Corfu! The lush island with the grand old estates in the Ionian Sea embraces me with its myths, history and halcyon landscapes. It is indeed one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, although the Venetians who ruled it for over 400 years did not even look at its idyllic beauty. They looked at its strategic position, and woe to anyone who attempted to take it away from them! It was their Gate on the Adriatic Sea. But without wanting it, they made it even more beautiful, transforming it into an immense olive grove as they introduced the cultivation of olive trees.
So Ulysses did not see the green-silver hues of the olive groves when Poseidon’s anger swept him onto its western coast and he had to cross the island to reach the palace of King Alcinous, whose paradisal gardens were described by Homer, the most famous champion of Corfu, followed by Empress Sissy of Austria, who built her summer grand palace and wandered, delighted, in the countryside.
This combination of semi-tropical and Mediterranean vegetation, where the rosy walls of the old mansions on the island estates, flooded by dampness, emerge through the dense foliage, enchanting the eye of the modern traveler who is looking to discover the quintessence of its timeless beauty. It is this contrast that attracts me and I throw myself into the charm of the past, where the patina of time makes me revive the intimate atmosphere of the old fashioned noble dwellings and at the same time urges me to discover the refinement of an accommodation with remarkable comforts and small dimensions, so as not to escape the atmosphere οf the home-living ambience.
This is the Corfu Palma Boutique Hotel www.corfupalmaboutiquehotel.com/en/ that I discovered as it rose up from among exquisite gardens, surrounded by fields where 2,000 species of wild orchids thrive mingling with perennial olive groves, palm trees, and bougainvillea, while the luxuriant vegetation escapes from its hedges and reaches the emerald waters of the lacy coast. Its luxury is enough to remind you that you are in the countryside, the courteous smile of the staff bringing to mind the pleasant, amiable Corfiots discovered by the English travelers of the Grand Tour in the 19th century. Nothing superfluous, nothing to disturb a sensuous harmony, while the whitewashed walls and the minimalist, refined decoration are what my gaze needs to rest from the feast of the colors of nature mingled with the old-fashioned décor of the mansion. Α match wisely selected.
The ideas of the hotel’s owner, Υοta Palli, who lives in the United States due to her international entrepreneurial activities, reached this delightful oasis and were immediately well-received by the manager, Spyros Ioannides, who, as a modern hotelier, is in contact with the Globe, making the hotel radiate internationally. An impeccable collaboration, a complete harmony ensued – like the symphony of the colors in the gardens, attended by the gardeners who don’t let a petal wither. And if morning walks through the labyrinthian lanes of Corfu Town with its Venetian architecture, shopping under the loggias, or visits to the museums and churches with their charming bell towers tire the wanderer, relaxation comes at the excellently equipped Aphrodite Spa with specialized services and a large variety of massage therapies or the outdoor heated Jacuzzi.
Then, what a delight! A refreshing drink follows. The Corfu Palma Boutique Hotel excels at having introduced a Mixology Infusion Identity at its stylish Lobby Bar with a series of unique cocktails with recipes based on authentic ingredients, as the talented bartender revealed to me: Ιnfused Μetaxa Οlive Τree Chips, Olive Οil Washed Gin, Banana Infused Ouzo. Dinner is served under the stars at the à la carte Aura restaurant where a touch of French cuisine is added to the Mediterranean semi-gastronomic menu with the blending of local, fresh ingredients created by the hotel’s Chef to honour the French who conquered and lived for a while on the island and left their traces at the city’s finest sight, the Liston, built in imitation of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.
Oh, yes, there is no more romantic island in the Mediterranean. The beautiful Nausicaa fell in love with Ulysses and sent him to her father’s palace with the hidden hope of marrying him. Empress Sissy took romantic walks accompanied by her teacher of Greek, Constantine Christomanos, who had fallen in love with her. And, at the Mon Repos Palace, the romance between Princess Sophia of Greece and Juan Carlos of Spain was born. My thoughts ran to other romances when the hotel’s hostess who graciously invited me to dinner, discreetly showed me a newlywed couple that tenderly twittered under the soft light of a candle, then her hand gestured towards a second couple, and then to a third, saying that the Corfu Palma Boutique Hotel won the Award of the 10 Top Honeymoon Hotels in Corfu. I did not know that such awards existed in international Hȏtellerie and my bewildered smile was directed to the manager, who was the originator the Award.
Corfu, once being a British Protectorate, is loved by the English. When I am skiing on the crystal-clear, emerald waters near the hotel in Dassia, my mind goes to Lawrence Durrell who lived with his wife somewhere to the north, on the coast, renting a fisherman’s cottage located on the rocks with a fantastic view to the mountains of Albania and Epirus.The only way to get to the City of Corfu to visit their friends, to get their mail, newspapers, and books from England, or anything else that was necessary to make life bearable in their little, remote fisherman’s cottage was their sailboat, the Van Norden. Roads did not exist at that time. Lawrence was extremely fond of Corfu, where he had lived with his mother and siblings some years before, but he was forced to leave the island when the Second World War broke out.
In life, one circle brings the next, a sequence of pictures, memories and links. I was delighted when The Durrells’ life in Corfu became a television series and made the round of the world. I turned to look at the talented hotel manager again, when the gracious hostess told me that part of the film’s cast and the director stayed at the Corfu Palma Boutique Hotel. Spyros Ioannides, just like an excellent maestro, had performed his magic once again.
Travel writer Βarbara Athanassiadis is the author of the book: GREECE, The Dance of the Seas. Website: www.barbaraathanassiadis.com