February 2009

February 2009

  • February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check

Those who live in Corfu are often dependent on tourism for their livelihood, and these days their numbers include many foreign residents. Everyone is anxious about the future - if tourism fails, there is little else to fall back on.

Some recent newspaper articles have been a source of a certain amount of relief, therefore, claiming that holidays abroad will be the last thing anyone, in Britain at least, will give up. Holiday bookings to Europe and Mediterranean destinations are likely to be less affected than long haul, with its expensive flights and surcharges.

Corfu has acquired a large number of fans over the years - people who are unlikely to forfeit their much-anticipated holiday on the island that has given them so much - a friendly welcome, sunshine and beautiful surroundings.

What does worry the holidaymakers is the rate of exchange. Will their spending power be severely curbed, and with it, their enjoyment of a holiday in Corfu?
Let's be honest. What do people spend their money on when they come to Corfu? First-timers may well buy a souvenir or two, but repeat customers are unlikely to want to spend their euros on pottery, bedcovers or jewellery. Those who stay in hotels are more often than not on an all-inclusive holiday. That leaves the visitors who come to Corfu (and Paxos, or Cefalonia, and any other Greek destination) and stay in self-catering accommodation. Their major expense whilst on holiday is going to be food and drink.
There have been a number of posts on the Agni Forums expressing anxiety about the cost of living for a holiday in Corfu this year. It cannot be denied that food prices have gone up. Petrol is cheaper though - almost half what it was in 2008. Food shops and restaurants do not have the possibility for reducing prices that might be feasible where circumstances are different and favour such a course of action. For one thing, in Corfu resort minimarkets and restaurants are open only during the summer months, but the running expenses continue all year round. A number of establishments, however, have promised that they will do their utmost to keep prices to last year's level and some that we know of have indeed dropped their prices.

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

With a certain amount of thought the drop in the amount of euros you will get for your pound, and the inevitable rise in food prices, can be successfully countered.
We hope that the following advice will be helpful to our readers.

You have booked a villa or apartment, and when you travel with a reputable specialist company such as Agni Travel, CV Travel, Simpsons, VillaPlus or any of the other leading tour operators, you will find that your accommodation is equipped for self-catering. You will have a perfectly adequate kitchen, with a cooker of some kind, a fridge/freezer, and a supply of kitchen utensils and equipment. There will be somewhere pleasant to eat out of doors, on a terrace or balcony, or in a garden, and usually there will be a delightful view. Fresh food can be bought in the locality, there are still some itinerant greengrocers with vans, fish can be bought direct from the fishermen or from similar itinerant vendors. Your villa maid is quite likely to take you to her heart and bring you daily gifts of fresh eggs, her own wine or oil, lemons straight from the tree and other goodies in their season such as fresh figs and prickly pear fruit.

In other words, self-catering can be enormous fun. (If you know what you are doing, you can pick wild greens and wild asparagus, just as the Greek ladies do, or samphire from the beaches.)
On your way to your resort from the airport, you could easily - if you have a hire car - stop at one of the supermarkets along the main road to stock up on essentials. The resort shops, however, are run by friendly people who will become an important part of your holiday, providing services far beyond those of a mere supermarket. Just remember to buy local produce as much as possible - almost all imported goods are bound to be more expensive than Greek ones. Almost everything you need is now made in Greece too - cereals, jams and marmalades, cottage cheese, yoghurts, biscuits to name just a few, and all are of excellent quality.

A Greek summer salad of ripe tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers, dressed with local olive oil and olives and cubes of feta is a meal in itself.

An early morning stroll to the local bakery for fresh bread is a holiday treat, tastier and cheaper than imported sliced bread.
Pork and chicken are the meat of choice in the summer, and make the perfect basis of a barbecue, an event that is so much part of a holiday largely spent out-of-doors. If your villa or apartment does not have its own built-in BBQ, your local holiday company office may well be able to provide one, and you can also buy disposable ones in the resort shops at a very reasonable price.

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Fish can be a pricey choice - there is less of it in local waters than you might think - but go for fresh sardines or squid, grilled and served with a huge wedge of lemon, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the low cost, even if you are eating out.
Make this the year when you really do self-cater, and you will be surprised and delighted with the experience.

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The days of a 5 pound a head restaurant meal are probably over, though it is still possible to find small family-run establishments where the tablecloth may still be the famous soluble paper one, and you are unlikely to get a selection of flavoured butters and tapenade with your bread. What you will get is aromatic, tasty home-cooking, often cooked by granny and served to you by the children, keen to practice their English on you. You will get atmosphere and the comfortable feeling that no-one minds if you stay there all day. There will be a printed menu, but you are better off listening to what the waiter tells you or reading today's specials written on a chalkboard or a handy piece of cardboard. You will undoubtedly be eating this meal out of doors, within a stone's throw of the sea, possibly within eavesdropping distance of a celebrity or two. You are almost certain to take photos of the food, so beautifully is it presented. If it isn't granny doing the cooking, it will be someone who was a chef on an oil rig, or a cruise ship, or a mega - yacht. In other words it will be hard to give up the experience of those unforgettable Greek meals and with a little research, it should not be necessary.

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Incidentally, you may be interested to know that later this year smoking in bars will be banned. (We will of course keep you updated with how the the rules are enforced!) On the subject of drink, wine in a restaurant will add a lot to the bill, so stick to beer, or try retsina or the house wine - often very drinkable and amazingly cheap. Wine bought in a shop, however, is very reasonably priced and a perfect accompaniment to one of your home-cooked meals.
Eating and drinking is undoubtedly a major part of the pleasure of a holiday in Corfu. Don't despair - the days of wine and roses (or spinach pies, if you prefer) are not over.

Greek Holidays - Keeping the Cost in Check, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

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Agni Aunt Column

Agni Aunt Column, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Hang on a mo - I know it's here somewhere, I did jot down a few notes for the February Newsletter - ah-ha! Here they are.

Now I know that last month I touched upon the subject of the 'lost' food department at Marks and Sparks in Corfu. You probably thought that the said food department was likely to join Atlantis as the subject of much speculation - was it a pre-Christmas mirage? Did it sink to the bottom of the Ionian Sea? Will it turn up as the setting for a huge blockbuster film one day, starring Superman or Hellboy or Spiderman?

Agni Aunt Column, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

I am pleased to inform you that my spies have earned their latte and spinach pie this week by ascertaining that the fleeting glimpse we had of Ocean Pies and Apple Crumbles may not be the last. The Food Dept is planned to re-open, but according to local regulations clothing and food cannot be sold on the same premises. Ah-ha. I'm still looking for the logic in that but meanwhile, look out, then, for the M & S Nosh Boutique.

You see, the thing is, as I have said before, there is always some regulation you don't know about, some file you should have seen before you went ahead with your project, be you M & S or Joe Bloggs. I call such files the X-Files - not very original I know, but those files rule every aspect of our lives here. You are asked for so much paperwork for everything you want to do or buy or begin, like opening a business, buying a car, starting school, getting married or having your toenails cut. (And it all has to be translated into Greek). Just when you think you are nearly there - you are informed, with a certain amount of glee, that there is one file or document missing. It has never been mentioned before, it isn't in the list you were given, and it is the X file.

Agni Aunt Column, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Scully and Mulder would have been very much at home here - after all - we did once have something called the Aliens Police and though the name may have changed the faces are the same. For all I know Scully and Mulder moved here and tried to buy a house and start an Alien Detection Agency of their own, but I suspect they didn't have the right X-file to complete their plans.

I have said before, and shall no doubt go on saying it as long as I can find anyone to listen - Life in Corfu really does reflect the TV shows and it can, in particular, be compared to the typical soap opera plot.

All human life is here - corrupt business deals, adultery, property squabbles, etc, all leading to or culminating in a dramatic face-off in court, if not something far worse.
The church plays a part in the plot, doctors, lawyers and accountants come into it a lot, women flash false nails and eyelashes or else wear quilted dressing gowns all the time, people get off with each other, play trivial pursuits and darts, demonstrate, and do everything we are used to seeing them do in Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale and such, only much more loudly and with a suntan and frequent breaks for windsurfing.
(Greek TV also shows a lot of South American soaps the plots of which resemble those of British soaps but the actors are much better looking.)

Agni Aunt Column, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

But TV soaps, like real life, have a lot of gaping holes in them, as when a character disappears between episodes and is presumed to be dead in some frightful accident when we all know the actor started to want more money to play the part of Sad Sid or Flighty Freda.
Life is like that too and that's why we love shows like the X- files that put two and two together and come up with new conspiracy theories all the time.

New Virtual Brochure!

We excitedly announce the release of our new 2009 Agni Travel brochure. Take a refreshing online look at the Agni destinations or order a copy to be sent by post: Agni Travel Brochure

Kefalonia Connections

An Inside View of Kefalonia

by Francesca

Apart from tourism there is a lot of interest from people considering moving to Kefalonia and we are often asked what life is like in winter months. The larger resorts virtually close down so that in Lassi there is actually nothing at all open at the moment and in Skala, when Nathan visited recently, we found no tavernas open and we had just missed the last Tiropita at Spathis Bakery, which had sold out by one o'clock. Ports such as Argostoli, Sami, Poros and Lixouri which attract less tourism in the summer are open all year to cater for the locals and travellers.

If you work in tourism you can't take a summer holiday and this is the time of year for visiting friends and family. We have to be prepared for the high winds causing ferry disruption so that it is always worth taking your toothbrush on a day-trip to Patras for shopping.

Our Greek relatives paid us a visit this week having travelled by bus from Larissa and ferry from Patras. They produce chestnuts as well as running a small supermarket in their village of Skiti. Apostoli's sister is a wonderful cook and had brought with her a large box of home made kourambiedes (Greek Christmas biscuits made with walnuts). In fact their entire luggage seemed to be made up with home-made specialities and gifts from the village. I think the KTEL buses forbid the carriage of livestock or we would probably have had one of their goats. Even after their departure we are well stocked with olives and chestnuts.

Kefalonia Connections, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

While they were here, I met some friends from England who were visiting relatives on Kefalonia. My sister in law announced that she wanted to 'open the pastry' so I told her it was in the a green box in the freezer. But she explained it was the expression used for making fillo pastry and she wanted to make a large cheese and spinach pie. Dimitris who is 16 years old surprised me by asking if he could help as he loves his cookery lessons at school in England. A budding Jamie Oliver, Dimitris armed himself with notebook and pen and prepared for his first attempt at fillo pastry which is not for the faint hearted as it takes a lot of time, patience and skill. We borrowed a rolling pin which has to be about 3 feet long and about an inch in diameter - a bit like a skinny broomstick. After much kneading and stretching, flouring and sighing the pastry was ready. The filling was a mix of feta, leeks and spinach. The whole process of pie-making took the entire morning but was actually great fun and the result was delicious. It served for lunch and the next day's picnic in Aghia Efimia. Dimitris was presented with his own special Greek rolling pin and had a few explanations to make at airport security but has managed to safely export his precious souvenir.

Kefalonia Connections, February 2009, Newsletters, Agni Travel

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