Corfu: appreciating the magic that Durrell wrote about

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



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