Since many of you are probably still braving the cold and wishing for warmer days (here in New York we are still tiptoeing into spring), I thought I’d share some photos of last summer’s trip to Greece to momentarily whisk you away… and entice you to start planning your Greek summer getaway today. I already described Kalymnos and gave you some tips to plan your visit there in a previous post. Today, I’ll be sharing some information on an island on the opposite side of the country, Kerkyra, otherwise known as Corfu.
Corfu is one of the largest islands of Greece and one of the busiest during the peak tourism season. Its lush mountains and pristine beaches attract visitors the world over. And it just so happens the British Royals may be planning their oh-so-royal honeymoon there: according to British newspapers, Corfu is the front-runner on the couple’s list of romantic destinations and rumor has it they’ve chosen to get away from it all in a private villa on a secluded spot of the Greek island accessible only by boat or helicopter. (You can take a look at the Today Show’s coverage of Prince William’s and Kate’s honeymoon choices here.)
So, what sets Corfu apart you ask? It’s in Greece, of course! But all joking aside, the island has a little something for everyone from quaint, quiet spots to a more tourist-laden city center. You can choose to spend your days on a quiet beach along a number of picturesque bays in the north such as Agni, Kalami or Kerasia; ride horseback along the beach in Avlaki; tour the museums scattered around the city center; wander the narrow cobblestone streets of the island’s Old Town; or people -watch as you sip a coffee in one of the many cafes along the Liston arcade. From laid-back towns and seaside villages, to vibrant city life, there is certainly something for everyone.
In my opinion though, Corfu’s Old Town and “Plateia” or town square (one of the largest town squares in all of Europe) are exactly what most set it apart from other Greek islands. The labyrinth of stone-paved streets known as kantounia (Greek: καντούνια) on the east side spill out onto the arcade of Liston (lined with cafes and bars) and the esplanade of Spianada where green spaces abound and a Roman-style rotunda known as the Maitland Monument and an ornate music pavilion where the Philharmonic often performs dot its landscape. The church of St. Spyridon, the patron saint of the island, is one of many small churches tucked into the city’s quaint streets. Two citadels, Palaio Frourio and Neo Frourio, that once protected the city, dominate its landscape today and are open for the public to explore.
The only hotel on the island that I’ve had personal experience with is Corfu Club in Gouvia, which provides a relaxing retreat centrally located between the city center and the island’s northern bays as well as sites on the island’s western and southern-most coasts. The family-run Corfu Club is clean and well-maintained boasting beautifully manicured grounds and landscaping. Complimentary breakfast poolside is an ideal start to each day and the attentive staff is not only professional, but friendly and down to earth. Our coffee and drink preferences were mentally noted after our first morning there and each day after, my husband’s Frappe (light and sweet), my Nescafe (milk no sugar) and two tall glasses of milk for the kiddies were set on on our breakfast table without us ever even asking. If you choose to enjoy a cocktail by the pool upon return from a day of island adventures, Greek rusks with sliced fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of golden olive oil, olives, some fresh fruit or anything else you might crave will readily accompany your evening refreshment.
This is a cooking blog, of course, and we’re obviously interested in all things edible here so we’ll now stick with the subject of food: Corfu has a number of distinct local dishes that you will want to try when you’re there. From pastitsada to sofrito, bourdetto to bianco, kumquat to sykomaitha and Mantoles (baked sweetened almonds) to Mantolata (creamy nougats) you will not be disappointed with all that Corfu has to offer.
Today I’m sharing the traditional Corfiot delicacy sykomaitha (σύκομαϊδα) a spiced fig cake, which can either be enjoyed as is with a handful of nuts and a few sips of ouzo or in a variety of savory ways.
Now, I’ll admit I didn’t make the Sykomaitha featured here on my own … I indulged in buying a few of these when I was in Kerkyra/Corfu last summer. Savory and sweet all at once, sykomaitha is a blend of dried figs, ouzo, ground nuts (usually almonds or walnuts), aniseed, fresh fennel leaves and pepper formed into small logs or rounds and either wrapped in fig leaves and dried in the sun or cooked slowly in a low-temperature oven. But it is readily available all across the island in various markets, bakeries and tourist shops.
Has this post enticed you enough? Go ahead … plan your trip to Greece and Corfu today! Whether Prince William and his bride ultimately choose the island for their romantic getaway or not, take the plunge yourself and book your flights and accommodations today … you will be mesmerized by Greece’s beauty everywhere you turn, I guarantee it!
Helpful Links to Plan Your Stay in Corfu:
Digital Corfu, for extensive info on Corfu’s city center and all it has to offer http://www.digitalcorfu.com/default.aspx?lang=en
Greek A, for all your travel needs http://www.greeka.com/ionian/corfu/index.htm
Agni Travel http://www.agni.gr/Travel/Guides/Corfu/index.asp
Corfu Club Hotel, for a relaxing stay http://www.corfuclub.gr/
Dimitri’s Horse Riding in Avlaki, Corfu http://www.dimitriscorfu.gr/Horse%20riding.htm