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Chill out and enjoy the sunny, laid-back atmosphere on the stunning Greek island of Corfu

Marbella Beach Hotel
Marbella Beach Hotel

CRYSTAL clear waters, lush, green landscape and laid-back living. No wonder Corfu continues to be such a popular choice for sunseekers.

The second-largest of the Ionians, this Greek island is a stunning holiday destination, with 2700 hours of sunshine every year.

I’ve no idea how many years it’d take us to clock up that much exposure to that all-too-rare thing in the sky – but it’d be a good few!

In May temperatures were already a lovely 30C, but they can be scorching 40-plus at the height of summer.

So, if that’s just a bit too toasty for you, head for the shade in one of the many Corfiot tavernas lining the coast or Old Town streets.

No one seems to be in a rush on Corfu, so it may take you a little while to adjust to its lazy lifestyle.

When you wait for a bus, expect it to be late and when you ask for your bill in a street café, it won’t arrive promptly.

But it soon becomes quite refreshing to embrace this slower pace of living.

Marbella Beach Hotel14 , Corfu

Like the Greeks, the Corfiots enjoy a Mediterranean diet of meats, fish, salads, olives, oils and breads – and so do I – so there was plenty of al fresco dining and “Yamas” (“Cheers” or “Good health” in Greek) moments during my trip.

Eating together round a table is an important part of the culture too, and the sharing plates just kept on coming at Limnopoulas taverna when we stopped off at the peaceful fishing village of Petrini.

We “yamas” with an Ouzo (the local aperitif) before indulging in a fresh fish feast of calamari, octopus, anchovies, seabream and monkfish, washed down with Corfiot beers and wine.

Did I say a feast? It was three hours later before we finally boarded our boat!

We arrive back at our beachfront hotel, the five-star MarBella Corfu.

The resort has the very apt strapline “Marbellous”, as that is exactly how it makes you feel. Located in the south-east village of Agios Ioannis Peristeron, MarBella is among the best on the island.

With 388 boutique-style rooms, it is huge but sympathetically-designed as its eight floors blend into the hillside.

However, you will need a satnav to navigate your way between its six restaurants, five bars, three pools, and beautiful gardens.

Of all the hotels I’ve stayed in, this quickly became a favourite. Family-run MarBella (whose owner has a house on-site) is the only one on Corfu to have direct beach access via a private underpass and it has been renovated every year for the last five years.

Marbella Beach Hotel14 , Corfu

During the latest revamp, traditional balcony balustrades were replaced with glass, and private pools were introduced to some terraces.

Perhaps your personal life is in need of a revamp?

Well, MarBella has just teamed up with psychotherapist Dirk Stikker to offer a mind and soul update for guests who wish to enrol on his Mastermind 2.0 programme.

In a Corfu-first, Dirk offers a five-day psychological wellbeing course, tailor-made to suit each guest.

And for a body boost, the hotel offers complimentary aerial yoga or In-Trinity sessions (30 Euros per session), and a fitness class combining yoga and martial arts.

Fancy chilling instead? Then take advantage of the hotel’s spa, where I was treated to a relaxing 30-minute probiotic facial using natural products that smelled good enough to eat.

Speaking of food, the cuisine served at MarBella will certainly give you food for thought, from Italian and Greek to its new American-style diner.

If you only visit one, make it the Greek (Platea), where we enjoyed on a six-course Corfiot menu, paired with Corfiot beers and concluding with a limoncello and a “Yamas”, of course!

Corfu city
Corfu city

You simply cannot visit the island of Corfu without a trip into its Old Town.

Corfu Town might be influenced by Italians, the French and British, but still retains its Greek-ness too.

You can spend many hours (and Euros) here, walking the narrow streets, admiring beautiful buildings such as the Parisian-style Liston, the pink-coloured Banknote Museum and the 16th Century fortress.

Shopping for souvenirs or a treat for yourself will pass another good chunk of time, before choosing from one of the many cafes and bars and relaxing with a local delicacy as you watch the world go by.

When we visit on a Sunday, we’re warned that some shops would be closed, but to be honest, we didn’t really notice, and it certainly didn’t hinder our enjoyment of this wonderful town.

Corfu is not only a feast for the eyes, but the stomach and soul too!

Facts

Classic Collection Holidays offer 5 nights at MarBella Corfu from £829pp including return flights from London Gatwick (Scottish airports available) and transfers. See classic-collection.co.uk or call 0800 047 1064.

Prices at MarBella start from 114 Euros per night. See marbella.gr

Dirk Stikker’s Mastermind 2.0 – from £3,950 (ex- accom), see addictions-mastermind.com email stikkerdirk@gmail.com