“A man who has been through bitter experiences and travelled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time.” – The Odyssey
Getting there is always half of the story. I’ve never reflected on any of my travels without thinking about the mishaps we’ve endured getting there. In the moment, mishaps can be stressful, but over a glass of Merlot they make for the best stories, which are always told and interrupted by roars of laughter.
From the time we got stuck in the airport in Rome the day before Christmas Eve, to the time we slept inside a costa coffee shop in King’s Cross St. Pancras, London while waiting for our 5am train to Paris, or the time we woke up at 6am for a flight to Faro, Portugal that departed at 6:30am. It’s literally always something! Priscilla, my travel partner and I refer to these difficulties as “Life trying not to let us win”. Nevertheless, we set off for Corfu, Greece at 6am from Manchester Airport, UK. Here’s the story of how we finally made it to Paleokastritsa, Corfu.
It’s 4am and we wake in my dorm room in Manchester where the adventure begins! “Passport, Check, Boarding Pass, Check, Camera, Check, Debit Card, Check”. I go over the necessities for the trip — you can always find a toothbrush or a pair of socks and other miscellaneous items at the airport — but the 10 minutes before we leave are always about the vital necessities. The budget airline that’s taking us to Corfu is always a gamble. They’re infamous for over booking, late departures and just all around shenanigans that we had no interest in being apart of. As soon as the LED screen with information of departures flashes ‘Boarding now for Corfu’ we make a mad dash, the kind of passive aggressive power walk that turns into a slight jog, signaling to the other passenger’s discreetly that it’s a competition to make it to Gate A34 before them.
One thing university students are good at is sleeping, if it’s in my 9am lecture, in the [quiet] coach on the train to London, or, in this case the window seat of a bus with wings otherwise known as a Ryanair plane. However, I’m not prejudice and off to sleep I go with comfort in knowing that we will soon arrive at our destination. I wake up in the scene of every cliché plane crash movie, the plane isn’t flying just right and I can hear hasty murmurs going throughout the plane. I look for Priscilla to make eye contact, and she gives me the infamous stare that translates “Girl, I don’t know what is going on but if this plane doesn’t make it on the ground in the next…” Now, imagine that with a few inserted expletive’s and, well, you get the picture! Remember how I said this airline was infamous for shenanigans? Well, here’s the part where I back that up, reference style Harvard/APA. The pilot comes on the intercom making comments that don’t really mean anything, but the beef of the stew is that we are landing in Thessaloniki, a destination not on our boarding pass.
“Why won’t life let us win Chenice?” We are half irate and half laughing because even though all of our travels have been pulled off, it’s always been hassle at some point. You get to a point where you realize that anger is a waste of time, it’s much better to find the humor in these situations for the sake of sanity at least. We stay on the runway of the airport in, ‘not our destination, Greece’ for a total of 3 hours before finally leaving and heading for Corfu again.
We finally arrive in Corfu, Greece at 3.00pm, the air was warm and humid. As we stepped out of the airport, the images I had spent endless hours coveting on Google were starting to come to life in front of me. As our eyes met, gleaming with unbelief and excitement, Priscilla asks “Are we in Greece or is this is a dream?” to which I respond with the only acceptable answer to our almost routine confabulation for every time we arrive in a new destination: “we’re dreaming obviously.” This was the biggest conquest for us to date. I had dreamed of Greece, of white sands, clay houses, water so clear it is beyond my seasoned vocabulary, ever since I did an obnoxious cardboard project on it in the 5th grade.
We met Matthias the car rental employee right outside of Corfu’s Airport holding a sign with Miss Gilbert on it and dawning an infectious smile. “Welcome to Corfu!” As we climbed into the smallest and only automatic car they had in their arsenal, I knew we were in for an experience. Booking a decent hotel on a university student budget is like winning the lottery, so as we walked through the doors of this swank art deco styled hotel we realized we had in fact won, not just a £20 scratch off win, but a real TV publicized win! The hotel was beautiful, and the employee’s were smiling eager to help us. They welcomed us both with glasses of champagne, which was perfect for my on edge nerves.
Before leaving for Corfu we spent our nights coming together with an itinerary for our short time of 5 days on the island. We came to the conclusion that renting a car was the best option for getting around, as it seemed all the places we wanted to see were spread throughout the entire island. The first and most anticipated on our to do list was to discover Paleokastritsa Beach. The benefits of renting a car and driving yourself is that you get see the whole area of your destination. Going off the beaten path is always recommended for seeing the sites that aren’t in the travel brochure. The downside is that the GPS in Corfu is as helpful as pulling over and asking someone who doesn’t speak English for directions. We found ourselves in people’s backyards and going down dead end roads. It took us about an hour to get there from Corfu Town and after being shouted at in Greek a few times, we had finally made it. After climbing down to the beach, we both sat there in amazement, a deep sigh of contentment left my lips. I will not even attempt to describe the perfection that was this landform along the shoreline of the Ionian Sea. Capturing the views and memories of any vacation is essential, but what is equally important is knowing when to soak life up with each of the five senses you’re afforded, and this was that moment.
This story was curated by Chenice Gilbert.