Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Farewell Prince Philip, Corfu’s most famous son

He was Corfu’s most famous son but how will the Ionian island remember Prince Philip?

Hail Hellas

Well, probably not at all as ‘Phil the Greek’ as he was rather impertinently referred to by cheeky commoners lived all of 18 months in the island off Albania.

The Turks saw to that sentencing his Dad Andrew to death before he escaped with his son in an orange box.

Anyone for a Greek dance?

The Prince of Greece, unsurprisingly, had no longing to return particularly after finding a warmer welcome with the Windsors, of Windsor.

Wares of Greeks

And he was to say when asked: ‘I certainly never felt nostalgic about Greece. A grandfather assassinated and a father condemned to death does not endear me to the perpetrators.’

That was then and this is now and we’re all jolly good friends, ourselves and the Greeks.

Fly me. Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

Right down to the fact that they have a cricket pitch, the very essence of English culture, in the centre of Corfu Town.

And we’re busy courting the Hellenes, and they us, particularly as a possible green light country under the outline of the Global Travel Task Force.

Global Task Force

On which topic how do we feel about said Global Task Force.

And again I find myself in tune with my friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association who are lobbying our politicians north of the border here to get on board.

Jump in. Photo by Tania Nov on Pexels.com

Joanne Dooey, President of the SPAA, speaks for all of us, travel professionals and travel providers alike when she says: ‘Currently, the advice being given today is for travellers to and from England, and in our meetings next week with the Scottish Aviation Working Group we will be urging that Scotland follows suit.’

While she also raises an issue we have long flagged up.

She said: ‘We have some initial reservations on cost and availability of testing, the traffic light system and how vaccination passes will work operationally.

‘Our chief concern is the requirement for a PCR test and the costs associated with this. PCR testing is currently an expensive option which will place financial strain on families who travel together.

‘We would like to see the cost of this driven down or alternative forms of acceptable testing such as antigen and lateral flow.

Your boat will come in

‘The traffic light system has to have clarity and we all need to know the data which will place each country in green, amber or red and importantly what will trigger the move from one category to another.

‘This should be an internationally agreed system as currently this is only one side of the equation and travellers also need to know all the regulations for entry to their destination country.

‘And we’re very keen to hear how the digital vaccination pass will work in practice.’

It’s a deal

All of which brings us back to what we should be looking out for if we do we want to get out to Corfu.

And blue and white naturally

It is an island we know well from spending our first married days there with highlights including a dab at water skiing (or drinking), doughnuts and a flirtation (on his part) with the hotel keyboardist.

Corfu is surprisingly green and has its quirks such as that cricket pitch and the ubiquitous scary-looking Greek monks, though with the types of beards I’ve been trying to grow for 30 years.

The Scary One is never far away though clicking her scissors just in case.

She’d not be out of place in Ancient Greece.

So mid-September is our anniversary month and Barrhead Travel has seven days B&B at the Morfeas Hotel, from £320pp, departing on September 15.

MEET YOU IN THE TAVERNA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

WTM Holiday Snaps – An ancient Greek modern tale

We’re going to have fun in 2021, and high up on the list is Greece’s bicentenary..

And a good day to talk about it though, in truth, every day is a good one to wax lyrical about Hellas.

As the Greeks today set up their committee for the year which marks 200 years since the end of the Greek War of Independence which saw the rebirth of the nation.

It turns out that I’m a Philhellene, which is a lover of Greece.

Which all of us know from our schooldays comes from the Greek word philos meaning love.

Corfu corker

I love Corfu obviously as the island where I honeymooned and made Herself the Happiest Woman Alive.

A Greek God: On Kythera

While I caught up with friends from the Attica region where this old relic had an odyssey of my own before eventually getting to the Parthenon.

Kythera idyll

And bagging an Attica island of my own in Kythera.

The good news is that there are plenty to go around, 6,000 (count them!)

Greece has been held up this year as an example to the rest of us about how to deal with Covid and hence were kept off the UK exempt list.

While other countries fell like dominoes.

Thessaloniki in the distance

And so many tourists discovered the joys of Greece for the first time after switching holidays at the last minute.

Thessaloniki OK

And to the mainland as well as the islands with Greece’s Second City, Thessaloniki, served by Ryanair, EasyJet and Jet2.

As a son of a second city myself, Glasgow, I know why citizens of Second Cities work harder and live harder.

And Thessaloniki is known for its friendliness, music festival scene and as the culinary capital of Greece.

Parthenon for the course

Greek cities and prefectures all will celebrate the Bicentenary next year though some like Thessaloniki arrived late to the party.

In their case 1912 as the Ottomans held onto them longer and that’s a recommendation in itself.

Greek uplift

And the world will be there to celebrate with them.

Though maybe at a more social distance than when an international group of us got stuck in an Athens restaurant lift for half an hour.

The philos was all around us.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The trials of Odysseus and today’s Greece

These Greeks are a resilient bunch, they can pull themselves away from the Sirens, overcome the Cyclops and live with modern-day economic collapse.

And run faster, fight stronger and jump higher.

And they can see off COVID-19. With a little help from the Gods on Mount Olympus.

Because they’re getting precious little help from their own politicians – or ours.

A prayer for Greece

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Greece’s COVID-19 levels were low (and still are with 147 new cases and two new deaths).

And yet the UK Government are threatening them with being thrown off the exempt list.

Now every death is a loss but I’ll say this in the hope, and expectation, that it won’t happen to me.

I don’t want people to stop living if I’m either of those casualties.

Because our politicians are blinding us with statistics by frightening us with daily rises and not putting them in context.

The Alpha and the Omega

People come first

In all they have had 7,222 cases, with 3,804 recoveries (a stat which our politicians never tell us) with 230 deaths.

The UK, by comparison have had three deaths overnight and Scotland none for 30 days.

I never went for stats and graphs at school and the only tables I looked at were football league tables.

But politicians love a stat because stats don’t talk back the way people do.

The Greeks will though and I admit that I’d love to see more British people vent their fury and argue the consensus.

A myth that’s a hit

Raising the bar on Greece

Like Mykanos bar owner Stavros Grimplas who gave out about the lightning lockdown of bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants.

‘We told them to come to Greece and Greece has shut down,’ Stavros argued.

These lightning lockdowns also risk congestion at airports and ports.

And where you get congestion you get a strain on social distancing which is our safeguard from the virus.

I accept that I have a hippos, or horse, in this race being a Hellenophile (Greek fan).

And having spent many of my happiest times abroad in Greece,

Island delights: Kythera

My Greek adventures

In Corfu where we honeymooned and Athens and its Attica island Kythera.

It is time for the people to remember that our politicians are merely the guardians of our house.

And we should be vigilant when New Zealand, the poster people of COVID, hunt at delaying their election by a month.

And Donald Trump stands accused of trying to manipulate the US election rules.

From a distance: As Athene would have seen it

An old relic and the Parthenon

It’s not just Belarus and Eastern Europe where elections are flawed.

It is time for us to take the power back.

I an reminded of a detour on the way to the Parthenon.

And my taxi driver telling me it was because the Athenians were protesting… ‘it’s what we do’.

In the cradle of democracy they will!

Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

Fun on the water in Corfu and Lake Geneva

I know you think I walk on water but I really don’t.

I’ve swallowed more sea… in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea doing water sports than a puffer fish, who incidentally I never did get deep enough to see.

But I do persist and got to see me my turtles and rainbow fish in the Caribbean,

Let’s walk on that… Corfu

All of which messing around on the water brings me around to Corfu where Ryanair will fly you for €24.99 single which is 30% off.

And where my waterskiing career dived just as it began on honeymoon though thankfully the marriage bit has lasted,

Because I learned early where the Scary One is concerned that ‘when she wants my opinion she’ll give it to me.’

Window to the world: Ryanair

Ryanair has a range of offers which end midnight tomorrow, August 6.

But we’re zeroing in on this sample on Greece with Chania (€31.87) and Thessaloniki (€29.99).

And Greece’s Second City my Hellenophile pals assure me from my Greek Odyssey is the real jewel of Greece.

Or surfing in Switzerland

Pictures of Switzerland

And yes you know it, you can surf in the most surprising places as I did on that cruise ship in Barcelona.

With my old friends Royal Caribbean and my new pal, Irish surfer Gearoid McDaid, on Odyssey of the Seas.

All you need is a board, a body of water for a swell which you can get too in landlocked countries.

Zurich-West is one of the places to see and be seen with its urban surf centre, flowing drinks, sumptuous food and rocking music.

Professional instructors are on hand and I do hope they have more to work with than Gearoid had with me on FlowRider.

Watery playground

Zurich, of course, has its own natural watery playground, Lake Zurich where you can learn to sail or be sailed.

As well as the public outdoor pools where you can enjoy your pool experience.

Switzerland we all know from skiing but those mountains are transformed in the summer into hiking heaven.

Jump in: Lake Geneva

Stay at the grand dame Baur au Lac Hotel overnight stay including breakfast and two-hour vintage boat trip on Lake Zurich.

The real deal

With driver and Baur au Lac pucnic basket for two from 990CHF (€906/£819) and each additional night 450CHF (€411/£371.71) for two.

Baur au Lac has rooms from 695CHF (€634/£573) per night based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Double on room-only basis.

MEET YOU ON THE SWELL