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A Grecian holiday, part one

Have you ever heard of Gerald Durrell? If you have, chances are you’re either a naturalist, or you’ve read one of his books (or, in the UK, seen the TV series). Or possibly you’re thinking of his older brother Lawrence, the famous author. Gerald Durrell was an ardent lover of nature and animals in particular, who became a great conservationist, founded one of the first zoos dedicated to conservation, on the island of Jersey, and incidentally wrote a great many very entertaining books about animals and his life with or near them.

As you may be able to tell, I’m something of a fan. But what does all that have to do with Greece? Well, everything. It’s the reason we chose our holiday destination. (Well the reason I chose it anyway. Everyone else just thought my suggestion was a good second-best to theirs, so democracy ensured I won.) But back to my point: Gerald Durrell spent 5 years of his early life living on the Greek island of Corfu, and at least three of his books deal with memories from that time. And if you’ve read them, you can’t help but want to go there and see what it’s like now, nearly 80 years later.

So we did.

It’s quite different. There are more cars, fewer donkeys, and considerably less in the way of wildlife – in our time there we found one shell on the beach. One.
Things are more organised. There are more fences – his books give the feeling that in the early 1930s you could walk from one end of the island to the other without “trespassing”, although I imagine that wasn’t really the case.

Fortunately, I was mentally prepared for this, and thus not disappointed. After all, who expects a member state of the European Union to be exactly how it was before the war that gave birth to what would eventually become the EU? So, disregarding the changes, I focused on the things that had remained the same. Of course I made sure we had the books with us too!

So that was one exciting thing, for me. (No one else shared this, despite all my family having read the books too. Ah well.) The other exciting thing was being with my whole family – parents and three sisters, some with husbands and kids in tow. Froglet loved having someone almost his own age to play with. Actually his little cousin is almost exactly halfway between him and Nutmeg, but she mostly played with him. Nutmeg mostly clung to me, at least the first few days. I can’t blame her though, as it was surprisingly cold and windy. We had thunderstorms and rain for a whole two days, and then for part of several more. (Great for me – I’m not a hot-weather person).

We stayed at a lovely all-inclusive hotel in the north of the island, with several saltwater pools and its own beach. Most of the tourist attractions are elsewhere to be honest, but as we drove down and got the car ferry across we were able to drive into Corfu town for a day, and visit a couple of other little places nearer at hand too. I definitely recommend hiring/bringing a car if you’re not staying in the capital of the island, as Greek public transport can be quite infrequent (not to mention slow). That’s Froglet on the car ferry on the left, with the island behind him. The photo above is the view of the Old Citadel in Corfu Town, as seen from the ferry while we were docking.

And that is all I’m going to say for now, but at some point soon I’ll write more about Corfu itself. And Venice. Have I mentioned Venice yet?

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