The Royal Baths – a seaside retreat close to Corfu Old Town

Corfu Old Town has preserved the fine architecture of Venetian, French and British occupation; a stroll through the maze of narrow streets will enamour both the historian and the romantic sightseer: tall Venetian houses with flaking pastel plaster; a maze of cobbled shopping streets; fruit and fish markets; simple and sophisticated restaurants; the people-watching bars of the Liston beside the cricket pitch and an exciting hustle & bustle.

A pleasant 2 kilometre coastal walk from the central Liston takes you along a stone-flagged esplanade, lined with purple blossoming Judas trees, skirting the sea and passing grand, Venetian waterfront houses, to the seaside windmill of Anemomilos. Here there is a wooden pontoon, used by fishermen and bathers and a small beach used by the locals of Garitsa.

Garitsa is a peaceful escape from Corfu town and has a good selection of tavernas and cafebars, all with dramatic views across the bay to the Venetian fortress.

100 metres from Anemomilos is the Royal Baths – a delightful beach, bar and restaurant retreat at the foot of Analypsis Hill, forested by pine and cypress trees.

Royal Baths bar
Royal Baths beach
Royal Baths beach

At the top of this hill is the Mon Repos Palace, surrounded by 250 acres of colourful gardens and a series of pathways leading to the remains of the 7th Century Hera’s Temple and 6th Century Kardaki Temple, just above a small beach. This is believed to be Corfu’s ancient city centre.

Mon Repos Palace

The Palace was built in 1826 by the British Commissioner, Frederic Adams, as a gift to his Corfiot wife, Nina Palatianou. The Palace then became the summer residence of the British Governors of Corfu and when the Ionian Islands were united to Greece in 1864, it was gifted to King George I of Greece.

Prince Philip was born here in 1921. During the Italian occupation of Corfu, in the Second World War, the Palace became the residence of Parini, the Italian Governor of the Ionian Islands.

On 13 December 1967, King Constantine was forced to flee the country, following an unsuccessful countercoup against the military junta. He remained the head of state in exile until the junta conducted the 1973 Greek republic referendum, which abolished the monarchy.

Legal battles about the Palace’s ownership lasted for almost 30 years, during which time it fell into disrepair. Restored in the 1990’s, the Palace became State owned and is now looked after by the Municipality of Corfu. It houses the Palaeopoli Museum, displaying works of art, furniture and historical documents about the estate.

The Royal Baths was once the private bathing beach for the Greek Royal family and friends residing at Mon Repos Palace on the hill above. It is now a little-known seaside escape from the world outside. Hidden by high walls, there is an open-air restaurant, a beachfront bar, lawned areas shaded by tall jacaranda trees and bordered by well-kept, Victorian changing huts (and outside showers), a wooden pontoon and sunloungers beside a sandy beach.

Royal baths pontoon
Victorian changing huts
In June 2018 Archie had a lot of fun relaxing at the Royal Baths before heading to Paxos!
Chilling in a hammock

Highly recommended as a relaxing break for those staying in Corfu Town Liston View Apartment, the Liston View Apartment has a special, central location. Or for those with a few hours to kill in between leaving for or arriving from Paxos – Corfu airport is just a 5-minute taxi ride away.

ITHACA FAQ’S

When is the best time to visit Ithaca?

When is the best time to visit Ithaca?

Visit Ithaca any month of the year and you will never be part of a crowd. Ithaca has no cruise ships and no crowded beaches. Athens based Ithacicians will return for their summer break in August but there are still many deserted beaches to be found.

April & May: Normally mild with lots of sunshine and the one-off shower. The olive groves are carpeted with wild flowers – ideal conditions for trail walking. Rivers and waterfalls that have dried up in the summer months are flowing.

June: Pool and sea temperatures are comfortably warm and the views to offshore islands are crisp and clear.

July & August: Higher temperatures, warmer seas and more visitors to the island.

September: Perfect conditions for escaping the crowds but still with high temperatures.  

October: similar to May.

Are beaches sand or pebble?

Apart from some beautiful sandy beaches in Afales Bay (only accessible by hired boat), all beaches on Ithaca are pebble and fine shingle. Most of the beaches are natural (no sunloungers etc) and usually deserted. The following beaches have “cantinas” (serving drinks & snacks): Filiatro, Vathy, one of the beaches in Kioni Bay, Aetos, Marmaka, Gidaki, Polis Bay. Polis Bay beach has sunbeds and umbrellas, toilets, showers, kayaks for hire – all supervised by Takis the beach manager .

What is there to do for teenagers?

Life on Ithaca tends to be low key. There are a few music bars on the Vathy waterfront but the other villages are for those wanting a quieter alternative to city living. Family activities on offer include boat hire, kayaking & paddle boards at Filiatro Beach just outside Vathy, scuba diving, snorkelling trips; hiking trails, electric bike hire.

Eating out costs?

There is a good selection of tavernas in all the island’s villages plus a few off the beaten track. In the main they will be traditional Greek cuisine with Mediterranean twists & fusions. The average cost is around 30 euros per person for a 3 course meal including house wine – freshly caught fish however, will be more expensive.

There are some excellent and very innovative waterfront tavernas in Frikes.  

The house wine offered in tavernas is usually very good but there are now some very good Greek wineries on so well worthwhile trying them.

Kioni Taverna

Is it easy to buy fresh fish?

You can often buy fresh fish direct from the fishing boats on the harbour front during the mornings. You will also find a fishmonger in Stavros and Rigos (the man with the fish van) sells in all the villages.

Are supermarkets well stocked?

You will find everything you need. Most also sell fresh fruit and vegetables. Many have a butcher’s and a deli counter. British products are readily available, although may be more expensive.

Local Store in Rachi, Kioni

Do supermarkets sell gluten free/dairy free products?

The majority of the larger supermarkets sell a good range of dairy and gluten free products. Supermarkets in coastal resorts will also generally sell them, although the range may not be as good as in the larger supermarkets.

Do supermarkets deliver?

Most supermarkets and minimarkets are usually happy to deliver to local properties providing you spend a reasonable amount in their shop.

Are pharmacies well stocked?

Yes – and more treatments available over the counter than in British chemists. You will also find well known brands of baby formula and more specific baby supplies that may not be stocked in the supermarket such as creams, dummies etc.

There are 3 chemists: 1 in Stavros and 2 in Vathy.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Most shops, supermarkets and tavernas now accept credit/debit cards but you’ll get a bigger smile when paying in cash.

Best parts of the island to stay?

Ithaca’s east coast hillsides of olive groves, pine and cypress forest, shelve gently to small coves – with distant views of the Greek mainland. Ithaca’s west coast is steeper and has dramatic views to the east coast of Kefalonia.

The seaside villages of Kioni and Frikes are picture postcard pretty. Vathy is more of a working town but has beautiful views across the bay to the east coast of the island.

The drive from Frikes, in the far north, to Vathy, in the south, takes around 30 minutes so wherever you stay, you are never far from a beach or village.

View over Vathy Bay

How child friendly is Ithaca?

Greeks love children and Ithacicians are no exception.

Very few pools are gated and some gardens can be uneven with prickly shrubs.  Most tavernas have a childrens’ menu or are happy to provide child-size portions.

Is Ithaca good for boat hire?

There are boat hirers in Vathy, Kioni and Polis Bay. A speedboat licence needs to be shown for hiring a boat with an outboard over 30HP. Hiring a boat is the best way to find your own private beach and to explore the coastline.

Frikes

Are there good medical facilities?

There is a Medical Centre in Vathy and a smaller medical centre in Stavros. The GP and Head of Vathy’s Medical Centre is a good heart surgeon!

Ferry service to other islands?

There are ferry services connecting Ithaca with Patras and Killini on the mainland, Kefalonia and Lefkas. The ferry from Piso Aetos on Ithaca to Sami on Kefalonia takes just 30 minutes – alternatively, private speedboat charter takes just 15 minutes.

KEFALONIA FAQ’S

When is the best time to visit Kefalonia?

April: Normally mild with lots of sunshine and the one-off shower. The olive groves are carpeted with wild flowers – ideal conditions for trail walking. Rivers and waterfalls that have dried up in the summer months are flowing. Sea and pool temperatures are still bracing.

May: Similar to April but with warmer temperatures and most of the rivers will just be trickles. 

June: Pool and sea temperatures are comfortably warm and the views to offshore islands are crisp and clear.

July & August: Higher temperatures and warmer seas but more visitors to the island.

September: Perfect conditions for escaping the crowds but still with high temperatures.   

October: similar to May.

Are beaches sand or pebble?

The south coastline of the island is generally sandy with gently shelving beaches. As you go further north they become a mix of sand and shingle. In the far north they are mostly pebble beaches.

Makris Yalos Beach
Alaties

What is there to do for teenagers?

Although the biggest island in the Ionian group, Kefalonia is not really a destination for those looking to party as it is relatively low key. There are a few nightclubs in the capital, Argostoli, one in Fiskardo and one outside Skala, but generally the nightlife revolves around cafes and cocktail bars and the very occasional Makris Yalos beach party during high season. 

Watersports are available at Skala, Lassi, Xi and Antisamos beaches. You can  hire motorboats in many of the ports and some beaches and there are a number of organised boat trips to explore the coastline. Also to be found are kayaking, pedaloes, bicycle hire (including electric bikes), scuba diving, jeep safaris, caving and paragliding.

Drogerati Caves

Eating out costs?

In the coastal resorts you will find many tavernas catering for all tastes, in the main they will be traditional Greek cuisine with Mediterranean twists & fusions. The average cost is around 30 euros per person for a 3 course meal including house wine – freshly caught fish however, will be more expensive. 

Strike inland and sample small village tavernas and you will find cheaper fayre.

The house wine offered in tavernas is usually very good but there are very good wineries on the island so well worthwhile trying them.

Simple Taverna Fayre
Trapezaki Beach Taverna

Is it easy to buy fresh fish?

You can often buy fresh fish direct from the fishing boats on the harbour front during the mornings. You will also find fishmongers in Argostoli, Skala, Sami and Lixouri. 

In some areas there is a “Fish Man with a Van” who drives around the villages selling his freshly caught fish.

Are supermarkets well stocked?

You will find everything you need. Most also sell fresh fruit and vegetables. Many have a butcher’s and a deli counter. British products are readily available, although may be more expensive, and you can also find stores selling Waitrose and Tesco products!

Do supermarkets sell gluten free/dairy free products?

The majority of the larger supermarkets sell a good range of dairy and gluten free products. Supermarkets in coastal resorts will also generally sell them, although the range may not be as good as in the larger supermarkets.

Do supermarkets deliver?

The larger supermarkets will not deliver. Smaller supermarkets and minimarkets are usually happy to deliver to local properties providing you spend a reasonable amount in their shop.

Are pharmacies well stocked?

Yes – and more treatments available over the counter than in British chemists. You will also find well known brands of baby formula and more specific baby supplies that may not be stocked in the supermarket such as creams, dummies etc.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Most shops, supermarkets and tavernas now accept credit/debit cards but you’ll get a bigger smile when paying in cash.

Best parts of the island to stay?

Kefalonia’s landscapes are diverse.

In the centre, the foothills of Mount Aenos fall to pastures, olive groves and vineyards.

To the south, the foothills lead to gently shelving, soft sandy beaches – perfect for children.  Many of the sandy beaches have sunbeds, unbrellas and beach cantinas – the more “off the beaten track” beaches are wild & natural. The airport is in the south, so shorter transfer times. The island’s capital, Argostoli, is also in the south – here you will find the larger supermarkets, more choice with shops and the island’s most famous residents: the Loggerhead Turtles, locally named Caretta Caretta. Views in the south are generally over crystal clear turquoise waters across to the neighbouring island of Zakynthos.

In the north the beaches are mostly pebble with only a handful having sunbeds and umbrellas. The northern coastline has small coves with crystal clear water – perfect for snorkelling.  Fiskardo is a magnet for yachts and is nicknamed the St Tropez of the Ionian by the locals. Views from the north are Ithaca, Lefkas and the mountains of the Greek mainland.

Fiscardo

How child friendly is Kefalonia?

Greeks love children and Kefalonians are no exception. Most of the coastal resorts have pavements and therefore good for pushchairs. 

Very few pools are gated and some gardens can be uneven with prickly shrubs.  Most tavernas have a childrens’ menu or are happy to provide child-size portions.

Family friendly Kefalonia – Alex & Archie 2018
Archie and Cat Kefalonia 2018

Is Kefalonia good for boat hire?

Kefalonia has many boat hire companies. A speedboat licence needs to be shown for hiring a boat with an outboard over 30HP. Hiring a boat is the best way to find your own private beach and to explore the coastline.

Are the ferry services reliable?

Ferries can sometimes be affected by high winds. There are regular ferries to the Greek mainland: Kilini in the North Peloponese from Poros and Patras and Astakos from Sami. There is also a direct ferry to & from Brindisi in Italy during July and August. You can also get to the neighbouring islands, Ithaca from Sami, Lefkas from Fiskardo and Zakynthos from Pessada.  A regular ferry goes from Argostoli to Lixouri Town, halving the driving journey time.

Are there good medical facilities?

There is a general hospital in Argostoli with an A&E department. There is a smaller hospital in Lixouri dealing with minor issues as well as medical centres in Skala and Sami.  Throughout the island and in the resorts there are private doctors, who will charge for a consultation.

There are dentists in Argostoli, Lixouri, Sami and Poros.

PAXOS FAQ’S

When is the best time to visit Paxos?

April: expect some rain but usually a month ahead of northern Europe so beautiful Spring days – perfect for walking & wild flowers.

May: warmer but could still rain. Perfect month to escape the crowds and meet locals when they are not so busy.

June: temperatures can be high but less humidity so good visibility/views to mainland mountains & other islands.

July & August: Hotter temperatures and warmer seas but more visitors to the island.

September: Sea at its warmest, kids back at school, locals not so stressed.

October: similar to May.

Olive Grove in May

Are beaches sand or pebble?

Most of the beaches on Paxos are pebble (beautiful clear water) but a 15-minute boat ride away are the sandy beaches of AntiPaxos.

Kloni Gouli Beach

What is there to do for teenagers?

Paxos will not appeal to those looking for all night music bars (Castello Night Club, just outside Gaios,  is the exception) – each of the 3 ports has a variety of waterfront café & cocktail bars for all ages. For activities there’s a watersports centre and 2 tennis courts. Families who enjoy boating can hire boats and ribs with 30HP to twin 350HP engines. There are two local companies who organise kayak excursions and walks to hidden island parts. A recently opened gym in Gaios can be used on a day to day basis. There are 2 scuba diving centres and in Gaios, a shop for fishing tackle.

Eating out costs?

In most Greek villages you will have a good choice of tavernas to suit all budgets and tastes. A simple, traditional meal with a half kilo of house wine should cost around 20-30 Euros per person. Select octopus carpaccio rather than stuffed peppers or a wild mushroom risotto rather than fresh sardines and you might spend more. There are now many excellent Greek wines but as most come from small wineries they can be expensive (10 – 20 Euros in the shop & perhaps double that in the taverna) but do try them if you can.

Is it easy to buy fresh fish?

During the busier months of the season most of the locally caught fish is bought by the taverna owners (put on ice & on display in each taverna). You will find fishermen selling their fish from their boats on each village waterfront around 8 – 9am. Otherwise there are two fishmongers in Gaios

Gaios fishmonger with patient audience

Are supermarkets well stocked?

Yes! From Alpen or avocados to zucchini. Good deli counters, big variety of pasta, diverse fruit & veg, drinks galore and even marmite (shame on you). Each village will have a bakery with assorted breads & pastries.

Do supermarkets sell gluten free/dairy free products?

Some supermarkets, in particular the supermarket in Gaios High Street, stock a range of products for food intolerances such as dairy free milk, rye bread, rice cakes and other gluten free snacks and confectioneries.

Do supermarkets deliver?

Yes – most do but the busier the season the harder it is for them so check.

Are pharmacies well stocked?

Yes – and more treatments available over the counter than in British chemists. You will also find well known brands of baby formula and more specific baby supplies that may not be stocked in the supermarket such as creams, dummies etc.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Most shops, supermarkets and tavernas now accept credit/debit cards but you’ll get a bigger smile when paying in cash.

Best parts of the island to stay?

On an island 7.5 miles by 2.5 miles you are never far from a taverna, a beach, a shop, total seclusion or village hubbub. Your holiday view is important – west coast views are over a big sea, aerial displays of seagulls & swifts & birds of prey against a backdrop of white cliffs and valleys of cypress trees; east coast views are across the sea to the mountains of the Greek mainland and a soft Paxos coastline of olive groves , peppered by tall cypress and wild myrtle. Try both coasts!

How child friendly is Paxos?

Children are welcomed everywhere on Paxos. The terrain however is not so friendly towards toddlers. Most of the villas will have split level terraces and gardens and only a very few swimming pools are “gated”. Tavernas have a good choice of child friendly dishes and the Greeks
love their ice cream almost as much as the Italians

Villa Loula
Swimming pool is separated by a gate for extra toddler safety.

Is Paxos good for boat hire?

Paxos is great for boat hire. There are boat hirers in Lakka, Loggos and Gaios. Fibreglass boats & ribs with outboards from 30HP – twin 350HP (Speedboat License required for over 30HP). A fun way to explore the coastline, beach picnics and visit AntiPaxos beaches.

Loggos boat hire

Are the hydrofoil/ferry services reliable?

From time to time the Paxos/Corfu hydrofoil and fast boat service can be affected by mechanical problems or bad weather. If your flight to Corfu is delayed you might miss a hydrofoil/fast boat departure. Our Paxos manager will put a Plan B in place to ensure that you are looked after.

Any other languages spoken by locals?

Most locals will speak/understand English and Italian. French and German by a few. If you hear a language unlike any other, it could well be Albanian – the Albanian population on Paxos is about 20% of the total.

Are there good medical facilities?

There is a well-run clinic in the village of Bogdanatika, not far from Gaios, and two doctors. Gaios has a good dentist.

 

Kalo Pascha

We just wanted to wish you all a very happy Greek Easter!

If you want to visit the Ionian Islands for Greek Easter 2020, we recommend visiting Corfu Town where the Easter festivities are spectacular. With colourful processions, Philharmonic bands, dancing and even a tradition of throwing ceramic pots from windows and balconies to ban bad spirits from the house. A unique, cultural experience – not to be missed.

Image from the Times UK website – photo by
Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

We have some fabulous apartments, villas and hotels available in and close to Corfu town – please get in touch for further details.

Easter Holiday Escape Competition

Banish Brexit Blues this Easter and escape to the little Ionian island of Paxos.

Ionian Villas are offering a fantastic £100 holiday voucher to use on any villa or apartment on any of the 7 Ionian islands.

All you have to do to is follow the entry methods below to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions

Voucher Prize can not be exchanged for a cash alternative.
Voucher must be redeemed by 31/10/2019
Flights, transfers & car hire not included.
Minimum 7 day stay.
Winner will be drawn at random.
Winner will be contacted via email.
Draw will be made on 20/05/2019.

By entering competition you accept that your email address may be used to contact you about this competition and others hosted by Ionian Villas.

Travelling with a little human

Archie is now 19 months old and has been travelling with us on our trips to Greece since the age of 6 months! Our little man has done several flights including one long haul and he really seems to be getting the hang of it now… as do we! Alex and I often get asked how we find travelling with a young baby/ toddler. So, I thought I would share with you some of our tips, including useful gadgets and good advice given to us along the way.

The Flight

  • Firstly, try not to over-fret! 90% of people on the flight have probably had children of their own or have children in their family so they know it isn’t easy travelling with little humans. Cut yourself some slack – if your baby starts crying don’t worry, try and stay calm – your baby will sense your anxiety and it will only make things worse.
  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Now Archie is a toddler we pack as many snacks as we can. We try and go low sugar so he doesn’t get too excited on the flight!
  • If your little one is walking, try and tire him/her out as much as possible in the airport. If they want to walk up and down the aisle on the flight – stay close but again don’t worry about the occasional passenger scowl – most people understand. A three hour flight to Greece is a long time for a child to sit still.
  • If your baby is on formula you can pre order this from Boots up to 5 working days before you fly and pick it up in the terminal … it’s really handy. You can also do this with baby food too!
  • To help with ear popping on the flight a friend told me to try to feed your baby their milk at take-off and landing. The sucking really helps regulate the pressure.
  • Fun pack … we always pack a little fun pack for Archie full of some of his favourite toys along with some new exciting ones to keep him busy on the flight and for the holiday. But don’t forget to hold some back for the flight home!

Our favourite holiday must-haves and gadgets

  • Bullabaloo muslins – these muslins are great and so versatile. I particularly like the large size. I used mine for snuggling Archie up on the plane and when he was small they were great for creating shade or as a blanket at the beach. https://bullabaloo.com/collections/new-muslin-swaddles/products/muslin-swaddle-blue-cloud
  • Once out of a pram it’s a great idea to invest in a lightweight travel pushchair. Our friends who also travel a lot recommended the baby jogger buggy, it folds up easily and has a travel bag with straps. http://babyjogger.co.uk/product/city-tour/
  • Greek tavernas will make you and your children feel welcome. Many have highchairs and some even have toys/crayons etc. Sometimes we like to go off the beaten track so we take a travel highchair with us – it’s great for beach picnics and can be strapped to any chair. https://summerinfant.co.uk/product/pop-n-sit-booster/

Our top toddler friendly villas

When choosing a holiday villa it can be hard to know which ones are toddler-friendly. Here are our Ionian island favourites ….

Paxos

Elissa sleeps 6. The property is all on one level with plenty of outside space and shade. Also within walking distance of Lakka bay which is great when you have a buggy.

Kefalonia

Artemissleeps 5. The villa is all on one level with lots of grass for burning off some toddler steam!

Ithaca

Limoniasleeps 8. A great location in the centre of Vathy port close to a children’s play-park. The villa also has an enclosed, fenced-off pool area.

Corfu

Kalami – sleeps 4. A spacious modern villa in large grounds with plenty of grass around the pool.

Lefkas

Nicholetta – sleeps 4. The villa has an enclosed lawn and swimming pool area. It is a 10 minute walk to Agios Ioannis beach which has a few tavernas and a sheltered swimming area at one end. Lefkas town is also only a 10 minute walk via a flat track.

If you would like any further advice you can always give us a call or email. We have been to all our villas and can help pick the best one for you and your family.

Catherine xx

Last Minute Easter Deals

We are offering some fantastic last minute Easter deals on Paxos for UK Easter week. Stay in either Avra, Elissa or Angelika

15th April – 22nd April
** Only £500  **

Or maybe you fancy the festivities of Greek Easter instead…

22nd April – 29th April
** Only £500 **

Please get in touch with us for further details call 01243 820928 or email enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

Villa Avra – Sleeps 4

Villa Avra – View down to Lakka Harbour
Villa Avra

Villa Elissa – Sleeps 6

Villa Elissa – View down to Lakka Harbour
Villa Elissa

Angelika – Sleeps 5

Villa Angelika – Gaios Town
Villa Angelika

Don’t miss out on this great offer!

Paxos Ferries Over The Years

The only way of getting from Corfu to Paxos in 1965, my first visit, was aboard a weather-worn, wooden caique called “Aspasia”. A central deckhouse cum cockpit provided hard bench seating for around 40 passengers. The Aspasia’s crossing time varied between 5 and 7 hours depending on the weather.

The journey south from Corfu Town, hugging Corfu’s eastern coastline until Cavos at the island’s most southerly point, is along a channel, sheltered by the coastline of the Greek mainland, and is usually comparatively calm.

In those days, Cavos was a small fishing village with just a few houses above the beach and a simple taverna run by the Roussos family. The Roussos taverna is still there but engulfed by a confloption of holiday accommodation. 

Photo from google images of Corfu Town in the 1970’s

If anyone missed the Aspasia’s departure from Corfu Town’s port there was the opportunity to take a taxi to Cavos and wait for the caique to arrive there. Quite often there would be passengers plus barrels of wine waiting to board at Cavos – and on one occasion, I saw a donkey plus boxes of chickens waiting their turn.

When the Aspasia could be seen from the Cavos jetty, one or two small boats containing people, animals and provisions would be rowed out and helped up on to the waiting caique. A small man-powered winch would hoist up donkeys and barrels.

Photo from Pinterest of a 1963 Hydra Island transfer with a donkey

From Cavos to Paxos (around 9 miles) an afternoon swell could make the 3 – 5 hour journey seem even longer. A sudden winter storm would either cause the caique to turn back or would test the stomachs of even the hardened crew.

Despite the possibility of a rough crossing it was important to bring adequate food and drink to help you through a good part of a day. Many of the crew felt that a pack of cigarettes was ample. 

The Aspasia’s single loo was a small hut on the bow deck. Facing the entrance to the hut was a wobbly bench, where 2 or 3 Paxiots would sit (usually men with worry beads while the women sat inside crossing themselves as each wave hit). I once watched an unsuspecting female passenger (a non-Paxiot like me) enter the hut just as the Aspasia left the sheltered tip of Corfu’s south east coastline and the first waves of the open sea hit the caique’s prow. The hut door swung open to the hut’s side – out of reach of the enthroned lady, with her skirt around her ankles – and in full view of the audience on the bench.

During the summer months the Aspasia would make the return journey about 3 times per week but in the winter, Paxos could be cut off for several weeks.

A large car ferry (called the “Kefalonia”), connecting Patras and Corfu and calling in at Kefalonia, would appear about half a mile offshore from Gaios on a Friday night. Small fishing boats would take Paxiots, wanting a faster journey to Corfu, out to the ferry. A large net was hung over the side of the ship and passengers would climb up and on board.

The arrival of the Kefalonia, with its lights splaying across the calm night sea, was often the highlight of the week.

I cannot remember when the first car appeared on Paxos. There were no car ferries between Corfu and Paxos in the 1960’s so island transport was boat, donkey, foot and the odd scooter.

A Paxiot with his donkey

The Aspasia (and future ferries until the age of the internet) brought newspapers to Paxos to keep islanders abreast of outside news. The islanders thronged at the port when the ferry arrived – a dockers’ union (6 burly fishermen) reserved the right to offload all items (if I was carrying a suitcase, it would be snatched away and a charge made for carrying it all of 20 feet to the quayside). A bag containing the newspapers would be taken to the village’s two “periptero” (kiosks) in the main square.

Local fisherman & Periptero in background

Greece was under the rule of a military junta from 1967 to 1974. All news was fervently censored to the extent that often the pages would only have a few small columns of print, leaving large empty white spaces.  

In the event of bad weather and no ferry from Corfu, Paxos winters could be hard. The electricity supply (powered by diesel at the station in Gaios) would cut off sporadically if the diesel ran out. I remember fridges run on gas but no freezers (the first fridge on Paxos was bought by Peter Bull, the actor who lived on the hillside above Lakka Bay). As nothing could be frozen, the island’s staple winter diet tended to be fresh sardines and squid; soups of bean and lentil; salted cod stored in large wooden barrels and feta stored in brine. Occasionally a caique from Parga on the mainland would bring fresh fruit and vegetables to be sold on the village waterfronts.

Fruit & Veg Caique

In the 1970’s and 1980’s the ferry boat “Kamelia” started taking passengers, donkeys and cars between Paxos and Corfu. There was also the smaller “Aetos” which was just for passengers and provisions. The two ferries would depart at exactly the same time, despite being only half full, and would race each other to reach their destination. Journey time was around 2.5 hours and their rounded boat bottoms usually meant adding extra time to avoid uncomfortable rolling. The Aetos’ bottom was the roundest and would usually limp in second to the Kamelia.

Kamelia

The Kamelia had room on its deck for 3 small cars, wedged in so that any late arriving passengers would have to climb over the cars. Repainting of the ferry, when there was more rust than metal, was done in spurts so that its appearance took on an oddly camouflaged look. The ship’s bar served thick Greek coffee, ouzo and cognac (recognised medicinal remedies for bad weather – together with pungent cigarettes called Stukas) and Tam-Tam (a sickly Greek version of Coca Cola).  

Greece’s version of Coca Cola

The present day hydrofoils, fast boats and speedboats (and who knows, a possible return of the 10-minute seaplane hop) have introduced speedier communications between Paxos and Corfu. For most visitors however, life on Paxos is still led at a comparatively slow pace and long may that continue. 

Carnival Season on Lefkas

The Greek word “Apokries” means abstaining from meat and is used to describe Greece’s carnival season, which precedes the 40 days of fasting (Lent) that lead up to Easter.

In Ancient Greece there were celebrations at this time of year to commemorate the end of winter and the coming of spring, which were associated with the worship of Dionysus.

Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and as a sideline he represented fertility, ritual madness, theatre and religious ecstasy! His Roman equivalent was Bacchus.

Like carnival season in places like New Orleans, Rio and the Caribbean, Apokreas is all about costumes, masks, partying, eating, drinking, dancing and ritual madness!

These photos of this year’s Carnival celebrations in Lefkas Town were taken by Margaret Soldatou, the owner of Villa Melodia.

© 2018 Ionian Villas Limited

Call us on: +44 (0) 1243 820928    ..or email enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

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