Gerald Durrell reminisced about his five years living on the Greek island of Corfu by saying “Each day had a tranquillity, a timelessness about it so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of the night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality” (My Family and Other Animals, 1956).
I felt this tinge of unreality when I took a trip out of Corfu Town to the small area of Kanoni. My appetite had been whetted during my inbound flight into the island which, whilst offering a superb birds-eye view over the sea, seemed to go perilously close to a small bright building sitting in the water.
Discovering that this was only a 20-minute bus ride away, I set off to take a closer look. The bus takes you through the busy back streets of Corfu Town before gradually climbing to the terminus at Kanoni. When you arrive, there’s no sign of the sea and instead, you come across a couple of café bars and a gift shop on top of the hill; however, if you walk through these and the terrace of outdoor seating, you realise why you came. Peering over the railings you look out into a clear blue sea and see that the building you saw from the plane is a tiny whitewashed monastery which sits at the end of short walkway and in front of small wooded island, known colloquially as Mouse Island. In the bright clear sunshine, the monastery almost seems to twinkle in the water.
There is a small descending path of stone steps – follow these and within a few minutes you’ll be at the shore side and a lovely waterside restaurant. It is here that I literally had to stop and soak in the scene – the monastery is directly in front of you, with its bell tower gleaming in the sun, and a set of rocks forming a winding path through the water to it.
I wasn’t sure how wise it would be to use these rocks as stepping stones, and so I took the more sensible path across the pathway that links it to the shore. The monastery itself is small and doesn’t take long to look around; however, its position in the bay means that you can walk right around it and take in even more of your surroundings with a 360-degree view of the sea and mountains. It really is captivatingly beautiful here, and as I say, a bit unreal. Almost a bit too perfect if that’s possible. You really should spend time here taking in the splendid surroundings.
It doesn’t stop here though. Walk around the side of the restaurant and you’ll discover a delightfully secluded and sheltered bay with crystal clear – and extremely inviting – water. The bay is tucked away, but it’s worth the short walk to reach the it, with its gentle waves lapping up on to the sand. This would be a wonderful place to spend the afternoon swimming or just having a quick paddle to cool off from sun. So take your swimming costume just in case…
If you wish to, you can also take a short boat trip to Mouse Island. Boats are moored in front of the Monastery for this; however, my understanding is that there is very little to see on the island and it may not always be possible to step off of the boat and onto to it – so check before you part with your money.
Kanoni is not big and although people do gravitate to the monastery, it doesn’t seem to be overrun with tourists (or at least the day I was there). It’s a perfect place to escape to and to experience somewhere that really is picture perfect. Durrell also spoke about the “magic of the island of Corfu”; in a visit to Kanoni it’s not hard to see why and experience a little bit of this magic yourself.
To see more photos of Corfu, see my instagram feed: travelonatimebudget
Corfu Town: Corfu Town is splendid – much more so than I had anticipated it would be. It has a delightful old town, much of it with architecture reflecting the Venetian influence, with small quaint streets to wander round and shop in or to sit in with some traditional Corfiot food and drink (in addition to their meat dishes such a moussaka and souvlaki, try their cheese and spinach pies, zucchini fritters and kumquat liquor). I particularly loved the Liston, a trendy boulevard of cafes and bars under arches at the edge of the old town – by early evening this street is buzzing with people starting a night out and has a lovely atmosphere. I was in Corfu Town on my own and it was a great place to sit with a book watching the world go by.
Opposite the Liston is the Spianada (Esplanade), a long wide grassy area along the side of the old town that goes up towards the sea. Here you can find the Palace of St Michael and St George (now containing the Museum of Asian Art), a beautiful park with fountains that is dedicated to Larry and Gerald Durrell, a bandstand, and a cricket ground (apparently, a bit of an oddity given Greece’s lack of interest in cricket, but reflecting the British occupation of the island). This part of the town was one of my favourite parts and is clearly an area where families and young people congregate. The only downside for me was the heavily congested carpark located here.
The Paleo Frourio (Old Fort) is definitely worth a visit for the cost of 8 euros. After going over the pathway over the water, you can walk around the lower part before climbing to the lighthouse and ship mast at the top. This gives you a spectacular view across the town and over the sea.
Kanoni: Getting to Kanoni is easy and costs 1 euro 70 (as of September 2017) on the local bus. You need to get off at the last stop and walk down the stone steps to the shore. On the way back, it’s worth getting off en route to take a look at Mon Repos Palace (more of a large villa or house than a full blown palace) and housing an archaeological museum; if you really want peace and quiet, this is the place for it as there seemed to be very few people milling around. From here, it’s possible to walk back into Corfu Town along the wide promenade Dimiokratias – this is highly recommended as you get to walk along the sea, past the town lidos and a charming old windmill.
Acheillion Palace: I also visited the Acheillion Palace, about a 40-minute journey outside Corfu Town. Built in the 1890s and reflecting Italian influences, you can tour the inside of the house with its grand staircase and opulent rooms displaying artifacts from the period. Outside at the top, there is an impressive terrace leading to a small mature garden where a statue of Achilles overlooks the sea. Get there early to avoid the crowds as this is a popular stop off for tour buses.
Beyond Corfu Town: There are plenty of places that you can drive to or take the bus to outside of Corfu Town. In a short break, you won’t be able to do everything, but it’s worth noting that the island is relatively small and so most things can be reached within about an hour. I visited Gouvia, a small village and bay about 20 minutes north of Corfu Town and then Paleokastritsa, another resort on the west coast that is more rugged and also has a small quaint monastery that you can visit at the end of a short walk up a steep hill.
Getting there: There are flights to Corfu Town from a number if airports across Europe, including in Great Britain, Greece and Italy. Carriers include British Airways, EasyJet, Thomson Airways, Ryanair, Aegean Airways, Eurowings and German Wings. The airport is very close to the main town and costs around 25 euros in a taxi.