Holiday Destinations - Corfu
PUBLISHED: 14:29 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:12 26 February 2013
Plenty of Corfu sunshine and no stress was the perfect pick-me-up for a busy dad and his family REVIEW BY PHIL BROTHERHOOD
After one of the worst summers on record, we were really looking forward to a relaxing week in Corfu. My wife Jen and I hadnt been to Greece for a few years and we were keen for our two-year old daughter Sophia to visit, as after-all she has a Greek name (meaning wisdom). Our sixth-month old son Sam had not been overseas before, so we were all excited when we set off on our Greek adventure.
After a smooth flight, we were met at Corfu Airport by a taxi and took the 20-minute ride along the coast to our hotel. We noticed the rich/poor divide in some of the small villages along the way, realising that Greece continues to feel the effects of its devastating financial crisis it was clear just how important tourism is to the Greek economy. We were fortunate to arrive at the five-star Marbella Beach Hotel and were impressed by the different swimming pools, one salt-water, one sweet-water, as well as the view out to the ocean and the curve of the Greek mainland beyond.
That night we settled in and got ready for a buffet dinner in the hotels bustling restaurant. The selection on offer was mind blowing, with menus changing every night; there were also themed nights like Italian night. My wife and daughter were particularly fond of the desserts, which had all you could think of from miniature cakes, crme caramel, profiteroles and much more. There were plenty of healthy options, like Greek salad and locally caught fish or mussels.
We were lucky with the weather but there was torrential rain on our first day. We discovered a Kids Club at the Hotel, which was really well-equipped and gives parents another option, as children aged four and over are catered for from 11am-1pm and 3pm to 5pm every day.
When the rain cleared, we explored the hotels beach which was a short walk downhill and included sun loungers on decking which overhangs the turquoise water below.
The next few days were wall to wall sun. We enjoyed an excursion to the north of the island to Kassiopi, which was a beautiful beach with crystal clear water. Wealthy Romans such as Cicero and Tiberius used to visit the old port of Kassiopi and we could see why. There is a lively buzz about the harbour which is a fishing port; Kassiopi is well worth a visit. Being beach lovers, on our way back to the hotel we also visited a lovely swathe of sand at Myrtiotissa.
Another day, we caught a bus from outside the hotel which took us to Corfu Old Town. There much to explore here, particularly the two fortresses: the old citadel and the new fort. We enjoyed meandering through the narrow streets of the Old Town, known locally as Campiello and now on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We saw the central square of Spiniada Square, which due to the islands English heritage, welcomes cricket matches. Just outside the Old Town, we visited Achilleon Palace, a grand building designed by the Empress Elizabeth of Austria in the 19th century as a tribute to her hero Achilles; couldnt help but think of Troy, the Hollywood blockbuster with Brad Pitt!
For lovers of literature, I was aware that Corfu was the childhood home of Gerald Durrell and his brother Lawrence. We had visited Gerald Durrells conservation wildlife park on Jersey, so it was interesting to visit his Greek home, The White House, which hugs the rock face, perched above the waters edge. The White House at Kalami, which is on the north east coastline, is now a restaurant.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Kanoni. There is a long thin road which connects the Kanoni Peninsula resort and overlooks the two tiny islands of Vlacherna, which has a convent and Pontikonisi (Mouse Island), with its chapel. There is also Aqualand in the centre of the island - one of the largest water parks in Europe, with no less than 38 different slides. For party animals, there is the infamous Kavos in the south of the island.
Back at the hotel, my wife and I took advantage of their superb spa: total indulgence! I had a relaxing back and neck massage and Jen enjoyed a 50-minute anti-stress massage. This winter the Hotel will complete phase II of its renovation process, which will include a new Spa and gym, with renovations taking the total number of rooms to 384. The owners will invest 7 million Euros, which will include a brand new Kids Club.
The view out to the Ionian ocean at the hotels restaurant was breathtaking every morning; the pastries were addictive for one breakfast I had smoked salmon and Champagne, which is always an indication of a top hotel for me. The hotels staff couldnt have been more family friendly; every night the restaurants kitchen sterilised our bottles for Sam.
After a week of fine weather, superb food and relaxation, you can imagine we were very sorry to leave Corfu. We knew the forecast for the next week was 30 degrees plus, which is great for early October and so unlike the UK! For autumnal sun, I recommend Corfu and would return there to explore some more.
Classic Collection Holidays (www.classic-collection.co.uk; 0800 294918) offers seven nights at Marbella Beach Hotel, Corfu, for a family of four from 3,750 during half-term in May 2013. Price based on two adults and two children sharing a Deluxe Family Room on an all-inclusive basis.
This includes return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure Airports available, including Manchester Airport) to Corfu and private transfers. Departs Gatwick on May 24th, 2013.