Thursday, April 21, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO CYPRUS, part 2, Almyra






FRIENDLY SEAFRONT HAVEN
Almyra gazes over the Mediterranean and the fishing harbor of Paphos (Pafos), facing the sunset. Just one little sign marks “almyra” at the entrance to Poseidenos Avenue. And already you know it is modest and tasteful.

A Design Hotel, Almyra is unpretentious yet stylish, with those little features that show a designer was here making all this simplicity. Almyra is all about straight lines and Mediterranean flat roofs, comfort, oodles of light and blue sea views…



Friendly and hospitable to children, the hotel offers endless connecting rooms, kid’s menus, kid’s clubs and so on. But it also has enclaves for adults only. Next door lies sister hotel Annabelle, and between them they offer 8 restaurants. Close by are many more restaurants in the town and on the beachfront, as well as cafes and bars. Plus shops of course, with rather low prices. And then others with not such low prices…

Both hotels lie in gardens that stretch down to the beach walkway with their own beach restaurants and views over the blue bay and the castle, walking distance from the famous archaeological sites of Paphos.

A pleasant walking promenade lies between Almyra and the sea, leading round the bay to the port, castle and ruins. Almyra fronts a small sandy beach, nestled between rocks. But it has all the pools you need (four). Annabelle also has pretty lagoon pools and waterfalls.



The Almyra pool area lies on the beachfront. The main pool has a dark floor so it retains solar energy. All the swimming pools are heated at the moment except for the Infinity pool (SPA outdoor pool). This is a serene place for adult's only, with a view over the blue bay. The spa also has an indoor pool open for parents with small kids during the winter until 15:00 or when weather is chilly in spring and autumn till 13:00.

"The spa has an adults-only concept," explains hotel operations manager Michael V. Papaioannou. "But when the weather is not so good and kids are not so comfortable in the main outdoor pool we allow them to use the heated indoor pool at the Spa at certain times. But again this depends on weather conditions..."




The spa is also the place to get wonderful massages and other treatments - or have your hair done.

The top suites at Almyra are Kyma. We found our Kyma suite a perfect spot for listening to the sound of the waves or staring out to sea. Mesmerizing. The Kyma suite has a sofa just inside the wide glass frontage, well placed for sea gazing, and opens onto a small verandah with more seating, and a grass terrace with your own two sunbeds and parasols. Though you can’t see the path just below, you can sometimes hear voices above the sound of the waves.



The other special thing about a Kyma suite is the flat rooftop patio. You have your own patio for each suite, lying side by side with other private sitting areas on the rooftop. From there the view goes across the bay to the Paphos castle. Kyma suites can take one extra bed, or can interconnect to suit larger families.

If you don’t want kids as neighbours, you will enjoy an Atheon room – in a block of adults-only rooms (see our snapshot). Or if you do have young children, a Superior Seaview room offers 28 sqm of space and can interconnect with another room. There is no balcony - instead the balcony space is incorporated into the room.





Then again, for familes wanting private outdoor space you have a choice of a terrace room or a verandah room (28 sqm including the balcony).

To delight families there are loads of connecting rooms for family intimacy but always on request. All room types except Veranda Sea View and Aethon rooms interconnect. You might connect a terrace room with a junior suite for example.

The junior suite has a sofa bed and can accommodate a child in the extra bed and also a baby cot – in a total of 35 sqm. One-bedroom suites are 55 sqm including a separate lounge. The two-bedroom suite has most space – 73 sqm.

Wi-fi is complimentary at Almyra – good news for those who find it difficult to pay for something that these days seems as natural as air.

But don’t get stuck. We do recommend you go out and see the mosaics of the Unesco archaeological site. Even if just to see the flowers popping up between the ancient stones…





Paphos is an outpost of ancient Greece and Rome. Aphrodite goddess of love and beauty is said to have come out of the waters off Paphos – various spots on the coast claim her birth happened there. But more concrete is the Unesco site House of Mosaics, with the ruined villas of various noblemen spread out among grass and flowers, surviving as fallen columns, mazes of broken walls, and very beautiful mosaics. Albeit damaged by time the site is under constant renovation and reconstruction. In addition there are three museums in Paphos telling ancient tales.

Almyra was the first of the Thanos family hotels built in avant garde minimalist style. Next Thanos hotel was Annabelle, which moved out of minimalism to a more classical hotel style.





Annabelle was an immediate success and to date 80% of its guests are repeaters. So Thanos went a step further in the classical direction. They built Anassa – on its own beach a 40 minutes to one-hour drive over the mountains, beside the Akamas peninsula nature reserve. Not just classical but UBERclassical and luxurious. See our earlier blog.










Friday, April 8, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO CYPRUS, part 1, Anassa









Cyprus, land of Aphrodite, goddess of love…and Anassa the most beautiful hotel on the island. Built like a Mediterranean village among gardens and pools sloping down to a long sandy beach, but inside more like a palace. It is an astounding piece of art. Classical motifs are mixed with cloisters, fountains, domes and cupolas and even a real Byzantine church is part of the hotel. Here they have wedding ceremonies (multi-denominational)…



The beach is amazing. Cinnamon sands stretch up to the mountainous Akamas peninsula nature reserve. Sunbeds lie beside a wooden walkway on the beach, perfect spot for us to enjoy spring sun and beach service.





More sunbeds surround the outdoor pools – one heated and much loved by children as it is near the kids club. There is also a sizable indoor pool in the spa.






This was the Thanos family’s spring party weekend. Thanos owns three hotels on Cyprus. All delightful – but Anassa is their “queen”.

The grand hotel with its gleaming marble floors and bathrooms offers exquisite suites, many with private pools. We were given a tour of the top suites, including the popular Adonis and Aphrodite honeymoon suites with jacuzzi on the balcony overlooking the ocean and beach. In the images below you can see our very own Select Adonis (Max from marketing) in the Adonis suite.











Aphrodite suite is a mirror image of Adonis - but on the sunset side, with beautiful beach views.



We were also shown the celebrity villa Alexandros – a very private haven with its own entrance, a decent sized pool and two bedrooms upstairs. Some celebrities might choose to hide away there in solitary splendour, but other world names are happy to wander along the beach with their children. Anassa does give that kind of serene privacy.



High up on the same level as Adonis and Aphrodite we also saw the presidential Anax suite – with a long more formal dining table – and two bedrooms with balconies with perfect views.





Then still high up, but one level down, we saw a panoramic junior suite and a two-bedroom suite that you can occupy as a one bedroom suite or extend to a three bedroom suite. Connecting doors on the balcony are much appreciated by families who take adjoining suites – as the kids find it easy to play together.






This year we stayed in a garden studio suite - creamy white, light and Mediterranean in feel. Our balcony had morning sun, a pleasant place to be with a V-shaded view of the deep blue sea. By the time the sun gets too hot you are in the shade. The garden suites have a peaceful village style setting along winding paths – and all have at least a partial seaview. A few minutes’ walk to the main building – or a quick buggy ride.



Last year our studio suite in the main building had an extra large terrace with fabulous view of the sea, which saw the sun in the earlier part of the morning. In the high summer at 40 degrees, the shade on the terrace is divine. The suites facing the mountain, sea and infinity pool offer balconies perfect for sundowners.

We had a weekend of lavish meals. So much seafood, imaginative salads, Italian specialities, melt-in-mouth desserts in extraordinary displays of tempting food passion…and extensive breakfasts including champagne among olive trees.
After a sit-down dinner in the ballroom, we let hair loose at a disco, music pulsing under the cupola.



Polis Ioannou, the Director of Sales and Marketing was careful to point out this event was an exception.

Anassa is usually a place of supreme tranquility. Here you can get rid of energy and stress with squash, tennis, sailing, windsurfing, swimming, walking, hiking, mountain biking…or just dissolve it all at the Thalasso spa with saltwater jets and massages. Or dream on the terrace amid endless views, enfolded in soft arm chairs, float in the heated pool, or recline on the beach on a sunbed, served with whatever you wish to drink…

Snapshots below include various cocktail parties, gala dinner and the disco.







It was thumping under the dome at the spring launch...

But usually it is a place of utmost peace.



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MAURITIUS, part 15, Heritage Le Telfair




REFASHIONING OLD ELEGANCE...
In a fresh focus on the southern coast, Heritage Le Telfair has been totally refurbished, offering 158 guest rooms and suites, with butler service to all suites. Meanwhile Heritage Golf & Spa Resort featured in our golf brochure has become Heritage Awali, adjoining Le Telfair on the same former sugar plantation in Domain Bel Ombre.

These golf resorts lie between a sandy beach, turquoise lagoon and the green expanses of the Heritage golf course, framed by mountains. Nearby is a private nature reserve with rainforest and dry bush, to be introduced into the Heritage Le Telfair experience. Also new to the experience is the Seven Colours Spa, concentrating on Mauritian and African elements, with a full programme to inspire better living. (Former spa was run by Six Senses.)





As you step into the lobby of Heritage Le Telfair Spa & Golf Resort you feel freshness, and fantasy. It is built like a plantation house of yesteryear, using old and burnished floorboards. But the carved wooden walls, painted pure white, are too perfect to be old.

You look down at the perfect symmetry of a fountain and water canal, to the lagoon, encircled by coral reef. Adjoining is a lobby lounge of new chic contemporary furniture – borrowing from an age of grace.

The main restaurant, with a fresh Mauritian chic, is Annabellas. Beside the beach is the pavilion style Pan Asian restaurant Gin’ja,offering fine dining in the evening, with an informal lunch experience extended to some small (spindly) tables laid out on the sand.



We had lunch at Gin’ja twice. The first time on a tour with Air Mauritius we were presented with a very exciting starter – a long plank (5 metres?) strewn with every imaginable kind of sushi, taking advantage of the fresh seafood of Mauritius.

Further there is a fine dining restaurant up by the golf course (5 minutes). This elegant old-style Le Château de Bel Ombre restaurant spills out to tables under an ancient tree, with golf course views. Down at the seaside by the swimming pool is bar Palmier. Further restaurants are available at Heritage Awali.

A new beach club lies just over the river from Heritage Le Telfair: snorkeling, waterskiing and various other watersports included, but supplement for scuba diving, catamaran sailing, kitesurfing etc.

The rooms have an elegant traditional feel with dark timber floors and fresh pale colours.






VILLAS VALRICHE
We also inspected one of the new roomy villas right on the Heritage golf course – Villas Valriche. Nice fresh feel, big barbecues by private pools – with three or four bedrooms. 5 minutes to the beach club at Heritage Le Telfair by golf buggy.





Breakfast included at posh Le Château restaurant nearby.





The golf club also has a restaurant – plus there are restaurants at both Heritage resorts on the shore. The whole area feels very new and open still. One can see the sea in the distance, but the gardens need time and water. Free internet and daily cleaning and concierge service.

Our snapshots below are of a 3-bedroom villa at Valriche.

Fully equipped kitchen below interleads with a spacious lounge and dining room with plenty of space for a big family.




Pool of the 3-bedroom villa shown below has comfy sunbeds and a very ample barbecue to please meat eaters who like poolside grilling.



HOW TO GET TO HERITAGE LE TELFAIR & VILLAS VALRICHE
45 minutes by car from Mauritius International Airport.