Travels around Greece – The Greek Ionian Islands
After our month long sail around Sicily and the bottom side of the mainland Italy boot, we aimed our yacht, Britican, east to Greece. The plan was to start at the top of the Ionian Sea and work our way down before heading through the Corinthian Canal to Athens and the Aegean.
Our first stop in Greece – anchoring in a bay at Palaiokastrita, Corfu
I was super excited to see Corfu. Having been to some of the Greek Ionian Islands before I knew what I was in store for however Corfu was new to me.
To cross over to Greece it took us about 12 hours under sail. I had a little mishap during that journey – Read, ‘A lesson on using common sense rather than relying on a plotter.’ We left Italy early to ensure we had ample light to find a mooring in Corfu. I was a bit nervous leaving Italy and heading to a new country but as I mentioned before I knew the area. Furthermore I’ve spent loads of time in various Greek regions so the food, language and way of life was familiar.
Upon reaching land, my husband Simon decided to moor up in Palaiokastrita, Corfu
We easily anchored in the bay – it was absolutely amazingly beautiful. The sea floor was sand so the water was turquoise blue, there were high rocks around us, and we were surrounded by a little fishing/tourism boat port, several tavernas and a few large hotels.
We anchored between a massive rock that came out of the water and some cliffs (see above – Britican is the sailboat pictured). The boat rocked from side to side quite a lot even though it looked very calm. During the day it didn’t bother me but at night it was a bit much! My body just thought, ‘stop the rocking please – I’m trying to drift off!’ There were lots of little motorboat rentals, small sightseeing boats and couple small glass bottom boats.
One of the James Bond films was filmed in the bay next to us
And James Bond wasn’t the only attraction! It seemed that we became part of the tour while anchored in the bay for our two nights…the tour boats would slow down as they passed. People would take photos and we’d either hide or do our best to look pretty and smile. My cousin, Loryn, did some exercises on the aft deck and a group of 4 people on a pedlow passed by to complement her efforts.
‘Nice squats’ one of the passerby’s yelled out
Loryn then got to speaking with them and had a great chat.
For the first day we stayed on the boat, went swimming and chilled out
We took the tender out (shown above) for a quick tour around the harbor and cliffs. It was the first time I rode in it and wow was it fast. Every wave hubby hit I yelled out a scream. In between laughing at me, Sienna just kept yelling, ‘faster! Faster!’
Loryn cooked us a wonderful meal on board and we enjoyed our drinks as the beaches became quiet and the tourists all went to dress up for dinner.
Day two of being anchored in the bay, we got the tender out and motored ashore. We tied up where one of the small tourist sightseeing boats was missing. On shore, we got rid of our rubbish and found the first restaurant with Wifi. Luckily, we didn’t have far to go – it overlooked the little harbor and our beautiful boat on in the bay.
For the first time in months I connected to wifi that allowed me to upload and download larger files
I was so excited – my online storage backup queue was massive by now. On the boat, I backup my computer to an external hard drive but once on land I attempt to backup to Dropbox, an online storage facility. I want to ensure all the photo’s and video’s I’m taking are safe. In Italy, I struggled to upload a photo, let alone backup my computer.
While Loryn and I caught up with our emails and updated our families on Facebook that we made it to Greece, Simon took Sienna for a walk to find a grocery store. Not long after, they returned saying they had no luck. We were getting low on milk and had no bread left. It appeared that we landed ourselves in a very tourist town where the hotels and restaurants catered for everything.
Oh well, we’ll have to make due without bread – or will we?
After doing all our computer stuff, we went for a little ride on the tender and went back home to chill out. I was finishing some laundry and then decided to clean the outside hull on the back of the boat – it was disgusting. The back is usually covered by the tender so I don’t see it. When we all went swimming I realized it needed a good clean. After seeing it gleam I felt like I accomplished something.
That night, for the first time in months, I made an effort to put something nice on
I found some black ¾ length trousers and a nice top with some bling diamanté buttons. We all boarded the tender as gracefully as possible and motored over to the strip of tavernas. After a drink at one tavern and uploading a blog, we moved over to a recommended restaurant and sat at the table for our first Greek meal. The three of us adults ordered Kleftiko (stewed lamb) with a Greek salad and my daughter had fish and chips. Our meals were excellent.
Actually, our meals were more than excellent
In Italy we ate home cooked food using readily available foods – pasta, seasonal vegetables, rice, potatoes and some meat. When we went out we inevitably had either pizza or pasta. Most menus in Sicily had 2 pages of pizza, 1 page of pasta and then only 1 entre with pork, only 1 entre with chicken and only 1 entre of beef.
You don’t go to a pasta restaurant and order a steak! It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant and asking for a hamburger
The pizza and pasta in Sicily was amazing but the dishes were so large and stodgy that it was impossible to eat a salad or side dish. And in most cases, it was hard to find salads on the menu. The one time I did order a salad, it came with a whole pack of American streaky bacon on top of it – RAW. Yes, it was raw, not smoked or cured…it was RAW.
That being said, the Greek salad that we ate was the best salad I’ve tasted in years. My body was craving lettuce and other vegies without the influence of some sort of bread. I moo’ed like a cow through the whole meal. And then we ate the lamb it just fell apart. The seasoning was so different from what we’ve been eating that we all just smiled both with our mouths and with our bellies. It could have been a mediocre meal but because it was so different from what we’d been eating, it tasted like heaven.
Before we left, we strategically put the basket of bread served to us in my backpack
No – not that actual basket, just the bread. Thankfully we now had bread for our toast and eggs in the morning. Never have I even thought of doing that before!
That evening we all slept well and woke up ready to move on. We pulled up our anchor and motored towards Gouvina Marina – Corfu Islands largest marina.
Tips about mooring in the bay at Palaiokastrita, Corfu
- Upon entering the bay there is a small harbor on the right side. Yachts are welcome to moor up side-to however it holds around 3 yachts and the waters are very shallow.
- We anchored in front of the main beach between a large rock and some cliffs. Our anchor held very well however it was a very rocky mooring! The pilot book mentions that certain winds cause the waters to be turbulent. Upon looking at the bay you’d think it was flat calm but our boat swayed from side to side all day and night long.
- There are several tavernas and a very tiny grocery store. You can drop your rubbish off in dumpsters by the little fishing harbor.
Let me move onto Gouvia Marina next…
Entering Gouvia Marina, Corfu in the rain
We entered the marina in the rain. It was a bit cold but luckily just as I went out to help Simon, the rain reduced to a mist. We all had to imagine how beautiful the area was rather than see it first hand. It was gray, hazy and wet.
Wanting to check out the marina we went for a walk and found a cute little café bar. In fact, there were several to choose from right within the Marina. My American background came out when I saw a cheeseburger on the menu. In fact, my husband and cousin joined me. Not expecting anything spectacular we were all surprised by the amazing taste of the burger. Oh-my-gosh – it was outstanding. Once again, it’s probably because it’s been so long since we had a cheeseburger that anything would have tasted great.
One thing I’ve noticed about sailing is that food, any food, tastes amazing!
While out to dinner, Loryn and I started talking to the bar owners and Simon headed back to our boat with Sienna. We mentioned that we’re collecting recipes on our travels, trying them out in Britican’s Galley and doing videos.
The bar owners mother overheard us talking and went into the kitchen to handwrite a few recipes for us. Both Loryn and I were so excited to get an authentic Moussaka recipe.
Unbeknown to Loryn and I, Simon never made it back to the boat. Along with Sienna he was invited onto the boat next to us full of Polish people. There was a little boy for Sienna to play with and Simon spent time testing all sorts of Polish food and enjoying the company of those on the boat. No matter where you are, it always seems that there are new friends to be made.
The first full day we were in Gouvia Marina, we did some cleaning and general maintenace. In fact, the whole time we were at Gouvia Marina we took the opportunity to do various jobs. The weather wasn’t great and the boat really needed a scrub down. Sienna helped a lot (we cleaned all the floors, cleared out some cupboards, opened the grey water tanks and cleaned them, etc.) For a break, we went for lunch and had the best salads ever! Also ordered a grilled squid that was AMAZING. It was my cousins first taste of squid and she loved it.
At the supermarket I was shocked by the high prices
Not knowing what the cost of groceries were going to be, we made a novice mistake. We went to the supermarket at the marina and purchased very little – the total came to 116 euros. I fell onto the floor.
Later than day I found a huge grocery store on the main road – it was almost the same distance away. I was upset that I wasted so much money but also very happy – it was the best grocery store we’d seen since Morrisons in Gibraltar (two months ago). It had 2 floors…everything we could ever want. Furthermore, there were loads of familiar brands so we knew what we were buying. Also, there was bacon and sauerkraut something we’d been looking for months.
While ventureing outside the marina to the grocery store, I found a few local tavernas. I suggested to my family that we give on a go.
That evening, we went out to dinner and enjoyed another great meal. Sienna is pictured above with the owner. We all had local dishes – Stafado, mousaka, grilled steak and Sienna had Slovaki. There were lots of laughs and we all really had fun.
For dessert, we ordered Milk pie and it was amazing. If you ever see it on a menu, give it a go. My whole family thought it was excellent.
Sienna was in a particularly social mood
She spoke with the waiter, befriended another table of eaters and spoke to all the old boys sitting out near the outdoor grill. Sienna told one group of people that she was in Spanish school, that I speak Italian and that she has a sister and 2 brothers (Megan, Ethan and Mason – all friends of hers from back home). What an imagination! I guess her life isn’t that interesting – she needs to make things up. Hahahaha.
She had everyone eating out of her hands. The owner/waiter brought her ice cream, free of charge. And the guests all wanted to say hi to her. When we left I couldn’t believe it when all the old boys yelled out, ‘Bye Kim,’ to me. She must have told them all my name.
Sienna’s social skills have sky rocketed and I’m so pleased she’s able to approach anyone
Of course, we always have an eye on here – she can’t go out of our line of site, but she can go and have conversations like a big girl. I get the feeling that she enjoys meeting people on her own – she feels like a real person rather than just a little kid.
After a few days the weather finally broke. The warm weather came back and it was time to move on. Our next stop wasn’t far. We decided to anchor right next to the Old Fort in Corfu Town.
Tips about Gouvia Marina near Corfu Town on the island of Corfu
- We cleared customs in Gouvia Maria. In the past, boaters would have to moor up at the marina and then take a bus to various places to clear customs and pay tax. Things have recently changed. Having a British registered boat, we found it very easy. I have, however, heard from others with American registered boats that clearance was an all-day event.
- Do NOT buy anything at the marina supermarket. They’re a complete and utter rip off. To get to a large inexpensive supermarket, exit the marina down a path into the town. Turn left and then once you hit the main drag you’ll see the AB supermarket across the road at the lights.
- While we stayed there (June 2014) all the facilities were being re-done so the bathrooms are most likely to be excellent by the time you visit! There’s everything within the marina – fuel water/electricity on the jetty, bathrooms, laundry, bars, restaurants (all with Wifi) and more.
- Bring our bathing suit! I usually don’t like marinas for the fact that you can’t go swimming. Well…Gouvia Marina has a swimming pool for their guests! It’s a lovely huge pool with sun chairs that you can rent for 2 euros. There’s also a bar/restaurant serving patrons all around the pool.
- Note: you can drop anchor right outside the marina and use your tender to get in and use the facilities if you want to avoid the ridiculous day charge. I think we paid 86 euros/night and we’re a 56’ yacht.
So…this blog marks the start of my Greek Ionian Islands journey. We were sad to leave Sicily behind but it’s nice to experience a different culture, foods and language. And the islands are amazingly beautiful. Stay tuned for more updates on our journey through Greece 🙂
Read the next article in my journey here: Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ and this is why – More about sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands