Crossing lives in Corfu

October 11, 2020 in GREECE | Comments (0)

I have loved Corfu ever since I read My family and other animals, and my brother rolled off the bed laughing as I read out loud about Gerry, Larry and the scorpions. I have returned four times. Now re-inspired by the TV series The Durrels (Enkelresa till Corfu), I returned yet again in 2019 to meet my past lives and the Durrells’ as snippets of my rambling meandering diary show. Usually I write more like a jouranalist thinking of an audience…this is simply a diary …

I chose my hotel for this view. The White House – where Lawrence Durrell lived with Nancy, at one end of Kalami village. In those days there just a few houses and transport was by boat. This is not where the family lived together as depicted in My Family and Other Animals – this came later.
View from our hotel when the sun drops behind the mountain. In the morning the light fell like magic on tne sugar cube shape of The White House
A luscious gorgeously sour and salty margarita – with real lemon juice 11 euros at The White House – best margarita of the trip though the most expensive (still cheap compared with back home). Margarita is my modern life. In the old days we just delighted in baklava.
Kaloura with its old fishing boats. old building and evocative trees. I got an uncanny deja vu feeling I had seen it in my long ago 3G family holiday boating past. And finding mention of it in Lawrence Durrell’s writing about a fisherman’s body turneing up here after a storm when they lived ast The White House.

My family and other animals is probably my favourite book ever. Of course it was on the agenda as we left Dover on a ferry bound for Calais and Greece, Liz and I. backpacking 1967.

We hitch hiked which was the usual way to live on One pound a day / or more realistically 5 dollars a day. You never ate in restaurants – bought the odd apple at a shop and munched it waiting for lifts.

The first Eureka – finding Greek magic was Thassos. My diary now lost said “I feel the brightness and whiteness and silver grey greenness I have always known inside me when I thought about Greece”.

By the time we got to Corfu we were seasoned. We had been on Crete, ascended and descended the White Mountains by terrifying bus, seen the little white houses drenched with hanging grapes with little old ladies on the steps in the sunset.

So now Corfu with Liz. First memory the youth hostel – unthinkable – dirty chaotic full of early versions of hippies. The Irish girls who hitch hiked every day at lunchtime because there was no money due to Itish bank strike. The travel agent in Corfu town offers us a bus ride with a bus full of American sailors. Their big ship was in town.

The sailors were very polite and eyed us from safe distance. Now at last I got a chance to talk about Gerald Durrell. The travel agent knew him and pointed at his house – villa peeping out through lush forest along the beach Glyfada.

Next time I returned to Corfu, the second time, it was with my own precious nuclear family. We had fun – it was our first holiday together in Europe – previously we always returned to South Africa. It was our first holiday eating at restaurants as we did every single day. We discovered bacclava. We discovered ancient olive trees and cypresses.

We rented a car just for one day – otherwise caught buses – after all we had come all the way from Sweden by bus, train and boat.
Our first stop after Corfu Town was Palekostritza where we found flower bedecked rooms just off one of hte beaches. We hired pedal boats and went snorkelling at the mouth of the bay.

The third time on Corfu was with my 3G family, my parents Marj & Hen, husband Roland, and children Duchesne and Julia (later called Aleah, who left us behind on this earth in 2016, forever missed).

I had rented a villa. All my fantasies of rich family life (as opposed to the split life of Sweden) were nurtured by the idea of a villa in Greece.

30 Sep

This morning I saw the irridescent blue trumpets of morning glory and got a fierce squirt of distress mixed with buried delight. I remembered OUR happiness when we arrived for our first family holiday on Corfu – arriving by ferry from Brindisi (bus to Rome, train to Brjndisi) – first stop Palaekosttitza. And there we saw a fence draped with morning glory. We – Roland, Julia. Duchesne snd I marvelled over the atmosphere of voluptuous warmth and maybe even joked about lsd coming from the seeds. It zoomed up like a torpedo at my mood of happiness this morning – lsd – god I hate it and the dangerous fantasies and distortions that ruins lives. I wont talk about it here.

Duchesne & Julia getting a horse drawn ride. Horses were very important in Julia’s life

Kalami Corfu – where Larry lived

Content today, though I can never forget the personal tsunamis that swept part of my life away.

Now I am in an amazing place.

The White House – which was already renovated and extended during Larry’s time here with Nancy. Now it is a very nice restaurant and hotel

This is The White House where Lawrence Durrell lived with Nancy. It’s not where they filmed most of Enkelresa till Corfu (The Durrells). Below is the hip bar… Larry would have liked it? more below…

Drinking beers as liquid lunch so we can lie on cushions and use wifi. What a dreamy place. The obligatory olive tree, worn rocks that Larry wrote about. The limpid turquoise water that I first discovered in Greece when the Med was still full of underwater colour.

I think Larry would have liked the gentle Bohemian flavour here with the cushions under the olive tree and all his books for sale – and Gerry’s. Of course these days the likes of avant garde Larry would be in some obscure corner of Vietnam or somewhere as adventurous as Corfu was in the days the Durrells lived on the island.

The White House – lounging cushions under the olives – beer & Greek tapas – apart from the conventional tables under an awning with view of the sea and what looks like a good menu

KAMINAKI. Back to memories of my second visit with my children.

When we returned again with our children and my parents for a 3G holiday I rented a peasant lady’s house on the main road above Kaminaki Beach, which lies a few coves south of Kalami. It had to be a villa because of My family and other animals. I found the villa in a pamplet at the Greek embassy. I insisted to the amusement of the Greek official at the embassy that we must hire a house with a donkey. It turned out that the peasant Lady lived in the house beside us and indeed had a donkey, Rideros.

I searched for the houjse which was on the main road above Kaminaki Beach. I didn#t remember the concrete structures, but I think this is it. Two weeks here with our 3G family.

Just up the way from this house there is a sign today in 2019 – “Villa with donkey“. Maybe we started the fashion of villa with donkey or is this a descendant of our peasant lady?.

One of my treasured memories is Marj my mum playing with 8 year old Aleah/Julia on our small pebble beach at Kaminaki and in the water leaving me to laze and dream and absorb the colours and sounds of Greece. Duchesne had a few teenage aspirations emerging. Very good looking. – always immaculately turned out and absurdly popular in his circles in Täby.

Yet anohter Spiros taverna at Kaminaki Beach. The water is moody here, after the first rains at the end of summer

Hennie, my beloved stepfather, was so good natured and in love with our boating existence that holiday on Corfu, a holiday that was one of their lifetime memories (and mine). We had dragged our red 12 person inflatable all the way from Sweden and every day set out for adventure over the tranquil inky blue water – during a heat wave. No better place to be than the water. I remember Hen got rather bad tempered on one occasion when he drank those high alcohol beers – he quarelled with the owner of the above taverna. The taverna looks much the same, and all these people from my past were with me now. My mum Marj and beloved Hennie were killed in an accident in Jan 2006. I was in the car with them and I spent 5 months in hospital.

30 Sep

1937 30 Sep Thomas Place

Sunset on water as taverna fills up. Can see White House

1 Oct

NOW. Now at Thomas restaurant for my truly perfect veg moussaka ordered yesterday

Thomas Restaurant, the best for miles around, at Kalami – seamless with the pebbled beach and pastel water with a view over to Albania. Albania looms as a threat because of its pirate internet companies that suddenly commandeer your 3G or 4G as teh Greek wifi switches off for whatever reason
Delish veggie moussaka at Thomas Place

Corfu Town

We rented a car on our third day – since I imagined we would be scouting around all the sites from The Durrels and my own past lives. I had forgotten how winding and slow the roads were or how nervous I am after our fatal car accident.

TIP: From Kalami we could have visited Corfu on a daytrip by boat – and skipped the hassle of driving and parking.

Our first stop with the car was Corfu Town, where we managed to find parking on the waterfront. There is an Italian flavour to the architecture of the Ionian islands facing Italy, and Corfu town is no exception. It reeks of forgotten history, and ramshackle charm.

Corfu town. Faded, crumbling, leaning, pastel coloured, charming and hot. I nearly fainted in the heat when I visited with my young kids and had to be placed a ta table and fed water…now it was mild weather –
The first cafe where I requested a cappuccino the owner had a minifit o frage that I should dare to ask for cappuccino at lunch time. I wandered off and found a new cafe (I thought), and as I opened my mouth to ask for a cappuccino, the same angry man cam in and shouted “Get out”. The people in the cafe all looked at me with the understanding that I was an undesirable. Strange – in Greece there are two very clear types of people: The wonderful cafe and restaurant owners who love their guests and often give away treats; a d those who seem to hate and resent them for taking up their time, full of suspicion that their guests are there to rob them.


After Pelle managed to park on the seafront we walked along the marble pavement towards the old town. I suddenly remembered I had bought a white Panama hat here all those decades ago. So I snapped a pic to record the thought. And then to my amazement our footsteps arrived at a hat shop selling Panama hats! There is a very strange eerie feeling in the veins as past moments come rushing in because you are walking without knowing it on the actual stones you once tread upon when you were young and your precious child was still alive and full of her own playful chuckling whimsy.

2 Oct 

At White House comfy for coffee.

A bit silvery today due to clouds that will hopefully clear before a tirade of weather comes in this evening. Waiter told me it is 4 months since they had rain. I could see he felt I was insensitive or simply foreign to wail over it.


So I read in my Durell history today that the local English elite or rather someone’s Mummy (who apparently knew the Durrells in those faroff days) looked down on the Durrells for naked bathing and worse – fraternising with the local Greeks – as explained by the daughter of “Mummy”: “We love our servants – they are proud people but know their place” ( ie they know their place is below the expat British ) .”The Durrells were” said “Mummy” “insensitive” in upsetting all the subtle little arrangements between people. (see book). Reminds me of South Africa when I lived there all those years ago. Some white people spoke like this about “liberals” who they insisted upset the Africans by treating them as equals.

I am longing to have a boat ride. Pelle less so. I want to relive gliding over these glossy waters with my family and “lovely mummy” as I was happy to nickname myself in those faroff golden days. I did a little illustrated story for my son with the characters Lovely Mummy; Daddy Woodcutter, Shanie & the little blue dog Rindepest. (a mini sausage dog).

Today as we drove along the northern fringe of Corfu I felt we were coming near the gravel verge where I once danced around on our family video as the silver Subaru let-out deep vibrating beats.

Sure enough we came to a gravel verge and I got out to take s pic. It was a bit unpicturesque so I wasn’t sure. Then 5 mins on there was s picturesque gravel verge with sea below the weeds. I took a pic of the view remembering the thoughts and experiences at the time.

One night in the peasant villa at Kaminaki I woke up with hand on my breast on an enormous lump. I didn’t tell anyone as I didn’t want to ruin their holiday. At least for a few days I didn’t tell them. I kept saying things like “so you will remember me.”

Like… I bought my kids gold chains with those words – “so you will remember me”. They thought I was being a bit odd.

Finally Roland told them my BAD NEWS. Duchesne came in a sweet grownup way and put his arm round me and said “Sorry mama.”

Roland called a nice Greek doctor (like the one in My family & Other Animals), who said since it was so round it was probably a cyst. Later an operation showed yes this was merely a cyst though it left an ugly scar.

The kids took it as a sign that I panicked for nothing. A little unfair as that cyst was the size of a golf ball sticking out of my breast and was solid instead of liquid filled.

31 Sep


I was here all four visits to Corfu. It is still beautiful with its pale rocky hills, monastery and dazzling water. But there is a mysteriously forlorn look to the big parking lot by the beach and waterfront. We used to walk between bushes to the third beach which I remember as pure magic and the scene of bathers, sunburn and our favourite restaurant, Now there were various rusty fences as barriers – I cannot imagine why they would do that or let that happen. They? A non functioning city council? Our restaurant was now hidden behind two others. I couldn’t find a way to our rooms among the flowers. But the beach still had a mountain backdrop and I could still remember Julia in an enchanted state playing and singing to herself on the beach as we sat with Duchesne and enjoyed the togetherness you feel after a nice meal in a friendly restaurant where there is a Spiros to talk to you about his aspirations to plant flowers..

Palaekostritza – we stayed here on our first family trip. Its both beautiful still and spoilt in parts, and was full of memories of my young children, one who is no longer with us.

1, The first adventure with Liz and the sailors. It looked stunning – and exotic,

2. Our visit as a nuclear family when we stayed in rooms up some white-washed steps among grapes and geraniums, near a little beach (I call third beach) where Spiros had his restaurant. It was the first restaurant we could afford with our kids – since restaurants in Sweden were utterly and absurdly expensive in those days before some liberalization of licencing laws multiplied the number of restaurants and made them competitive. Every day Duchesne had a mixed grill and he grew in front of our eyes on this six week family holiday. We visited the monastery of course.

3. With the 3G family – to visit the monastery.

4. To pick up the threads of the past – and visit the monastery.

View down fro the monastery.. We pedalled a boat to the waters down there on our nuclear family holiday, and the kids snorkelled.
the monastery – with the bougainvillea already withering for the autumn
Middle beach at the end of the long bay at Palaeokostritza

2 Oct


Our northern discovery today 2 Oct took us to Sidari. Worse than I remembered it, with small pubs and tavernas looking like prefabs with Ticky tacky signs spreading endlessly and no parking anywhere, though the fetching sand cliffs remain.

One man
‘s meat is another man’s poison

My first visit to sidari was on my first Corfu visit with Liz Whaley. We wanted to see something unspoilt – “a real village” we told our informer. He looked up bus times and suggested an itinerary of 2 buses to Sidari for the day. I remember our happy adventurous mood. Something went wrong with the itinerary and we had to walk and spend the night. Was it a pension – B&B?. Two strong memories remain – (1) a middle aged woman pretty in the blue Corfu traditional dress riding a donkey. (2) 3 students from Ox-Cam also staying over. Two were charming and one was stamping his feet in the waves and muttering. “What’s the matter with him?” I asked. “He is angry because you are from South Africa!” he laughed.

We returned with Marj snd Hen to Sidari and were shocked to see the development. I remembered the dunes and somehow think that the wonderful magical drive from Palaekostritsa in 1984 up the hairpin bends through Spiro’s village Lakes also took us to Sidari, when I saw the striated sand dunes plus some development

Now as j say the development was awful. I wouldnt return to Sidari.

3 oct

After storm freshness – to be truthful a bit sticky. Amazing sight from our gallery / our balcony overlooking olive branches waving in storm winds and sky flashing and rumbling. royal drums I said,


NOW We are at Koloura / few minutes away round the headland. It was a harbour when the Durrells lived on Corfu. Larry mentions it in his own account of life at Kalami, and it features in the Durrell TV series when the family arranges a picnic to visit Larry / but he is actually faraway in Paris.

I’ve had my deja vu here – that was yesterday with the rush of blood to the heart. I realised our INFLATABLE boat had seen this from the water / along with its pandanus (I believe) palms (and a leguminous tree )

This is where we saw / yesterday / a fisherman weighing his white bait catch, proudly telling me it weighed 4 kilos (tessera).

Looking over to white ridged low cliffs I remembered snorkelling and seeing a solitary anemone of two – already we were bemoaning loss of life from the Med remembering how Roly and I snorkelled over gardens of anemones in 1971 thereabouts. He held my hand to float me over a bay in Paxos – my first snorkelling since our student trip to Inhaca island and it’s underwater extravagance one took for granted would forever decorate tropical sea floors.

I see a dilapidated stone church in the loop of the bay. I am sure we must have walked there but the memory surfaces between waves of submerged consciousness. Like waking after a night of drunkenness and trying to remember.

I am treading carefully and a lizard scuttles into a stone crack – a memory recreated from similar experiences.

That Duchesne’s friend Backe seems to be there shows that fantasy is at work or we walked somewhere similar on Paros . Indeed I remember Aleah in her deep chuckling way noting me swilling brandy in a Paros park to kill the pain from a gruesome abcess. How she could laugh,

We were the first to sit down in the seaside dining area at Kaloura today after the heavy rain

So nice the sun is here again filtering through moist warm air. Pelle had begun feeling unwell – now reckons if is change of blood pressure medicine. He has struggled more than me to walk the steep steps through the olive gardens – afraid to take the lift to and from the 4th level because of lights flickering in the storm.

Steps to and from our room ont eh fourth level – in a bungalow block on the cliffside with its olive groves and flowers

He feels a big better now he knows what it is. I was worried too / always worrying when someone with s quadruple bypass becomes fantastically tired and unwilling to do anything.


Hell just seen that Telecom Albania had grabbed me. Don’t know if had data roaming on or off. Very worried about the Albanian robbers.

Been reading Prospero’s Cell

Wow. How can anyone write after reading Lawrence Durrell?

Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins…You enter Greece as one might enter a dark crystal…Mirages suddenly swallow islands,

NANCY and I … are confused by the sense of several contemporaneous lives being lived inside us

Lawrence Durrell Prospero’s Cell

Certainly I am feeling this sense of contemporaneous lives myself in Corfu – perhaps not mysteriously – its the different lives I have lead that crossed here – my own lives, my children’s lives,the Durrells lives – since I brought their magical Corfu existence with me and we read My family and Other Animals to the children here every night.

Kalami beach in front of Thoomas Place

Kalami Beach – the home made pier where we caught our boat at last to Agni

4 Oct 2019

White House

By the white rocks where Larry snd Nancy swam. Coming down from s strung up day. Worst idea was to go to to Benitses first – and the Achilleion Palace, I read in internet there was s wrong and a right direction to get there from. Adventurous or ok. I realised from Benitses we had chosen the adventurous and wailed as weheaded up a narrow road for a mountain peak. Pelle was exasperated and turned back. So we never got there.

The white rocks at The White House – probably much the same bar the bench
View over rosemary bushes and windy sea to hazy Albania

Pelle would like to drive around but I am too terrified a lot of the time with narrow roads where you hurtled close past other cars. I was to happy the first day lounging on the White House cushions. Under an olive. I have been so taken with my Durrell world and past life. I guess he feels outside it as I twitter on with my memories.

Rhodos was all our memories made and repeated. Our wonderful monastery route. The city wall and museum.

Here I am lost in the past and more terrified than ever of the narrow winding roads in case we meet a bus. Yesterday we did one awfully scary drive past the White House and winding road one car wide. Met another car – local guy – and saw his jaw drop. Obviously only locals drive here. My heart neatly stopped beating I could hardly breathe.

We managed to come up. To main road at Loutri. I am longing to take boat to Agni.

6 Oct

Last day, it will be 25 deg, checkout 12.

Last night was perfect. The whole day very nice, since finally we lett the car and did some walking. Also it was only 21 deg C great for moving around on own two feet

Along the dliffs between Kalami and Agni. There are walking trails almost everywhere on Corfu, but some a bit hair raising I imagine as this one did have some areas needing care bit to fall.
Cliff path with view of the cove between Kalami and Agni

First we walked to the first Agni bay below the Beach House villa. Tucked around our point complete with deja vu prickly pears and a small stone house with well. The path goes down marbled steps (recent) from the road past the White House and between fences to a small pebbly beach and more of those smooth wave worn rocks that Lawrence D wrote about. The cliff was wild still with a rough but distinct footpath through the natural cliff clinging vegetation on one side and steep olive grove on the other (fenced) (once ambitiously high. ). We managed to skirt around the headland by using a stepping stone and editing for retreat of A wave. Then saw a path that rejoined the other more usual pathway marked on our Corfu hiking map.

When the path suddenly dipped at a steep angle I became afraid and my fear meant we turned back. Pelle only told me afterwards he could see the tavernas of Agni beach and we were some 5 mins away,

But we were going later in any case.

I had a swim at the dramatic high pool above our room – it began very hot but after I got wet and sat struggling with Facebook I chilled down and took ages to warm up after returning to the room and subsequently setting out attired in my favourite Desigual trousers and oyster top plus puffy pink down jacket – carrying my lilac plastic raincoat for safety ( showers a possibility)

Cocktail at the White House – where with its international standard I paid 11 euro for a Margarita with real lemon juice , silver Tequila and lemon sec in cocktail glass ringed with salt. We sat on the seaside platform(photo) and I saw the Swedish honeymoon couple was there with her looking glamorous with fanciful blonde hairstyle, (met them today at breakfast and they were very appealing with easy conversation and humour)

It was a good moment sitting there with my favourite cocktail and seeing the watery world brimming between its living mountains. And contemplating on the White House where Larry snd Nancy lived and where we have spent many happy moments (for me at least) this week lounging on its cushions under the great olive tree.

Twice we have had aubergine dip and pita bread and olives (2,80 per item x 3) lolling there on cushions as I have portraited flowers with the glassy glassy ocean background.

This time ( evening yesterday) we were waiting for the moment to take the boat to Agni beach Taverna Agni, which left from “last pier before the White House”. It looked a bit home made that pier but in good time our boat swerved towards the narrow little pier where we sat on chairs on the beach beside a Sunshine Travels cottage to rent.

A thrill to at last be waterborne – I planned badly not booking cruises instead of a car – would have been cheaper and nicer to boat and walk,

It took a mere 5 mins I guess and I managed to catch the last stretch flying around the second promontory. Taverna Agni blazed welcome lights at us and had its own pier, (now)

It was also closer to the beach than I remembered with its covered area extended in various stages over time.

The original taverna as it was when we visited in 1985/6 was shown in old snaps on the notice board. I showed my naive enthusiasm for the past by chatting to a woman (the daughter in law of Aphrodite and sister in law of Elena) about my frequent visits that wonderful holiday we had our own boat. She first suggested the woman tavern holder I remembered was Aphrodite but I stabbed my finger at a young dark haired woman with heart shaped face. Helena she said (Elena) . She was only 16 in 1984 she said. So perhaps it was 1985 or 1986. The unlikely thing about Aphodite is I would have remembered that name I think / instead I can hear hennie’s voice trying to say Elena. Also when I shared with my confidante the memory of her saying / I don’t want to get married – life is better without a man / and talking about visits to Paris snd London to buy perfume Aphrodite did not seem likely as she was pregnant at the time.

I had 2 starters – fried halloumi with honey and stuffed long green pepper / later lemon yoghurt dedouflskissert while pelle had a beef souflaki 21 eur, our most expensive meal. At Thomas Place we pay 35 euro ca for a meal including m Tequila Sunrise – here we paid 59 euro. But so glad we did it at last.

Though without the old snaps I wouldn’t have recognised its expanded self – with the plastic rain covers brought out now that October rains are likely. The friendliness was still there. Though I missed Marj and Hennie, and the kids fitting in happily. I guess D was 12 – young teens / and got himself invited with an English girl and older guys one evening. Not sure how we knew that they had mocked him as he joined them without money and accepted drinks. Vaguely remember Marj telling him about paying one’s own way. Why didn’t I think of him being without money when he headed off? At that time we were better off than any other time dur to the success of MacMedia. Roland’s success really through his ground paving ways. I thought I contributed with my layout capabilities and writing – but they bring in little without entrepreneurship. But one day years later I was sobbing I think as I told my mum that I was no one without Roland. I felt I had been very conceited not to realise it.

Anyway point is we could for the first time afford to eat whatever whenever – with MacMedia behind us. We used to split the bill with Marj and Hen – which also seems Insensitive now if I think they were pensioners and we had 2 kids.

Once I remember Marj was annoyed at some extravagance of ours.

I rented our villa via the Greek embassy. All the villas I fell in love with were taken / boasting the kind of magical views we have had now from SAN Antonio. it was gruesome to find our villa so noisily placed on the main road by a curve where everyone hooted. No sea view / olive view though. The walls were mercifully thick, the windows shuffered and the floors marble / just right for the heatwave which hit 39 deg C.

Every day we could smell burning as spontaneous fires broke out all over and the Greek airforce dipped up seawater and water bombed the fires. The local Greeks / our neighbour/house owner told us the Turks were lighting the fires. I guess it was broken glass acting as magnifying glass on suns rays.

I still remember her long unruly grey hair and fancy that she rode Rideros the donkey. We had insisted on a villa with a donkey and the Greek embassy had found us this one. Now I notice that nearby the Kaminaki turnoff there is a sign Villa with Donkey.

Every time she rode or fed Rideros Julia/Aleah would squeak with elation and shout Rideros.

The old Lady delighted at this attention .

We had planned to maybe walk to Agni today but it’s very hot and humid again though only 25. Pelle struggled up the hill Elia pi bad whhere we are sitting now. He has resisted s my suggestions to come here for happy hour earlier.

Looking back on our holiday – been feeling down and flat now we are back / grumpy and bad tempered.

I would love to have it again taking more boat trips and without the car that took a whole day to fetch from the airport snd to do a little jaunt to Palaeokistritza – and other disappointing trips like Sidari.

It was meant to be 750 m from the bus station – actually I did enjoy the bus ride / but it felt like double snd I whined away in tiredness and 29deg heat and boredom frustration. Poor Pelle – he managed to stay quite calm but finally snapped “stop saying this is not 750m”.

Palaekostritza – my fourth visit – was a mess. They had made a huge gravel parking lot – maybe for buses trafficking this way in season?

The water was still turquoise and the cliffs still there / but a general scruffiness had replaced the glamour. I remember seeing one restaurant that first visit by bus with the Americans.

Then when we came with our nuclear family, I remember it all seemed rather developed in an elegant way. A touch of glamour between the checked table cloths and the water and beaches. Now the beach just looked like a dump from a building site (not dirty just hurriedly made)

We had our charming accommodation with white painted steps and flowers / maybe I gave up too quickly in my search this holiday – it may have been behind some ugly new buildings. For the first time in their lives our kids were dining in restaurants / in those days Stockholm had so few restaurants that ordinary families could not eat out.


June 17, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (0)

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Spinalonga view

A few more images from Crete – see previous blog


June 15, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (0)

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Plaka restaurants - pretty waterfront

Past Knossos and the Minoan Palaces of the past – one hour beyond Heraklion – you come to what is marketed as the St Tropez of Crete.

This luxury mile  or two is centred on Elounda – once a poor fishing village on the site where an ancient city sank into the sea. Here luxury hotels have upped the ante on luxury in Greece ever since the 1980s. Here you have Minoan Royalty suites and Palace suites and Royal villas to attract old style Royalty and pop queens and kings. Here you have private pools galore…and Lady Gaga herself might see the horizon of her pool run into the sea and sky.

So (nudge nudge) what is it like? Times have been hard for Greece and prices have been forced to drop a little with 10-30% early booking discounts and other ploys in this once uncompromisingly expensive area. But luxury lingers on, albeit with free half board and buffets that keep guests in the hotels – so there is less of the dining out among waterfront tavernas type of thing.

We enjoyed a week staying at three hotels in and near Elounda and Agios Nikolaos (Elounda Mare, Blue Palace and Daios Cove). No time to get back to Knossos, but we did linger in Plaka, the small fishing village facing Spinalonga island (“The Island”). Invited to enjoy raki, guitars and grilled vegetables. And we did enjoy the ambience of Agios Nikolaos with its long waterfront and authentic Greek feel – modern Greek with wifi and sofas by the sea. It was in Agios Nikolaos that we found what we had been looking for.

We were seeking vegetarian moussaka. First we tried Elounda.  We shopped till we dropped from hunger – instead finding 6 euro sunglasses with distinctly borrowed design  – thanks so much …

The unusual moussaka was a long time finding. “Moussaka is a meat dish,” they would say patiently. But we had eaten it before on Crete several times. This time we almost got eaten ourselves as we searched, or so it felt, by the men lurking in front of restaurants with the job of catching clientele from passers-by. Used a guilt trip style to get you in…(you dont trust me – you dont think I got good vegetarian food?) whereupon I was presented with halloumi from lunchtime totally drenched – I mean inky with balsamic vinegar – surrounded by chips that seem to froth from old age. But later we found a really nice couple of restaurants via our hotels. Diaos Cove had even prepared for our visit by ordering vegetarian moussaka for us from the chef .  And returning to Pacifae in Agios Nikolaos  – the very restaurant where we ate the world’s best veggie moussaka at the full moon 6 years ago – we managed to order an equally lucious dish for the next night.   Actually Crete has a long tradition of mainly  vegetable diet with a little fish – meat was a rare treat and only tourism has made it a necessity, or so we were told.

Meanwhile behind Elounda and the “riviera” the mountains brooded with rich colours and mystery.  Couldn’t resist driving up into mountains behind the tourist crush, where you need a lot of cold nerve not to mind the drops and the cars that head át you rather than put their wheels too close. I still remembered the black arm bands.

My first visit to Crete was a long time ago. We caught local buses – and lived on a pound a day. It was rich experience though a little hazardous, especially the buses that did some kind of slalom down mountain slopes. In those days many men were wearing black arm bands. If you asked them what they were for, it was a relative that died in a traffic accident.

Now we had an Avis hire car to roam in. Both at the well advertised traditional village of Kritsi (where I so wished I wanted to buy a beautiful lace tablecloth to support the women) and behind touristy Elounda we saw signs that the passed live on still. Very old ladies were herding goats along the mountain roads. In 20 years they will all be gone…

That is the Greece I most remember.


June 12, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (13)

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Beach at Porto Elounda


Pride and Joy of the Kokotos family – but very different from Elounda Mare  described in previous blogs. 

Architect Spyros Kokotos & CEO Eliana Kokotos helped to launch Elounda area as Crete’s luxury mile with Elounda Mare and its romantic pool bungalows. Next to be built was nearby Porto Elounda with large shared pools, more activities and easier prices  – appealing to families. Then in the mid 1990s Elounda SA Resorts launched their most luxurious resort – Elounda Peninsula All-Suite.

It is all suite accommodation, all with pools. It was far more urban in feel and attracted lots of newly moneyed people who felt comfortable with everything brand new and contemporary. The intention was to draw people who wanted to be seen. But it ended up being even more of a hideaway than Elounda Mare – albeit without the maze of paths in flowery gardens.  A really attractive breakfast room with view over the water is hardly used. People like to dine in suite. Guests seem to have a habit of moving in to this home from home and can stay months. Husband jet-sets on business and wife and kids bury themselves in the Peninsula and its luxuries.

The property has only 66 suites. The Club area includes a wine cellar, a home movie theatre where, for example, the British Royal wedding was watched by guests.


The presidential suites along the waterfront appeal. All with sizable waterfront pools and private sea access, albeit rather adventurous  access as far as I could see. From stone platforms with sunbeds above the waves a ladder drops onto the turbulence of waves slapping on rocks. Some do offer access to the beach and no doubt a less adventurous descent.

Décor is attractive with blue and green giving a fresh spring and water feel. Built on different levels – dining area looking down on lounge and its huge windows, light and views.

But surprisingly the gardens on the terraces seemed a bit austere, unlike the perfect gardens at Elounda Mare. No doubt a signal that this hotel is more for citytypes.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the spacious junior suites with pools on the beach front. Not did I see the Peninsula Palace suite …. a “Royal Grand Suite” and the “Peninsula Residence” can be combined into this vast waterfront hotel suite.

The top accommodation I saw was the Royal Grande Suite (costing a sum afforded by celebrities). This is vast, with contemporary modern simplicity of uncomplicated space and hi tech features: lift (elevator), hammam, sauna, indoor pool with tropical garden – as well as the large outdoor pool and terrace. The living room brings church like awe with its very high roof and tall windows – and tall chimney. The dining room with long table is on a higher level and looks dizzingly down on the lounge. The nice surprise was the indoor pool with tropical banana palms – the worst surprise was the body’s guard’s room with separate entrance – Why did it have to be so small – to stop him getting uppity?

The lead-in type – “Collection” suites (1, 2 and 3 bedrooms) – also have blue and green décor. Built on two levels – all have distant sea view looking down and over the presidential and other suites. They all have pools in front but tall walls to give privacy makes them feel very compact compared with the Presidential.


A resort for people who want to meet other people, be active and enjoy children’s facilities. Spa is vast and impressive. There is also a super high tech conference facility for 5000 people. Beach is a sandy crescent around the inner edge of the yacht harbour backed by grassy area with sunbeds. Pools.

Facilities shared by all three Elounda SA Resorts include: Kid’s area, dive club, tennis courts, two yachts for charter, 9-hole golf course, and yet another Greek Orthodox chapel and shopping centre. 

Altogether there are 7 restaurants between 3 resorts, and 5 bars.

The lobby at Port Elounda is kind of empty and echoing, as if one doesn’t want anything in the way of the children.  Actually very relaxing for parents – less public property for them to destroy. 42 deluxe rooms have been newly renovated and were clean and bright with wide sea views – balconies have been given glass walls to improve the view. The Executive suites are most livable, with plenty space and big decks and big pools. The tall khaki coloured walls create privacy cutting you off from other pools. I was also shown a junior suite interconnecting with a suite, and sharing the same pool.

I can see that Porto Elounda is great for families on a budget. Elounda Mare is still my favourite – and I am not alone. Elounda Mare was fondly voted in again in 2010 onto Conde Nast Gold List, among the top 20 in Europe according to Conde Nast USA.

See my previous blogs and pix by myself and Aleah.


May 30, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (17)

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Wandering along Elounda Mare's private waterfront

Above – a small gallery of images of Elounda Mare. This hotel presents one of the early examples of luxury on Crete. And one of the best. Its hard to beat your own pool when it gazes over that view. Not to mention marble galore, jacuzzi, rain showers…and plenty of loving detail. It’s old established luxury in wholesome style. This is your hideaway – if you can find it. Indeed hidden in a maze of stone pathways.

The rooms in the main building were nice. On the top floor the suite had amazing view, looking over the intricate puzzle of the flat bungalow rooftops and beyond over the sea.  Rooms were decorated much like the bungalow rooms. But they are just not the same thing. If you have the money dont consider anything but a bungalow at Elounda Mare…

The images also give a glimpse of what we ate under the ancient carob tree. No pizza…

More info about Elounda Mare in my earlier posts.

Images (c) Aleah / Binah Creative Arts, except for the swimming and walking snapshots


May 29, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (1)

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Welcome to our superior bungalow no. 2

Elounda Mare seen through the delicate eye of a lens .

The gallery above takes us into the delightful superior bungalow no 2, with heated pool and view of the sea. We explore among natural stone walls and maze of stone paths in gardens full of flowers and other surprises. Find a private beach within the walls of Elounda Mare overlooked by its Yacht Club restaurant. Then comes night and moonlight on our terrace. Breakfast…a la carte and buffet picturequely placed, all with style and quality.

– pix by Aleah / Binah Creative Arts


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Yacht on the blue - seen from our terrace

On the breakfast terrace. The mood is leisurely and serene – with quiet guests and attentive service.

They have rolled back the roof to bring in the sun. Birds twitter. We gaze over gardens and misty sea to hazy mountains on the other side of Mirabello Bay. 

Breakfast is perfect – my style. You order a la carte and they listen carefully to get your café latte  and omelet just right (all items included in the price). There is also a buffet covering cold items. Not vast. But everything you (or I) need – quality ingredients, laid out in style. Müsli and cereals  in ceramic containers engraved with type of food. A huge container of natural yoghurt …

Like the hotel itself this is Select, quality.

It’s an old elegance you feel…before the explosion of “five star” hotels. Before restless people had so much (new) money and expected hotels to refurbish every year just for them.

Elounda Mare has the feel of a classy home, away from home. It’s a hideaway of bungalows with private pools, lost in beautiful gardens with a labyrinth of paths and stone walls. Greenery, rocks and flowers create a hidden world along a turquoise sea. The main building of this Relais & Châteaux boutique hotel lies behind with bar, restaurant and further tasteful and distinctive accommodation.

Two more restaurants lie in the gardens, along with church, fashion shops and big pool. There is also a private beach on the property.

On top of that you get a free ride to the restaurants and facilities at two nearby sister hotels, including an extensive Six Senses spa, 9-hole golf course and kid’s club. Altogether there are 7 restaurants apart from the plethora of restaurants in Elounda town.

Elounda Mare is much loved by couples (40% repeaters), and a favourite destination for wedding anniversaries. The mood in the main building at Elounda Mare is smart and dress codes prevail.  We had to pass by the main restaurant with its elegantly dressed clientele as we left for a meal sortie in Plaka. I saw a look of friendly relief on the maitre d’s face when I asked him the way to the lobby and he realized he didn’t have to tell us to get our dress coding in order.

I should add that the people who work there are generally kind and friendly. Hotel Manager Harry Maranghides even went so far as to take off his jacket and tie when he lead us to lunch at the Yacht Club, to make a younger member of our party feel at ease in his Katatonia T shirt.

It was May and we didn’t see any children. Of course, children are welcome, declared Harry.  “We like well behaved children ,” he added. It somehow works when children are used to five star hotels. Of course families can make good use of the Porto Elounda facilities – as Porto Elounda is a family hotel (more at the four star level).

But one sure way to enjoy children at Elounda Mare is to command your own private pool and garden terrace in a roomy 2-bedroom bungalow, hidden away amid the gardens. Children would love those gardens and exciting labyrinth of stone walls, arches and pathways. I felt like a child myself discovering them. There are magic spots for staring into pastel turquoise water. All along the rocky shoreline they have built little stone platforms where you can lie on sunbeds close to the water. 

“I got lost”, is something guests often say after turning up at reception.

“Good”, says Harry. “That means you are learning our secrets.”

We were enjoying a perfect vegetarian meal with him at the Yacht Club restaurant overlooking the private beach –  under an ancient Carob tree. Behind is the real Greek Orthodox church built by CEO Mrs Eliana Kokotos and a small chic designer shopping centre.

“Mrs Kokotos always  builds a chapel in each hotel,” says Harry.  These authentic Orthodox chapels are used for weddings and christenings – “small weddings” with “only 100-150 guests”. (Average Greek wedding is 500 people.) It is popular with British guests to have a civil marriage on Crete, dress up, take photos, have cocktails and dinner.

The Yacht Club restaurant is open lunchtimes only usually but has theme evenings in the summer – sophisticated, but with the simple charm of a beach taverna. The Old Mill gourmet restaurant hidden in the gardens opens twice a week. Cuisine has many Greek dishes adapted to international clientele.


Our favourite was our very own Superior Bungalow – with pool and perfect sea view.

Lounge and two bedrooms en suite all with views of the pool and the sea. Master bedroom with Jacuzzi bath, rain shower with all sorts of adventurous water surprises, 2 separate toilets adjoining the main bathroom (toilet also in the second bathroom).

Best part was the pool and patio. Everything felt so intimate and so perfect. Our own olive tree, green grass, glistening water, a round wooden table….and not two but six wooden sunbeds. On top of that a view of the sea, glistening, dancing and skittering blue.  A yacht was anchored just in front. Beyond lay the mountains bathed in the orange light of the setting sun, rugged and alluring. In the mornings soft and misty.

Our pool was heated making possible early morning refreshers and moonlight swims. The moon made pathways on the water.

Deluxe bungalows have pools too and the same facilities as superior bungalows. The only difference is that the superior have better views of the sea and better position generally. We (number 2) were one minute from of the breakfast room.

Minoan royal suites are the top category – with pools of course – but even closer to the sea, and more space and features. The one we looked over had its own stairs down to the sea, and fireplaces dating back to the days Elounda Mare stayed open in the winter.  

Décor in all rooms has a similar classic charm.

With rippled white walls (typical Cretan cottage style), and desks, nooks and crannies built onto the walls to hold videos TVs etc. Décor has an ethnic slant that could be dated if it wasn’t so Cretan, authentic and perfectly coordinated. Definitely more like a good wine than grape juice. Touches of maroon in woven mats, cloths and tapestries. Black and white etchings elegantly framed and placed. All uplifted by woodwork that is perfectly finished, with curved edges and artistic flair. 

Aircon visible as a box on the wall, the only real sign that this hotel has been around some 30 years.

Harry showed us two lower category accommodations too – a suite and a double room – located in the main building (four to six storeys) – all similarly decorated and finished. But (to my way of thinking) missing the garden setting and the pools. The suite made up for it with a view far and wide over the entire gardens of Elounda Mare and beyond.

It occurred to me that all rooms felt warm, homely and welcoming.  Maybe because a bit older in design they escape the modern clichés of newly refurbished five star hotels. There is a huge insecurity hovering behind all image steered activities (from shopping to hotel décor)  – i.e. when it’s done just because you dare not be different from all the others. Individual things are somehow so much more comfortable.

At Elounda Mare rooms have their own original feel. Improvements, not changes are in process, Harry explains.

Owners of Elounda Mare are Eliana Kokotos and her husband Spyros – the architect and designer of some 40 hotels in Greece.

Elounda, which locals call the St Tropez of Crete, was a poor fishing village in the 1960s. “But in the late 1960s Minos Palace was created,” explains Harry.  Then Mr Kokotos designed Minos Beach – completed in 1971.

“Minos Beach was the most luxurious Hotel in Greece,” continues Harry. It created a demand for luxury on the east coast just north of Agios Nikolaos. With demand on the rise for super luxurious hotels on this coast, next project for Mr & Mrs Kokotos was Elounda Bay completed 1977, sold a year later.

Then a new dream was realized – Elounda Mare, completed 1982. This concept of a small exclusive hideaway with bungalows and private pools was a huge success and a trendsetter.

10 years later – 1992 – Porto Elounda was opened as a discreetly distanced neighbor. This  larger hotel complemented the hideaway Elounda Mare, offering extensive activities, 9-hole golf course, children’s club. It was a place for mixing and meeting people round the pool, on the beach at the beach bar.

Then  Mrs Kokotos decided to aim at a new generation of high profile people with a smaller, more contemporary resort – Elounda Peninsula All-Suite hotel. Different feeling, less gardens, concentrated on the suites and backing services. Expensive, very stylish. People come for privacy and hardly ever mix with other guests. There is a lot of private dining.

At Elounda Mare, with 40% of guests as repeaters, they suffered less from the latest recession than Peninsula, who thrived on guests with new money. 2008 was a good year for Elounda Mare. Last year was not so good, but the tide is turning. This year Elounda Mare hopes to come back with better statistics than 2009. Prices have been held down to compensate for the recession, so it will take a while for the revenue to come back to 2008 level.

Meanwhile – I wish them EVERY SUCCESS. Elounda Mare with its magical gardens and generous pool bungalows is one of the Mediterranean’s “paradise” spots and deserves to stay on top.


May 27, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (41)

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View from the path on the wild side

A place of beauty – aeons of stone and water.

Strange – but as the saying goes “it is a very ill wind that blows no good”, meaning most ill winds also blow good. So the metaphorical “ill wind” at Diaos Cove was an archaelogical find.

The Daios family own all this beautiful land around the once hidden cove. The original plan was to build the resort all round the cove. But when work began  with blasting and digging, they uncovered an ancient archaelogical site.

By law no one can build on a classical site. What is more they have to provide access to the public.

This hitch in the Diaos family project brought much despair and disappointment. The plans for the resort had to be redone with buildings only on one one side. Delays of course.

But in the end it was like a blessing. Because of this, the resort not only views a crystalline turquoise cove – but over it to a tall unspoilt hill, in the burnished colours and olive greens of Crete.

Down the hill is a zig zag paved path providing access to the archaelogical site.

It is a feature, not a problem any longer. The public can hardly be said to be streaming down that path. And it provides a challenging (nature) walk to guests who want a new angle on their little city.

At night it is lit, tracing a magical  wavy line in the dark. Joining a myriad of other little lights all over the place, in magic making.


May 23, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (18)

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Bathing in crystal water

Brand new resort, with luxury accommodation and cutting edge design, yet close to nature. Diaos Cove gives stunning views and truly Mediterranean feel. Like a medieval Cretan city it is crafted out of natural stone on a steep hillside. You look down to the brilliant turquoise cove and over to a wild rocky hill beyond.

 This fantastic architectural creation took 3 years to finish. With 300 units including 39 villas and 169 pools, Diaos Cove is cleverly built with spaces between units to ensure that most rooms have great water views.

 Way below lies sensational turquoise water, sandy beach packed with sunbeds, a watersports station and a Greek taverna. Two funiculars with glass cabins offer great views as you slide up and down between restaurants, terraces, bars, spa and reception and various levels of accommodation.

At night the resort is very romantic with lights everywhere. There are 3 restaurants and 3 bars –  an oyster and champagne bar soon to be added.  The most magical dining is out of doors, while the indoor dining space is intended for cold or rainy weather. We were there in mid May – so warm shawls and jackets were essential in the evening on the terrace. We didn’t try the buffet (except at breakfast) but ate at the Greek taverna and Ocean Club – delicious fusion Italian cuisine. The breakfast buffet was extensive with fresh orange juice, plenty of hot dishes and an omelet station. Café latte was included if you wished – though the croissant baker needs a visit to Paris and a lesson on sugar.

 Only about 30%-40% of guests are families; it feels peaceful – not like a summer camp. The resort features kids club and kids menus, and a children’s pool by the main infinity pool. All pools are seawater, except for the pool in the spa which is freshwater, with the added attraction of underwater windows through which you can look out and see the view.

Apart from that the spa by Germaine de Cappucini offers hydromassage, Technogym, great massage and Mediterranean wraps and peeling. They encourage couples to use the couple’s treatment rooms with attached hammam or aromatherapy adventure shower and apply one of these Mediterranean treatments to one another. That sounded like too much work and we chose an expert massage. Followed by adventurous shower and then blow dry at the hair salon.

 Harmonious, private, not flashy or glam, Diaos Cove is not a place to show off parade around just to be seen. But a low key, relaxed, and enjoyable resort that offers toned down décor and pampering and privacy in the villas and suites (red-level service). This service also implies free drinks most of the day and free cocktails in the evening.

 One of the best things is that in all accommodation you get free wifi. In a few rooms it is a little blocked by the mountains but ours was perfect.

And the best accommodation?

Pool accommodation of course – what else. Especially if you are in hideaway mood.

However, we were impressed with an attractive deluxe room without pool. The balcony of this deluxe room was nicely furnished with sofa, table and chairs, and had delicious views of the crystalline cove below. The room (42 sqm) had a sitting area and proper marble bathroom with separate bath tub and shower, like the suites.

This deluxe room could be connected to a one-bedroom suite with private pool (65sqm) creating ample accommodation for a family of 6.

On the waterfront there are a number of villas with staggering views of that wonderful water. We saw a one-bedroom villa on the waterfront built on two levels with bedroom downstairs. It was 100 sqm with a mini infinity pool  (above) carrying its brilliant turquoise over to the water of the cove, and a pretty little garden. A charming feature was that it had access not just at lounge level but below to a path along the rocky seafront.  Though a villa it felt very compact. Also on the waterfront we looked over a 2-bedroom waterfront villa (125 sqm) that was very generous with its terraces and pool area – ideal for sociable people who would like to invite in people from other rooms.

 The waterfront views at Daios Cove are certainly entrancing. Still we preferred the hillside villas. Spread far and high they are reached by a healthy walk or golf carts that whizz around the paved roads. We were shown a roomy 3-bedroom villa high up, but our favourite was our very own hillside wellness villa number 543.

 From here the views took in not only the aquamarine cove but beyond to the ocean and the white cubes of Agios Nikolaos. Around us we could see the wild mountains and enjoy a longer day of sunshine around our pool. We were surrounded by thickets of oregano, mint and basil, which perfumed the air.

 Highlight was to order lunch at the villa. It arrived very quickly and was presented on a white cloth by our pool, in bowls with silver lids, by a pleasant and efficient team. Enjoyed in sun with perfect views.

Inside our villa included lounge with view, a Technogym treadmill, sauna, jacuzzi style bath, two bedrooms with marble bathrooms including showers and bath, plus an outdoor shower with view.

From bed the morning dawned soft over the sea. On rising the pool glistened and the sea grew brighter and brighter till it sung with colour and the glorious feel of Crete.

The charm is you are far from anywhere, which adds intimacy to the resort. The natural stone melds into the surroundings with its rich brown and copper tones, and creates a harmonious simplicity uplifted by the views, the greenery around the villas and the brilliant crimson bougainvillea that has begun growing.

Agios Nikolaos is worth a visit (7km) – a pleasant and authentic Greek town with shopping and a long and looping waterfront where chic locals sit on sofas, sip coffee and use wifi.  It also boasts “The Lake” – mythically deep and connected with underwater caves and tunnels. Here are the main tourist restaurants – we ate very well at Pacificae facing the mysterious lake and at more traditional but chic Kristoferr on the harbor front

 Another attraction near Daios Cove (turnoff just before Agios Nikolaos) is the traditional mountain village of Kritsi and its nearby Byzantine church and archaeological site. The church was unfortunately closed when we were there.


May 22, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (19)

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Turquoise water clear as crystal washes white stones on Blue Palace beach

By the iconized arches, the pool is as blue as all the pictures. So is the sky.  Even without Photoshop and all the image makers of Starwood, this is a blue and dazzling world. No point in taking a picture of the arches – they are on every tourist website.

The  terraces of Blue Palace are magnificent with or without pictures. Distinguishing, memorable. The  international set chill out here in serenity induced by views – endless sunbeds and infinity pool. Communing with laptops via wifi – free, like the air.

Down below is the turquoise sea. A very rich and startling turquoise. Beyond is the hump of Spinalonga island. Brown and coppery –  traced with old walls – the colour of the land.

Mountains are a perfect backdrop. A burnished richness in the tones echoes the natural stone that distinguishes the hotel and its famous architect.

Hard to tear yourself away from the terraces. But there is so much to do…

Firstly you must enjoy your own pool. More than half of the rooms have pools. Here you feel ownership, blissful privacy …. gentle sun and cold May water…

Or you could take the funicular down to the sea. Startlingly beautiful sea because the water laps onto white stones that create the crystalline turquoise dappled effect you dream of. Wooden walkways on the beach keep your feet comfortably off the stones and there are plenty of sunbeds with towel service.

Mesmerizing to hear the water lapping, and stare across at Spinalonga  with its castle that once protected a city at nearby Elounda (4km). Later the island became a leper colony and even later won fame in Hislop’s bestseller. Wind swoops down out of a blue sky and lifts the hair…

Nearby is the spa, Blue Palace’s beach restaurant, and its Greek taverna. The main restaurant is way up to the top on the funicular, above the lobby. The gourmet restaurant is half way up the slope…

Restaurants at Blue Palace are not cheap – but we did try the  beach restaurant. Sadly service was quite surly. We came at 3pm (it closes at 4pm).

One of the best assets of Blue Palace is Plaka: just 5 or 10 minutes walk along the road. This is a really pleasant little fishing village, also built in natural stone, where in no time at all we met a man with a guitar once played by Jimmy Page; and were treated to raki, the pure and fiery cololourless liquid they make locally all over Crete. Come back and have a party, he urged. Play the guitar and the bazouki (?

The most magnificent thing about Blue Palace is its isolated position – with only delightful Plaka as a neighbour. Fresh fish and Greek traditional fare are nicely presented along the waterfront in simple but chic restaurants that have kept a traditional feel. Not too many tourist-hungry pizza signs in Plaka. Plenty of all that in Elounda…

Elounda is tourist town. Some call it the St Tropez of Crete. Lots of five star hotels. Designer shops. Lots of curio shops and even more restaurants competing to urge you in. Cheaper than Blue Palace. But not as relaxing.

Its a joy to return to our hotel. Now it is evening. We have new “designer” sunglasses. New hats. And we head for the wonderful terraces.

On a chillish night its best to retire to the Turkish nooks that line the bar area. They are intimate and magically lit with lanterns. Perfect spots for your wifi and evening mail.

But now it is time to retire, because morning in the superior bungalow with pool is simply wonderful, with sunlight streaming in and the terrace golden. We don’t want to sleep it away.

Our bungalow is actually a room in a long block. These traverse the slopes.  What is basically a long pool in front of a block is divided into private pools. Sunbeds on the floor of the terrace give privacy to your neighbours – but in some cases you see the pool rather than the sea from down there. Your own watery world.

The original hotel built in 2003 was added onto in 2006 with the south wing – among the flatroofed accomodations in terracotta or beige lies the Royal Blue Villa. Lady Gaga stayed there – or so I heard on the grape vine. Quite roomy, and quite stylishly simple with white furniture. Gone are the days when stars destroyed their hotels…

These days people destroy their hotels in Trip Advisor. Well, not pop stars – but ordinary people outraged by walls that block their views or not-so-honest marketing. We all mean well I think. We want to promote our products as we call hotels in the travel and hospitality business. We feel that pictures will CREATE reality. Perfect pictures. Perfect reality. Travel is all based on dreams…

That is the idea.

Managing expectations is quite another concept. If you dont promise too much they wont be disappointed.

That’s why I am grateful to Trip Advisor. So when I travel I will never expect too much…

I am only delighted, as I was with Blue Palace.

A magical place. Every moment perfect.

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