November 2008

November 2008

Agni-Gate Scandal

Agni-Gate Scandal, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Following the famous meal at Taverna Agni between George Osborne and Lord Mandelson, Corfu has been firmly in the media spotlight.

What the papers said

"George Osborne flew on budget airline for 10,000 Euros stay in Corfu villa"

"George Osborne flew to Corfu where he had his fateful meeting with millionaire financier Nat Rothschild and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska aboard a budget airline."


Well, that's what some newspapers said, and we all know that the newspapers get it right, don't we? Er - not always!

Using poor grammar and punctuation and giving the erroneous impression that this earth-shaking meeting actually took place on board an aircraft is just one of the many pitfalls the British newspapers fell into in their haste to get a story out - any story - in the past few weeks.

According to whose column you read, in one of the newspapers that tend not to have their names in red and white, the island of Corfu is memorable for little more than cricket (still played on a gravel pitch on the Esplanade) and for being the birthplace of the Duke of Edinburgh (on the dining table at Mon Repos Palace). All sadly outdated information, and fundamentally incorrect. Agni is still only accessible by boat, say these pundits, and the northeast corner of the island is barred to anyone who doesn't sport a Panama hat and chinos, wear diamonds for breakfast, or know at least one member of the Royal Family.

The simultaneous appearance of various members of the British Parliament, certain media moguls, some very rich people and a couple of Russians, evidently threw newspaperdom into a feeding frenzy, fuelled by a dinner at Taverna Agni, and tea on a Russian billionaire's yacht.

However, Corfu is no stranger to scandal and intrigue - an island that was once both a Byzantine and a Venetian stronghold could hardly be otherwise. Affairs of state and of the heart have been conducted here, secrets have been revealed, transactions made, for many a long century. What a shame Shakespeare isn't still around to weave these latest characters and scandals into one of his divine comedies.

For the record, there was very little plotting involved in the notorious dinner at Taverna Agni .

What really happened ...

A phone call from the Rothschild's villa resulted in a last-minute booking for 20 at 8 p.m. on the evening in question. Although the taverna was already full, we always try to accommodate our guests, and two tables were found and set up at the back of the premises, under the trees. A few minutes later, the booking was cancelled, only to be re-instated, this time for a party of 30. The group arrived in three boat shuttles and at 9pm everyone was seated and an order had been placed for a selection of meze and bottles of house wine. (Not, as reported in some papers, taramasalata and kebabs - where do people get their information from? )


Agni-Gate Scandal, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Celebrity - what celebrity?

If the person sitting at the head of the table had been Madonna or Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is a good chance that the taverna staff would have recognized the presence of a 'celebrity', but it was Lord Mandelson, a big enough fish in his own waters but unknown to our staff. Besides, to us, everyone is a special guest, and everyone is treated as a 'celebrity'.

Agni-Gate Scandal, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

It is this unfailing courtesy and friendly welcome that brings people back to Corfu again and again, year after year. That, and the food of course, and here we must congratulate whoever it was that took the initiative and ordered a selection of meze for this particular group. A meal of this type, with everyone sharing plates of delicious starters and main dishes, means that everyone gets a chance to try something new and different. Passing the plates back and forth, recommending one dish or the other, makes for a friendly and informal event, one that does not depend on consuming vast quantities of alcohol for its success. The Mandelson party, for example, stayed for two and a half hours, but many of the bottles of wine ordered remained unopened. Good food and good company was evidently amusement enough.

The aftermath of this apparently perfectly normal holiday meal was quite unexpected. Quite spectacular in fact, as dozens of journalists and photographers and TV cameramen arrived in Corfu on every available flight. Private planes were chartered to take photos from the air of every villa the protagonists in this political drama might conceivably have visited or stayed in. Fast boats did the same thing from sea-level. Every olive tree seemed to be sheltering a lurking paparazzo - reporters invaded the Agni Travel office looking for accommodation and one reporter spent the next three weeks sitting at the same table in Taverna Agni in hopes of catching some other minor celebrity in the throes of a new scandal.

Agni-Gate Scandal, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Corfu has been written up as never before, and when the ideas ran out, ancient articles were resurrected.

In the end, whether or not the Conservative party benefited from 'CorfuGate' is uncertain, but the villa specialist tour operators certainly have, Agni and other local tavernas and estate agents have, and there is no doubt that Gerald Durrell's book, 'My Family and Other Animals' will be re-printed yet again.

There is no such thing as bad publicity, as Lord Mandelson, George Osborne, the Conservatives, and the Russian billionaires may yet discover.

Agni-Gate Scandal, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

end of column


A Safer Airline!

I recently visited Athens for the day. I'm not a huge fan of flying but it's only a short flight from Corfu to Athens compared to an 8 hour drive. I booked my ticket on line and was offered the chance to upgrade to business class for just 20 Euros extra. Why not I thought.

A Safer Airline!, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The next morning, I boarded the plane and was ushered to seat 1C, followed by two Orthodox Priests who sat opposite me!

With prayer-beads swinging, we soon took off!

Then I began wondering: Do priests go on a business trip? Maybe they had business with God? Are priests automatically upgraded to Business Class by Aegean Airways so they are closer to the captain?

A Safer Airline!, November 2008, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Whatever the reason for the two priests sitting next to me, it gave a sense of safety and an enjoyable flight. It was a shame that on the return journey they did not accompany me - still, I returned with a great friend and during the flight we drank several miniature bottles of red wine, which helped!

Good News

With most news items featuring the current economic climate, we are pleased to report that Agni Travel bookings are up on last year. A record number of return clients along with favourable pricing and (in some cases) complimentary car hire provides us with a confident outlook for 2009. Agni Travel is one of the few travel companies that is currently expanding rather than dropping properties. For 2009 we are focusing on the island of Lefkada where we plan to offer 12 properties.

New Online Booking System

To make it even easier to choose and book an Agni Travel property, we have been working on an online search and booking system. You can now enter your holiday dates and all available properties are listed. Our new online payment system (so you can book online without having to email us) will be available soon.

Corfu Villas by Agni Travel

end of column