Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oh no! I Left my Laptop in London (Updated!)

We were being so clever: instead of an expensive three day ferry journey to Croatia through Italy, I managed to find an amazingly cheap deal on EasyJet flights from Corfu to London and then London to Dubrovnik. Basically, the equivalent of flying to Chicago to get from LA to San Francisco.

But then I left my laptop in the restroom at London Gatwick airport...helpfully realizing the loss the very second the airplane doors shut. Dread! All my hopes rest with the airport lost and found office.

We are in a beautiful, population 150, harbor town of Molunat for the week, an hour south of Dubrovnik. The closest electronics store may be in Montenegro across the border. I'm hoping to buy a Google Chromebook to get back online Monday morning. I still have four more weeks of traveling and working to go until returning home.

In the meantime, I'm on cell phone only and can't share the rest of our beautiful Corfu photos with you or give you updates from Croatia. Follow my Instagram (link in my profile) for the latest.

Monday Morning Update: Hooray!  My computer was turned in to Lost & Found. We're trying to see if a London co-worker of Rob's can pick it up or if I'll need to get it shipped to Croatia. In the meantime, I am working on a frankenstein set-up of a Samsung Galaxy Tab with a Bluetooth Croatian keyboard. The "y" and "z" keys are not the only letter switched (typing that sentence was a serious brain exercise). I'm going to test out the photo editing on this - a glorified cell phone - later today and should be back in action!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wildflower Picnic in the Hills of Corfu, Overlooking the Albanian Coast

Today's post has way too many photos, but it was just so pretty - I can't help it! Rob and I took the scooter back up into the hills for our last full day in Corfu. The beaches and water here are gorgeous, but I love exploring the upcountry even more. You start to get a nice view of Albania just a few miles up.
We got a little lost on the way up (maybe? still not sure)  and the road fluctuated between cement and sandy mud. We followed a sign for the town of Mengoulas.
Mengoulas is another one of those lovely deserted mountain villages. It looks like the EU made an investment in sprucing it up for tourists a few years ago, but has since let it go to seed again. There's a fancy villa with a pool for rent across the street that isn't all that expensive - probably because it's a half hour, often dirt road drive up the hill from the main road.
Such bright purple iris growing by the town well.
A few of the buildings have electricity and for sale signs, so it isn't totally abandoned.

We hiked all around through the terraced village, occasionally climbing over a wall when a passage was blocked.
So many wildflowers! And only the sound of bees buzzing around between them.
We were looking for what Google Maps had drawn as a major road to the radio tower on top of the island. Which turned out to be this:
Decided to picnic above the village instead. There were perfect table-sized smooth limestone rocks in between the stone foundations and meter-deep flowers.
Cheese, crackers, oranges and fig pie under the warm sun. We watched ants, bees and spiders busily work around us, paying us no attention.
The pink flowers matched our Turkish towel from Bodrum.
Love these two-tone sweet peas that were growing along the stone walls.
Eventually, it was time to head back through the terraced olive groves, farms and fixed up British holiday villas.
You can tell the climate is a bit different up here with so many groves of ferns. And look at the pattern on those clouds! Just like a Greek wave mosaic.
Back to our village of Kassiopi, where it was warm enough to sit and work by the pool for the rest of the day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Exploring the North Coast of Corfu by Scooter

On Tuesday, Rob and I took the scooter for a ride along the north coast of Corfu. The weather was hot, but overcast. Still pretty here even without the bright blue skies.
This is "New Week" in Greece and there are still a few more Easter festivities going strong. When we rode through the village of Avilotes, traffic was stopped on the main road. We hopped off the bike to see the end of a church procession. All the locals, men and women, were carrying fresh flowers and heading home for a family lunch.
We rode out to the bay at San Stefanos. With the haze, smell of sage and the sandstone cliffs, it felt a lot like Half Moon Bay there.
The quiet little valleys in the north look very Italian.
On the way to Magoulades, we started to see the road covered in crushed flowers and bay leaves. Then, flags emerged and painting on the street of "Christos Anesti."
We followed the flowers to Saint Theodore's church.
The locals were getting ready to head home for family lunches after following some kind of flowery procession for a couple miles through town.
Pretty bunting!
A marching band had been part of the procession. They certainly love a good marching band on Corfu!
We should have talked to people about what was going on, but I felt shy and underdressed in my scootering outfit. The best I could do is this description of the "Nine Tuesday" celebration from a Magoulades local. It seems to be a combination of Easter, their Saints Day and village fair commemorating survival of a Spanish Flu outbreak?
Yet another mystery of Greece that defies Googling!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Picnic Lunch on the Beach in Kassiopi, Greece

The weather on Corfu today was hot, but overcast and occasionally drizzling. We decided to stick close to home with a picnic on the beach for lunch. Packed up my new tote from Athens and walked through town. We picked a spot on the flat limestone rocks hanging over the water at Kanoni Beach.
Basic picnic of salami, cheese, crackers and pears. The secret to buying produce in Kassiopi is to wait for a white van with vegetables painted on the side to stop in the town square. I bought pears, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, dill and fava beans for the week for 8 Euros.
I know salami is supposed to be terrible for you...but I love it so much!
It was warm enough for a bikini. People were swimming but I wasn't tempted to jump in the cold, clear water.
Sketched a bit with my white charcoal pencil. This rough outline turned into a really pretty color drawing for my journal.
Just a few more days in Greece before we're off to Croatia for the rest of our trip. Three more weeks to go before Chicago and then home!

Lunch at the Abandoned Corfu Village of Old Perithia

Rob and I took our scooter out for an adventure on Corfu earlier this week. Our destination? Palaia Perithia, the oldest village on the island. 
We rode about 20 minutes almost straight up from Kassiopi, past tiny farms and super fragrant fields of wildflowers to find the old village with a view of the sea and Albania in the distance.
Established in the 14th century, Perithia was once used as a place to hide out from malaria outbreaks and pirates who frequently invaded the coastal towns.
At its peak, Perithia had 1,500 residents and eight churches.
By the 1950's, the village was abandoned except for the summer months. The old stone houses quickly became overgrown with vines and started to fall apart. There are just a handful of people living in the village full-time now.
It's absolutely silent on top of the mountain except for birds chirping and a lot of bees buzzing.
The honey from up here must be delicious! Definitely not a spot for those allergic to bees.
The town is in a small renaissance. With five tavernas serving local recipes, a new B&B run by British expats and "for sale" signs on some of the abandoned homes that are (mostly) still standing.
SO many wildflowers blooming in April here. This is the tiniest variety of forget-me-not I've ever seen!
After hiking all around for an hour, we picked Ognistra Taverna for lunch because of an amazing, almost-French-style stew aroma coming from the kitchen.
First up, a salad made with chunks of super sweet orange, olive oil, paprika and sea salt. A loaf of rustic white bread with a trio of tzaziki, eggplant garlic dip and spicy cheese.

Rob and I then split a dish of rabbit stifado with pearl onions. The recipe is made with tomatoes, olive oil, wine, cinnamon and allspice. We had a side of braised wild greens with the rabbit, full of chicory and dill. So good!
I was amped up, as often happens after a good meal!
But it was time to get back to work, so we scootered back down the hill.
What a fun adventure!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Welcome to Kassiopi, Greece!

My Family and Other Animals is one of my favorite books, so I knew we had to fit a stay in a Corfu village into our itinerary. Corfu has a special place in the hearts of Greeks - every host we mentioned it to couldn't stop fawning about how lucky we would be to see it - as well as British and Italians. I picked the village of Kassiopi (sometimes spelled "Cassiopi") from a few gorgeous pictures online.

First, we had to get there. After the festivities of Easter weekend in Corfu Town, Rob and I found ourselves stuck. The regional busses weren't running at all on the Sunday holiday and a taxi would be expensive. We moped around on Sunday morning feeling a little homesick and not sure what to do...and then we hatched a plan.
Turns out that renting a scooter for the week was only a bit more than a taxi. And, since Rob is a well-trained motorcycle rider, we figured we could load our luggage on the scooter and zip the 35 kilometers up the coast. We got the rental agent (a super Greek-looking man about 5 foot tall with 4 inch long eyebrows) to upgrade us to a newer model from the microscopic gas-guzzler he initially proposed. Rob put my bag between his knees and I wore his backpack. Thank heavens we are light packers!
The ride up the coast took about an hour and was so pretty. Lots of roasting lamb on spits along the way up through the curvy, sometimes one-lane road. Terraced olive groves on nearly vertical hillsides running down to the water. We arrived in Kassiopi and settled in to our new pool-side apartment for the week before going out to explore. The architecture on Corfu is a mix of Italian and Greek. Yellow and light pink are the predominant colors, compared with the bright white and red of Bodrum or beige and orange of Kos. There are hardly any ancient ruins, such a change from Kos and Athens. 
We hit our first beach on the north side of town. 
Then, walked up to this bay view. 
At this point, all I can say is "looooook" at each new beach we encounter. 

I'm almost nauseated from the views by the time we hit the main peninsula with beaches on both sides. 
In the distance, you can see the hills of Albania and occasionally a few snow-capped peaks.