Corfu Part 2

To our cost we found toilet rolls to be expensive, 6 euros for a four pack and it aint Andrex but the bread at the village bakers was good and cheap.  Back down to the Villa and wave the beach bathers off and we head off up the mountain to Strinalas, another pretty, narrow little mountain village at about 2500 ft above sea level.  Here we enter the first taverna we came to and as it happens a lucky choice. A la palea is its name and the men were making wine.  We had hit the mountain in the middle of the vintage and both in Strinilas and Partilas little wineries had opened up at the side of the road where people brought their picked grapes to.  In the winery next to the taverna they were flat out making red wine in small little vertical presses.  They probably held 20 or 30 kilos of grapes and a plate was threaded down on top of the grapes and a large handle on the top pressed this plate down and the juices flowed out of the bottom of the press which was cast iron and had probably been pressing grapes for a hundred years.  The resulting flow of juices was collected in a container and tipped into a large plastic vat which held about 300 litres.  The lees left in the bottom of the press after the liquid has flowed are scooped out into buckets and basins and carried to the vegetable garden in this case below the terrace where we had lunch.  These lees were then spread over the ground as fertiliser.

We had last years vintage with our lunch, it was the best wine we had so far.  Both white and red were outstanding.  It was that good after the meal I asked if we could bring some home.  He gave us four water bottles of a litre capacity and charged us seven euros per litre.  It set a precedent.  On the terrace we looked over the west side of the island and out into the Mediterranean.  The sun shone, the heat two or three degrees cooler up the mountain.  The food up here is known as mountain food, which means it is all the produce of the mountain, rabbit, boar, lamb and goats with vegetables from the garden and fruit off the trees.  Their own sourdough bread and a tart confiture from all the berries that were growing.  I had a village sausage, ie, a homemade pork sausage stuffed with herbs and local cheese with a plain salad.  It was gorgeous.  I followed that up with a pasta dish called Pastisada, beef stewed in vegetables and tomatoes with penne is the best I could describe it.  The only exception to the mountain food was the fish which comes up the mountain everyday in vans selling to all the tavernas and houses.  Helen had the calamari, that was also delicious.  Sometimes it can be tough and chewy but this calamari was fresh and from young squid.  It was all good but it was the wine that stole the show.

These mountain wines were fantastic, all the tavernas sold them but A la paleas were the best.  The white was misty green in colour, not filtered like bottled wine and of course there were no sulphites added.  It tastes fresh, fruity and delicious on the throat.  The red a similar murky deep red which again had loads of fruit and a slightly herby taste and unfiltered and no sulphites.  You could drink this wine forever and suffer no consequences.  I do not know its strength but would imagine it was in the 11 to 12 degrees of alcohol range.  Above all they both had this rustic sense to them that made you appreciate them more.

We returned to the Villa and had started into the wine when the horde returned.  The kids were swiftly parcelled off to bed with no moans at all from them and we sat round swapping stories of our different day.  The four litres disappeared and we were all in bed  for 9.30.  The mossies had started an open war with us adults, ignoring the children completely but we swathed ourselves in the nets hanging from the ceiling.  It isn’t the bites that are a nuisance, it is the terrible itching leading to broken skin that is the problem.  Halfway through the night I would get up and have a cold shower which eased the itch for a few minutes while you got some sleep.

Day four was boat day.  We had arranged to hire two boats with 40HP engines for 100 euros each for the day.  So it was up bright and early, breakfast and down to Dassia, a town on the bay towards Kekyra.  What we got was two x 6metre boats with 30+HP engines and the price now was 120 euros for the day.  We were new, we did not quibble.  However the boats performed very well, on to plane in seconds with three adults and two children on board and they handled superbly.  We had been given a thorough explanation of the coast and where there was  any shoals and how to approach harbours.  I asked if there were any navigation buoys, all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a muttered “this is Greece”.  I understood.

We travelled north along the coast passing Ipsos and looking up the mountain to see our villa perched on this rocky ledge.  It looked more precarious from here than it did from up there looking down but a splendid site nevertheless.  We rounded the headland and saw this superb palace of a house.  On enquiry at the next port we were told it belonged to the Rothschild’s.  There we were virtually neighbours of one of the Illuminati, our biggest enemies.  One of the few who control international banking and have left us in the state we are all in.  Needless to say,although we were only a couple of miles away down the coast, we never received an invitation to dinner.  I thought it poor form.

Up in the north east corner of the island as we were skimming along about a kilometre off shore I could see a masonry stump sticking out of the water, about 6 metres high and about 6 metre diameter, as we learnt later it was the remains of an old lighthouse.  We were doing about 35 mph, which is pretty fast for a boat and heading towards it, when I noticed the sea colour change on the landward side.  I quickly cut back the throttle and turned landward.  Looking overboard I saw this shoal of rocks about 30cm below the water.  We must have missed disaster by inches.  I was a lot more circumspect about my skippering after that.  We went on farther and rounded the north of the island, there we were out in the Mediterranean with nothing between us and Italy, 100 kilometres away and the sea as flat as a witch’s tit.

We headed back and pulled into a delightful cove called Agios Stephanos, where we tied up at a jetty belonging to a taverna called Eucalyptus.  I suppose it had to be called that as it was in the shade of a large tree of the same name.  We were seated on the water’s edge and between courses everybody except me ragged off and swam in the crystal clear, warm waters of the cove.  I remained glued to my seat, someone had to have a sense of decorum.   The kids thought they were in heaven, the food was excellent, the wasps were threatening.  I had octopus done in a paprika and tomato sauce, it was delicious.  The staff brought out these little incense burners which soon shifted the wasps.  We had a lovely few hours here in a very dry 34C of heat.

Back in the boats and more exploring of the coastline.  The breeze started to stiffen but only slightly but enough to make top speed a little uncomfortable for the kids with the swell.  It was certainly different from the mill pond we had experienced outward bound and we eventually arrived back in Dassia about 6.00pm.  We were saying our goodbyes but were told to wait a moment.  They were filling the fuel tanks of the boat, the man came over and said he had put 28 euros of fuel in each boat.  Another example where the price is never the price.  There had been no mention beforehand of fuel.  Our agreed price of 100 euros for the day was now 148 euros.  We were enjoying ourselves.  We said nothing and paid up.

Walking up to our cars we all realised how thirsty we were after a day swallowing salt and we made a detour to a supermarket for the evenings tipple.  Most goods on the island seem dearer than back home but prices vary considerably from shop to shop.  Whiskey is very expensive, gin the same price as Ireland.  The bargain is the local Ouzo and very palatable, an aniseed drink mixed 50/50 with water is my taste but the locals seem to drink it neat and other times watered down to nothing.  Always remember it is 40% proof and like the dead hand of night it creeps up on one.  The local beer is good but for thirst quenching qualities the ever reliable Heineken is best value at about one euro per 500ml can.  Helen found a great bargain of Prosecco at only four euros per bottle and good stuff it was to.

Back home and with thirsts quenched, snacks nibbled and children in bed, we all quickly settled on the local vino in those recycled plastic water bottles, the best drink of the lot.  So after a bottle and a bit of that fruity Prosecco, Helen propelled herself to bed at 9.30pm and I meekly followed, exhausted from my nautical exercises.  I had only just mastered (found) the remote control for the air conditioning system and we fell asleep to a lovely comfortable 16C of controlled heat and I slept soundly for the first time until 6.30am, when I arose to the gathering dawn and the start of Day five.

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