Our next port of call, after leaving the beautiful Kotor in Montenegro, was the 2nd largest of the Ionian islands, Corfu. This Greek island is located by the most northwestern coast of Greece. In fact, the northeastern tip of Corfu at its narrowest has only a 3km stretch of sea separating it from Albania. As a holiday destination, it is familiar to many a UK and European passengers for its many beach resorts. But what many don’t realise, Corfu town (aka Kerkira) is also a popular port for passing cruise ships.
On my last visit to Corfu town in 2014 onboard Celebrity Silhouette, the passengers were tendered to shore (like on our first port of this journey, Kotor). This spring (2016) Royal Caribbean had managed to reserve Vision a spot on the pier – much more convenient as getting off the ship took no time at all. Key to having a successful day in port as we only had a half-day in Corfu before sailing to our next destination.
Corfu, the island and town, is lovely and I can thoroughly recommend tours such as a trip to Paleokastritsa monastery & beach if you have the time. I would have liked to visit them again but Royal Caribbean offered it only it as part of a larger island tour package. We could have booked a private excursion for Paleokastritsa but did not want to risk missing our ship. That is because if a ship excursion is delayed, they will wait for the group. But if you are out on your own and late, they may well sail away without you. Instead, we spent our few hours in port pottering about Corfu town and enjoying the old town’s narrow streets. And I discovered my vegan highlight of the holiday in one of the side streets of the old town.
After two days of travelling with no cake to enjoy I was curious to see if the HappyCow vegetarian guide (site and app) could help me. I had hoped to find a local cafe that would supply us with lunchtime coffee and vegan cake options. What I found was something even better – Rosie’s Bakery. Bang right in the middle of Corfu old town and judging by the footfall of customers we witnessed, her shop is very popular with the locals and not just HappyCow-using tourists.
Imagine my amazement when I stepped inside this quirky graffitied haven of treats and feasted my cake-deprived eyes on her stunning selection of baked goods. There was vegan baklava and many other Greek sweet & savoury delights I could enjoy. Her vegan baking was flavoured with kumquats, apples, oranges, pistachios etc – the chocolate ones, unfortunately, weren’t vegan, but never mind chocolate baking when there is so much else to enjoy! My sentiment was mirrored by the happy vegan graffiti on the walls of her shop. I especially enjoyed the “we got fat here” doodled on the wall. I suppose everyone coming in through the door does, be they vegan or not. In fact, while we were trying to make up our minds from the vast range of goods on offer, a gluten-free passenger I recognised from our ship came in to see what she could have from Rosie’s range of many cakes and pastries.
Rosie puts purchases into foil take-out boxes and gives them to you a carrier bag – useful if the treats are devoured on that day. If you want to take any home with you, take a plastic take-out tub with a lid with you. The proud owner reckons her baklava lasts about 14 days (presumably due to high sugar content) so you could even take some home with you for others, but I challenge anyone not to immediately dip into the souvenirs.
The bakery is not 100% vegan, but so many of the goods in her fab wee bakery are. There really is something for everyone. And Rose herself is a total star, character larger than life, a welcoming soul who hugged us goodbye at the end of our visit. I was one happy vegan leaving her emporium 🙂 And I can definitely see myself returning.
After our successful cake shopping, my friend and I continued exploring the streets and architecture of Corfu town – old houses, a palace and many churches of Greek orthodox tradition (and souvenirs). Here a few of my photos from our walk in the old town:
The older of the two fortresses in town (Venetian fortress from the Byzantine era)
Just left of the old fortress is one of many beautiful local churches, the Church of Virgin Mary Mandrakina – dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Panteleimon (Greek Orthodox and Catholic saint)
Further along the same road, towards the cruise harbour is the now rather battered but characterful looking Palace of St Michael and St George. Its foundation was laid in 1819 by the then British High Commissioner and it served as his residence until it became the residence for the Royals of the kingdom of Greece (when Corfu united with the mainland). These days it serves as a museum of Asian art, but you wouldn’t think that judging by its tattered exterior.
It was soon time to get back onboard the Vision and continue our sailing towards mainland Greece and the port of Piraeus (15km from Athens). We didn’t sail out quite on time, though. There were a few stragglers who turned up late and who were very lucky indeed. Captain Marek kindly waited for them, but not before he had cheekily shamed and named them in one of his friendly departure announcements. But rather that, than getting left behind.
Next stop Piraeus, for ancient Corinth and Corinth canal. Any questions or comments on Corfu, please leave a message in the ‘comments’ section and I will get back to you!