Corfu, Greece

Written by on August 16, 2012 in Europe, General with 0 Comments

Before I forget, meet Steffi, my new mascot that I will be travelling and taking pictures with on behalf of the couple in the contest from Nottingham I’d met on my Albania tour.

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The only thing I knew about Corfu was that it was the typical backpacker starting point in Greece, and the Greek Islands as it had a direct ferry connection to Italy.  I didn’t know much else, other than the fabulous time I’d had in Greece 12 years ago island hopping.  I don’t know what got into me when I decided to jump on the ferry with Ben, other than I wanted to finally venture off “the plan” and do something spontaneous.  Ben was harmless and fun to hang with, and I was confident I’d find a hostel or cheap hotel to crash in for the night, so why not?!?

We had bought a couple beers for the ferry ride, which went super fast, taking just over half an hour.  I had been telling Ben all about hostels as he had never stayed in one and was fully prepared to spend a lot of money to stay in a hotel in Corfu Town…or to try to stay up all night clubbing to avoid a hotel at all, and to catch his plane in the morning.

We hopped off the ferry in Greece and already I felt better.  I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t get excited about being in Albania.  Anyway, straight off the ferry I spotted a guy wearing a full moon party t-shirt from Koh Phangan and went up to ask him what year he was there.  Turns out he was an Australian from Perth, nearing the end of his year-long round the world trip.  I thought he was as good as any to ask about hostels, and he told us he was going to the Pink Palace.  I faintly remember hearing about this hostel a decade ago, but wasn’t sure.  Shane, the Aussie guy, told us that the hostel was on another part of the island, but they had a shuttle which should be coming by soon.  So, Ben and I went across the street in search of a place with wifi to see if they had vacant spots for us, which they did!  The shuttle picked us up at a café soon after and off we went.

About 20 minutes later we’d arrived at a series of pepto-bismol-pink colored buildings overlooking a beautiful bay.

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We were whisked inside for orientation from a very outgoing American girl (from Scottsdale of all places!) who presented the new arrivals with a pink colored ouzo shot.  Welcome to the Pink Palace!  We were definitely at the party hostel.  28E each per night for a private room with AC and wifi plus breakfast and dinner included.  Not too shabby!  Dinner was starting in about half an hour and we agreed with Shane and Bowen, a cool Canadian we met at orientation, that we would meet them for a drink at 830p in the Palladium and have dinner together.Ben was out of his element fast as Shane had just travelled for 10+ months through all of the countries that I will be going to in coming months, and Bowen was also on a longer journey, so we were all swapping travel stories while Ben just listened.  I think we all said goodnight around 1a after many many beers, but not before agreeing with Shane and Bowen that we would meet up over breakfast and make a plan for the day, as Ben was flying out bright and early.  I had already decided that Albania could wait another day as I wanted to explore the island the next day.

I woke up to a glorious day, and an unbelievable view out my window to the bay down below.  Probably the best I’ve had ever from a hostel.

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Breakfast was down at the beach bar, which you had to follow the footsteps painted on the sidewalk on the windy path and several flights of stairs that eventually ended at the bottom of the hill, where there were more pepto-bismol pink and white buildings.

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I had gotten there early to try to get some internet research done on what my route was going to be now that I was down another 2 days with little time left to go back through Albania, into Macedonia, and across to Bulgaria to meet my friends Mariya and Mats in just a week.  Unfortuately wifi didn’t work. Grrr.   I waited to eat til my new friends showed up, but after half an hour figured they must be too hungover or something to make breakfast.  Bummer.  Wait a second…Shane showed up.  He hadn’t realized we went through a time change coming from Albania to Greece and that we were now an hour earlier.  Weird that you can change time zones on just a 30 minute ferry ride.

We grabbed breakfast and sat down together to plot out the day as the hostel had been advertising a quad/4 wheeler tour for 20E, but we were on the fence on whether to do that or to just rent scooters.  We ran into Bowen soon after, who apparently had had a late one the night before and wasn’t up for any exploring today.  Turns out the hostel was not going to run the quad tour that day, and were charging way too much to rent them apart from the tour, so we went on a hunt for a scooter rental place, which we found for 10E/each (plus 5E for insurance).  Perfect!  I hadn’t been on or driven a scooter in 11 years.  But, I was comfortable again in no time.  We both had the same idea on what we wanted to see/do…lots of great beaches and swim spots.

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The Pink Palace was in a village called Agios Gordos, about halfway down the West Coast of Corfu.  The guy we rented our scooters from had suggested we travel up the West Coast for most of the day and then heading over to Corfu Town after 6 so we missed traffic.  We set off towards Pelekas Beach, making a photo stop at the highest point on the island before arriving at a beautiful bay and ready for a swim.  The water color was gorgeous and the perfect temperature.  We swam…well more like floated…for 15 mins or so and then grabbed an ice cream before hopping back on the bikes towards the next destination.  This is when we realized that neither of us had brought the map from the rental office.  Oh well…how hard could it be…just needed to keep the coast to our left as we headed north.

We had meant to take a bunch of backroads to stay along the coast and stop at every beach we could, but realized that wasn’t possible without a map without a lot of backtracking, so we made the executive decision to head to Paleokastritsa, an area known for caves/grottos, stunning scenery and crystal clear water.

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It definitely did not disappoint.  It felt like we were pulling over for photo stops every 100-200 meters for awhile.  We stopped off at a beach and went for another swim before heading back on the bikes and up a big hill to the 12th century monastery of Theotokos.  There were even better views from up there.

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The monastery was nothing to write home about, although we found it interesting that they were selling ouzo inside the monastery.  Seriously?  They even had ouzo in bottles shaped like the island of Corfu!  We took a bunch of pictures and then headed down to the beach below for another swim.  It was much windier on this side of the island and the water was considerably chillier.  But, so refreshing as it was probably 90+ degrees out that day.

It was probably 4ish and neither of us had eaten anything, so we set out to find food somewhere.  We had passed a place called the Grotto which looked quite cool, so we drove back and found a lounge bar built into the rock, overlooking a swimming hole with a diving board and lots of people climbing the surrounding rocks to jump in from higher spots.

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There was a DJ and lots of people hanging out on the surrounding rocks.  Nice!  We each ordered what turned out to be terrible hamburgers and then found a rock to sit on to watch the action below.  There was one local guy there that you can tell was one of their resident stars who kept finding a higher rock to climb and jump or dive off of, and he was showing off.  He was really good, actually!   It would have been nice to stay…or to have a drink…but not wanting to chance anything on the scooters, we took off as we still had to check out Corfu Town.

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Corfu Town was a lot sleepier than I’d expected.  Could have been the time of day we were there.  We drove around for half hour, took some pics by the fort, but had to be back to drop the scooters off by 8 so tried to find our way out of town and back to the highway.  Kept going in circles as there were no signs.  Well…there were signs…but they were in Greek, so we had no idea what they said.  Somehow, we managed to find out way back and our rental guy was understanding of our tardiness.  We’d made it back just before sunset and picked up some beers and watched from Shane’s balcony.

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What an amazing day!  What a different day than what I would have had if I’d stayed in Albania.  The scenery in Corfu is gorgeous.  The island is much more lush than the other Greek islands I’d been to.  It was hilly and so green, with olive and Cyprus trees, among others.  And the water was several different shades of blue and green…so beautiful.

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Shane was a lot of fun to go exploring with. As the sun was setting, we said “cheers” and clinked our giant Mythos beers together and agreed how great a day it was.

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I went out on a limb to say it was the best day of my trip so far.  Who knows if he meant it, but he agreed it was up there for him, as well.  And he’s been travelling for over 10 months, if that gives you any idea on how big a statement that is.

At dinner, we met up with Bowen again and told him how great our day of exploring the island went.  One of the girls working at the hostel’s bar came around with a choice of shots we could buy for $1.  I’m not a shots person – AT ALL – but there was one she described that she said tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream.  SOLD!  I bought 3 for us to have after dinner, as I didn’t know if we’d see her again.  Dinner wasn’t terrific, so was excited for dessert, which DID taste like mint chocolate chip.  Yummy!  We went to the bar and had another couple each before heading upstairs into the Palladium, a gigantic club/bar/gathering place that probably holds 1000 people.  Sadly, there were maybe 20 people there the nights we were there.  Very quiet night at the Pink Palace.  I think this place had it’s heyday about 20 years ago.  We retreated to the smaler bar upstairs, now feeling a bit desperate that wifi wasn’t working as I needed to figure out my plan for the next few days.

I REALLY didn’t want to spend the next several days on buses trying to gun it through Albania and Macedonia and was not quite ready to leave Corfu…definitely not after such a fantastic day.   It’s funny…The Pink Palace sells a t-shirt with a list of the Top Ten Lies Told at the Pink Palace.  Number 1 on the list is “I’m only staying one night”.  Number 10 on the list is “No…really I’m leaving tomorrow”.  I’m obviously not the first one to re-consider travel plans.  Still, I needed to see what my options were.  Shane sat with me while I looked up flights, bus schedules, and pretty much every possible option to get me to Bulgaria by August 5th where I had tickets to a music festival with some friends that were meeting me there.  It was now Monday, July 30th.

I found a flight for 200E that went from Corfu-Athens-Sofia, and the price didn’t really change by the day, so I could fly out as early or late in the week as I wanted, but would be giving up seeing Macedonia if I stayed.  I asked Shane what he would do in my position and he said that he’d get on the ferry the next day and get back on plan, but confusingly then threw out a bunch of negatives to that option, making it very tough for me to decipher if he was trying to talk me into staying or going.  I wanted him to talk me into staying.  If I was going to stay, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be on buses for pretty much 5 straight days, or that the flight was too expensive.  If I was going to stay, it was because I wanted to continue getting to know the cute, fun, easygoing, well-travelled Aussie guy with an incredibly sexy accent that I’d just shared such a beautiful day with.  After a lot of back and forth, I looked at him and said, “Tell me to stay and I’ll stay”.  I seem to remember several amazing kisses that followed…and I stayed.

The next few days went by way too fast.  We took walks on the beach, hung by the pool and got to know each other better.

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By the time Wednesday rolled around, I couldn’t wait any longer to book my flight.  Now it was Shane who had a decision to make.  I’d invited him to join me in Bulgaria, but that would throw off his travel plan completely, and he’d have to give up going to Montenegro and parts of Albania if he wanted to join me.  He only had about 6 weeks left on his round-the-world trip before he had to go home to Perth, so was already pressed for time.  He left me hanging until nearly the last minute, but in the end decided to join me.  Yay!!! We booked our flights and had to say goodbye to Corfu the next morning.  He kept saying that he will definitely go back to Corfu someday.  I’m not so sure, as I can’t imagine that any future visit will come close to topping the extraordinary memories I have from my few days on my new favorite Greek island.

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