Sometime in the late 60’s when I was a young reporter at the BBC in the Westcountry, I was sent to Jersey to make a film about the wonderful Zoo that conservationist and broadcaster Gerald Durrell had established on the island.
In preparation for meeting the great man himself, and learning more about his passion for animals, I read the glorious account of his childhood on the island of Corfu in his book ‘My Family and other animals’ and was totally captivated. Page after page, I could smell the scent of pine; hear the endless song of the cicadas; feel the sun on my back; and share the wonder of a ten-year-old boy at the discovery of an Island rich in flora and fauna so unlike anything he had encountered in his life in England.
Corfu was his playground. And whilst his sole purpose in writing the book was to raise money to fund his zoo in Jersey – what it also did was turn the island of Corfu into a “must visit” destination for thousands of holidaymakers. Me amongst them.
It’s been many years since I made a trip to that particular Greek Island. So when I was given the opportunity of returning earlier this year with CV Villas – to stay in a large villa overlooking the beach at Avlaki in the north of the island – I jumped at the chance. And so did five of my closest women friends who couldn’t bear the thought of me being there on my own!
Six women sharing a house for a week – now there’s a challenge. But it turned out to be a blast.
The villa was fabulous. Tucked into a hillside at one end of the glorious bay that is Avlaki, our view skimmed over the villa’s own infinity swimming pool to give an uninterrupted view of the curved bay and crystal turquoise sea that was virtually our own private beach.
Two shore side restaurants offered a choice of international cuisine in one, traditional home cooked Greek in the other. Every dinner eaten watching the sky painted with stunning sunsets, against the chorus of frogs from the nearby lake. Our walk home each evening lit by the fireflies dancing in the hedgerows. And yes – one evening we did have a takeaway to curl up and watch a DVD of Shirley Valentine.
The keen swimmers in our sextet voted the bay the best open water swimming experience ever. Whilst we hedonists enjoyed almost daily massages, pedicures, manicures and facials from the visiting beauticians.
I couldn’t resist a day trekking through the surrounding wooded hills in the company of a local riding school. The pace was steady. Enough to appreciate how the young Durrell fell in love with this place as we wound our way along trails flanked by banks of shrubs and wild flowers alive with butterflies and bees.
Avlaki is not crammed with tourists, it’s a good hour’s drive north of Corfu town. The nearest we got to other tourists was a day trip to nearby Kassiopi. There were yachts and shops, and restaurants serving memorable traditional Greek food.
For a whole week, we were lotus eaters. When we left, we each had the start of an early tan, some truly fun memories. And the real test of a great holiday? We were all still talking to each other.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends CV Villas