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In this section we will bring you news from Greece and in particular our areas of Paxos, Corfu, Kefalonia, Ithaca and Symi.

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EASTER ON SYMI

Melanie Sharp, a permanent resident on Symi and our local manager there, writes about Easter on this beautiful  Aegean island

Easter, the major religious festival of the Greek Orthodox year, is a very traditional occasion on Symi.  This year, the Catholic & Greek Orthodox Easter fall on the same date, Good Friday being 18th April - the two dates only coincide about every 4 years so if you are tied to school holidays or simply fancy being part of such a traditional period, then 2014 is the ideal opportunity to visit Greece at Easter-time.

At Easter time throughout Greece, families gather from near and far to enjoy the age-old together, and on Symi the local families will welcome cousins from Rhodes, uncles from Athens, daughters from Kalymnos and  seamen husbands and sons home on leave. 

Though only a small island, Symi has an abundance of churches and monasteries, the largest being at Panormitis on the south of the island.  In the build-up to Easter Day, extended church services are held, at which all are made welcome.  In readiness for Good Friday, women of the parish prepare their churches, dressing the interiors with dark fabrics and flowers, while the church bells toll mournfully.  In the evening, funeral biers are carried through the streets to the local church – to St John’s in the lower town and Lemonitissa or Kastro in the upper town, known as the village.

Then on Easter Saturday virtually the entire island population will attend one of the main churches for a service lasting many hours.  At midnight, as the service ends, each person lights their candle from a neighbour and voices the greeting ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is risen)  The candlelit processions then wander homeward and the celebrations begin, with firecrackers exploding, fireworks lighting the night sky, boat claxons sounding from every bay and all the church bells ringing out in celebration.  Once home, the candle flame is used to burn the letters XA (for Christos Anesti) over the main doorway, which is said to bring good luck to the household for another year.

The following day, Easter Sunday, everyone is ready for the feast which ends the 40-day lenten fast. Some restaurants serve traditional Easter delicacies, groups of people take off to the mountains with a picnic while families entertain at home.  Later in the day, effigies of Judas (similar to Guy Fawkes dummies) are carried through the streets to be burned with great ritual and excitement at dusk. It’s all quite an experience!

 

If you would like to join the Easter celebrations on Symi, why not take advantage of Travel à la carte’s special accommodation offers? At Villa Laza and the Laza penthouse, two of the best positioned and most comfortable properties in Symi town, we are offering 15%-25% reductions for the Easter period.

For more information about these offers and travel arrangements to and from the island, email info@travelalacarte.co.uk now.

 

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The Greek Orthodox Easter is late this year, providing a perfect opportunity to enjoy Greece during its greatest festival. The dates (from 3 to 6 May) mean the flights to the islands will be well underway and the weather warming up very nicely.

To coincide with this Greek holiday, we have some good special offers on our accommodation on the islands, with reductions of 25% on a range of properties on Paxos, Kefalonia and Symi and even a 50% discount on one villa in Spartia in Kefalonia.  

If you’ve never experienced Greek Easter, with its parades and processions, special religous services and wonderful atmosphere – enhanced (for some!) by exploding firecrackers here and there – this might just be the year to visit. The festivities differ from island to island but on all of them you will be made to feel very welcome.  

Our special accommodation rates start at £300 for a week at the Laza penthouse on Symi, with villas on Paxos and Kefalonia available from £420. As for the flights, the last time we looked the best value for Easter week was with Easyjet to Corfu for around £187 return.   

But hurry... this offer closes at midnight on 30th January. 

(As it is exclusive to our mailing list and Paxos News readers, this offer does not appear on our website, so email (chris@travelalacarte.co.uk) or phone us (0207 286 9255) for more details)

Tony Wells
17 January 2013

Flights to Greece 2013 – the Italian option?

As you will probably know by now, if you are planning a holiday to Greece next year, easyJet has released its summer flying for 2013.

The airline hasn’t announced any new services to Corfu, Kefalonia or Rhodes, not from the UK at least. This is unfortunate, since – as many of you will have discovered – even easyJet’s seat prices rose this year to eye-wateringly high levels, especially in the peak weeks. The initial competitive effect of easyJet’s entry into the Greek market seems to have worn off. It has decided to join the club, allowing its rates to rise to the levels of the charter operators.

The other no-frills airline, Ryanair, has not added any new routes either but continues to operate to Corfu and Rhodes. So the two scheduled operators now offer these flights to our Greek hubs from the UK:

Corfu: Bristol (EJ) E Mids (RA) Gatwick (EJ) Glasgow (RA) Leeds (RA) Luton (EJ) Manchester (EJ) Stansted (RA)
Kefalonia: Gatwick (EJ only but Kefalonia is well served by charter flights)
Rhodes: Bournemouth (RA) E Mids (RA) Gatwick (EJ) Liverpool (RA and EJ) Stansted (RA)

With Thomas Cook revealing in the past few weeks first that it would be taking seats on easyJet flights next year and second that its aircraft fleet is being cut from 35 to 31, things are not looking good for price competition on Greek routes in 2013.

Except for one thing. EasyJet and Ryanair have both increased their flying within Europe, in particular between Greece and Italy. EasyJet has announced a flight from Rome to Corfu, to operate three times a week in July and August; it also flies to both Corfu and Rhodes from Milan. And Ryanair, who also fly to Corfu from Milan (or Bergamo, rather) has added services to Rhodes from Bologna, Milan and Pisa (as well as Brussels, Dusseldorf and Stockholm, if you happen to live there).

One reason I mention this is because I actually flew home from Greece to the UK via Italy two weeks ago. After a week of September sunshine on Kefalonia, my wife and I flew with Ryanair to Pisa, had a few days in Rome, then flew back to Heathrow with BA. The combined seat cost was 155 euros each, including baggage.

That compares well with the prices available for direct return flights to the UK. As you may know, charter airlines almost never sell one-way return seats from Greece and, partly as a consequence, the cost of returns on with easyJet and Ryanair can be astronomical.

So next year it might be worth checking out the option of flying via Italy. For one thing, there is plenty of competition on the main routes – to Rome, Milan, Pisa and so on – which helps keep the prices down.

For another, I can certainly recommend a few days in Rome on the way back!

Tony Wells
10 October 2012

Late season

On Monday this week the winds got up on both sides of Greece, in the Ionian and the Aegean, churning up the seas and disrupting ferry crossings. They have since subsided but this change in the weather seems to have signalled the end of high summer. Temperatures have come down a little, from their peak in the mid-30s to the high 20s, and the islands are settling into September mode: balmy sunshine during the day, still perfectly hot enough for sunbathing, and the evenings fresher now the relentless heat of August is past.

This month and next are when those who know Greece and travel there regularly start to pack their bags for another trip. The August crowds have disappeared, the locals are more relaxed and have more time, yet everyone realises this is still the tourist season: the islanders are very keen to see visitors right up to the end of October. Some places come into their own now, one in particular being Symi, where the summer can last into the first weeks of November. In the Ionian islands, too, which lie further north, the season is gradually being extended, since late September and October are excellent months for walkers and others who like a more active holiday.

And, of course, the prices are very attractive, as you can see from the special offer on the Travel à la carte website!

Tony Wells
1 September 2012

 

Late Getaways

One of the disappointing aspects of last minute holidays to the Greek islands is the high cost of flights in peak season. Over the last few years, the airlines have resolutely refused to bring their prices down, making the cost of a late getaway to Greece much higher than an equivalent break to other countries. As I write this, Thomson are asking over £450 a seat for a 7-day return flight from Gatwick to Corfu on 20th July. Can’t you fly to New York for that?

The reason is probably the obvious one – lack of competition. When EasyJet first started flying into island airports like Corfu, their prices were very competitive. Now they seem to have let their rates move closer to the charters’. And the charter operators want you to buy their package holidays, not just the flight, which is why their seats are so pricey. The independent traveller is getting squeezed.

But happily there are still some reasonably priced flights to Greek destinations out there. In a recent trawl of seat-only sites, we found

- a Monarch flight from Luton to Corfu at £253 for an 8-day trip from 30th July

- a BMI Baby flight from Manchester departing 23rd July for £295 return

- and even a Thomson flight, from Edinburgh to Corfu on 10th August for 7 nights, for a surprisingly affordable £239 return.

And EasyJet still has returns from Gatwick to Corfu in August for as little as £224 basic cost, if you can fly mid-week.

Not all these flights land at perfect times for the onward journey to outlying islands like Paxos, but there’s always the option of a private sea taxi or, failing that, a night in Corfu town and the hydrofoil over the next morning.

So, if you’re desperate to get away for some of that wonderful Greek sunshine, don’t lose hope yet of finding flights. Give us a call and we’ll do the searching for you. It turns out there are still some reasonably priced flights out there, even if you need a bit of lateral thinking to find the best deals!

Tony Wells
18 July 2012
 

A Silver Lining

If you are thinking of escaping the black clouds and torrential rain of northern Europe for the sunnier skies of Greece, there’s a further bit of good news today. The pound has risen to an official rate of 1.26 against the euro, its highest in three years. The official rate is not the tourist rate but that too is now above 1.2 euros to the pound – the Post Office today is quoting an online rate of 1.22 euros.

What this means is that local goods and services in Greece are now that bit more affordable. On a recent trip to Paxos, by avoiding the most expensive options on the menu we were able to eat out for around 28 euros for two, including a glass of retsina. That now works out at £11.50 per person – still not as cheap as in the days of the drachma, or even the early days of the euro, but a ten percent improvement on last year, at least.

Combine this saving on the exchange rate with some of the great last minute discounts Travel à la carte is now offering on its accommodation, with savings of up to 40% on the full price, and a late break to the Greek islands begins to seem even more attractive.

Tony Wells
7 July 2012
 

The chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), of which Travel a la carte is a member, posted this message about Greece yesterday on his blog: 

... No one knows exactly what would happen if, and that still is an if, Greece left the Euro, however it is likely there would be a transition period when holidaymakers would still be able to pay with Euros in bars and restaurants. Speculation that Greek-printed Euros would overnight become worthless is also unfounded. The British Bankers' Association has said that a Euro is a Euro regardless of where it is printed. What we are recommending is that consumers do not rely on plastic and take plenty of cash with them as it is possible that an exit from the Euro could result in issues with using credit and debit cards at Greek banks. There is also no indication that holidaymakers will be affected by civil unrest. To date, demonstrations that we have seen on TV have been sporadic and limited to parts of central Athens and the second largest city Thessaloniki, neither of which are visited in significant numbers by UK holidaymakers. The vast majority of UK holidaymakers fly directly into the Greek islands which have not seen any unrest. I'm absolutely sure that this year, as ever, people travelling to Greece will be welcomed by the Greeks and their well known hospitality.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA

18 May 2012

What if... ? 

Speculation has been growing that Greece will soon leave the euro. Here in the UK, the respected economic commentator Hamish McRae added his own comment in the London Evening Standard, entitled: ‘Greece quitting the euro is no tragedy’. In the article, he looks at the history of countries leaving monetary unions and how governments went about replacing one currency with another.  

So it’s worth considering how a Greek exit might affect anyone holidaying in Greece, and anyone planning a Greek holiday in the near future.   

If Greece leaves the euro, it will have to replace the currency with something else. Most commentators think this will be something like a new drachma, which to begin with would have the same value as the euro. Very soon, however, the new currency would be expected to fall in value, perhaps to as little as half its original worth, with a euro worth two new drachmas. For any holidaymaker out in Greece, the euros they took with them or had already bought locally would then be worth twice as much.   

How will it actually happen?  The normal pattern, according to economic historians, is for the new currency to be introduced over a weekend, with banks continuing to be closed for a few days to allow the new currency to be distributed to them.  They then reopen, with cash being issued in the new denomination – either overprinted euro notes or new drachma notes.   

In that short interim period, we expect local suppliers to continue to accept euros. If there are problems with the processing of card payments, our local staff will be able to work out methods of payment for anyone affected by a halt to card transactions. Hamish McRae ends his article with a piece of advice: “If you plan to go anywhere in southern Europe this summer, take plenty of spare cash – including pounds and dollars – with you just in case...” This is sensible advice.  The pound and, to a lesser extent the dollar, are the most likely other currencies to be accepted.   

There is no doubt in our minds, here at Travel a la carte, that if the unlikely happens and Greece does leave the euro, any practical problems will be short-lived.  On the islands, the local Greeks are experienced, level-headed and resourceful. They are also keenly aware that tourism is the lifeblood of their local economy and their main hope of economic recovery.  So they will do everything to ensure any difficulties are swiftly overcome and managed in the best possible way.  And with a specialist operator like Travel a la carte, with our highly experienced staff both on the ground in Greece and back in the UK, you could not be in better hands if the unexpected happens.  

Tony Wells
Travel a la carte MD
16 May 2012

RESPONSES: [1]

We were in Fiscardo a few weeks ago and it was as beautiful as ever. The hype in the press and media is silly and just not a reflection of life on the islands.  Good luck with the season ahead.
The welcome and smiles we received as the first visitors of the season were very warming. No one hassled us to eat or drink anywhere. We always received a little extra after a meal such as cake or greek yoghurt and honey and nuts or a house digestif. The prices were reasonable and as the exchange rate was in our favour we kept to our budget. We plan to return for two weeks in  late September/October when everywhere is quiet.
Sue.

Are things looking up a bit for Greece? You might think so from a glance at the UK travel sections this weekend. At last, the papers are beginning to correct the impression that the entire country is in chaos and you would be mad to travel there. The Mail today (Saturday) has a piece about some of the smaller islands under the heading ‘Bank on Greece: Forget its economy, the true treasures are hidden on these unexplored islands’. For some strange reason it doesn’t mention our favourites Paxos and Symi but that might be because these are a bit easier to get to. For one of their recommendations, Patmos, the travel advice is: seven to ten hours by ferry from Piraeus!

Today’s Times, too, is more encouraging about Greece as a holiday destination. Replying to a reader worried about the debt crisis and sporadic unrest and asking if they ought to postpone their trip to another year, the paper says May is “a great time to visit Greece” and that they “should be fine”. How right they are, on both counts. And May is also a very good time to visit Greece price-wise, as there are some very good offers to be had, including from us.

Our regular travellers know, of course, that life on the Greek islands pursues its own sweet way oblivious of any trouble in Athens or other major cities. But there is no doubt that the adverse publicity has put off many potential new visitors to Greece. Now that the debt crisis has been solved, for the time being anyway, and Greece is less in the news for the wrong reasons, perhaps those new visitors will think again. If they do, they can be certain of a very warm welcome from the locals, that’s for sure.

Tony Wells
31st March 2012

Flying to Greece in 2012. Part 2: The charters

In the first part of this blog on flights to Greece I reported on how easyJet and Ryanair have been extending their flying programmes to the Greek islands.

Before these two ‘budget’ scheduled airlines entered the fray, the Greek holiday flight market was dominated by charter operators and there is still a wide range of charter flights available to Greek destinations. Often owned by big tour operators, the charter airlines still tend to stick to their formula of one or two week durations, and fixed arrival days (Monday or Friday on Corfu, Wednesday on Rhodes) but between them they offer a wide choice of departure airports from across the UK. Also, while they have not adapted much to the new ‘budget’ competition, the charter airlines can occasionally actually be better value. So when buying flights to Corfu or Rhodes, it is always worth checking out a seat-only site such as Flightline to compare prices.

The largest operator of charter flights to Greece is Thomson. Owned by the German TUI, Thomson has been a leader in the UK package holiday market for many years. Being part of a holiday company, the Thomson airline is often reluctant to sell seats on their aircraft without a Thomson holiday to go with them, at an affordable price anyway. Nevertheless, reasonably priced seats can be found even here. In addition, to Corfu Thomson offers the widest range of departure airports from the UK – 17 in all – and is the only airline to fly there from Doncaster/Sheffield, Edinburgh, Exeter and Norwich. To Rhodes, there’s a more restricted choice of 12 UK airports but they include Bournemouth, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The next largest charter airline to Greece is the other major player in the UK market, Thomas Cook. Their range of airports is smaller than Thomson’s but they tend to be more flexible, making more one-way flights available, for instance. This means it’s sometimes possible to combine a Thomas Cook outbound, on a morning flight, with a late return with easyJet or Ryanair, a trick which can help with onward boat connections to Paxos or Symi. Thomas Cook operate to Greece from Bristol, Cardiff and Newcastle as well as London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Birmingham is also a particular strength of the last of the three major charter airlines, Monarch. Monarch have a narrower selection of departure points – they concentrate on Gatwick and Luton, Birmingham and Manchester – but their seat prices can be better value than the other two. Monarch can also fly at slightly more civilised times than the others. It has an 8.30 am flight to Corfu from London Gatwick, for example, and a 10.30 am flight from Manchester, both on Mondays.

Tony Wells
Part 3: flying down to Travel à la carte’s newest destination, Kefalonia
 

12 MAR 2012:  Flying to Greece in 2012.  Part 1: The new flexibility 

Now that the air over Greece has cleared a bit, financially speaking, it might be a good time to look at what’s on offer this year in terms of air travel to Greece and the islands. 

The first thing to note is how much things have changed over the last few years. Once easyJet – founded by a Greek-Cypriot, of course – bought the old GB Airways and with it that airline’s slots at the main island airports of Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, Greek island holidays became a whole new ballgame.   

In the case of Corfu – also the hub for our favourite island, nearby Paxos – easyJet soon rapidly expanded its Gatwick service from three to seven and more flights a week  And to Gatwick it soon added Manchester, Bristol and – new for 2012 – Luton.  

More recently Ryanair have seen the light, as well. They are now offering flights to Corfu from Stansted and East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and now – in welcome news for travellers from Scotland– Glasgow.   

Plenty of these Corfu flights connect with the boat to Paxos the same day and, if they don’t, nothing is simpler than to book a hotel in town for the night. And another thing - many of the flights are on days when Corfu airport is blissfully quiet: Ryanair, for instance, flies on Thursdays from Stansted, Leeds and Glasgow, and Wednesdays from East Midlands.  And while Easyjet sticks more to the traditional arrival days of Monday and Friday, they have their daily flights from Gatwick and a Saturday flight from Manchester.  

The advent of these two budget airlines has brought far more flexibility than was available in the past.  Using the daily easyJet flight from Gatwick, for instance, allows travellers to pick and choose both what days they travel and exactly how long they want to stay.  Ten and 11 night (or 20 or 22 night) stays are now possible from Luton (Tuesdays and Saturdays), with easyJet, Stansted (Mondays and Thursdays) with Ryanair, Bristol (Mondays and Fridays) with easyJet and Manchester (Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays) again with easyJet.  

Over on the other side of Greece, Rhodes, the airport for Symi, is almost as well served.  Symi-lovers now have a choice of flights from Bournemouth (Ryanair), East Midlands (Ryanair) Liverpool (Ryanair and easyJet), Stansted (Ryanair) and Gatwick (easyJet).  

And while only easyJet of the budget operators flies to our wonderful new destination of Kefalonia (twice weekly from Gatwick), this is one island that has a great range of charter flights to pick from.   

To fit in with this new world of pick and choose flights and durations, Travel à la carte has become the only specialist operator to our islands to offer complete flexibility.  Travel with us and you can arrive and leave on any day of the week and stay for as long or short a time as you like.  The only minor restriction is in July and August, when we ask you to arrive between Friday and Monday (on Paxos), Saturday or Sunday (on Kefalonia) and Wednesday or Saturday (on Symi).  Beat that! 

Tony Wells
(in Part Two to follow: what the charter operators offer)

5 MAR 2012:

In an opinion poll of over a thousand Greeks reported at the weekend, 67 per cent said they thought a return of the drachma would make the country's situation worse, compared with 13pc who believed it would make things better.

It’s unclear whether this 67 per cent will get their wish and be able to stay in the euro. Many in the financial world believe their chances are slim, although the pundits are less clear about when Greece might be forced to return to its own currency.

But if Greece hangs on to the single currency for the summer, at least, what are the prospects for prices in Greece? How strong is the euro likely to be? This is what holidaymakers to the islands will want to know as they plan their trip this year.

Well, from an official rate of around 1.13 last summer, the pound has strengthened against the euro to 1.20 today, an appreciation of 6%. And for the summer? A ring around the foreign exchange dealers produces a forecast of much the same for the summer: the pound is expected to stay at an official interbank rate of around 1.20, which translates into something like 1.17 for the holidaymaker.

With inflation in Greece running at 2.1 per cent, according to the latest EU figures, this at least means prices for UK travellers will be a little lower than last year. And local reports support this view. The word out on the islands is that shopkeepers, bars and tavernas will certainly be holding their prices this summer and in some cases lowering them.

That is some good news for those of you planning your Greek holiday. Watch this space for more information as the season approaches...

Tony Wells

23 Feb 2012: Strikes this summer?

Not surprisingly, in the present climate, we are often asked by people considering a Greek holiday what would happen if their travel arrangements were affected by strikes.

The first question has to be, how likely are strikes for this summer? We have all seen plenty of reports about the strikes and demonstrations in Athens and other cities on the mainland and it’s easy to suppose that the same things are happening all over Greece.

But, as always, the islands are a different matter, as we saw last year. Last summer there were a number of taxi strikes in Corfu and Rhodes, and occasional disruptions on remoter islands such as Kefalonia and Paxos. There were also seamen’s strikes across Greece on a couple of days. And the air-traffic controllers refused to work on two or three occasions, although never for more than a few hours and only on days, as it happened, when there were few flights directly to the main tourist airports. So what happened to our customers during these strikes, particularly those trying to reach their holiday villa or get to the airport for their flight home?

Well, as you can see from our About Us page, we have a team of very experienced staff on the ground in Greece. When the taxis were out, they put our clients on buses or, if push came to shove, organised lifts in cars. None of our clients missed their flight because of a taxi strike. Similarly, when the usual boats were out of action – potentially a major problem on an island without an airport, like Paxos – our teams on Paxos and Corfu booked everyone onto alternative craft, either private sea taxis or leisure boats, to get them to and from the airport on time. There was some extra expense involved, as sea taxis can cost more than the standard hydrofoils or ferries, but it was no more than £30 a head.

Should we expect the same this year?

Our staff on the islands are reporting a great reluctance on the part of local tradesmen and suppliers to strike again. The taxi drivers reportedly lost so much income during last year’s strikes they simply can’t afford a repeat this summer. We also have no reports of intended seamen’s strikes. Melanie, our representative on the island of Symi, says one company has gone out of business, so there may be one or two fewer boats operating from Rhodes this year, but the remaining ones will be all the keener on our custom. The same is true of the Corfu-Paxos services. And, as I’ve already mentioned, on the Corfu-Paxos route there are other types of boat which will be happy to pick up the business if the main ones are out of action. At the airports, we have no reports of intended strikes or industrial action by controllers or luggage handlers.

We should also see the threat of strikes in the wider context of the Greek economy. The one area which might provide some light in the general economic gloom in Greece is the tourist industry. Tourism and shipping are the two biggest contributors to the Greek economy and many Greek households are involved in tourism in one way or another. With times as hard as they have been, almost all Greeks will be desperate to make sure that visitors have as enjoyable and as undisrupted a stay in their country as possible. The Greeks have a fantastic reputation for hospitality and they will want to add to that this year, I’m sure. So here at Travel à la carte we don’t personally expect any major trouble on the Greek islands from strikes this summer. It is not in the locals’ interest. But if there are problems, you can count on our staff to overcome them as expertly and smoothly as they always have in the past.

Tony Wells


For details of Travel à la carte’s meet & greet services on the Greek islands, follow this link
 

22 Feb 2012:

Chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators Derek Moore has heavily criticised the foreign secretary, William Hague, for treating Greece as if it were a “war zone”. Hague recently advised British residents in Greece and visitors there to register with the FCO in case of an emergency caused by civil unrest.  As Moore points out, and as Travel à la carte’s staff on the spot can corroborate, the civil disturbances in Greece are confined to certain areas of Athens and Thessaloniki; there has been absolutely no sign of trouble on the holiday islands.  The vast majority of British visitors travel directly to the islands, with very few passing through Athens or Thessaloniki, and they are, as Moore says, at no risk whatever.  He calls on the foreign secretary to clarify his remarks immediately and we agree completely with this request.  So far as most of Greece and all of our islands are concerned, Mr Hague’s statement is both misleading and alarmist. It also, as others have noted as well, contradicts the Foreign Office's own travel advice for Greece, which currently has no travel restrictions to the country.   

Follow this link for the full text of Derek Moore’s response to Mr Hague's statement.

Tony Wells

22 Feb 2012:

For the past two months, the British newspapers have been full of reports and comment about Greece and its immediate prospects. Last weekend was no exception, with a string of papers from the Mail and the Independent to the Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs discussing the dire state of the Greek economy and the growing resistance in Greece to further austerity measures.

These reports can give the impression that the whole of Greece is in turmoil and most Greek citizens are out on the streets throwing stones and setting fire to buildings. But so far as the islands are concerned, nothing could be further from the truth, as our staff out there have been confirming. To give an example. Last Monday 13th February, Reuters news agency reported that the previous day’s violence in Athens and Thessaloniki had spread to “towns across the country and the islands of Crete and Corfu”. Surprised that Corfu was included, I emailed our resident Corfu agent, Stefanos, to check what had happened there. His reply was that while there had been a peaceful demonstration, there were no riots, no police involved, and the only damage had been to the offices of two local MPs.

Most UK reporting understandably centres on Athens, where most foreign correspondents are based. Corfu, though, is an hour’s flight from Athens, as is Kefalonia, so a bit like Jersey in relation to London. Paxos is another hour by sea from Corfu, Symi is two hours from Rhodes ... so you can see how little events on these islands will have in common with those several hundred miles away on the mainland.
So you should currently have no fears about taking a holiday in the Greek islands. The Foreign Office travel advice on Greece remains only that visitors should avoid demonstrations; otherwise there are no restrictions on travel. This advice applies with even more force to the islands, the smaller and more remote ones in particular.
Tony Wells

21 Feb 2012:

The most recent outbreaks of unrest in Greek before the vote on the EU rescue package were confined to Athens and the mainland. Life on Paxos and our other islands continued completely as normal, the main problem there being caused by the weather.  Our Paxos director Chris Griffiths, who lives on the island all year round, said storms and heavy downpours affected internet connections and led to power cuts. On Symi, in one violent rainstorm, an English resident was tragically swept to her death. Our Symi rep, Melanie, a permanent resident, told us the island is still in shock.

Reuters reported that the political violence in Athens had spread to Corfu but our man on the spot, Stefanos, who has been our agent there for over 20 years, said the only incidents were an attack on the offices of the two local MPs. There were no other demonstrations or public disorder. 

Those of you who want to keep track of political developments in Greece might be interested in the English language websites of Greek newspaper Kathemerini www.ekathimerini.com and Athens News in English www.athensnews.gr.
Tony Wells

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