A week in Corfu

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 


“Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” Gerald Durrell

Having already visited the Greek Islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Ios I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the Ionian island of Corfu. I had heard varying reports of a lush green island with stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, and fishing villages as well as tacky beach resorts, and a less charming side. As always I decided to try to set those aside and form my own opinion when I got there – which I am so glad I did.
We visited in May right at the start of the season, which meant long sunny days without the scorching heat of summer, and cool breezy evenings. Without the full onslaught of tourists, it still had that laid back ‘island paced’ feel and the locals were relaxed and friendly. We based ourselves in the North of the island on the outskirts of the village of Sidari – about 45km from the airport. Truth be told, if it had been peak season we would have stayed elsewhere, but we were concerned about having enough facilities open for business in some of the less frequented villages at that time of year.

In the interest of transparency I will say that our first impression of Sidari was mixed – it seemed to be a little run down in parts. It was evident that the tough economic climate had hit hard, however there was a steely determination amongst the locals that it certainly wouldn’t stop them and they would pick back up. Putting all of that to one side our location on the outskirts of the village was quiet and peaceful yet a short ten minute stroll had us on the main strip with a huge choice of tavernas, cafes, bars and restaurants, along with various shops and travel booking offices.

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

Most of the beach side tavernas offer a great breakfast selection, and sitting in the sunshine, overlooking the sea every morning we really did have to pinch ourselves. A stroll through town past the famous Canal d’Amour and into the countryside was the perfect way to work off breakfast and blow away the cobwebs – especially if you’d overindulged in the widely available 3 euro cocktails the night before. Walking down the rural lanes you really see the traditional Corfiot way of life – farmers with sun lined faces and toothy grins full of character would wave as we passed, and women sat gathered in the shade of olive trees going about their morning chores. Farm houses – their terraces draped with bougainvillea, fragrant orange and lemon groves, peaceful country tavernas and endless blue skies all worked their magic and the distant pressures of home soon seemed to fade away. On the way back into town there are several sandy paths winding their way down towards the limestone cliffs which drop into the turquoise waters of the Ionian sea. Steep trails take you down to small secluded coves which are perfect for a refreshing dip as the heat of the day starts to settle in.

 

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog
 
A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

If like me, you’re not content to sit by a pool for your entire holiday there are plenty of excursions which are well worth doing and offer really good value for money. A day trip into charming Corfu Town is in my humble opinion a must do. Also know as Kerkyra, UNESCO world heritage listed Corfu Town is enchanting with its Old Fortress, historic cobbled streets lined with faded pastel Venetian mansions, old churches and sun-dappled squares. There are plenty of shops selling ceramics, leather goods, clothing, jewellery, local crafts and produce. If shopping isn’t your thing relax in the gardens of the Esplanade (Spianada Square), or visit one of the many cafes in the Parisian influenced Liston building with its arched terraces – a great spot for people watching. With a huge variety of restaurants to choose from you can easily spend the evening here and enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere as the sun starts to dip.

 

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

Also a must do is the idyllic village of Paleokastritsa. Start with a visit to the 13th century Byzantine Monastery, perched high on the hills above the village. With a beautiful bell tower, stunning ocean views and tranquil terraced gardens complete with sunbathing cats, it is well worth the effort. In the village itself there are several turquoise bays to cool off in, boat trips out to explore the caves along the coastline and plenty of options for lunch and refreshments. About 4km from Paleokastritsa is the traditional mountain village of Lakones. Its narrow roads are lined with 18th and 19th century stone houses, and if you are travelling through by bus you will find yourself involuntarily holding your breath while the driver navigates the road. From the vantage point of Bella Vista, a little further along, there are endless views down to the bays of Paleokastritsa and out across the Ionian Sea. For me standing there soaking up the views in the afternoon sunshine with Greek accordion music gently wafting on the breeze will be one of those memories that stays with me forever.

 

A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

In summing up Corfu, like most destinations is what you make of it. Yes, it is true, times are tough in Greece and you can see this in areas. However, for me the positives far out-weighed any negatives. With only a week to explore we barely scratched the surface of what the island has to offer. The true test is always ‘would you go back’ and for me the answer is ‘in a heartbeat’.

 

TOP TIPS

Talk to the locals – the Corfiots are genuinely some of the friendliest people I have ever come across. If you need advice on what to do and see, how to get there, where to eat, etc. they are happy to help. Their warmth, sense of humour and generosity of spirit made our trip and we left feeling as though we had friends in Corfu.

Eating out – there are a huge variety of places to eat with something to suit everyone. Family run Greek Tavernas are well priced and I have to say serve some of my favourite food on the planet. Greek salads, tzatziki, saganaki, calamari, kebabs, moussaka, fresh seafood – I could go on forever. My personal favourite, and a first for me was the ‘baked feta’ which I will try to replicate on the blog in the future. If, however Greek food isn’t your thing there are plenty of other options from steakhouses and American style diners to Mexican and Italian restaurants.

Self catering – Most accommodation also has limited self catering facilities – great for lighter meals and snacks on a budget. The local stores sell a wide variety of lovely fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and pastries, yoghurt, deli meats, olives, sun-dried tomatoes,  and of course feta cheese all of which are great to have on hand.

Vegetarians – As a vegetarian, I sometimes struggle when eating out abroad. However, in Corfu there were plenty of options and I felt spoilt for choice.

Visit out of peak season – I would highly recommend visiting in May, or late September to October if you can. From June – August it can be very crowded and the temperatures also soar. If you are visiting in Spring or Autumn pack some warmer items for the evening as it does get chilly, especially by the sea. A light waterproof jacket and decent walking shoes are also a good idea.

Departing Corfu – when leaving Corfu the queues to pass through customs can actually get so long they go outside of the terminal itself. This can mean long periods of standing in the sun waiting, so make sure you apply sunscreen before you go and take water with you. You will thank yourself for it believe me. Apart from a small stall across the road from the terminal, there are limited places to eat until you get through customs, so it pays to have a small snack in your bag to keep you going as well.

Sunset or Logas Beach – if you are staying in the Sidari area it is definitely worth a visit to Panorama Restaurant/7th Heaven Bar in Logas Beach on a clear evening to watch the sunset. A taxi from Sidari will cost you around 10 euro. Try to arrive a bit early to get a seat with a view in the bar/restaurant. It is a bit pricier than some other places but the views and chill out music are worth the premium. When you’re ready to return to Sidari the bar staff will call you a taxi.

Day trips – at the time of our visit a day trip to Corfu Town was around 10 euro per person. Paleokastritsa and Bella Vista was around 15 euro per person. There are a large selection of other trips on offer, including a day trip to Albania, water parks, horse riding and various cruises.

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A week in Corfu | Gypsy Rova Blog

Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites


Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

 

If you read my post on setting aspirations for 2015, you’ll see that one of my goals is to eat better. I am trying to follow more of a plant-based diet and cut out a lot of empty calories. In general, I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth (that crown goes to my sister). It tends to be savouries that are my stumbling point when it comes to eating well. What I do tend to find is on the odd occasion when I get a craving for something sweet, it seems to be insatiable. No amount of chocolate seems to help, cake doesn’t scratch the surface and sweets are just a drop in the pan. So it became clear another approach was needed.

Through Pinterest and Instagram I have discovered an array of healthy options that I never knew existed. You can make ‘ice-cream’ from bananas and fruit – who knew? Chia puddings, overnight oats, and healthy brownies – the options are endless. Then I discovered raw ‘no-bake’ slices and bars and I was sold. What’s not to like? After experimenting with different recipes, and taking bits I liked from here and there I came up with this.

 

Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites | Gypsy Rova Blog

Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites | Gypsy Rova Blog


Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

Raw Banana Nut Energy Bites | Gypsy Rova Blog

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Setting Aspirations in 2015

 

Setting Aspirations in 2015 | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

It’s that time of year again – the time when we set resolutions to be better, thinner, richer, get up earlier – the list goes on. January 1st comes and we have that renewed spring in our step – all the sins of the past have been washed away. We have turned over a new leaf and this will be the year we stick to it. Then somewhere around the middle of January our resolution starts to weaken – it’s generally on a busy Wednesday when you think ‘will it really hurt if I press snooze one more time?’ or ‘a pizza and wine after work won’t kill me – I will work out for twice as long tomorrow to make up for it’. From there it slowly goes downhill until February finally comes and that list is a distant memory. There’s always next year right?

So this year I have decided I will not make resolutions as such. Instead, I have a list of aspirations – things I want to gradually work at and improve on. What’s the difference? For me resolutions always feel very set in stone. If you mess up and miss the gym, or heaven forbid eat half of the McDonalds menu after a night out,  it feels almost as though you’ve failed and it’s time to throw in the towel. As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ – equally so, we are not going to wake up on January 1st with a complete personality transplant, so why put ourselves under such pressure? It is a process and as my brother recently said, many things are a lifelong battle, so lets be a bit gentler on ourselves and do the best we can day-to-day. We are after all only human.

“And suddenly you know … It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

 

01. Get out of your comfort zone – I have found that since I’ve been settled in one place after years of living a rather transient lifestyle, I am less and less inclined to put myself out there and challenge myself. Comfort has wrapped me in its warm embrace and the world outside suddenly seems a bigger, scarier place. This is also something that naturally starts to happen as we age – our friends start to settle down and we don’t see them as often. Nights in on the weekend soon become the new norm – no longer are you out dancing around a circle of handbags with a bunch of complete strangers. Pyjamas and Netflix anyone? This year I am determined to get out more often and meet some new people. As an expat, for me the first step has been joining the local branch of Girl Gone International – a fun and friendly community for a new generation of women living abroad. What will your first step be?

02. Read more – In these days with the constant barrage of  ‘noise’ from social media, emails and movies on demand, it’s hard to find time to read. Or so I keep telling myself. I find myself going to bed and catching up on a show I missed on my iPad while simultaneously looking at Facebook, Instagram and emails on my phone. It’s really not the kind of restful activity that induces sleep. So this year I vow to unplug at bedtime and get back into the habit of picking up a book instead – even if it is on my kindle!

03. Take more photos – ‘More?’ I hear my husband saying. Anyone who knows me well, knows I click away a lot – even to the point of distraction when I’m travelling. I’m the girl that is too busy with her camera to her face to notice the sudden dip in the pavement or the odd unexpected step – who put that there? My trusty camera strap has saved my camera from many a near death experience. So what do I mean by ‘take more photos’?. I am great at taking hundreds of photos when I’m away somewhere new, but not so great day-to-day. I forget to look up, see things from a different angle and find the unexpected in the everyday. This year I will try find the beauty that is around me all of the time.

04. Eat better – I am one of those vegetarians that has fallen into the trap of replacing meat with far too much bread, pasta and cheese. The result has been low energy levels, little to no immunity and definitely no skinny jeans. I have tried diets before and failed miserably. I will be the first to admit I don’t have the strongest willpower in the world and when there is a cheese board calling my name, it certainly doesn’t have to call twice. So instead of dieting, I am trying to take a completely new approach to food. I am eating a much more plant-based diet with lots of green drinks, smoothies, salads, stir-frys, soups and grains. I also try to incorporate more protein to keep the cravings at bay and have stopped treating wine like one of my five a day (although in my defence it is made from grapes).

05. Move more – I have had a life long love-hate relationship with exercise. I hate the thought of it and really struggle to find the motivation to get started. What I love is the results and the added energy and feeling of well-being it gives me. So this year I don’t have any grand plans to take up hill-walking, run a half marathon or even join the gym. I simply want to increase my steps per day and do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise  five times a week. I think even I can stick to that.

06. Learn something new – My mother has always said that learning keeps you young and I would have to say I strongly agree. Last year was a steep learning curve for me – I did courses in Online Marketing, Social Media Strategy and taught myself to muddle my way around WordPress. After years of not studying I’ll admit it wasn’t easy at first, but like anything the more you do it the easier it becomes. This year I want to become a Photoshop whizz and improve my photography skills. Whether it be studying towards a change in career, finally learning that language or taking salsa lessons, it will hopefully enrich your life and if nothing else, give you something to look back on and laugh about.

07. Don’t leave things until the last minute – This one is definitely very much a work in progress. I say this as I sit here and finalise my posts for tomorrows blog launch! I have always said I work better under pressure – that has been my excuse and I’ve clung to it. The reality is that it causes a lot of unnecessary stress and late nights spent cursing yourself. Time management is something I am great at in the workplace, but for some reason it doesn’t translate into my personal life. I am going to try and be more structured in my planning and stop setting myself up for nail biting pressure.

08. Remember to breathe – It sounds obvious right? If you’ve ever sat there at 5.00pm on a Friday with your desk still piled high you’ll probably know exactly what I mean. I find myself getting so tense that I sometimes give myself a headache. My shoulders end up in knots, my jaw is clenched and I can literally feel the stress bubbling up within me. At 3.00am, I find myself lying there worrying about things that need to be done, should be done or could have been done better. We all know the feeling. This year I am going to try and consciously take deep breaths and remember that the world isn’t going to end if I don’t respond to an email until the morning (or whatever similarly trivial scenario is keeping me awake).

What are your goals and aspirations for 2015? I’d love to hear so please share them in the comments!

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