Chasing the sun, dodging quarantine
Like most people I’ve longed to travel this year and, perhaps, because we couldn’t, the urge was even stronger.
With travel restrictions lifted for the main European tourist season I set my sights on an Autumn trip to the Greek islands – due to family commitments I couldn’t travel earlier. It would be chasing the sun at this time of year, but I eagerly anticipated the sense of freedom a holiday provides.
As the dreaded virus wreaked havoc for a second time across Europe, countries previously deemed ‘safe’ were put on the naughty step. It became a game of chicken where to book; a game of chance where to find sunshine. I signed up to the FCO alert emails, checked flight schedules and temperature charts daily. With the prospect of a difficult winter looming large and limited choice of destinations I booked adjoining beachfront villas in Avlaki, North East Corfu, large enough to take the children and grandchildren – a last family hurrah before an inevitable lockdown.
Sadly, the weather wasn’t great – storms and torrential rain most of the week. On the sunny days and in between showers, though, it was blissful. I’d previously stayed at the wonderful Bella Mare Hotel in Avlaki with Simpson Travel, which, sadly, closed earlier than usual this year, so was familiar with the area – unspoiled, verdant, wonderful tavernas and my favourite part of Corfu.
Many places were closed but the excellent Cavo Barbero, handily next to our villa, and tavernas in nearby Aghios Stephanos were open. We feasted on fresh fish, Greek salad and local specialities. At Eucalyptus Taverna we ate courgette flowers stuffed with herbs and soft feta cheese; so melt-in-the-mouth delicious the taste lingers. Most of the time, though, we ate in our extremely comfortable villa with its excellent kitchen and facilities, though Nana did most of the cooking! My 3-year-old grandson learnt to doggie-paddle, skim stones and was entranced watching fish from the end of the jetty with his Granddad. Through an agency we hired a daily morning nanny so our children could work or catch up on some much-needed sleep. Although it was not quite the ‘holiday’ we had hoped for, as my son remarked, it was a very welcome and refreshing change from WFH in the UK, so definitely felt like a holiday for them. Mission accomplished. Well, almost. Nana was still in need of some sunshine and a holiday!
Typically, when we left Corfu the weather was sunny with a great forecast for the rest of the week. Always a risk of rain at this time of year, but we were very unlucky. Back home the following day, Crete and other Greek islands were removed from the FCO quarantine list so perhaps still time for some sunshine and travel-free restrictions. Crete, the most southerly point of Europe and Greece, generally has a longer season with more sunshine than most European destinations. Ryan Air flights (£14.99, Birmingham to Chania), was the only call to action needed! 72 hours later my husband and I were on a one-way ticket to Chania, Crete. No plans, other than our first two nights accommodation booked in the Old Town. We were almost delirious with the liberating prospect of an adventure.