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Greece 2011

July 26, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Paleokastritsa, Greece

The regular installment of Scott and Manuela's trip to Austria has been interrupted to bring you this special blog about their excursion to Greece. Austria 2011 will resume soon.

Greetings from Paleokastritsa, Greece!

Manuela and I are waiting for our transfer back to Korfu International Airport this morning. We've spent the last seven days sunning and relaxing in the Mediterranean sun. Our resort and beaches on the western coast of this popular vacation island weren't outstanding, but the weather has been perfect - sunny and warm.

It was very hot when we arrived last Tuesday (100 F) and we had to sit in a sweaty airport several hours while TUI Vacations arranged our transfer to the resort. A nationwide taxi strike prevented them from putting us in a taxi when our bus was delayed. Although the wait was only two hours out of our seven day stay, Manuela and I were anxious to start our "honeymoon." We eventually got to the hotel late in the afternoon.

Akrotiri Beach Resort, Paleokastritsa

The Akrotiri Beach Resort is located near the town of Paleokastritsa and beside Agiatriada Beach. My first (and lasting) impression of the semi-inclusive resort was that it is old and outdated. The furnishings and fixtures look like they belong on a That 80's Show set. Our room was furnished with a 20 year old television and a rusty refrigerator, but it was spacious and had a large balcony overlooking the beach. The bathroom window opened to a shared air shaft; when we left it open we could hear our neighbor’s bathroom habits.

We were hot and anxious to check out the water, so we quickly unpacked and headed to the water. It was early evening by the time we got to the beach and it wasn't too crowded despite being small. There are two water sport vendors on the beach; a significant portion of the water line is dominated by paddle boats and launching platforms and motor boat fumes often filled the air.

Akrotiri Beach Resort, Paleokastritsa

The water at Agiatriada Beach is very clear, but Manuela and I were hoping for warmer water. The temperature is more like San Diego than Acapulco. Manuela swam often during the week, but I prefer warmer water; I got in the water a few times over the week, but was never in long enough to use the mask and snorkel I brought from California. We saw only a few non-descript fish.

Our stay at Akrotiri included "half board;" breakfast and dinner were included, but lunch and any other food was extra. Manuela and I wandered into the dining room for dinner the first night not knowing what to expect; no one explained how the dining worked, so we had to guess when it came to ordering from the Greek menu. It wasn't until the end of the meal that we learned the drinks (beer, soda, and bottled water) were not included.

Akrotiri Beach Resort, Paleokastritsa

Manuela and I did nothing on Wednesday, our first full day in Greece. We read by the pool all morning and then on the beach all afternoon. Before switching sunning spots, Manuela and I walked up the road a bit from our hotel to buy water shoes. The beach and water are much too rocky for bare feet.

Hoping for a sandier beach, Manuela and I took a local's advice and walked 30 minutes down the road to a hidden beach on Thursday. It wasn't easy to find ("walk 30 minutes and turn left down the alley next to a pink taverna") and when we found it we discovered it was below the high tide. We had to settle for the popular public beach nearby. It was bigger than the hotel beach, but just as rocky and by noon very crowded. We were exposed to Greek inhibition – several women were sunbathing topless.


In the afternoon we took an excursion to the city of Korfu. After a 60 minute guided tour of the old town, we had a group dinner at a taverna and then a sunset cruise along the city's eastern coast. Korfu is a beautiful old world town. The central streets and alleys are narrow and still paved with stones set by Venetian settlers hundreds of years ago. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, so any changes to the outside of the old buildings must duplicate their original designs. That is prohibitively expensive, so the result is crumbling exteriors with modern interiors. Unfortunately graffiti mars much of Korfu.

A shuttle bus took all the sunset passengers back to the hotel transfer point, but we had to search through the 40 tour buses to find the right one. It was very chaotic. Bus drivers on Korfu are either very confident in their driving skills or very foolish. They race over narrow country roads and around blind curves, often missing passing buses with minimal clearance. At one stop our driver and several locals had to pick a parked car up and shove it aside to get by.


Because our hotel was last on the drop-off list, we didn't get back to the Akrotiri until nearly midnight. We were also picked up first, so we spent four hours on the bus for a three hour tour. Manuela and I agreed it would have been better to take the local bus to Korfu and explore on our own.

On Friday Manuela and I again split our busy day between the beach and the pool. She finished her third or fourth book since arriving in Greece, while I finished my second. Because we arrived at the beach early that day we had to rent our chairs and umbrella. The keeper of the sun beds patrolled the beach everyday with a prison warden scowl and an old adding machine, and demanded payment from would-be sun bed settlers. A Greek law requires that receipts be issued for goods and services, so she cranked out a receipt for our 8 euros ($12).

Akrotiri Beach Resort, Paleokastritsa

We looked forward to the Friday Night Pool Party Disco by DJ Konstantino, but were disappointed to learn that the host was the same 16 year old bar tender that spends all day behind the poolside bar and the music was all 20-something pop. If we were younger and more interested in drinking, we could have found several bars near the hotel at which to party.

Manuela and I still had several books to read, so we spent Saturday morning sunning by the pool. To save ourselves 8 euros, we opted for a spot on the "sand" in the afternoon. It wasn't until after we had settled ourselves that we noticed the 58 year old woman with artificially inflated lips and breasts next to us plucking pubic hair along her bikini line.

Agiatriada Beach, Paleokastritsa

After our third dinner in the Akrotiri dining hall, Manuela and I learned to fill up on the first two courses; the main dish was overcooked every time. The meat was dry and the vegetables mushy. The buffet breakfasts were little better, but the dry breads, greasy bacon, and warm yogurt left me uninspired. The coffee was passable, though I suspect it as an instant variety. On Saturday we walked up the road to a crowded taverna and had a good meal. I had a Greek pizza - olives and feta cheese.

We took a second excursion on Sunday and enjoyed it much more than the first. A large tour boat took us to Parga on the mainland and then to Gaios on the small island of Paxos. Both towns are centuries old and known for quaint alleys and old buildings. Manuela and I both particularly enjoyed Parga and its old homes and narrow streets. No cars are allowed in the city center, so walking around was easy. There are two long beaches in Parga and it seems like a great vacation destination. We hiked up to a fascinating fortress sitting above the harbor entrance; it lay mostly in ruins, including rusting canons scattered about. Paxos was very similar, though smaller and caters more to the rich yachting set.


We got a message Monday morning from Angela that it was cold and raining in Graz, so we took advantage our last day in the Mediterranean sunshine and spent it on the beach. We checked out of our hotel early this afternoon. We left several books behind in the lending library but are taking away tans and lots of photos. We'll back in Graz this afternoon (no jet lag!). We have no specific plans for our last week in Graz, but Manuela wants to take me to a music and food festival and a puppet/street performance festival.

Bis Graz!


Posted by SChandler 11:51 Archived in Greece

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Ok, I think I'll skip this destination…now I'm not feeling so jealous. But anxious to see you!

by MaureenChandler

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