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Corfu a mature island delight

Thursday, 18th October, 2012 5:05am

One of the few drawbacks of going to Corfu is the fact that you have to go through Dublin, in late September at least.

We went a few weeks ago and the weekly flights leave at 8am from Dublin. The Aircoach service through the night makes it easy to get there for 6am, but it means that the total travel time is around 12 hours.

We were going on a package deal and picked one of the quieter sounding resorts to stay in. And it was quieter. The flight over had a large number of grey heads; the average age was most definitely over 65.

Our bus from Corfu town, where the only airport on the island is located, took a few hours as it dropped people in different hotels and resorts in the north of the island.

Corfu is a very mountainous island, so the trip to our hotel in the village of Sidari was a spectacular one. The journey featured a clapped out bus zigzagging its way up steep mountainous ravines, snaking through one-way villages and enjoying spectacular views of the almost entirely wooded island.

Some villages are one-way as they are perched precariously at great height and can only have a single lane of traffic as flat space is at a premium. Often what flat ground there is, has been blasted out of the mountainside.

Our arrival to Sidari was less than promising. It featured copious pubs and bars advertising Premier League matches, 'X Factor' and English beers, as well as a motley crew of cover artists including Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams, Lady Gaga and Elvis. (Elvis was quite good to be fair).

The village was ugly and seemed to be all tacky bars, hotels and restaurants. As we drove out of the village and disappeared down a dirt-track road, our misgivings increased.

We were dropped by the side of a road so small the bus could go no further and greeted by a family of goats. We stared at each other with mutual incomprehension. At this stage we were pretty worried by what condition the hotel would be in.

Fortunately, our fears were misplaced. The hotel boasted a very big swimming pool and clean, bright self-catering apartments, and a restaurant and bar - everything you might need.

Sidari's nightlife consisted largely of bars catering to young people who were no longer there and restaurants where the many older holidaymakers hung out. Not for everyone, perhaps but at least the food was cheap and very tasty. On the first night we found a great little place that served delicious Greek food at excellent prices. We went back there several times to sample almost all of their Greek dishes.

That place spoiled us though. On our second night, we went somewhere more expensive, had very average food and got a bout of food poisoning. We later found out that another couple had gotten sick in the same place.

The weather was excellent and we got unseasonably hot weather from the mid 20s to the early 30s - perfect for hanging around the beach or the pool. The beach was nearby and was quite decent although the sand was less than golden.

Opposite the beach only a few kilometres away lay the imposing southern coastline of Albania, one of the most historically isolated countries in Europe, surely worth a visit.

As we got bored sitting by the pool all day, we decided to book a day trip to Albania, which left from Corfu town. The trip was around €50, including bus to Corfu, ferry over and €10 tourist fee. We paid another €15 to go on a trip to the ancient city of Butrint, which was near Saranda, a city of Cork's size.

Butrint is a UNESCO world heritage site and is pretty stunning with a huge array of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian buildings. For anyone interested in history, it is a great experience.

After heading back to Saranda and getting food, we had a few hours off. Unfortunately, the guide warned us, although it was 4pm on a Tuesday, nothing would be open. And so it proved. Still, it was too hot to walk around anywhere, so we had a drink and an ice cream on the lovely waterfront. Prices there were very cheap so shopping might have been good, but we'll never know!

We spent the rest of our time in Corfu relaxing - something that the area was well suited too, unlike other parts of Greece, and indeed, Corfu. The nightlife was pretty sedate however and very English-orientated.

Still, the holiday was very enjoyable in a laid-back relaxed way and the island has some stunning locations and scenery and is well worth a visit. One word of advice; don't go in late September if you want to socialise with people in their 20s!We travelled with Falcon Holidays. See falconholidays.ie for more details.

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