June 12th, 2008


Tourists and Other Animals 6/10

We are not organized travelers. We do not plan out routes that take in a series of sites of cultural or archeological interest and then follow them. We hit a city and we wander and have adventures. Sometimes they're spectacular, sometimes not so much. Mostly, it comes out somewhere in the middle, with periods of frustration as we wander through uninteresting parts or pound pavements in the heat looking for a place to eat alternating with cool experiences we wouldn't have had otherwise.

This was one of those days.

I don't really know what Corfu town is like. Busy. Very tourist-oriented towards the harbor, with shops full of tourist tat, much of it cotton clothes made in India and Indonesia and China, printed with Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses, slightly off-register. Ellen, hot and uncomfortable in a long-sleeved shirt, found an actual Greek gauze top for 15 euros, and felt much better for the change. We wandered about some more, getting away from the tourist district and into the actual town, getting hotter and hungrier and crabbier with each step. Finding ourselves near the bus terminal, we decided we'd head out into the country, to the Adams mansion built in 1830 by the British, where, coincidentally, Prince Phillip was born. It's called Mon Repos. There were ruined temples, there was a Romantic palace, there were trees and vistas, and best of all, there were probably not as many people.

There were all those things, but there also wasn't anything to eat. Eventually, at the bottom of the hill we'd just ridden up, we found a row of tavernas down by the water, but not before we'd bought a sheep yogurt (I love sheep yogurt) at a grocery store and recruited nature with that and a soft drink. We still had plenty of room for a cucumber and tomato salad, some excellent cheese, two perfectly grilled squid, and a small bottle of Retsina, after which we felt perfectly capable of climbing any number of hills.

Mon Repos was so worth it. The woods smelled of eucalyptus and heat. The sky was cerulean, with big fluffy clouds over Albania on the other side of the water. There were olive trees and winding paths, and two lovely little temples, one to Hera (only a couple of columns and a tumble-down wall, but set in a truly lovely glade. The Doric temple was even prettier, partly because there was more of it (the columns were actually standing up, and you could get a sense of the floor plan), and partly because it overlooked the sea.

All the way up there, we'd been passed by teenagers, one of whom ended up doing calisthenics above the temple. The rest of them turned off down a steep path to a stone pier. We saw them from above, diving off the pier and posturing for each other and screeching when they got splashed. And then we walked back to the gate and took a taxi back to the town, where I had a lovely spicy ginger-beer and Ellen had a coffee. And then we walked back to the ship and collapsed in two sweaty, tired heaps.

I'd go back to Corfu, but probably not to Corfu town. Next time, it's the countryside or bust.