Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Beach and Achilles

5 May 2009 and we are on a coach excursion looking round Corfu. Guide-i-poos has shown herself to be a bit of a bore-i-poos. I'm not sure why it is that guides think that people on holiday have come for the sole purpose of learning historical dates and leave out any light heartedness they might be able to put into their spiel.

I'm sure that if I was a tour guide at the battle site in Hastings for instance I'd probably open with "It all started to go wrong for King Harold that day when he tried to get out of bed and got his foot stuck in the po..."

Anyway, after leaving the monastery, we have arrived at a small beach and have 20 minutes for a drink - very welcome as it was a hot day.

The scenery is stunning and I could have quite happily - despite not liking beach holidays - have settled down with a good book and an occasional look up, but alas we were shepherded onto the coach again and driven to the Palace of Achilleion. This had been built by Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi.

Her statue stands by the main doorway. Sissi used to visit the place often until 1898 when she was assassinated in Geneva by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni - a man who killed her just for the purpose of becoming famous.

After Sissi's death, German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 and used it as a summer residence. The place is now a museum.

"Oh my God, I don't want to go round a museum - can we not just go round the gardens?" a rather exasperated voice chirped up from the middle of the crowd. Guide-i-poos looked affronted and drew herself up to her full three foot six...

"We will come to the gardens at the end of the museum!" she said in a tone of voice that brooked no argument. She could have just said "Yep - they're that way..." but she obviously wasn't having any insubordination in class! So the disgruntled member of our little band followed us in and glared at me as I shrugged in sympathy.

"Is it just me?" he asked.
"Nope," I said, "I'd have been right behind you!"

Unfortunately we were both proved right. In each room even where there were only three sticks of furniture she talked for a good ten minutes about stuff that wasn't even remotely interesting or relevant to us. The only bit I liked was the Kaiser's memorabilia - and we all know what happened to him...

Eventually though, we did come out into the gardens. Guide-i-poos was lamenting we couldn't visit the upstairs rooms, but thank Heavens for small mercies...

The gardens were dominated by this huge statue of Achilles, watching the horizon for enemies - he should have looked down at his feet and swatted guide-i-poos with his shield - whilst we and the other rebel wandered off as far from the rest of the group as we could get.

Apparently this was the setting for the casino scene in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. However, that is apparently the record holder for the least-watched James Bond film and I certainly didn't recognise anywhere.

We went to get an ice cream up the road and plotted to break free of the tour at our earliest opportunity...

Large versions of the photos: beach and boat, row of boats, Palace of Achilleion, Achilles

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