Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winding up the short trip to Corfu

To answer my previous question we had our drinks and moved on. As a traveler in unfamiliar environments you can never be too cautious. When something seems a bit off you have to take notice.

"We are just going to have drinks. We had a late Greek style lunch and just aren't hungry." Then we endured the following slightly uncomfortable minutes while we finished our drinks and enjoyed the view.

Afterwards we found a local fast food kebab style place and had a good simple dinner. It turned out to be a better option.

The next morning was already departure day and we only had the morning hours before we had to head to Corfu town and the airport. Up early we headed to the beach for breakfast and some last minute sun. At 8:30am we were no joke, the only tourists on the beach. The restaurant workers and beach hut workers were there setting up shop, but weren't open until 9am. It was kind of nice "owning" the beach for the morning. Oh, and even by 11:30 when we packed up there were only about 20 people in site. It was sunny and hot so I'm not sure why it was a slow day.

Arriving at the airport we dropped off the car and checked in for the flight which was delayed. An hour and a plate of tzatziki later, we found out it was significantly delayed - almost 5 hours. Luckily the airport is tiny and Corfu town was nearby so we jumped in a taxi and headed back out for some more sight seeing.

Corfu town was great and would have been a shame to miss otherwise. With fantastic Venetian style buildings, a mighty fortress castle as you can see with Steph above and great bay to see. We strolled the streets then found one last taverna for a snack before heading back to the airport.

For once we were glad the plane was delayed because it gave us more usable time to spend on the island.

Before this trip I thought last minute travel was a myth. Even saying so out loud looking at some of the prices for airfare leading up to the trip. I may of even said something about needed to change its name, but I was proven wrong.

It was an eventful and extremely enjoyable last minute trip that we concluded was so good because we had zero expectations. We didn't have time to plan or research anything, so everything we did and ran across was a surprise. :) We're going to try to do this more often.

Enjoy the photos

Travelling Dilema

Our cheap trip was a package deal from one of the major tour providers here in the UK. It was just the start of high season in Corfu so seats on planes and hotel rooms were empty. Throw in a credit crunch and you really start to notice the effects. Restaurants, hotels and beaches were all empty. You could tell that everything was geared for big crowds but they just weren't here, yet...hopefully.

Now back in Sidari after our beach hopping experience, we needed dinner.

One of the hardest things when traveling is eating. Finding good "local" places at good prices can be a tough but rewarding task. There are always so many places to choose from and finding the gems can be tough. One way to sort though bad places is to look at the crowd eating. If its busy or full of locals you know it may have potential.

So with all the restaurants having lots of open tables, they all looked the same. The clientele wasn't any help. They were all serving similar food at similar prices and quite a few placed on the beach. After trying some rationale such as "big and shiny", "looks the most local", "has more comfortable looking chairs", "has a Greek looking cook", "serves only local beer", "has the best view", "best menu", etc...nothing worked. Nothing helped us narrow down our selection so we just had to blindly guess and ended up at a place off the main street with a big open air patio and a sea view. We sat down and a friendly Greek server welcomed us so we ordered drinks to start. As we perused the menu "IT" happened.

An older British lady approached our table and said in a low voice, "Please be careful. They have already overcharged two other tables and our food is so bad we can't eat it. Be warned."

This really took us back a step. We had already ordered drinks and told the guy we were hungry and interested in the fish on special.

My question to you is the following:

What would you do?

  1. Ignore a fellow traveler's advice, continue with your drinks and order food knowing there is a likelihood things could go wrong?

  2. Take her advice, cancel your drinks and leave as quickly as possible?

  3. Finish your drinks and make up some excuse as to why you are not hungry anymore?

  4. None of the above

Leave us a comment with what you would do.

Truly Last minute Greece

I'm not sure you are going to believe this but we just got back from a weekend in Greece that we booked the day before. So less than 24 hours later we were sitting on the plane cruising at 33 thousand feet to the island of Corfu at a staggeringly cheap price. All the better right...

On arrival in Corfu all we had was the name of the hotel, the city it was in, and a picture of it. No directions, address, maps or arranged transportation. I know its not like us but in the rush we didn't get to those details. To sort out transportation we headed straight for the rental car desk and in less than 10 minutes we were in the car and on the road all before the rest of the flight was through baggage claim. Traveling light does have its benefits. So with a map from the rental car company and a few recommendations from the lady working the rental desk we set off.

Driving up the coast we stopped in the village of Kalami. Strolling along the quiet beach we found the recommended taverna. It was a great time to get out of the afternoon sun and relax. We enjoyed some excellent humous and some local sourced calamari. The taverna had a fantastic open air patio covered in grape vines shielding us from the sun but allowing the breeze to make it a relaxing few hours.

Now the challenging part. Finding our hotel. We drove to the town of Sadari where the hotel was and after a few minutes of driving around aimlessly we gave in and asked for directions. It took a couple attempts but we finally found it. The picture came in handy because there was no name on the hotel.

Dinner started out great with a seat at another taverna on the beach as the sun set. We had some delicious tzatziki and Steph had a bowl of olives all to herself. It was "Greek" night which at first seemed nothing special but turned into quite the spectacle. It started with some dancers doing their Greek dance to some music. Then they lit the floor on fire in preparations for the big finale. Music playing we all stood there in awe as the floor in the middle of the restaurant was in flames as the guy kept fueling it. I took a short video in case you don't believe me. After they put the fire out they gave us all plates to throw at the feet of the dancers during the final dance. Check out Steph, how cool is that!

With a great day in hand we took a walk on the beach. The only problem on the day turned out to be the flip flop that I blew out on the way home.

The next day we let the sun wake us up and headed back to the beach for breakfast. All of the tavernas/restaurants have beach patios which make for incredible dining. We ate breakfast and sipped coffee all morning enjoying the warmth of the sun and calm of the beach and ocean views.

As usual we couldn't just sit around all day at one beach so we headed off to do some beach hopping. Driving in Greece is quite the experience. The roads aren't the best but quite adventurous. They go from nice paved roads to bumpy hardly call that a road, in and out of tiny villages with one way passes. After a few beaches and some good high views from above we hit the jackpot.

The road took us well up one of the mountains where a cliff side taverna was calling our name. We sat literally on the edge of a cliff staring down below and a fantastic set of coves and beaches having lunch. We made friends with the local owner who recommended the kebab meal that wasn't even on the menu. It really hit the spot. The photo was taken just after lunch.

So what do you do after a big meal late in the afternoon...nap on the beach, of course. We made our way down and spent the last few good hours of the day snoozing on the beach.

More to come.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wales Wrap Up

After lunch we suited up again this time, in a less restricting wet suit, and headed to a nice village, Fishguard, where Moby Dick was filmed, to do some sea kayaking. We settled into our kayaks and paddled up the coast line dwarfed by the tall rugged cliffs. No seals this time but we did stop and watch some interesting birds that are related to penguins, which are known to be terrible flyers. They live on the cliffs and spend all day trying to land on the small ledges. When they leave the ledges instead of flying up they drop like stones going almost straight down even though they are flapping their wings like mad. Getting back to the ledge is even more of a challenge because they keep having to circle because they change there minds at the last moment which is fairly entertaining. They head toward the ledge then at the last second circle around for another attempt and can spend hours trying to land.

With the sun setting we headed back to the lodge for dinner and a bonfire. The sky was clear and the fire was great. We roasted some marshmallows (they don't make good marshmallows here!) and entertained the the non Americans with stories of S'mores then called it a night. We were exhausted.

The next morning we had our last event of the weekend - a 7 mile hike along the Pembrokshire coast line. The weather was bright and sunny so the hike was very enjoyable. We walked along the coast high above the sea in and out of little sea side villages making our way back to the lodge.

After taking it easy the rest of the day on Sunday, actually getting sunburnt, we set off for the drive home the next morning. We stopped off to tour a coal mine called Big Pit which supplied much of the coal to drive the UK's industrial revolution but has been turned into a museum. We put our hard hats and lights on and toured the actual mine. We left thinking, why hadn't we done this in KY or WV where we still mine coal.

Arriving back in London there were protests in front of Parliament blocking our preferred route to drop the car off back at Waterloo station. A few detours later, a wave to the queen and a "Hey look kids, there's Big Ben..." we were able to find our way back to drop the car off. Oh and a tip for anybody renting a car in London, ask for a Hybrid because you don't have to pay the congestion charge which can run 8 pounds a day.

We went to Wales to get away and that is what we found. Fresh air, open spaces and adventure. We made some new friends, funny enough one girl was from Northern Kentucky and another couple live around the corner from us in Clapham. Small world huh?

Here is the photo link in case you missed it.