Tuesday, May 24, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO CRETE, part 1, Daios Cove









NATURAL & SOPHISTICATED CRETE
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 – a tapas and champagne bar soon to be added. Dine around has recently been introduced so that on half board you can also enjoy the a la carte restaurants where items on a set menu are included in HB; alternatively you can choose to order a-la-carte items, and the Half Board meal allowance amount of 25€ per person (children 15€) will be deducted from the total bill.



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 – and plenty of quite sweet muffins and other naughty or bubbly things. Greek yoghurt of course...

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.

The spa by Germaine de Cappucini offers hydromassage, hammams, sauna, Technogym, really expert Swedish style massage and Mediterranean wraps and peeling. Sophisticated adventure and aromatherapy showers adda lot of fun, after which you can spruce up with a blow dry at the hair salon (advance booking).

Harmonious, private, not flashy or overdone, Diaos Cove is a low key, relaxed, and enjoyable resort that offers quiet, tasteful décor and pampering and privacy in the villas and suites (red-level service). This service also implies free hot drinks most of the day and free cocktails in the evening.

Good news is that in all accommodation you get free wifi - as it should be. In a few rooms it might be a little blocked by the mountains but ours was fast and perfect.

And the best accommodation?

Pool accommodation of course. Especially if you are in hideaway mood and want to hang with your dearest beloveds.



Villa pool area - delicious privacy

For the lower budget, we liked the deluxe room ocean view. No pool in the one we inspected, but the balcony of this room was nicely furnished with sofa, table and chairs, and had delicious views of the crystalline cove below. The room (42 sqm) includes a sofa 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 over 100 sqm of ample accommodation for a family of 6.



Terrace of a one-bedroom suite

On the waterfront there are a number of villas with staggering views of that wonderful water. We looked around a one-bedroom villa on the waterfront built on two levels with bedroom downstairs. It was 100 sqm with a mini infinity pool carrying its brilliant turquoise over to the water of the cove, and a small garden courtyard. A charming feature was that it had access not just at lounge level but below to a path along the rocky seafront lined with scarlet mzems. Though a villa it felt very compact (pix below).







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.





Terrace of two-bedroom villa waterfront

The waterfront views at Daios Cove are entrancing. Still there is a wonderful feeling of freedom and privacy in two and three-bedroom hillside villas - perfect for a getaway. Spread far and high they are reached by a healthy walk or golf carts that whizz around the paved roads. 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 thick patches 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 Finnish sauna, Technogym treadmill, big round bath, two bedrooms with marble bathrooms including showers and bath, plus an outdoor shower with view. Views views views – everywhere.



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.

Not too far though to Agios Nikolaos (7km) – a pleasant and authentic Greek town with shopping and a long and looping waterfront where chic locals sit on sofas, sip coffee, raki or wine and use wifi. It also boasts “The Lake” – small but 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 Kristoffer on the harbor front. Taxi ride to Agios Nik from Daios Cove costs 12 euro for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children.

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 ancient church was unfortunately closed when we were there, but we looked into the town church with all its icons, ate stuffed tomatoes and peppers under vines ….and browsed among hand-made lace table cloths and olive carvings.


HOW TO GET TO DIAOS COVE

1 hour by car from Heraklion International Airport. Transfer cost 90 euro/car/way

MORE IMAGES OF DIAOS COVE

Deluxe rooms with pools:




One-bedroom suites/villas:











Two-bedroom suites & villas:









Above: Fingertip room technology - ease and romance

Public areas:



Terrace at lobby level - one of endless terraces with views



Reception - like everything else with a view



Main building




Lobby

... and a welcome waiting for you in your villa



Note: For our travel blog Select uses own snaphots as a rule, often mobile phone shots. In this case we have used many of our own shots again, but include also some lovely images by Aleah Stanbridge Photography and by Diaos Cove.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO THAILAND, part 9, Soneva Kiri





DIAL ONE…
Soneva Kiri is tip top luxury embraced by stunning nature and warm and nourishing hospitality. You are a Six Senses VVIP from the moment you step off the plane in Bangkok – and so were we…

Met at the jet bridge and whizzed off in a buggy to the domestic terminal, we were saved a long walk and much hassle – they deposited us at the diplomatic line for passport control, and then helped us get to the Thai Airways lounge. Here we waited for departure to Soneva Kiri airport.



This rustic airport lies on a neighbouring island – like everything at Soneva Kiri a balance between wild nature and sophistication. This is barefoot luxury - literally; they steal your shoes at the airport.

A short boat ride takes you to the resort on the island of Koh Kood, where you are welcomed by your Mr or Mrs Friday.



It’s not long before you realize why guests to Soneva Kiri come back year after year – and fly straight in without a stopover en route.

Soneva Kiri is a destination in itself where the cares of the world and the postmodern age are forgotten. Here you are pampered by friendly staff and your own Mr or Mrs Friday (butler). You are given your own cell phone for the stay and all you have to do is dial 1. The staff don’t seem to know the answer “no”.



On top of that comes the beauty, natural harmony and amazing food. The beach is stunning and the water clear sparkling turquoise. There are three restaurants that serve only the freshest and highest quality food – covering everything from hamburgers to elaborate dishes.

Breakfast is an opportunity to have exactly what you want – health or indulgence. Compile your own smoothies from mashed berries and fruit. Indulge in a separate deli area with the best in cold cuts, imported cheeses and homemade bakery items. Or order any hot dish you want.

It’s a case of “order from your mind”. Or you could find out what is on the chef’s mind with a menu of 10 dishes – from Japanese gyoza to egg Benedict, shrimp omelettes with tofu or wheat grass shots. There is new menu every morning.

We highly recommend that you take full board. It costs less and you eat a la carte in any restaurant. Apart from the restaurants there is the Big Thing – dining in a tree top – or at Khun Benz in the village. She used to run a hole in the wall diner in Bangkok which gained a reputation as one of the city’s best, so Sonu, owner of Six Senses, worked really hard to persuade her to set up shop on the island.

One morning at breakfast, when our Ms Friday asked us (as usual) what we felt like doing today, we told her we wanted to try Khun Benz’s famed food.

And so later she accompanied us for an authentic Thai experience dining in the village. Khun Benz oversees/does all the cooking and is happy to chat to guests. We also had a good chance to chat more to our Ms Friday, who is not your Robinson Crusoe type really – she has a degree from an American university.

The island of Koh Kood is Thailand’s third largest – so there is plenty of space to explore. Your rustic villa is likewise very spacious and very private, with its own pool. You feel miles from anywhere but in minutes you can arrive somewhere – every villa has its own buggy.





Our hill villa (snapshots above) was intimately embraced by rainforest. And the villa was huge with four different buildings and pool area.

The beach villas are our personal favourites. A little more compact, these villas offer glimpses of the sparkling turquoise sea (below). And a close-to-nature bathroom...







For larger families there are residences with four, five and six bedrooms. And all of course have private pools.







Some have their own spa pavilion (as above)...

Of course Six Senses has a magnificent Spa Village too.

Technology is there at Soneva Kiri to make life easy, but it is unobtrusive, leaving a light footprint. You don’t have any TV channels – but you can watch films on your TV. It is inventively hidden away in a suitcase.

The pleasure of the simple things in life and sophisticated ways of keeping it simply perfect…

HOW TO GET TO SONEVA KIRI
1 hr by private plane from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri airport (flights 3 times/day), 5 minutes by speedboat to the resort



Small luxurious private plane





Slide to private pool



Dressing room of a Beach Villa

P.S. Our recommendation: Stay 7 days in a beach villa - and take full board...