Corfu Greece

I fell in love with Corfu Greece, before ever sitting foot on the little island, in the Ionian Sea. It is situated along the coast of Albania and mainland Greece, with Italy to the west. The “Durrells in Corfu,” series on Masterpiece Theatre prompted this love. I later learned the James Bond movie, “For Your Eyes Only,” was also filmed there. Shows and movies, nearly always open your eyes up to known and unknown destinations. Once landing on Corfu, after a short flight from Rome, we made our way over to pick up the rental car. Usually Europcar allows you to use your own insurance, whether through your insurance company, if they allow it, or a credit card that offers that amenity. So we were at a lost when the representative asked for a 3000 euro deposit. After much discussion from my frustrated travel companion, they finally pointed out if we had used their insurance, we would not need to put down the large deposit. Why didn’t they point this out in the first place?! After all this, we set out to find our rental with Airbnb in a little red car.

After locating our host in the area he mentioned, he hopped in our car to show us where we could park for only 3 euro for twenty four hours. We then walked to our lovely apartment. Our host was kind and helpful. You can find the place on under the name, Sweet Home in Corfu Old town. Our host Alexander left us a map of the island, with ideas of places to see. We made a plan to visit several beaches the next day. The island is easy to explore by car. There are mountain views, olive groves, and vineyards. Be sure to visit Alexander’s store called The Olive Store; easily reached on foot near the apartment.

The food in Greece is exceptionally good, and beyond reasonably priced. Sofrito, and Pastitsada are traditional dishes of Corfu. The kumquat is the fruit of the island. It is sold as a fruit, or in the form of a liquor.

The writer Lawrence Durrell, who called Corfu his home during the 1930’s, gives a colorful account of his time in Corfu, in his book “Prospero’s Cell.’ Gerald Durrell, his brother wrote of his time there in “My Family and Other Animals.” Both gave a basis for the “The Durrell’s in Corfu.” Part of the filming is in the replica of a town from the 1930’s, called Danilla. The site can be toured after contacting the Grecotel Hotel and Resort, as they are the owners of the mock village. We were lucky enough to have a tour of our own there. After arriving to find the place closed, a car pulled up. I asked the man driving about tours. He said they are only on certain days. I told him about the show being the reason I came to Corfu. He offered for us to come in and take a look. We walked through the set, and though I was the only one who had seen the show, and was thrilled to be having this experience, my travel campanions decided this was truly a treat. We sat at the tables, of pretend cafes. We saw the fire pump used in one of the episodes, when Larry and Leslie Durrell decided they wanted to be firefighters. As we left, I told our host he had made my trip special by allowing us to visit.

Corfu has been influenced by the English, the Venetians and the French, but still holds on to its Greek roots. The Venetian Fortress is worth a visit at the edge of the sea in Corfu Town, also called Kerkyra. At the top you can see a good portion of the Island, including the airport. The Barren Mountains of Albania, just across the water, blend into the sea and sky, giving the image of a watercolor painting. Prince Philip of England was born on Corfu. His home Mon Repos Palace will have to be on the list for my next visit there. We did take a little tour train through Corfu Town for 8 Euro, as the day met dusk. Life on Corfu is peaceful, but there is a nightlife. Partygoers making their way home after dancing in a club that night, could be seen at 4 am the next morning, as we rolled our suitcases across the quiet streets toward the car, for an early flight to Athens.

Rome, Italy

Rome is city to walk and explore each little neighborhood, experiencing what each has to offer. There is so much to see. There is the traditional Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Roman ruins of the Forum, and the colosseum. All of these are a must see. The Vatican is special even if you are not Catholic. The sharply dressed Swiss Guards stand proudly, guarding the grounds. St. Peter’s holds the tomb of Peter, the first Pope, and an Apostle of Jesus. You can attend a short mass in Italian daily, inside the church. There is a schedule on their site for seeing the Pope. The Vatican museum holds many treasures, and you can walk into the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. For 8 euro you can climb to the top of the dome, then get a fresh croissant on the way back down, in a café on the roof. For 10 euro, you can take the elevator.

Along the Tiber River, during a summer evening, restaurants set up shops to serve their delectable fare. There are carnival like stalls and bars as well. The Forum and colosseum are lit up at night, giving a different perspective. Light shows can be seen on the ruins telling stories of the past.

On the hill above Trastevere, known for its bohemian lifestyle, has one of the best views of the city. The botanical garden sits in the mist of the neighbor, and offers a relaxing stroll away from the crowds, for 8 euro. In Italy dinner is usually eaten late. The piazza’s and alleyways come alive with music, as you sit at one of the outdoor tables at one of the many restaurants.

The day before I left Rome last year, I learned to make a mosaic in a shop near the botanical gardens. The owner of the shop got me started, interjected instructions here and there, in Italian I don’t know. She made me a cup of tea, and brought me back a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich from the store. I met an expat from England, who spends time in the shop, making beautiful mosaics. We had an aperol spritz, in a café afterward, and continued our lovely conversation.

Around the corner from our room in Prati this past summer was Castel Sant’Angelo. It was built for the Emperor Hadrian in 123-139 AD as a mausoleum. It has been used by the popes for various and often times vicarious reasons. It has also been used as a fortress. At the top is yet another great view of Rome, this time with the Vatican in site.

Driving in Rome is exhilarating, yet scary at the same time. When driving it, you quickly realize why it is one of the most dangerous cities to drive. The streets appear to be lacking lanes, signs are ignored, cars are parked in random directions, and the speed at which people drive is well above the limit.

Water fountains with cold drinking water are throughout this city, offering free, fresh and delicious water, to cool you off on a hot summer day.

Rome is one of my favorite cities. Every time I go, I experience something new, and revisit favorites.

Pompeii, and Its Nemesis Mount Vesuvius

The history of Pompeii is in-depth and does not begin with the Romans. It is a history worth exploring. Pompeii is situated next to Naples, just below Mt Vesuvius. The horrific day in 79AD when Vesuvius erupted leaving devastation, ended a prosperous life for many of those who lived there. For hundreds of years, those who bore the destruction were encased in ash over 80 feet deep, according to sources. A particular interesting account of the day is by Pliny the Younger, who lived during that time.

The ruins were unlike other Roman ruins I had seen because of the extent of preservation. Knowing the destruction, knowing people died in the middle of their daily activities, makes it more profound to see them. Did they know this ominous event was going to change or end their life? They were used to earthquakes. They knew the mountain above them was a volcano.

The tour can take you two hours or 6 depending on the routes you take through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a place to get some food and drink inside the site. You can see Archeologists at work inside the site.

Mount Vesuvius, according to research, is 17,000 years old.  It last erupted in 1944.  With a view of the sea, Capri, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, we ascended as far as we could drive. Then we joined in with other cars parked along the side of the road. There was a man under a tent collecting money for a ticket to ride in a van for the next leg of the journey to the top.  You can walk up the road, but it is not entirely safe.  The van drops you off, you buy a ticket at the kiosk, then a short distance away at a little shop for refreshments and souvenirs,  a lady takes your ticket, then you continue to walk up a gravel walk.  All the while I kept thinking, I am walking up a volcano, that caused enormous, and unforgiving destruction.  Below that destruction of ash and volcanic rock, was a city preserved, giving us insight to life during Roman times. The walk is not for those with heart and lung problems; they warn you of that. At the top you get a glimpse into the crater. Those more daring than me were getting a better view a little further up. I opted for buying a postcard at a little shop, with a stamp of Mount Vesuvius, proving I had made the climb. A cold drink was welcoming on the hot June day. The view below was worth the climb. Later, back in the car, we ate sandwiches I had prepared, with prosciutto and mozzarella,  then we finished off the cannoli’s.  We were on our way to Rome.