort out childcare. But sort out the childcare I did, and off to Corfu I went.
Now I’ve never been to Corfu before – I did once spend a summer Greek Island hopping but I must have been hopping in another island group. So when the opportunity arose to go to a new place to celebrate one of my favourite people’s birthdays I was keen to go, but I was also keen to explore more than just the sleepy bay of Kalami where the birthday boy was going to be based.
We flew into Corfu Airport (confusingly referred to as Kerkyra by the airline) the day before the party and planned to spend the night in Corfu town. We picked up a hire car at the airport for just €30 per day (I tried booking in advance and was quoted £100 per day which was most confusing as I’m sure it’s usually cheaper to book things in advance) and then we drove the short 5-minute journey into Corfu Town to find our Airbnb apartment.
The lovely Eva had emailed me to say that her niece Angie would meet us at Sims cafe on Nikiforou Theotoki Street at 3pm to give us the keys. I was slightly worried about finding the right street given the Greek/Latin alphabet issue. However I needn’t have worried as we parked up by the ancient Venetian fortress and found the cafe in a matter of minutes. Angie walked us to our bijou apartment which was brilliantly located just 5 minutes from Nikiforou Theotoki and cost just €40 for the night. We dropped our bags, changed our clothes and walked to Garistas Bay to find a taverna for a late luncheon.
Garistas Bay had been recommended by the car hire lady and it was a great recommendation. There were tavernas aplenty, all selling traditional Greek fayre, so we plonked ourselves down at one of many tavernas (all mostly frequented by locals rather than tourists) and enjoyed some Greek salad, delicious prawns and octopus. We then strolled around the bay up to the windmill and then walked back again to the old fortress and had a mooch around this Venetian masterpiece.
The old fortress is free to get in and affords spectacular 360-degree views of Corfu Old Town and the bay, although the climb up to the top was a bit of a struggle. There is also a lovely sailing club – called Corfu Sailing Club – at the base where we stopped for a toilet and vino break. Once we’d enjoyed the view we headed back to explore the town, which is a lovely mostly pedestrianised town much more reminiscent of Venice than any Greek place I’ve ever encountered. We wandered, we shopped, we explored, we drank, and then we had a lovely ‘home cooked meal’ at family ran restaurant recommended by Angie before heading up to the area round by the town hall for cocktails and music until the early hours.
Beauty Spots & Party People
The next morning it was an early start, as we wanted to get to the west coast to check out Palaeokastritsa and the north coast before party time at 5.30pm. Palaeokastritsa is apparently the most celebrated beauty spot on the island – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was stunning.
We were lucky enough to happen upon what must be the coolest beach bar in the area – Akron – on Agia Triada beach where we had delicious brunch and a swim in their pool with a view across the lovely white sand a sparkling blue sea. Then we jumped in the car and headed cross-country to the beautiful Canal D’Amour. The countryside we saw on this 45-minute journey was stunning. We climbed up hills, stopped to take in the views and then trundled back down again. Eventually we got to the Canal D’Amour and we’re directed to the D’Amour Beach Bar by the friendly beach lifeguard for a splendid seafood platter followed by a rest in a hammock. Then it was time for a quick dip before heading to Kalami to get ready for the party.
Now Kalami is famous because it was home to the Durrell family –and that is in fact the reason why my friend chose it for his birthday destination. And we were staying, and partying, in the Durrell’s family home, The White House. We found it easily and washed a scrubbed up before arriving promptly for fizz on the rocky terrace, in fact we were so prompt we were in fact the first guests!
The party was fabulous – good food and free-flowing wine, followed by great music. The birthday boy chose the best (in his opinion) number one song from every year that he’d been alive, and we danced till dawn.
Speed Boats & Pebbly Beaches
The morning after we all met for breakfast at the terrace restaurant of the White House. Then it was down to the beach to have a swim and play in the sea. Please note the beach at Kalami Bay is a very stony beach, so do not ignore recommendations to take beach shoes (I did) as getting into the sea is rather painful. However once you’re in the sea is soft and lovely and the views of the town and across to Albania stunning (another point to note – be careful your mobile doesn’t accidentally hop onto an Albanian phone network as you’re charges will go through the roof!)
For lunch we decide to jump back in the car and explore the nearby cove of Kassiopi. Kassiopi is a former fishing village that is now a sizeable yet still charming town. We walked up to the Byzantine Castle to check out the views (beautiful), lunched in Limani Bar and then strolled round the coast to swim in the sea and lie on the beautiful but very pebbly beach.
Then it was time to head back to The White House and get ready for dinner, which was in a lovely restaurant called Nikolas Agni in the neighbouring Agni Bay, which was reached by a speedboat from the second jetty on Kalami bay. There are four restaurants on the charming secluded Agni Bay, and I think we happened upon one of the cheapest and most atmospheric. The boat from Kalami and back again is free – but beware that when you want/need to leave (which we did to get back for birthday party number two) you may have to wait quite a while for other diners to be ready to go. Fortunately the captain/driver of the speedboat listened to my pleas and drove us back on our own. It was then more drinks in the small taverna on Kalami Bay called Thomas’s Place.
Any plans that anyone had for the next day were thwarted by a monster storm that raged all night and all morning battering the sleepy bay and blustering through the terrace restaurant throughout breakfast. But for us it was ok as we simply had to drive one hour to the airport being very careful of the olive oil hazard on the roads – apparently in storms the olive trees shed their oil and it covers the road causing accidents. So we waved farewell to the rest of the party people and headed home having spent a fabulous weekend surrounded by great food, beautiful views, friendly locals, and most importantly lovely people.