It's the same old, same old in Corfu. Thank goodness!

The Greek island's east coast has avoided the ravages of tourism. Tristan Davies is beguiled by its good, old-fashioned charm

Some things in life never change, and thank heavens for that. Lea and Perrins stands the test of time. Church's brogues. The Archers. Fashions may come and go, but you can always rely on a few old staples. But not all that is olden is golden.

Only the other day I found myself in Peter Jones in Sloane Square – that cathedral of good sense and never knowingly undersold – witnessing the crumbling of another great national institution. The elderly woman in front of me only wanted some bleedin' blinds for her bedroom. I'm sorry madam, the aggressively courteous shop assistant was explaining to her, we don't stock that Venetian here, you'll have to go to our Oxford Street branch. But surely you could have it sent round, explained the nice old lady, one hand on her walking stick, I only live round the corner and I cannot drive. I'm terribly sorry, madam, came the inevitable reply, it's not company policy.

Gordon Bennett, as nobody seems to say any more, this was Peter Jones. For God's sake, is what I actually said, just get the poor woman's blinds sent round in a taxi and I'll pay the fare myself. I'm in a hurry.

Aren't we all. By the time I had been invited to leave the premises, I was ready for a holiday but held out no great hope that a week in Corfu would do anything other than tip me over the edge. The brochures looked good enough to swim in, all infinity pools and cool marble bedrooms the size of Tooting Lido. But I wasn't falling for that. How often does the room you book bear any resemblance to the picture that sold it to you? And Corfu? It was great in the Seventies, when we drank sweet martinis and considered deep-fried calamari a delicacy, but surely it must have gone the way of sandwich spread, or worse, Cyprus.

I've been to Cyprus a couple of times since the Seventies and, Lord, what a mess they've made of that once beautiful island. I say they, but really I mean we, since the systematic destruction of the Greek side of the island has been carried out in the name of the great British holidaymaker. And driving from the airport through Corfu Town, along the coast road to Agni Bay, on an island I had not visited since its Seventies' heyday, the signs were there – English Pub, Pole Dancing, Tricky Vicky's Vomit Bar and Grill – that we were doing the same to Corfu.

How wrong I was. Sure, you pass through the odd town of tourist tat and a gauntlet of scary-looking young men with old men's bellies. But up in the north-east, things are on a human scale. It's the buildings, of course: there are no high rises on the coast between the airport and Kassiopi at the top end of the island. The east coast of Corfu is an archipelago of white, two-storey villas, and most of the good ones are run by CV Travel.

Ours was in Agni, one of the prettiest villages between Corfu Town and Kassiopi. I say in Agni, but it was perched high above it, at the end of a steep and winding road (a track, really) that, had it had any road signs, would have been marked as "hairy". The village has only recently been made accessible by road, and what you lack on tarmac you more than make up for in privacy and seclusion.

And, oh, the view. Walk through the cool marbled rooms of the enormous villa, and you reach a balcony, handsomely furnished with Raj-style wicker and cushioned chairs, every bit as luxurious and capacious as the brochure and overlooking a bay prettier than any postcard. It is an aspect you never tire of, and is best taken in while floating at the end of the large private infinity pool that laps over the promontory. Below is an endless passing parade of canopied pleasure boats that phut from cove to cove in search of new tavernas. This is the most popular and most practical mode of transport around Corfu, and taverna hopping is one of the island's greatest pleasures.

Pick up a boat from one of the tavernas on Agni Bay, book your seafront table for dinner that night and set off for a day of boating, swimming and coving. The coastline is pretty enough to explore in this way, and 10 minutes' phut from Agni is Kalami and the famous White House where the writer Lawrence Durrell (brother of Gerald, who wrote My Family and Other Animals on the island) once lived – a corner of Corfu that remains for ever Cornwall, populated by blond, healthy-looking teenagers and their yah-yahing parents, all refugees from a Boden catalogue. Tavernas have been provided at the end of each wooden jetty from bay to bay, where you will find a beaming waiter who will wave you in and politely ignore the mess you made of docking.

Yes, there is plenty to do and see in Corfu if you are minded to, and the archaeologically inclined may find it hard to resist the short journey across the sea to Albania.

But as the sun beat down day after day, we became less and less inclined to leave the clean, cool villa, content to watch life passing by below us from the pool and retreating to the shady balconies for sleepy lunches before working up the energy to roll down the hill to one of three tavernas for dinner. The best of which is the Agni Bay Taverna. And if you can't get in there, then the other two alongside are nearly as good. They know what works, and they don't muck around with it.

You can find more of the same pretty much wherever you look. What more could you want? A cocktail? Head for the fleshpots of Kassiopi, 15 minutes up the road. A prom and a bar hop? Try Agios Stefanos, a few minutes closer. Some good old-fashioned fun, served with good old-fashioned charm? Head for Agni Bay. You'll discover an island unchanging, unspoiled and never knowingly undersold. No, it's better than that. It's the Worcester sauce of the Mediterranean. And long may it remain so.

HOW TO GET THERE

Greek island villa specialist CV Travel (020-7401 1026; cvtravel.co.uk) offers a week's stay at Villa Nicoletta from £435 to £795 per person during 2008, based on six people sharing and including return Gatwick flights, transfers, maid service and a welcome food hamper.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us