Where Eagles Soar

The Last Resort
Tuesday 12th July 2022


We were up early this morning, suitcase packed and ready to leave after breakfast. With hindsight we probably could have done with an extra night here. We hadn't explored enough of Himarė.

We were looking forward to breakfast after yesterday's delights, although there was none of that amazing Petulla (fried dough balls) that we enjoyed so much. Instead we had these pancakes filled with scrambled eggs which I loved but Julie simply couldn't stand the thought of them. She did however really enjoy the slices of smoked cured sausage. It's not her usual preference but she admitted to developing a penchant for them! 

We finished with a coffee and planned our journey to Ksamil, not that there was any need for a map. It literally was follow the road South for an hour and a half. We checked out and slipped Drillon a few Albanian leks. He thanked us profusely and said he was saving up to go to college with which we wished him the best of luck.


We set off around 10:30am. Then literally after one minute of driving we pulled over, stopping to take a photograph of the Naval submarine base at Porto Palermo. The large tunnel dug into the hillside was reminiscent of some Dr.Evil's lair from a scene in a James Bond film.


It was built during the Soviet era at the height of the Cold War. Go back fifty years and I probably would have been shot as a spy for taking this photo!

It's no longer a submarine base but there was a military patrol boat moored outside so I guess it was still used as a Naval base of some kind.

Back in the car we restarted our journey down the coast. It was a great drive through some stunning mountain landscapes, not that I had much time to  admire the view. I was too busy concentrating on safely navigating the winding roads.

Julie couldn't enjoy them either because she was sat the closest to the precipitous drop which filled her with the collywobbles. "Why do they bother putting up a zig-zag sign, the entire road is one constant fucking zig-zag" she said, breaking down during one stressful moment. 

In her more serene moments she did manage to take a few photos out of the window to recoord our journey. We made steady progress through small villages and towns like Borsh, Qazim Pali and Piqeras but the highlight of the drive was the landscape.

At  the town of Lukovė, beyond the red tiled rooftops of the Church of St. Athanasios, we noticed for the first time the island of Corfu in the distance. It's crazy to think it was three years ago we were stood in the Ionian island looking at Albania wondering what it would be like to visit.

When we came to the outskirts of Sarandė the SatNav tried to send us up a dirt track which we obviously ignored. Then a little further it tried again to send us along a road that itself labelled as unmapped. We've learned that the setting for the shortest distance isn't always the best route to the destination!

Thankfully Ksamil was well signposted on the main road so we just followed them instead. 

On our drive down Julie had been busy searching for somewhere to eat for lunch. She found a highly rated restautant a mile outside of Ksamil called The Mussel House. As the name suggested they served fresh mussels from Lake Butrint, a large salt water lagoon. (Vegetarian options were also available.)

It was approached down a steep track to the shore. 

The restaurant itself was in a beautiful lakeside setting. We sat on the edge of the water and instantly relaxed. I ordered from the menu a couple of sides, tzatziki, grilled vegetables and french fries. Julie had to try the mussels. She ordered from their speciality appetisers menu and the price was only 500 lek. (£3.60).

We expected a small starter portion but this huge bowl arrived, what would have been offered as a main course for four times the price back home! Perhaps that's partly because our local mussels from the Menai Straits are regarded as some of the best. These plump little molluscs however were arguably even better judging by the noises coming out of Julie.

When we came to pay we were caught out as the waiter said it was cash only. I left Julie behind as collateral and drove into Ksamil in search of an ATM. I had Julie's phone as hers was the only one we were using data roaming. My phone was still on flight mode with wi-fi switched on and that's how it was staying.

With the aid of Google maps I found one reasonably easily on the side of the road in the centre of the town. I took out 10000 leks which should be enough cash in our pockets for the next few days. I was charged a fee of 800 leks, (more than the cost of Julie's lunch!) for the convenience.

I skidadled back to the Mussel House where Julie was enjoying another glass of their local wine.

After settling our bill we drove to our hotel. It was very easy to find as it was literally the first hotel on the left as you entered Ksamil. We were in Citrus 2 tonight, a basic looking block of apartments to the right of the much nicer looking Hotel Citrus. 

Some idiot had parked across the entrance to the car park which was annoying. Luckily there was a space free outside the main hotel. We found the lady who I spoke with last night. She was quite young which surprised us. We followed her across to the apartment block and she gave us the key to our room for the night.

It was very basic, very white and plain but it was functional and spotlessly clean. She promised us an upgrade to a better room tomorrow but to be honest we were just glad to have a roof over our head. I'm sure we could have found somewhere else but it would have been a great inconvenience.   

We didn't waste anytime in the room, we just dropped our luggage and turned on our heels to find the nearest beach bar. Instead of walking into town for the more popular beaches we headed in the opposite direction, out of town to find Iliria Beach Bar & Restaurant. 

There wasn't a beach as such, only a rocky waterfront, but they had built a concrete platform  on which to place their loungers and parasols. We paid a 1000 leks to hire a lounger for the remainder of the day.

Despite not being a proper beach it felt good to be lounging in the sun, drinking an ice cold Korca beer, looking at Corfu in the distance and listening to the waves lapping against the rocks. There's just something about the sound of the sea.

They did food but the menu wasn't inspiring enough to stay for supper which was a shame as we could have easily stayed, watched the sunset and stumble back home in the dark.

After about three hours we decided we had enough sun and headed back to our clinical white room. 

The second bottle of Lanson champagne was popped as we sat on our balcony whch was at the back, in the shade,  and  tucked into a packet of potato straws.

We tried to do the Lottery on-line but the system knew we were abroad and refused our attemps. Thankfully we never play the same numbers. It wouldn't bear imagining seeing your numbers pop up and you've not been able to buy your ticket! 

Shortly before 7pm we headed out in search of somewhere to eat.

Our first impressions of Ksamil was favourable with some attractive small hotels along the main road. As we walked down towards the main beach we got, the more over developed it got. Although it wasn't as bad as the unchecked development we had seen in Vlore.  

The sun was setting low on the horizon as we reached the lovely bay of Ksamil beach. You couldn't see the sand for parasols and loungers but that was expected.

Up to about twenty years ago this was once a quiet fishing village. Now the jewel of the Albanian riviera may have lost its charm but its beauty was undistbuted. If only we had got here sooner!

We followed the road uphill to the left catching a glimpse of the beach every now and again as we walked behind varioius resorts and restaurants built overlookng the bay. At this time of the day the loungers were empty because this side fell into shade, whilst across the bay, in the sun, appeared to be more popular, and the perfect place from which to watch the sun set.

We made a note for tomorrow night.

A little further up the road we came across a restaurant called Bar Korali which we recognised from reading on-line reviews on Tripadvisor. It wasn't much more than a small kitchen with a terrace overlooking the bay. It had a welcoming rustic charm which we prefered, rather than the slick trendy Ibiza cool style of some of the others we had walked past. We were showing our age, I suppose.  

Bar Korali's terrace looked North across the bay, so it wasn't ideal for watching the sunset. The view was then ruined by this large bright green and yellow inflatable obstacle course bobbing in the water. I couldn't help but feel disappointed.

However, we had comitted by sitting down and accepted the menu. We couldn't leave now.

We ordered a bottle of wine and I opted for a selection of appetisers, a baked feta, some fries, tzaziki, and roasted veg. For some reason I also ordered a bowl of pasta. I must have been feeling hungry.

Julie wanted to try the lamb but they didn't have any left so she went for the pork dish.

I positioned myself looking West where I could at least see the glow of the sunset and a glimpse of one of the small islands off the coast. If I stopped myself from looking North then it was quite the idyllic setting. 

The food was tasty and plentiful and the bottle of cheap wine was excellent.

We finished by sharing a cheesecake for dessert. It was served a la chef with a few splashes of blackcurrant jus splatted on the plate, whch made us smile.

After supper we continued along the road in the hope of seeing the sunset and we were in luck as we came to place looking over Bora Bora beach towards the small rocky islet silhouetted by the red sky behind it. It was a breathtaking view. We stood there for a while, taking it all in.

We then followed the road, past a few gargantuan hotels pumping out loud music from their rooftop bars and then through what appeared to be a residential area with a small mosque in its midst. A reminder that Albania is predominantly a muslim country.

Returning to the main road through Ksamil we made our way back to our hotel, stopping along the way at the Big Market for some more essentials which included a bottle of wine from Kosovo.  We struggled to drink it and at 1200 lek it wasn't cheap. It had a strong taste which neither of us liked.

We fell asleep with the TV on, watching an Italian film with Albanian subtitles. 

  Next Day >>>  

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