06 May 2013: Yoga on Paxos

Every May, our yoga friend and teacher Zoe Reason holds her Iyengar yoga classes on a shady terrace in the middle of an olive grove not far from Loggos. It is the perfect month for practising yoga on Paxos. Daytime temperatures are warm enough to have classes outside on the terrace, even in the early morning.  

Iyengar classes are suitable for anybody, even those completely new to yoga. The beginners’ group meets twice a day, once in the morning for 1.5 hours and then coming together each evening for 1 hour of a quieter yoga practice. The general week is more energetic and suited to those who are familiar with Iyengar and have practised it for a minimum of one year. The morning classes last 2-2.5 hours and the restorative, meditative evening classes are 1.5 hours.  

The days are free to enjoy Paxos and everything it has to offer, such as lazing on the beach, wandering along the many footpaths and donkey tracks that criss-cross the island or hiring a boat to explore the bays. At the end of the week, our yoga participants leave refreshed, calm and ready to take on the outside world again! 

Imogen Matthews 

For more information on yoga weeks on Paxos contact Tony Wells at Travel a la carte by email or visit the Travel a la carte website...

25 June 2012: News from the beach

A new Greek government was formed sometime this week - or so I hear. Not a lot of national or international news percolates as far as Marmari beach, the second beach from Loggos on this tiny Ionian paradise of Paxos. There's a gentle lapping of the waves; a cruise liner or two pass slowly and silently by in the middle distance; occasionally you notice the putter of a small motor boat. Even on the beach there are very few potential sources of news: Paxos is pretty empty at the moment. I'm not sure I'd even know if the currency had changed while I was dozing under this olive tree...

But now that there is this new government in Athens, and Greece appears to have escaped exit from the euro, for the time being anyway, I expect this to change pretty soon and more holidaymakers will begin arriving. They won't find much to do, though: a stroll to the beach, a swim, a picnic of feta cheese, olives, fresh bread and tomatoes, a stroll back in the early evening, a change of clothes, and a stroll to the taverna. It's been 30 degrees and cloudless skies for a week. The busy world and its affairs seem a million miles away. What was that you said about rainstorms and floods in England....?

Tony Wells

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3 MAY 2012: Summer comes early to Kefalonia 

Kefalonia was basking in summer temperatures when I flew back to a grey and wet London on Tuesday.  The Monday before I left, on only the second of the new easyJet flights to the island, temperatures reached an impressive 33 degrees celsius – that’s over 90 fahrenheit.  And it was still April.


The glorious weather made it all the easier to take in the delights of Kefalonia in the early season.  The roadside verges, orchards and gardens were a mass of wild flowers in lilac, yellow, white and pink, and in the gardens, roses, pinks and geraniums were in full bloom.  The Kefalonians, blessed with a green island and – in the south, at least - plenty of water, are clearly keen gardeners, as the vegetable allotments and flourishing gardens around Spartia and Sami testified. It was odd to see so many hoses being used to water gardens and orchards in Kefalonia, when they are already banned in London!


The horticultural enthusiasm of the Kefalonians was not the only surprise.  Another was the almost complete lack of electioneering, given that the Greeks go to the polls this Sunday.  I saw only one small rally in Argostoli, the island capital, and heard only one blast of rather martial music. For the most part, the locals seemed to be pursuing their customary lives, preparing their tavernas, shops and villas for the new season or otherwise discussing the world and its affairs at the cafe tables.  The intrepid reporter Clare Hollingsworth once described the Greeks as a nation of newspaper editors and little has changed since she wrote that in the 1940s. 


My tour of the island revealed that its beauty spots and attractions are as fresh as ever.  The waters of the (partly) underground lake at Melissani were emerald green and sapphire blue; the sea off Myrtos beach was equally stunning in its colours, this time turquoise and acquamarine; and picturesque Fiskardo in the northeast looked all the prettier for the small number of sailing boats in the harbour and the thin scattering of visitors at the restaurant tables on the quayside. Bigger than Corfu, just as green, but altogether quieter and more relaxed, Kefalonia is surely the pick of those Ionian islands you can fly to directly. Its people are welcoming, cheerful and hard-working, the landscape ranges from dramatic mountains in the centre to the more gently undulating contours of the north and south, the roads are good, and there’s a harmonious balance between the wildlife – we came across a falcon on the drive back from Fiskardo, and our progress was regularly slowed by troops of mountain goats and long-haired sheep – and the tourist visitors who provide the Kefalonians with their livelihood. I can’t wait to go back.

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30 APR 2012: Paxos in April 

It is a pleasure to be back on Paxos. Now, in the week or so before the season begins, the island is at its most feminine and appealing. In the gardens of the old Manor House in Loggos, a beautiful pink and white climbing rose is in bloom. On the verges of the narrow roads – emptier now than they will be for the next six months – are overgrown with masses of purple, yellow and white wild flowers, among them wild garlic, sweet peas and purple vetch. A small flock of geese waddle about the main square of Gaios, swifts duck and dive over the beach below my villa and swoop overhead.  

It was a pleasure, too, to land at Corfu airport (and how often can you say that). Our easyJet flight from Gatwick was the only aircraft on the entire apron when we arrived on Monday; the luggage arrived within ten minutes.  

This won’t last long. The charter flights start in May, and the season will be underway. What kind of year will it be? Everyone is nervous. The poor publicity Greece has been suffering from for most of the last year has taken its toll, and early bookings are well down. The coverage has changed for the better in recent weeks – there was a very positive piece about the delights of Loggos and Paxos in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday – but will this be enough to turn the tide? The Paxiots, who depend on tourism for their livelihood, have their fingers crossed that Greece lovers will miss their Greek summer break too much to stay away. We’re all hoping they’re right.

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01 APR 2012: HYDROFOIL TIMETABLE - Paxos hydrofoil schedule released!  At last this summer's sailing schedule for the hydrofoil between Corfu and Paxos is out.  You will find it here.  Just email or call us if you have any questions about it and we'll try to answer them.

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14 MAR 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

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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)


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