I woke up all wrapped up in excitement and anticipation the following morning. And after yet another breakfast in the balcony, I walked myself to the car rental company which-SURPRISE SURPRISE- turned out to be the one I passed by when I was wandering lost upon my arrival trying to find my accommodation. Honestly, I was kind of hoping it would be the same company because I couldn’t forget the helpful nice lady who works there, Sandy. Sandy was of such a great help. She assured me that I wouldn’t have a problem renting a car with my license AT ALL and in no time I had myself a black Hyundai i10 for the day! WOO HOO!
I packed up what I needed for a day-out but before I headed north, I had to fuel the car first since the tank was almost empty! So I went into the gas station and confidently asked for a full tank!! WHAT!! I only needed to give the car back with a little less than quarter a tank but foolishly, I had it fully fueled. A habit I picked up from renting cars for an extended duration of time, I was not used to having a car for just the hours of day light!!! Bummer, I could have saved me those euros
The north of Corfu is wider, hence bigger than the south with a longer coastline. And since I wouldn’t have been able to see everything in a day, I followed Tania’s recommendations sticking to the west-cost. The first stop of the day was the village of Paleokastritsa which is considered the most picturesque in Corfu with taverns overlooking the sea and quite a collection of beaches. The road going through the village, Palaiokastritsas as per Google maps, has a bunch of beaches so I stopped to explore one of them. I can’t really tell which one it was since I couldn’t find a sign but there was an entry fee to the beach and since I didn’t feel like paying money to enjoy a beach, I just left.
I continued down the road on the same direction I came from till I had Agios Spyridon Bay to my left. That area was very crowded and I got worried thinking if I will ever be able to find a parking spot for my car. Luckily, there was a free parking lot opposite the beach. Phew! The beach was packed with people and that got me discouraged specially after the encounter of the previous day so I left.
As I headed back to my car, I noticed another beach that was accessible from the parking lot and I decided to give it a go. That beach happened to be Agios Petros beach which is part of the Ampelaki Bay. That one was a lot smaller, pebbled, and free unless you wanted to rent a sunbed and have access to wi fi. It wasn’t crowded at all and that was enough to persuade me to go for a swim. I walked in and the stream of looks followed, I did my best to disregard them but that didn’t prevent me from picking up a spot that was as far as possible from other attendants. Let me give you a little warning here, the water up north is a lot colder than the south. And by that time of the day the sun had decided to shy away and that didn’t help with the chillness but nonetheless, I went in for a “quick” dip after which I left immediately because of the uncomfortableness I was feeling.
I continued on the same direction of the road thinking I was on my way to Angelokastro castle, which was my next stop, but I was wrong so I turned around. The uphill road turned out to lead to the Monastery of Paleokastritsa which offers amazing hill views of the island and the bay! A piece of information I happened to know later unfortunately 😦
The drive to the castle was long and boring and I didn’t even make it all the way there! The road was slim, hilly in some parts, and in others went through narrow passages which felt so wrong to be driven past! And to top it off, I almost had an accident!! I was driving near a cliff and wasn’t speeding; I actually never do except that one time in Scotland when I confused miles with kilos (stupid I know), and while I was taking a bend in the road at a very low speed, a speedy local was coming from the opposite direction!! I pressed the brake pedal and the car stopped instantly but the other car was still coming towards me and I had no room to maneuver. At that moment I thought this is it, we are crashing!! In that second I kept on thinking about the rental car, the insurance, and how I will be able to manage the mess of a car crash in the middle of nowhere with almost no traffic on the road! Fortunately, the guy was able to stop the car! He pressed the brakes so hard that I easily smelled the burns of the tires against the asphalt. He passed me by afterwards without saying a word but his facial expression said a lot. My heart was pounding hysterically and the incident just added to the unpleasant experience I was going through on that island. It was one of those get-me-out-of-here moments!
I kept on going on afterwards till at a certain part of the road I found few parked cars and thought I was there but I wasn’t! It was just a view point of the castle but not the castle itself. Bummer! The castle was still further down the road and to get to the top of it, one would need to go on a little uphill climb. I stood there looking at the castle from afar thinking, na I won’t waste any more time on you! And actually having a view of it with the sea in the background was just perfect. I marveled at the view for a while then continued to my next stop, Porto Double beach aka Porto Timoni or Afionas beach.
The beach was near the village of Afionas and to reach that village I drove past Agios Georgios Pagon which has a large sandy beach surrounded by cliffs and cypress trees. I didn’t go swimming there, though it would have been lovely given the fact it was almost vacant. Instead I stopped at one of the taverns overlooking the beach for a lunch accompanied by a view. Greece is famous for moussaka which we actually have in Egypt as well and I was too damn curious to know if there were any differences between the two. Hence, moussaka was my lunch that day. Moussaka is an aubergine based dish that contains minced meat, in Egypt we like to add tomato slices and maybe some walnuts, raisins, and tomato sauce, at least that’s how my mom cooks it! In Greece, they do it with potatoes and béchamel sauce. It was unlike the one I have been eating all my life, which I absolutely love by the way, but it was delicious nonetheless.
If you will be going to Afionas using Google maps, like me over here, the directions will advise you to keep on going till you stop at the beach which is not entirely true as at a certain point you will reach a dead-end and that was what happened to me and a bunch of other people. A car will not take you all the way to the beach, you will need to park- a little tricky- and continue on foot. Lots of us beach goers, went all the way through and were told by locals to turn around, park, and go on foot. There you go, that’s what you should do, just park and continue on foot.
I think it took me a little less than an hour to hike down to the beach. It wasn’t difficult but it can tend to be a little slippery so I wouldn’t recommend doing it in flip flops. I was wearing my Crocs ballerina and I slipped once or twice so be careful. The views going down then back up were stunning and the beach has actually a two-opposite-sides access to the water. There is also a dirt path that can take you to a cave, Ag. Stylianos cave, and if you continue down the path till the very end you should be able to reach the other side of the lagoon. I would have loved to do so but I didn’t have time unfortunately.
I went to the right side of the beach, the less crowded one of course, and that time it was a lot better than the morning although of course I got myself a few stares!! It was a couple of hours before sunset when I was there and the water was high and cold, brrrrr! I doubted myself but eventually toughened up and went for a quick swim then the climb up was enough to warm me up! I loved it there though it was cloudy, I can imagine it being even more beautiful under a shining sun.
My last stop for the day was the famous 7th Heaven Café in the town of Peroulades. The café is located on top of Loggas beach and offers the best sunset views on the island. Now that beach is just stunning; I haven’t seen something that grand since the cliffs at the Kilt Rock in Skye Scotland. It was simply mesmerizing, the cliffs and their formations with the open sea in front of them and an endless sky with a setting sun was just out of that world and it wasn’t even a sunny day!! I just stood there despite the wind and the light rain to take in the view surrounding me, utter beautifulness. It wasn’t a good idea to swim that day because of the weather but I absolutely would have loved to. The views were such a very good compensation though!
Beside the sunset views, the café is also known for its glass transparent platform that’s built on top of the cliffs! It’s actually a very nice place, has a cozy layout, with swings overlooking the view, nice music, good food and very friendly staff. You won’t be bothered if you only wanted to take a picture on the platform and go, few people did it and were not troubled at all. I had time on my hands then so I stayed in for some sweats, a cup of coffee and a sunset full of clouds. If I have to mention a favorite place on the island of Corfu that will be it ❤
On my way back to Benitses, I drove by Sidari which is a cute little beach town known for its Canal D Amour beach. I went for a quick walk trying to locate the beach but I was unsuccessful. I was feeling tired by that time and running low on the remaining hours I had with the car so I called it a day and started heading back. The return drive was enjoyable for so many reasons. The rainy weather rewarded me with a double rainbow and for the second time in my life, first time was a couple of months earlier in Iceland, I saw a full rainbow, one side to the other! I stopped many times to take pictures and at one of those times a car with two gentlemen stopped to ask me if I needed any help. Considering how my days in Greece evolved during my stay, that gesture was unpredictably sincere that it contributed to the happy mood I was in!
As I got closer to town the sunset got more intense and despite the cloudiness, the sun managed to paint a mind-boggling rosy glow on those clouds and left me in awe. I just had to get them on camera so I recorded a video using my GoPro while driving! Sorry guys, I just couldn’t help it (sniff sniff).
It took me a little longer than estimated to reach town due to an unexpected Google maps detour. I passed the maximum time I was allowed to with the car but Sandy was very understanding and I really appreciated that. The day was ending and despite the mishaps, I had quite a good time. I was flying out the next day and despite having a great day, I was actually quite happy I was finally leaving. As much as I had some good time on the island, feeling unwelcomed almost everywhere I went wasn’t what I needed on a vacation and it surely wasn’t appreciated.
My flight was late in the afternoon so I had the whole morning ahead of me to do whatever! I took the bus again but that time I went to Kanoni which is considered a quarter of Corfu town and only a couple of kilometers away. The bus dropped me off on the main road and to reach Kanoni I had to cross a small passageway over the water to the other side. That’s the view you would see from your airplane window whenever you are landing, and people on the beach will wave at you. Kanoni is a hilly part of the island and has nice cafes and a couple of luxury hotels. There is a path to take you up the hill but I just wanted to chill that day so I walked to the Vlacherna monastery then enjoyed some coffee in one of the cafes while watching airplanes landing, quite an enjoyment I have to say 😀
Another thing that can be done is to take a few minutes boat ride to the island of Pontikonisi. The island is tiny, has a monastery and that’s basically it. I honestly think it’s a little overrated but I had a nice walk around the island till the return boat came back for me and some other people.
TIP: other places to check around Benitses that are not beaches can be the Achilleion Palace and the Corfu Shell Museum. The palace is located in Gastouri where I passed an outdoor market that had lots of food displays including grilled meat if you feel like having a bite.
I got back to the tavern for lunch and I just relaxed afterwards over a cup of coffee and some kataifi enjoying a very dramatic cloudy sky and a book; Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou (such a great one). The smell of the sea that day reminded me of Alexandria and it left me feeling nostalgic about that Mediterranean city north of Egypt, a city that I absolutely adore and haven’t visited in years!!
My time on the island was coming to an end and as I was leaving to catch the bus to the airport, I bade everyone at the hotel and tavern goodbye. I would have had to take the bus all the way to Corfu town and take another connection from there if I wanted to be dropped off in front of the terminal. Instead, the driver offered to drop me off at the nearest stop which was 900 meters away and that wasn’t bad at all. I was quite early anyway and didn’t mind the walk. As I walked myself to the airport a pickup truck was passing me by and I was offered a ride in plain Egyptian Arabic. The driver, Mohamed, was an Egyptian who happened to be living in Greece for almost 30 years. Probably the veil gave me away and he thought he would offer some help for a fellow Arab. I was nearly there but didn’t want to turn his kind offer down so I said yes. He talked to me about his daughter who he hopes would send to Germany for college and asked me about how I found Greece, Corfu in specific. I told him a few stories and he got a little surprised by what I experienced but gave the people some slack since they are not really used to having veiled women around! Hmmm!!! He wished me a safe flight and gave me his number in case I’m visiting again-not quite sure buddy- and needed a place to stay. He rents villas and studios north of Corfu for a living as it turned out, I still have that number if you are interested.
The airport in Corfu is a small one and can be maneuvered easily, what seemed to be difficult to handle though was my Egyptian passport and why on earth I was flying to Munich! To the check in counter and passport control people that seemed suspicious. The lady at check in kept on asking about my “German residency” because for some unknown reason to me, flying to Germany on a valid Schengen visa wasn’t easy to grasp! Passport control was another investigation! Why did you come to Greece? Did you come from Cairo? How did you arrive to Corfu? How many days did you spend? So you are going to Germany? How will you be flying back to Cairo? And, is that you in the passport? Well, yeah that’s me just mind the new glasses! I was exhausted and so anxious to leave that I was indifferent while answering all those questions in a very flat face! All I wanted at that moment was to fly out and leave.
So Greece, I did make some lemonade after all but unluckily it was a little bitter for my taste! I was grateful for it I have to admit but I’m not sure if I would want a taste of it any time soon!! It’s quite a shame actually because I have always wanted to visit and I have a long list of places I want to see but being so uncomfortable in my own skin as I was when being hosted by you won’t urge me to fly back in the near future! I know I’m different and may not appeal to everyone, that’s normal and I accept it. But being judged and looked down at because I’m different is something I can’t endure! Our beauty lies in being different from one another because otherwise we would all be the same and what’s the individuality in that! Diversity isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, it just means a difference, a variation of the same old story. A story called life, one which we all share. Wouldn’t we want a good ending for that?