This past week and a half I ventured across the Adriatic into the Ionian Sea to spend my spring break in the country of Greece. Throughout the ten days I was on break, I traveled to the island of Corfu, the capital of Athens, and the island of Santorini. Since I did, saw and traveled so much over the past ten days, I figured it would be easiest to split the trip up into 3 separate blog posts, corresponding to each location. This post will be dedicated to the first stop on my break — Corfu, Greece.
On Friday March 20th, Melissa and I, along with our two housemates Sarah and Ingrid, boarded a coach bus headed for the port of Ancona, Italy. Four hours later we arrived, and anxiously dragged our luggage aboard the first of many ferries. The ferry took us from Ancona to the port of Igoumenitsa in Greece. It was a 24 hour ferry, but luckily Melissa and I purchased a cabin so we at least had a bed for the night. We were put with two other girls who were also on the trip, since we did it through the student tour company Bus2Alps as it was cheaper and easier than attempting to do the trip on our own. Ironically so, both of the girls were from Massachusetts and went to college at UNH. Our room was barely considered a room as it was quite claustrophobic and the four of us were only in there to sleep. Melissa and I explored around the ship, but besides the lounge, casino, cafeteria and upper deck there wasn’t much to see. We played some cards, had dinner, and then called it an early night to prepare for our first day in Greece.
When we arrived in Igoumenitsa, we once again dragged our bags through dirt roads, I lost the cover to my wheel so the luggage struggle was off to a great start, and got on another ferry that was actually taking us to Corfu. After being cooped up for a day on the overnight ferry, Melissa and I enjoyed the blue seas that surrounded us and curled up under the sunshine for the hour and a half boat ride.
Once we set foot on the island of Corfu, every single person on the trip was more than ready to get to the hostel. We took a 30 minute bus ride to The Pink Palace, and when had our first glimpse of our new home for the next few days, it looked like we had stumbled upon Barbie’s Dreamhouse. I couldn’t help but sing the lyrics to Barbie Girl by Aqua to myself. Every building, stairway and structure that was a part of the accommodations was bright pink, but at least the hostel lived up to its name.
The Pink Palace is said to be the number one party hostel in the world, and was founded in the 80’s by Dr. George. I’m quite sure he’s not actually a Doctor though. It’s said that Freddie Mercury of Queen once stayed at the hostel and he named the one of a kind hostel, The Pink Palace. The Pink Palace is a family run business and Dr. George hangs out at the hostel most days.
Mel and I got our keys from reception, obviously we were the highest room in the establishment, but hey, at least the view was great. We threw our luggage down and quickly changed into our bathing suits and ran down to the beach. We ordered some Pink Palace Colada’s from the beach bar and went to tan on the beach with our housemates and other friends on the trip.
That first day in Corfu was one of my favorite’s of the entire trip. The weather was absolutely perfect and it truly felt like we were in Greece. When I picture Greece in my mind, I always think of blue waters, picturesque cliffs and an easy going lifestyle. Whether it was the spring break juice everyone was drinking, the reality that we had finally reached the island, or a mix of the two, but either way everyone was in such a great mood.
My fondest memory of that day was running into the ocean with my roommate Sarah. Melissa, Ingrid, Sarah, and I were laying on the beach and Sarah asked if anyone would go in the water with her. Being the swimmer that I am, I’m always up for a dip in the ocean so I was more than willing to go in with her. Our friends video taped it for us, and the water was warmer, and saltier, than I thought. It wasn’t what I would consider warm, but for March it was better than what I was expecting.
After a relaxing and enjoyable day soaking in the wonders of Corfu and Agios Gordios beach, we changed out of our bathing suits and went back down to the beach just in time for sunset. Along with Turks and Caicos, the sunset in Corfu was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. We didn’t have another good sunset for the rest of the trip, but the one in Corfu definitely made up for it.
The next morning Melissa and I signed up for a trip into Corfu Town, which is on the other side of the island. It was unfortunately raining throughout most of the day, but one thing this trip taught me was that you can’t let the weather dictate your day. Even if your hair looks like crap and you’re in a dorky rain jacket, it’s not worth it to spend the day being a wet blanket, when you could be making the most of it. Corfu Town reminded me a lot of Nice, France, which makes sense as both of the towns were founded by the Venetians. We walked around the town for a little bit, but since it is the off season in Greece, and it was a Sunday, most everything was closed.
We did manage to find a restaurant that was open and as we walked in, so did another group of about 8 American girls. The restaurant was completely empty so the guy working was just desperate to have people eat there and seated all of us together. I don’t think any of us had the heart to tell him that we were in separate groups so we just went with it. The meal ended up being over two hours, European culture for you right there, which ate up most of the day. I had a gyro with tzatziki sauce, the first of many.
After lunch we continued to wander, but after about an hour it became pretty boring since not a single store was open. We grabbed some coffee before hopping back on the bus to head back to the hostel. The Bus2Alps tour guides felt bad that there wasn’t anything open in town, so before driving to the other side of the island, we stopped at Mouse Island. We didn’t actually go onto the island, which is a centuries old monastery, but we had a nice overlook of it and I took some pictures with my friends before we left.
That night was the famous Pink Palace toga party. Basically you pay 5 euro to rent a piece of pink, silk fabric and are tasked with the challenge of turning it into a toga. Melissa and I spent approximately an hour just standing in our room twisting the fabric every which way trying to make ourselves look somewhat Grecian. Clearly my three years of college did not yet prepare me for that task. After we somehow managed to create an ensemble that stayed together without any safety pins, we headed down to the Pink Palace Palladium for dinner.
Everyone was in the togas and I have to say, my group of friends’ togas looked pretty good when comparing them to the overall crowd. After dinner we went underneath the palladium to the dance club. They had a bar and a dance floor, and the DJ kept everyone dancing throughout the night. About halfway through the party, the staff had everyone circle around the dance floor while two guys performed a traditional Greek dance to the stereotypical Greek music. Side note: I thought that the traditional music was just a farce that Hollywood puts into movies about Greece but no, people actually listen to it and I had to hear the same type of song on every single bus ride throughout the week. Anyway, everyone was clapping and cheering for the dancers and halfway through their dance, Dr. George came onto the floor and proceeded to pick up a table that had flaming bottles and a chair stacked on top of it with his teeth. While he walked around the room holding it with his teeth, the dancers began to smash plates on top of his head. After Dr. George safely placed the table back onto the group, no firefighters needed, he, along with the dancers, invited everyone onto the floor to participate in the plate smashing ceremony. Everyone huddled in a giant circle and the dancers smashed plates on everyone’s head. I jumped right in and it was one of the coolest experiences of the trip. Even though it sounds painful, the plates seemed to just be plaster and were probably made of materials that make it safe to smash on the noggin.
Along with the beach day in Corfu, the toga party was another highlight of the trip. Even though I live with Sarah and Ingrid, everyone always has their own schedules and trips going on, so to be able to spend time with them was definitely nice. It was a wild, but fun night, even if I did slip on the floor and land on my ass in a pink toga. Don’t worry, I played it off like a pro…or at least I tried.
The next day Melissa and I decided to lay low and just enjoy Corfu and The Pink Palace. It was our last day on the island and since we had been out and about the day before we wanted to relax. We ate breakfast at the beach bar and then I hung out on the balcony that overlooks the beach. It was a foggy day, but in a peaceful way where even though no one is on the beach, it still seems just as beautiful as when there’s volleyball games and music blasting.
The one souvenir I buy from every place I visit is a postcard. I have been collecting postcards for years now, but I decided to start a new tradition while I’ve been abroad; for each postcard I buy I’m writing a memory, my emotions at the time, an anecdote or anything that signifies the location on the postcard. While I was sitting on the beach chair, I wrote my postcards from Corfu and even journaled a bit. Since I’m writing the postcards, blogging and taking photos, I sometimes find it hard to find the time to just journal for myself. Being able to just chill with no timeline or plans allowed me to really soak in the atmosphere and have a little me time amongst the busy week.
It started to sprinkle, so Melissa and I walked back up to the lobby and bought souvenir Pink Palace t-shirts. The shirts just said The Pink Palace Corfu, Greece on the front, but the back featured a list of the “10 Biggest Lies Told At The Pink Palace.” Some of the select lies included “I’m only staying one night,” “I’m never drinking Ouzo again,” “I’m getting up early tomorrow,” and “I know how to ride a four-wheeler” since the hostel offers ATV tours. I thought the shirt was pretty accurate for the most part, and when it came to Spring Break I decided to spoil myself a little bit when it came to buying souvenirs and what not. Mel and I took some pictures in the shirts back down by the water and then sadly, had to say goodbye to the epic hostel and leave for Athens.
We were supposed to leave after dinner for Athens, but our ferry was cancelled due to weather and we were forced to take an earlier one. The trip to Athens was interesting to say the least, but that will be a story for the next chapter in the spring break blog post saga.
The memories I made in Corfu were some of my most cherished of the whole trip. The Pink Palace very much lived up to its reputation, but for a group of college students on spring break in Europe, it fit the bill. I’m glad we started off in Corfu rather than one of our other locations, as it really set to mood and we were able to get the beach jitters out of us, since no other place allowed us time just to be on the sand and tan (not that I got a tan). While I loved everything Corfu had to offer, despite the sub par weather, which I made the most of, I was excited to experience the immense history that was to come in Athens. Corfu reminded me that in life there’s always a balance of work hard, play hard. After a stressful week of mid-terms, being at the real life Barbie’s Dreamhouse was the perfect reward for my hard work. Through toga parties, plate-smashing and a swim in the Ionian sea, Corfu encapsulated everything I hoped that Greece would be.
Ciao for now,
All photography by Emily Houston.