I can only apologise to my loyal readership which, before we decanted to Greece for a couple of weeks, was closing in on around 12 million hits per day. Or was it 12? The country in which we live, led at the moment by a chancer and compulsive liar (Al ‘Boris’ Johnson to you and me), suggests that it may be acceptable for everyone to be economical with the truth. On that note, welcome back to my loyal 12 million readers.

You may, or may not, have noticed that I have not exactly been prolific in recent weeks. The reason for that is, quite simply, I have been having too good a time and it’s been too much of an effort to drag myself away from the bar, the pool, the beach, my sun bed and a variety of paperbacks. Given that I am attempting to grift a living from this blog, this probably isn’t my smartest move but needs must. And I needed that rest. Still, enough about my lethargy. Let’s write about my experiences of travelling to Greece.

There are, you will have noticed, problems at airports. Flying from Bristol to Corfu two weeks ago, we had, shall we say, a mixed experience.

The captain of our slightly delayed return flight in the early hours this morning summed things up far better than the piss poor local Bristol Live and the know-it-all gobshites on social media” “It’s the same everywhere we go at the moment,” meaning staff shortages, chaos at security, delays, cancellations and every other aspect of flying. And, having spoken to numerous people along the way, Bristol is not unique to the chaos and far from the worst.

Our experience of the outward bound journey was as follows:

  • Check in dead easy. Hardly anyone around.
  • Security. The biggest crowd I have ever seen at security at any airport, with the exception of Manchester in 2019. We had paid extra for fast track security in order to make our 25th wedding anniversary more relaxed. So glad we did.
  • Air side. Barely anywhere to stand never mind sit. This is because of numerous early morning delays which mean later flights are delayed (ATC and baggage handling issues) and many people arriving idiotically early for their flights. (At Corfu airport, you can get rid of your bags early but you can’t go to security before two hours ahead of your flight. Are you listening, Bristol?)
  • We booked the rip off wannabe ‘Aspire’ lounge as an anniversary treat but that was cancelled the day before we left.
  • Oh, and Silver Zone parking worked well, at least it did once a helpful British Somali worker explained in words of one syllable that I was the problem, not the new check-in system.

Travelling to Europe is slightly more irritating and time-consuming than it used to be now that we have to use passport control at either end. Another bloody Brexit benefit. Next year, we will have to pay actual money to visit Europe. Thanks, Al.

AND NOW GREECE

This was my 25th visit to Corfu, although we only spent two days at each end of the break on the island. The intervening period was in the small island of Paxos to the south.

The plane landed at 1.15am and we were in our Corfu Town hotel bed 45 minutes later. There’s a lot to be said for being the final arrival of the day and this went like clockwork.

When I first visited Corfu in 1985, the first thing you noticed was the smell, the smell being of the Bay of Garitsa, essentially an open sewer. In the town, there was no way you could avoid the smell of boiled shit. Now, the waters around the island are mainly, albeit not completely, free of untreated sewage and the town’s Venetian past glistens in the sun.

Two days later, we took the elderly Flying Dolphin hydrofoil to Paxos. It’s like something out of the Ark, a paean to the past, roaring high above the water, at least on the days it’s actually working, which to be fair is most days and both the ones we used.

I went to Paxos briefly in 1985 with ‘the lads’ and again in 1992, briefly, with my partner. We promised ourselves that one day we would come to Paxos to stay. In 2022, we made it.

Lakka is a very beautiful harbour. It’s also very upmarket, which we aren’t, due to the preponderance of the sailing fraternity who drop anchor every night and swamp the excellent tavernas and bars. As it was June, it was easy to get a table and we were never disappointed, except that is with the prices. A Greek holiday is not cheap these days, but it’s less cheap in Paxos than on, say, Corfu.

My issue with Greece is, as always, the food. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just that they insist on serving vast helpings of winter warmers like Stifado, when what you really, really want in 28c is a light salad. But that’s just me. Everyone else who visits Greece feels different to me about the food.

Lakka is quiet. And I mean quiet. Quiet as the grave quiet, with the odd souped-up motorcycle spoiling things. We were in a lovely AirBNB property with a private pool and I was the second youngest person there. Paxos – Lakka and Gaios, as well as magnificent Antipaxos – highly recommended.

Finally, to Corfu to stay with some of our favourite people on the planet at their apartment in Agios Georgios North. Two heavenly days, gazing across the bay, drinking bottles of Mythos, loafing on the sandy beach, visiting acquaintances in other resorts. Bloody lovely.

In my humble opinion, Corfu has saved itself since I started going 37 years ago. Back then, developers destroyed entire areas with crass overdevelopment, carving grotesque hotels and apartments into the unspoiled hillsides of the bays. The damage having been done, the island has stepped back from the brink and while the occasional eyesores remain, Corfu has managed to preserve enough of why people started to go there in the first place and in some instances provided additional incentives.

Passing through many of the small villages is, to me, a dispiriting experience. The Greek financial collapse, followed more recently by Covid, has been disastrous for young people, to the extent that youth unemployment is somewhere between 35% and 37%. The effects on islands like Corfu is pronounced, to the extent that entire communities are hollowed out because there is no work for them to do. Many escape to the mainland, with only low paid tourist work available for the summer season. In Paxos, most of the tavernas rely on imported mainland staff for the summer because there are no young people left to do the work. So the small villages are often inhabited by senior citizens who chose to stay and those who never had the opportunity to travel. In an island like Corfu, with a population of over 100,000, and entirely dependent on tourism, I don’t know how this can ever change.

One thing that has never changed is Greek plumbing. To this day, the post bathroom activity toilet paper goes in a bin next to the toilet and the water is, to my tastebuds, undrinkable. But even though I’ve been to Corfu so many times, I still love it. It’s been the soundtrack of my holidays through the best part of five decades.

As for the future, we will return to see our friends but my clock is ticking rapidly and I need to see other places and soon.

I promise to ramble less in future. You can wake up now.