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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

10/10: Corfu's North Coast & Canal D'Amour

Our last day in Corfu: The owner of the apartment kindly picked us up in the pouring rain at 7:25 and dropped us off at the bus station in Corfu Town after taking his children to their schools and before going to work. We were able to leave our bags in the station's left luggage office which was very handy as we would be exploring two different cities in the northern part of Corfu for the rest of the day until flying out to Athens in the evening.

The bus left at 8:30 for the 90 minute journey to Kassiopi on the northeast coast. It was raining so hard we could hardly see anything or take any photos as the bus hugged the coast road. What the shame as I am sure in better weather that drive would have been spectacular and a huge part of the lure going to the north coast is the fabulous scenic drive. Oh well – it can’t always be sunshine and roses when traveling and we have certainly had our share of sublime weather this trip.
Kassiopi is set around a harbor that lies between two wooded headlands. It has been a resort of sorts since Roman imperial times – Tiberius had a villa here and Nero paid a musical visit with his lyre in 66 AD. It and the other towns on the north coast are tremendously popular with British tourists, so much so, that the area is known as ‘Kensington on Sea.’

After getting a much needed hot breakfast and discussing the US presidential race with the waiter, we donned our long ponchos again and trooped out to explore the town. 
There was a lovely little church that we enjoyed and not only because it was dry inside either! The medieval Church of the Panayia Kassopitra was built during the 4th century on the site of the local ancient Zeus temple. The latest church dates from after the 1537 Ottoman sack of Corfu, with more Venetian rebuilding around 1590.

Just like the monastery we had visited in Paleokastriska yesterday, this church was also built on two levels: the cemetery was on the upper level and the church entrance was on the lower level.

A plaque outside the lovely church said the 'temple, dedicated to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, was destroyed from the barbaric Turkish pirates.' Pretty strong language for a plaque at a church!

Dodging as many of the puddles as we could, we walked by the harbor and felt badly for the many souvenir shops’ shopkeepers as we were the only people crazy enough to be out in that foul weather.

Our river shoes lived up to their name today as we sloshed through puddles all morning long!
A path up to the 13th century Byzantine castle started immediately opposite the church. After getting to the top, Steven decided he preferred huddling in one of the sheltered doorways in an attempt not to get any wetter. 

I was intrigued by the vast castle walls so opted to trek around a good chunk of the perimeter walls. It sounded like a good idea at the time but it didn’t turn out so auspiciously in the end. 

Another view of Kassioppi:

Parts of many trees around the castle walls had been covered with black netting. Perhaps to protect them from some disease?
The lens of my so-called new camera, the one I had bought in Ljubljana near the beginning of the trip, got wet which I didn’t realize so most of the castle photos had spots on them according to the viewfinder. I didn't realize til later that the pictures themselves weren't affected but the viewfinder, it was soon apparent, was useless because the colors were distorted.

I knew this part of Corfu was a haven for the Brits but I was still surprised at the number of restaurants which offered traditional English breakfasts and full English dinners. They may as well never have left their island to venture to the island of Corfu! 

Despite, or in spite of the rain, Kassiopi was a charming little fishing village and picture postcard pretty. Its narrow roads were lined with lovely diminutive 'hole in the wall' shops, including souvenirs, bakeries, local wares, knickknacks and restaurants galore. In nicer weather and if we had more time, we probably would have explored some of the small beaches.

Of course the weather began to clear up as we returned to the bus stop, ready for the bus to the town of Sidari on Corfu’s northeastern coast! We couldn’t understand why there was such a large bus for the 30 minute ride to Sidari as there was only one other passenger on the bus when we got on it in Kassiopi. Soon enough, the need for the large bus became clear as the north shore was just packed with resorts and hotels and English tourists quickly filled up the bus for the short jaunt to Sidari.

We arrived in Sidari at 1 and found the footpath along the cliff to the sea. Just west of this busy resort, coastal sandstone cliffs have been eroded over the eons by wind and water into otherworldly shapes. Our goal was to see the famous Canal D’Amour.
Steven took all these photos with his ipad. Thank goodness we had a backup for my camera!

It is named for the legend stating that by swimming the length of the channel here, lovelorn women would gain the object of their affections. More conventional bathing was available at little cliff-backed coves around the corner. 
We walked through the brambles to get better views being careful not to get too close to the edge.

 Another view of the Canal D'Amour:
We were so lucky that the weather had improved so markedly once we were on our way to Sidari as seeing these strange-shaped rock formations in the rain would not have done much.  
I was so glad that the ground hadn’t eroded AND I hadn’t stepped any closer to the edge because of the sheer drop off! 

This small chapel was behind a closed gate and looked as if it were private.
It had been interesting wandering around the headlands and getting glimpses of various beaches along the way.

 Back in town, it was so funny to me seeing a real English phone booth here. I guess it made the English tourists feel right at home though.There was a sign inside that said, 'Call home from here.’ 
Freda: A sign for you even if it is incorrectly spelled!  
Sidari’s main drag was all filled with nothing but bars, restaurants and tourist shops; sadly, the latter were just full of kitsch you could find in any beach town anyplace in the world: magnets, Tshirts, postcards and the like. 
As we had plenty of time before needing to catch the 4:15 bus back to Corfu Town and then another one to the airport, we sat in the church courtyard for a good chunk of time as it was the most peaceful place in town. 
We retrieved our bags at the left luggage office at the bus station and were glad that they had not walked off in our absence all day as no ticket had been provided and no identification was asked for when we picked up our bags.

We certainly had our share of rain while in Corfu but it certainly didn't dampen (!) our enjoyment of the island one iota. We were still excited about flying onto Athens that night and discovering that ancient city together.

Posted from the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, on October 19th, 2016.

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