September 2006

September 2006

Introduction

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Where did the summer go? We have had those late summer storms, and while there is no real need to assume that the summer is entirely over, there are signs that we are moving into what the Greeks have always called 'the little summer', and what is better known to the British perhaps, as 'Indian summer'.

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Corfu specializes in short, wild, dramatic storms that cause a certain amount of havoc - flooding, landslides, power cuts, trees down, and so on. It gives us something to gossip about and compare notes on, but then, as fast as they came, the clouds roll away, accompanied by a menacing rumbling that seems to say 'we'll be back', and we are left to enjoy the incredible re-awakening on Nature.

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Overnight, roadside banks and olive groves are carpeted with the autumn cyclamen and with autumn crocus. Long spikes emerge so quickly that you can almost watch them grow, from the big brown bulb of the sea-squill, so common on the hillsides near the sea. These stems bloom with delicate white flowers. Pomegranates and figs burst open on the branch and lure the wasps away from
our Fanta and our food.

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The kids go back to school ten days into September, and then the primary school teachers go on strike a week later, for a week, Their parents still have to work, to see out the summer season, and things get fraught. The Greek grandparents, in a place like Corfu so often still living with their families, once again step into the breach.

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

A word of praise here for the Power Company (DEH) technicians - however bad the storm damage, it is extremely rare for night to fall without your power being restored, even if it means sending a man up a pole in the torrential rain. Nor do the firemen leave roads blocked by trees for days. Thanks guys!

There can be few sights more spectacular than that of lightning illuminating towering storm clouds from within, or fingers of lightning rippling along the edges of a cloudbank. Most people have to travel to the tropics to witness such a sight - in Corfu we just sit out on the balcony with a drink and watch the original Sound & Light show.

Introduction, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Oh yes, there is a distinct hint of autumn in the air - neat piles of firewood are appearing outside village houses, sweaters come out of the wardrobe for the evenings (have you ever noticed the distinct odour of mothballs in Corfu at the start of autumn?), the umbrella goes back into the car or on to the bike 'just in case'. (No Corfiot is ever, ever caught out by the rain? The umbrella invariably appears in the nick of time. Where do they hide them, when there is no car or bike?)

The TV programmes are about to change for the winter season, the tourist shops have end of season sales, and suddenly the house looks dingy and dusty and you want to change the colour scheme. Oh yes, autumn is upon us.

Looking back at summer

Getting a newsletter out in July and August has proved too much of a challenge this year, with its compilers and writers swamped with other work.

For those of you who do not live in Corfu, it may be a little difficult to understand what an odd - but stimulating - life we lead over here. It's all go in summer for those of us even remotely involved in the tourist business, and then there is the winter. Some of us live very quietly - and very economically! - in winter, others go abroad to work, to visit relatives, or to Goa to live as cheaply as possible without giving up the sun. There are of course people who have a year-round job, but there is a very large seasonal workforce. Local people, and many foreigners now too, tend olives and grow potatoes in the winter months, make wine, build houses, do their children's homework, cook real meals, read and watch TV. All those mundane things that take on great charm when you have been unable to do them for 6 months or so. But what did we do all summer?

Looking back at summer, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Well, we worked hard so that you, the visitor, could have a good holiday. We solved problems and cooked Greek food and served it, we drove buses and taxis, we kept our fleet of boats afloat however many times you lost the outboard or dinged the propeller, we made your beds and sold you souvenirs. What we didn't do was write a newsletter.

At least, not this summer.

Weather in July and August 2006

Probably best summed up in one word - HOT! Whether it's global warming or climate change due to natural causes, the guidebooks are out of date now, when they promise you warm days in summer, cool nights and no extremes of temperature. Corfu now ranks as one of the hottest places in Greece. This year temperatures reached 42 degrees on one day only, but in recent years those dreaded forties were reached on several days. The nights are hot too, and the cool, dewy nights of ten or twenty years ago are just a fond memory.

Food Of the Month

This has to be 'Yemista' - stuffed tomatoes and peppers, baked in the oven. The sight of a 'tapsi', or baking tin, filled with perfectly-cooked tomatoes and peppers, propped up by thick slices of potato, is guaranteed to make your mouth water!

Food Of the Month, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

You need one pepper and one tomato per person; they should be medium to large in size, in perfect condition
. 8 medium tomatoes
. 8 medium peppers
. 4 medium potatoes peeled and sliced into quarters
. 2 cups rice
. 3 chopped onions
. Chopped mint - fresh or dried
. Spoon of sugar
. Chopped parsley
. 1 1/2 cup olive oil
. salt
. pepper
breadcrumbs

Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and peppers and keep aside. Use a spoon to remove the inside part. Be careful not to nick the skins. Save the inside part of the tomatoes s you will be using this for the stuffing; mash it and remove any hard green bits. Sprinkle a little sugar inside each tomato (it offsets the acidity).Chop the onions and saute in a little olive oil until just transparent. Add the rice ( you can use round grain or long grain - round tends to get sticky, long grains stay separate), chopped mint and parsley, salt and pepper, and the mashed up tomato pulp. Stir well, and cook all together for a few minutes until just beginning to soften. Do not overcook as the stuffing will be cooking in the oven anyway. Spoon the filling into the vegetables but do not overfill. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top, then put the tops back on as a lid. Place the tomatoes and peppers in a large baking tin, alternating them with the sliced potatoes - use them to prop up any wobbly peppers! - then pour over some more tomato pulp - use 'passata' if you want more pulp - and dribble olive oil over everything.

Bake in a medium hot oven for about an hour and a half, adding a little hot water if the food seems to be drying out. The dish is done when the peppers and tomatoes have collapsed somewhat. You can also add minced meat to the filling - add it to the onions when you saute them and then add the other ingredients as above. Don't use too much mince as it makes the dish too heavy.

Finally Paxos!

On that appetizing note, this review of the summer comes to an end. We plan to go on producing our newsletters every month, and look forward to your comments and criticism - but not too harsh please!

Look out for future 'articles' about the Durrell family, about winter in Corfu, and news of Agni Travel's plans for the coming season. The island of Paxos will be featuring in newsletters to come, and if you have not already visited this very special island, we hope we can persuade you to do so.
Tiny Paxos lies just south of Corfu, an hour by hydrofoil, but just ten minutes away by seaplane - a recently introduced service that highlights the enchantment of this exquisite island with a touch of nostalgic glamour.

Finally Paxos!, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Paxos has no airport of its own, a fact that has probably contributed to its unique charm. Visitors arrive there with a sense of leaving the all-too real world, and entering a magical place, rather like going to Narnia! Peaceful olive groves, beaches of dazzling white pebbles where the colour of the sea reaches new depths of blue, soaring white cliffs on the west coast accessible only to colonies of sea birds, locally produced oil and wine of the highest quality - and Anti-Paxos, a tiny island with beaches to rival the Caribbean.

Until the next time (October)
The Agni Team

Book of the Month

Book of the Month, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Brief synopsis:

"For Victoria, orphaned at six, her grandmother Evanthi's beautiful home in Corfu - known locally as The Venetian House - has always meant safety, freedom and a near-magical kind of contentment. Brought up by her cousin Guy's parents in England, she - together with Guy and his childhood friend Richard - always longed for the idyllic summer holidays in Corfu where they forged a friendship that would last a lifetime. Victoria was mesmerized by brilliant, selfish, enigmatic Guy, but it was safe, affectionate, reliable Richard whom she married. " Now read on.. A gentle, enjoyable read, rich with word-pictures of a Corfu that the author obviously loves. Available in paperback from Amazon.

Ad

end of column


Summer Celebrities

Is it my imagination or are the celebrities thinner on the ground than they once were? (Cheap shot - some of them are certainly thinner in the flesh than they used to be!) Prince Charles and Camilla paid a very low-profile visit to Corfu, as they have done for a number of years now, before flitting off elsewhere.

Summer Celebrities, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Mikhail Gorbachov was in Corfu again for a holiday visit, and was spotted enjoying a really Greek meal at his favourite town restaurant.
Charlotte Church apparently spent a holiday in Corfu, but it must have been a quieter affair than usual - no damage was reported! And then there was David Cameron, the man who must have prompted more questions of 'Who is he?' than any other British politician on holiday. The leader of the Conservative Party, for that is he, came to Corfu for a family holiday, very hush-hush and low profile, and as usual, his holiday was avidly and obsessively reported upon by the Daily Mail. Taverna Agni recieves a glowing mention: Daily Mail Corfu
Rumour has it that Madonna and Michael Jackson visited Corfu on
some fabulous yacht, but unsurprisingly, no-one actually saw them.

Celebrity Yachts

Celebrity Yachts, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Human celebrities seem to be anxious to blend into the background on the whole - not so the celebrity yachts, quite a few of which have favoured Corfu with a visit again this summer. The 354-foot Le Grand Bleu, belonging to Russian oilman Roman Abromavich, certainly stood out while in Corfu. It looks like a working ship, dark blue, with several decks, but it is equipped for pleasure. Two 40-foot pleasure craft are carried on the rear quarters, one a speedboat and one a sailboat. A pod carried on the side of the main ship carries various other smaller toys, including jet skis, kayaks and diving equipment.

Celebrity Yachts, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

As feminine in its way as Le Grand Bleu is masculine, is the Lady Lola, owned by a couple from Idaho. 205 feet long, the Lady is equipped for fun too, with a retractable driving range, an outdoor cinema and a pool with a two-level waterfall. Accessories include a 36-foot high-speed catamaran and an amphibious automobile, and a four-passenger submarine for the amusement of guests. These are stored aboard a 180-foot support vessel called Shadow.
Yachtspotting in Corfu and Paxos could be a great diversion for a holiday - then go back home and look them up on the internet.

Celebrity Yachts, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Celebrity Yachts, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Flora and Fauna

Flora and Fauna, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Perhaps the one sound that most symbolises the Greek summer for us all is that of the cicada. It's trill can easily become shrill and indeed almost deafening, and then it will suddenly cut off, as if the Great Conductor had just levelled his baton and called a halt. Contrary to many people's belief, the cicada is not a grasshopper. In Greece, the larvae of the cicada emerge from subterranean burrows, usually in the roots of trees, six feet underground, sucking juices from the roots. After a period of anything from 1 to 7 years, according to species, activated in a way that is not yet understood, but alerted, when the right year arrives, by the warming of the soil in spring, the larvae climb the trunks of the trees, and complete their transformation into adult cicadas. Much like big greyish-brown flies, with large transparent wings, in colouring and texture their bodies match the trunks of the trees so well that it is almost impossible to pick them out. It is the males that make the noise, not by rubbing their legs together as grasshoppers do, but by vibrating membranes on their body. The sound has the advantage of frightening birds away. After a short but frantically busy life of feeding and mating, the females lay between six and eight hundred eggs, insert them into the bark of the tree and then die. The eggs hatch into nymphs, drop to the ground and work their way to the roots of the tree, there to begin their long wait.

Summer fruits are gloriously seductive, but on the whole have only a relatively brief period when they are at their best. Late summer on the other hand brings fruits that are not necessarily on sale in the supermarkets, but are freely given to visitors by the generous Corfiots. These are the fruits that can be dried or otherwise preserved and stored for the winter, just as in Ancient Greek times.

Flora and Fauna, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Take the fig. Anyone who has only ever encountered the fig in its dried form, or as the dreaded 'Syrup of figs', should try eating fresh figs. There is something incredibly sexy about this fruit and it is well-known as a fertility symbol According to Pliny of Rome, 'Figs are restorative. The best food that can be eaten by those who are brought low by long sickness and are on the way to recovery. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles' And, as we all know, they are great for keeping you regular! Quite apart from its healthy properties, there is just something deliciously decadent about peeling back the skin of a fig, and biting into that sweet juicy mass
of seeds. If washed, figs can be eaten whole, skin as well. The purple ones are the sweetest. Don't be tempted to pull the figs off trees growing wild - they are more than likely unfertilized and inedible. Fig trees require quite complex cultivation and fertilization by another tree -actually carried out by a species of wasp. Also, they excrete a sticky substance, a type of latex that can cause severe irritation to anyone handling the tree carelessly.

Trivia:

The fig was called 'syke' in ancient Greek (syka in modern Greek) and the Athenians were called 'sycophants' due to their great love of figs. Later the word came to be associated with the illegal export of figs.

Flora and Fauna, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Another fruit that catches the eye during high summer is the prickly pear. Erupting from the tips of the grey-green segments that make up a prickly pear cactus bush, the bright orange fruit are tricky to pick but quite unlike any other fruit. The prickly pear, as you may have discovered, is covered all over in spines that cause intense and long-lasting irritation if they prick your skin. On the younger segments and fruits these prickly spines appear as harmless-looking hairs, but they are just as disagreeable as the stronger spikes. The fruit can only be picked by wearing thick gloves, or using a special tool, and must be peeled carefully before eating it. Ideally, a kindly villa maid should prepare some for you! The fruit is curious, quite sweet, full of seeds that magically dissolve in your mouth. They have the opposite effect from figs, and if you eat too many, the result can be constipation!

Agni Travel

We all thought, after a hot and busy summer, that the Agni Travel office would start to become quieter. How wrong we were! We are still taking a frenzy of last minute bookings for 2006 and already taking reservations for 2007.

Why not take a last minute break before your winter sets in! Contact stella@agnitravel.com for availability.

Agni Travel, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
A Trip to Paxos

With our sights now set on Paxos, Nathan has been sending the Agni Team on a 'fact finding' mission. I have recently had the pleasure of visiting the island of Paxos seeking out properties to offer to our Agni Travel guests for their 2007 holiday.

Twin-Centre Holidays

Taking either the hydrofoil or the the sea plane, it is amazingly easy to get to Paxos from Corfu. This will enable our clients to enjoy a two-centre holiday. Why not consider spending the first few days of your next holiday relaxing on Paxos and then the remaining days on Corfu?

Agni Travel, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

We are now offering a selection of properties in the quiet resorts of Loggos, Giaos and Lakka to suit a wide variety of our guests' requirements.

Agni Travel, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Waking each morning to the view over Lakka is absolutely breathtaking. The horseshoe shaped bay is completely sheltered from the open sea and therefore perfect for swimming.
Villa Alexander is in a pefect and idylic location with a unique view of the bay and only a short walk to the beach.

Agni Travel, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

In the sleepy village of Loggos tavernas and bars surround the small harbour. A pleasant place to sit and while away the hours. 'Alanaki' is a 10min walk from Loggos set amongst the olive groves, in a completely private location.

Agni Travel, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Alternatively, staying in one of the village houses in Gaios would be an ideal way of mixing with the locals and joining in with the wonderful atmosphere of the 'capital' of Paxos. Gaios square with its narrow lanes leading off to many local shops and coffee bars, is a wonderful place to meander. Pithari Cottage is among the village houses and is set in a garden surrounded by lemon trees and bougainvillea,50m from the marina.

We are currently adding the new properties to our website and will feature them in next month's newsletter. In the meantime, I'm off to Paxos for another holiday - ooops I mean work!
Norma - Agni Travel

Speed Boat Safari

Speed Boat Safari, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

If you are planning to visit during October, then why not join Alex and George on a speed boat safari!

Speed Boat Safari, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Find underwater caves, deserted beaches and lunch at a beachside taverna (not included in price). Have a fun day out driving your own boat or be 'skippered' by George.

Speed Boat Safari, September 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Priced from 25 Euros per person for the day.
To enquire for availability, call Taverna Agni (0030) 26630 91142 or email taverna@agni.gr

end of column