In need of some R&R, a quick search on the internet came up with a week's B&B in Agios Georgios in Corfu from our local airport; one of those holidays referred to in brochures as 'small and friendly' and 'plain and simple' (or 'bloody basic' as my husband so eloquently put it - but then he is spoilt by the luxury of business travel and four star hotels).
This is what Greece is all about, I pointed out. This is what we did when we were 18, he retorted, and couldn't afford anything else....
A rather incongruous snapshot of a brown bear on the wall was the only embellishment in our plain and simple room, at our small and friendly hotel, and as for the Agios Georgios itself, it too shared the ambience of something that had seen better days.The downturn in the Greek economy has all but killed off this little corner of paradise. Apartment complexes are boarded up, tavernas are empty, shops have closed down. It’s quiet to the point of ghost town. Great for a couple like us who just wanted to chill out on the beach for a week. Not quite so much fun for the Greeks who have a livelihood to maintain.
The intention was to be holiday philistines, no car hire, no excursions, yet after one of AgiosGeorgios' many stray dogs had strolled off with the ball from our beach tennis set, we found ourselves at a loose end. Before we knew it we were following the recommendation of fellow hotel guests to take a ten minute bus ride uphill from the beach to the small village of Pagi.
The local bus makes its precarious ascent to Pagi just four times a day en route to Corfu Town. We breathed in like Harry Potter on the Night Bus as it squeezed itself along Pagi’s main street and deposited us outside ‘Spiros Bond 007 Cafe Bar', where the proprietor Jimmy and his wife Eleni welcomed us like old friends.
Here in this tiny, forgotten corner of Greece is a shrine to all things James Bond. Photographs of a debonair Roger Moore and earlier Bond incarnations adorn the walls, along with various items of memorabilia. For a few magical months back in the early 1970’s a film crew arrived, transforming Pagi into a dusty Spanish village for what eventually ended up as a five minute car chase scene in ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Jimmy has been milking it ever since and who can blame him? It’s pretty tough earning a living in modern day Greece.
As we sat with our coffees Jimmy brought out a series of books and albums depicting Pagi’s brief moment of fame, like a proud father showing off photographs of his family. Surely you remember the car chase? The one where James Bond swaps his Lotus Esprit for a yellow 2CV and makes his escape when the villain is thwarted by the arrival of the village bus?
No? To be honest it doesn’t matter. The film is replayed on a loop on the bar’s DVD. Jimmy pauses in strategic places to highlight the local scenery and point out the villagers, who were used as extras.
The bar posed as a grocery store and fruit and veg were sent spiralling down the street.
‘Just there, see.’ His father’s arm sticks out of the bus window behind a man with ginger hair. ‘And there,’ It’s his brother-in-law, in a crowd scene, helping Roger Moore out of the up-turned car.
As we left, he handed us a bag of raisins, sustenance for our thirty minute walk back down to Agios Georgios around those now familiar hairpin bends.
Small, friendly and just ever so slightly surreal.