Friday 23 September 2016

A Break From Chemo in Corfu

A few weeks ago one of my Uni friends who is usually part of the Ibiza team mentioned that he was interested in going abroad somewhere towards the end of summer for a chilled out holiday, with the focus being set strongly on expending as little energy as possible and building up some sort of tan to take into the Autumn months back in the UK. This sounded exactly like the sort of thing I needed in between these cycles of chemo so I sent him a message and we decided to go into the travel agents with no plan and see what they had to offer us. As a result I made a trip to Cardiff and we went into Thomas Cook with the following brief: "Short holiday, no party islands, just a beach and a pool with guaranteed sunbathing temperatures". Half hour later we were leaving the shop having booked our trip: 5 days in a beach-side hotel in Corfu in September, just outside the high season.

So last Monday I was awake at 3am and headed for Bristol airport in an effort to make up for the typically appalling British summer by spending 5 days oiled up in the Greek sunshine. After a fairly standard couple of hours waiting about in the airport and boarding the plane we took our seats onboard the plane and were joined by a nervous looking man who, much to my annoyance, asked us to move along so he could go on the end. So I waved goodbye to my aisle seat (and the extra legroom that comes with it) and moved into the centre seat for takeoff. A short while later the seatbelt sign was turned off and our new mate got up and headed silently toward the back of the plane, never to be seen again. The mystery of the missing man bothered us throughout the entire holiday, and the only theory we can come up with for his disappearance is a Bond-style parachute exit through the back door.

After landing and collecting our luggage we headed out to the coach pickup area in search of the bus to our hotel. "Kavos is it lads?" Was the response we got from every rep we approached. "Hell no!" Came our response. As fun as I'm sure Kavos is, I'm not 18 anymore and was looking for a pensioner-style holiday involving less partying and more drinking soft drinks next to a pool. Having found our correct bus (as well as our fellow holiday makers who all seemed to fit the pensioner bracket we had expected).

Our hotel was a nice building, set among surprisingly green gardens, with a pool and a beach bar as well as beach sun loungers available for free to all guests. The beach this bar was attached to then spread a fair distance in both directions, adorned by a multitude of restaurants and beach bars, every other one advertising that they sold "The Best Gyros" in Corfu. Having sampled a gyros once on a lads holiday to Zante I was filled with excitement at the prospect of daily Gyros, especially as the hotel bar was selling one of the so called "best" gyros. I was to be left disappointed however when not one of these locations could live up to their marketing as the kebab meat failed to live up to UK standards, let alone Greek standards that had been set so high half a decade ago in Zante.

A few hours on from the gyros debacle I awoke to brilliant sunshine creeping through the balcony doors, beckoning us back out and into our first full day of Greek heat. We decided to skip the pool, as it had minimal early sunshine, and head behind the hotel and to the beach bar where we got two nicely placed sun beds on the beach, right by the bar. As I got a round of cokes in for us I asked the barman how you say "thank you" in Greek to be a bit more polite than just speaking in English all the time and, as a result, returned to the sun beds with two pints on the house as well as a new word added to my Greek vocabulary (taking the grand total up to three).

After a couple of hours sun-worshipping we decided that the best way to avoid the food-based disasters of the day before was to get away from the beach bars and head into Corfu Town itself. A half hour taxi ride later and we found ourselves in a typically Greek town with plenty of restaurants to try and find an acceptable meal at, as well as a backup McDonalds just in case the food proved as bad as we had experienced the evening before. Fortunately this wasn't required as the restaurant recommended by the taxi driver served lovely grub with the benefit of being near the pick up point to get back to our hotel. That evening, fully fuelled by some successful grub, we got to the beach bar just before the entertainment started and chose a table near the space that had been cleared for the dancers to use. This would come back to haunt us a few minutes later when they picked random people to join in the dances and we were both selected for the honour of making fools of ourselves in front of fellow guests. Luckily I was paired with an attractive brunette dancer for the duration (a combination of attributes that I have been known to favour in the past as it happens) whereas my friend was saddled with a portly greek lady, edging towards pensioner status.

On our third day we decided to investigate the water sports that were available just around the bay from the hotel and, having perused the options, we decided to go with parasailing. This gave me a chance to break out the GoPro for the first time and get some shots of the picturesque scenery as well as some unflattering shots of us crashing into the sea from a height. After an exhilarating ten minutes of parasailing we swam/limped back around the beach to our towels as somebody had come up with the bright idea to walk to the water sports place without our flip flops on a beach made up mostly of razor-like rocks and pebbles. When we got back to the sun beds a couple of British girls had parked nearby and were struggling through a crossword and were stuck on the following: 9 Letter word, begins with the letter P, clue: "supporter or follower of a cause". I'll leave you to think about it for a while before I post the answer. Fortunately what the girls lacked in crossword ability they made up for in local knowledge, and as a result they pointed us towards an area away from the beach with more restaurants to try, meaning that night ended with a succulent fillet steak as opposed to a dodgy lamb kebab.

The View From Up Above

Mac and Jones Flying High

After the experiences of these first three days we were fully prepared for our last full day in Corfu. We knew to wear flip flops to walk around to the water sports for a trip out on some inflatable seat contraption; we knew to avoid gyros by heading back to the nicer restaurants off the beach; and importantly we knew which seats to avoid if we didn't want to be dragged onstage to join in with the greek dancers that were the final nights entertainment.

Due to the numerous delays I've had in my chemo I returned to the UK just before a planned blood test to check my eligibility for chemo to begin a week later. Fortunately this time my platelet levels had risen way back up to where they should be, enabling me to begin cycle 4 of 6 of my treatment and prompting my oncologist to recommend a holiday before each blood test.

So there we are, NHS prescribed holidays. I can live with that. Now just to get them to pay for it too.

Post Scriptum
Once again, this trip would have been impossible without the help of InsuranceWith who provide affordable travel insurance for many people with pre existing medical conditions, such as cancer. In honour of this please click here to vote for them in the British Travel Awards:

Oh and the answer to that crossword question? Proponent. Did you get it?


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