A lot of Athenians have a ‘village’ where they (or their parents, or their grandparents) lived before they moved to Athens. For my family, that village is on the island of Kerkyra (Corfu) – and if you’ve been watching the ITV series The Durrells you’ll know just how lucky we are! But I’ll tell you more about the island and our village in another post. First we have to get there!
There are several ways to get to Kerkyra from Athens. You can fly, you can take a coach, you can catch the bus to Patra and go on the ferry. I’ve done all of the above at one time or another, except going by plane because it costs a bomb with luggage and kids. But my favourite way to go is by car: it’s way more comfortable than the coach, and Greece is so beautiful, I have my face glued to the window for the entire trip.
Athens, 7:20 am
Mr Chef is already in Kerkyra working at a restaurant, so the kids and I are hitching a lift with my father-in-law. He’s OBSESSED with Kerkyra (it’s the island where he was born) – to him, there is no better place on Earth. So he’s totally psyched to be travelling there today with all his girls – which means twice as much beaming at me, twice as much hand-waving, and a lot of this rocking thing he does when we get stuck behind a slow car – like he’s willing them to go faster. He’s waited months for this and he cannot get there quickly enough!
As for my kids, they’re dead excited about their summer holidays. They have friends in the village, friends from Athens that go there on holiday, and they always make new friends on the beach. Thanks to their ability to speak English, they can talk to practically anyone: Italian, German, American … no one is safe from Motormouth and her small, angry sidekick. And I’m dead excited, too – two months’ holiday? Yes, please! And I get to see Mr Chef for the first time in over a month (big happy face). I’m just a bit concerned about how the baby will react to the mammoth car journey/ferry combo … . Still, it can’t be worse than when we took Middle Child at three months old and she cried. All … the … way.
The car is packed full of stuff. I actually travel light, even with two kids and a baby, but my father-in-law is always taking ‘useful’ items to the village which he intends to make things with. This time we have an old wooden cot-bed which will apparently become a chair of some sort, and something that looks like an enormous metal safe strapped to the roof (I haven’t even asked what that is). Oh, and someone else’s luggage, too, because she’s taking the bus. The baby’s up front and I’m in the middle at the back, flanked by two car seats three times as wide as the kids sitting in them. The journey has begun!
Elefsina, 7:45 am
You can smell Elefsina (the industrial part) before you see it because of all the factories and shipyards. Still, there’s something almost beautiful about the smoking chimneys and construction cranes in the early morning light, against the backdrop of the white-blue sky and the sparkling sea. In addition, Elefsina has recently been awarded European Capital of Culture status, so it’s due a makeover. I’m explaining all this to the oldest one, but the baby is already out of it – a good start, as far as I’m concerned!
100 km outside Rio, 8:45 am
The baby is awake, but I have a plan: food! I usually make my own baby food by sticking anything I fancy in the blender, but on this occasion I’ve done the unthinkable and bought a jar. For shame! Does the baby care? Does she even notice? She wolfs down the entire thing and then goes into a sort of blissful food coma.
While some of us play air drums to Queen.
Just over the Rio Bridge, 9:45 am
We go into a very long tunnel, and when we come out the other side both the baby and Middle Child are sleeping.
The oldest child and I embark on the world’s longest game of I Spy. Joy.
75 km outside Arta, 10:15 am
We stop to pay the toll and the baby wakes up, but is currently happy. My father-in-law (who doesn’t really speak English) asks my daughter (seven years old) about the meaning of the song That’s the Way (I Like It) by KC and the Sunshine Band. Which, as she is too young to understand, is far less awkward than the time we were driving along with my mum in the passenger seat and he cranked up Whips and Chains by Rihanna to full volume, waving his hand, grinning and shouting, “Good! Good! You like?”
We get off the super new road as it’s not finished yet, and back onto the old bumpy windy one. Shortly, we get stuck behind a succession of trucks and the baby gets angry with her Very Hungry Caterpillar toy, but then thankfully falls asleep before we have to suffer the consequences.
54 km outside Igoumenitsa, 12:30 PM
Baby finally loses her shit.
Igoumenitsa, 12:50 pm
We arrive at the port and get out of the car. The baby is immediately fine. We stretch our legs then get on the 1:30 ferry. It’s a pretty small one and the air-conditioned lounge isn’t at all busy.
We grab a table and Middle Child presses her face to the window, crying joyously, “I can see Kerkyra!” while staring at Igoumenitsa. The ferry ride passes quickly with the aid of a Tupperware full of watermelon and a packet of biscuits.
Lefkimi, 2:30 pm
We are on dry land again and back in the car. The baby celebrates by promptly falling asleep.
Agios Matthaios, 3:00 pm
We have reached our destination! Honestly, it’s such a beautiful drive – I wish I could have taken 100 photos en route to show you guys. But photos taken through the window of a moving car are never going to do any view justice. And ain’t no way I’m pulling over to get a good shot – not with three kids in the car – they are just not very understanding of their mother’s artistic pretensions. Well, unless they’re the subject, of course!
Happy summer holidays, everyone!