The pick up time for our one day coach trip round the island was 10.30. The pick up place was the Aktaion cafe.
But then it wasn’t the Aktaion. We got a fax (they still have faxes!) saying it was along from the Aktaion at the statue of Kapodistrias. We knew where the statue was, but “along from” could mean anything. Several roads come together at the statue. We picked a spot; four other people picked a different spot. We conferred and decided to cover both and make sure the coach waited so we all got on. Numerous coaches came and went, and eventually one arrived and tooted its horn. We hurriedly crossed the road – yes, the others were right.
Our guide for the day introduced herself as Angela and we got on the coach. The only two seats together were near the back, across the aisle from each other. I took the one next to the biggest guy on the bus, because I am a gentleman. Also, I couldn’t sit straight on any seat on the coach, bar two or three, due to length of leg, so sitting sideways was all the same to me, big guy or not.
The coach headed for the windmill (see Day 6’s posting), then inland a bit to the south of the peninsula, passing “Mon Repos”, birthplace of Prince Phillip, and coming to halt ten minutes later at a view point overlooking the airport and Mouse Island. This seemed a bit soon for a halt, but I hadn’t realised two things: (i) Mouse Island is a noted beauty spot; (ii) some people had already been travelling for three hours. The coach had started picking up at Sidari in the far north east and continued picking up all round the coast. We six in Corfu Town were the last.
The coach came back up the peninsula, then turned south for Achillion Palace, full of statues and pictures of Achilles. We had been thinking about going there anyway, on the City Bus. This visit gave us all we needed, so there would be no need for a return trip. The road past the palace is one way, being narrow and full of coaches taking tourists in. We thought it was narrow at the time. We hadn’t seen “narrow” yet…
The coach took us west across the middle of the island. The south is too far for northern residents to travel on a one day coach trip, and anyway consists entirely of resorts full of young people, who even when drunk are not that entertaining. At least, that’s what we were told.
Angela pointed out the village of Pelekas, apparently beloved of Kaiser Wilhelm II prior to the unpleasantness of 1914-18, but we wouldn’t be going there because the roads were too narrow. We nodded understandingly. But we still hadn’t seen “narrow” yet.
We followed the main road north and into the small town of Paleokastritsa. This was our lunch stop, with an option of a short boat trip to some caves. We opted for a walk across the beach and a slow lunch in a taverna set a bit back, which no one else found. We spotted an inlet which looked similarly isolated and took the road round to where we guessed it would be. Steps led down onto a small beach called Amrelaki, deserted except for one guy. A sign offered motor boats for hire, and the business was doing spectacularly well that day, as no motorboats could be seen.
At this point I spotted that the guy had taken off his clothes for a swim, and appeared to have forgotten his swimming trunks. We decided discretion was called for and left.
The coach had taken the boat trippers to another beach for their boat, and the pick up point for the rest of us was now the pavement opposite some shops, with a nice shady wall to sit on. Our next stop was only a mile away, on top of a hill, the Monastery Theotokus. There was a traffic light in the village controlling who went up or down what turned out to be a narrow road. We still hadn’t really seen “narrow”, though. The monastery had an Orthodox Church, of course, with icons and church bling. It also had an olive mill. This is like an olive press, but bigger, with two vertical millstones about a metre in diameter in a stone bowl even bigger (if it wasn’t bigger, the millstones wouldn’t fit, would they?).
From the monastery we drove for about half an hour round hairpin bends and Angela announced that we now had a good view down on Paleokastritsa. We drove for another half hour round more hairpin bends and Angela announced that again we had a good view down on Paleokastritsa. Were we ever going to get away from Paleokastritsa? Then Angela announced a final rest stop at Lakones. Make sure you have a good wee was the subtext of what she said.
But first we had to get through Lakones. As the road narrowed, we stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, the coach edged forward. In Lakones we got on intimate terms with the walls of buildings on both sides of the coach. If the road had been straight, it would have been hard enough, but there were bends, and parked cars, and occasionally cars parked on bends. But George the driver got us through – what a star. I suspect he had a Tardis simulator, or some other relativistic device to shrink the bus without us noticing. I will never again complain about the traffic lights in Camelford. “Narrow street? That’s not narrow, let me tell you about narrow,” I shall say in the Bridge on Wool…
It occurred to me to wonder, after we got through Lakones, how small the roads to Pelekas must be, if George couldn’t get us there. Donkey tracks, do you think?
From now on it was dropping people off, from Sidari, round to Roda and Kassiopi, down to Kalami, where we had a brief halt to photograph the nearest point of the Albanian coast and what was purported to be one of the villas rented by Gerald Durrell’s family. Then Ipsos and Dassia, and then there were just the Corfu Town six left and it was dark outside. The coach came in along the New Port and turned into town on roads I recognised, before letting us off at Kapodistrias.
At the end of it, having seen some of the notable sites and the resorts and hotels to the North, we were glad to be based in Corfu Town.