- HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE, ATHENS
Few hotels in the world can lay claim to being a destination in itself. The Grande Bretagne in Athens, however, is such an address.
If I had read it somewhere, I would have said well, it was a marketing expression, but when I stepped into the hotel lobby, I was overwhelmed by admiration. The Beaux-Arts marble lobby is graced with neo-Baroque furniture, Persian thick rugs in which my feet sink, spectacular potted palms, mixing old-fashioned romance and contemporary comforts into an amazing sensation of refined, ultimate luxury who embraced me, offering an overall good vibe energy.
Since its 19th-century establishment, the neo-classical Grande Bretagne has been the only choice for royalty, heads of state, celebrities and VIPs, a distinction which still holds true today. Churchill, Onassis, the Kennedys, Maria Callas, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacques Chirac and many more personalities have stayed at the 140-year-old landmark that has played a legendary role in the city’s social and political life.
Located at the heart of Athens’ historic center and with spectacular views of the Acropolis, this old, classical architecture masterpiece has state-of-the-art facilities, 320 rooms and suites, including a Royal and Presidential ones, indoor heated and roof-top open-air swimming pools, a luxurious Spa, four restaurants, Grand Ballroom meeting and all other amenities one would expect of a modern, 21st century five-stars hotel.
Special insight pour les connaisseurs is the lobby’s Alexander’s Bar with its famous 18th century tapestry and serving premium cognacs and cocktails.
The large and marble monumental Spa has six rooms for beauty treatments, massages, aromatherapy and revitalizing wraps, as well as saunas, herbal steam rooms, reflexology footbaths, an ice fountain, lunch-serving atrium and relaxing indoor pool. The Spa, created to provide the deepest essence of wellbeing in Athens, has an extensive menu of treatments and wellness rituals, inviting to pamper your body with premium Spa products and experience inner peace.
2. AMANZOE, PORTO HELI, PELOPONNESE
Amanzoe is an ultra-exclusive resort with an emphasis on health and well-being, situated in Porto Heli, Peloponnese. Set on a hilltop, amid olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees, the location is hard to beat, considering this region is steeped in mythology, with several important archaeological sites, including the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus.
It is certainly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, the perfect combination of excellence in design and architecture with nature. When I walked through the tall and white columns, my eyes slipped on the imposing emerald table with black ceramic pots in the style of ancient Greece. Then, the irresistible view of the pool bordered by other dazzling white columns that guides your steps towards the garden with lavender and old olive trees. Once in the garden, your gaze descends to the dark blue of the Aegean Sea, into absolute silence.
But what profoundly impressed me was not the splendor of design and place, but a feeling that I first tried then, in that place, namely, the feeling of total discretion that reveals and gives ultimate luxury. Maybe this is the feeling of Aphrodite, in her sanctuary of relaxation and beauty.
American architect Ed Tuttle created here a 21st-century Acropolis feel, with an imposing entry and soaring pillars and colonnades in marble and stone, while every element of the interior design is contemporary and serene. Textured materials, like stone, concrete and wood bring the outside in, while earth-toned fabrics and contemporary furniture provide luxurious comfort. Throughout, classical Greek architecture is honored with elegant white colonnades and fragrant gardens.
The very stylish Spa offers treatments based on the healing philosophy of Greek medicine and a range of holistic therapies, including Pilates, yoga and aquatic bodywork. The holistic healings of Hippocrates are the inspiration for Amanzoe’s light-filled 2,850-square-metre Spa, combining diet, gymnastics, exercise, massage and sea bathing with modern natural products and treatments.
The private beach and serene beach club are set below Amanzoe on a sheltered bay. Within easy reach of Amanzoe’s hilltop setting, the beautiful beach with fine and reddish sand and turquoise waters are fringed with lush Mediterranean vegetation.
A modern hilltop acropolis, Amanzoe is a definitely peaceful retreat from which to explore the nature, coastal pleasures and ancient heritage of the Peloponnese.
Photo credits: Hotel Grande Bretagne, Amanzoe, personal archive Ruxandra Chiurtu