Sunday, June 19, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Crete, part 3, Blue Palace




PURE BLUE LUXURY
This is a blue and dazzling world. By the iconic arches and infinity pool, the terraces of Blue Palace stretch out with sofas and endless sunbeds. Distinguishing, memorable. The international set chill out here in serenity induced by views. Communing with laptops via wifi – which is free on the terraces and by Arsenali bar.

Way down below is the turquoise sea – very rich and startling turquoise. Like a dollop in the blue you see the hump of Spinalonga island and muse upon mysteries. It is 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 enjoy blissful privacy, sun and views…from early in the morning.

Or you could take the funicular down to the sea. Startlingly beautiful turquoise sea because the water laps onto white pebbles. Wooden walkways on the beach keep your feet comfortably off the stones and there are plenty of sunbeds with towel service. You enter the water from a bathing pier.

Mesmerizing to hear the water lapping, and stare across at Spinalonga with its castle that once protected an ancient city at nearby Elounda. And another castle built by the Venetians when they ruled Crete in the 1500s. Much later the island became a leper colony and even later won fame in Victoria Hislop’s bestseller “The Island”.



By the beach is yet another infinity pool. Nearby is the resort's thalassotherapy spa, beach restaurant, and 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…

And then – you can dine at 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 colourless liquid they make locally all over Crete. “Come back and have a party…play the guitar,” he urged.

Fresh fish and Greek traditional fare are nicely presented along the Plaka waterfront in simple but chic restaurants that have kept a traditional feel. Not too many pizza signs in Plaka. Plenty of all that and whatever you want to eat in Elounda, 4km away.

Elounda is a lively tourist town with a pretty harbor full of painted fishing boats. Some call it the St Tropez of Crete. Lots of five star hotels on the fringes. Designer shops. Others that sell copies. Curio shops and even more restaurants competing to urge you in. Some very reasonable prices these days…

But it is a joy to return to the serenity and beauty of our hotel. Now it is evening. We have new “designer” sunglasses. New panama hats. And we head for the wonderful terraces.

On a warm starry night you sit or lie out there and stare at the sky. Or 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.


Magical evening on the terrace

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.


Superior Bungalow pool luxury

Bungalow accommodations are side by side in blocks with natural stone walls dividing the terraces – classic stonework is one of the signatures of the famous architect who created Blue Palace 10 years ago. Our party had two interleading superior bungalow rooms – each a generous size of 40sqm. We shared a pool and our terraces were connected by double doors, making a spacious terrace that was hard to leave. Other rooms in our block did not have shared pools, but they were smaller.

D├ęcor is very comfortable and classical with some sunbleached earthy colours, and marble bathrooms with bathtub and shower cabinet. In the South Wing built a few years later there are also bungalow rooms – of a similar size but with more contemporary features.

We were shown over a few rooms to see how the other half lived. Mediterranean maisonettes had a bright feel – with and without pools (higher category than our bungalow).


Junior suite

Royal Blue Villa - many a celebrity has had this view from their pool

Villas are few and prized by those who can afford them – among which are some famous names. Top of the line with best position is the Royal Blue Villa. The only things blue there are the infinity pool meeting the sky and some intricate tiles. Otherwise it is mostly white with white drapes on the four poster bed and pristine white lounge.

All in all there are 251 rooms, suites and private villas, 142 with private pools. All have terraces or balconies. With only delightful Plaka as a neighbor, Blue Palace has a magnificent position tiered down the slope with a backdrop of unspoilt mountains. Most rooms have great sea views.

Service is a good standard, and friendly. The omelet lady at breakfast looked a little somber but when we returned the next day to order one of her Mediterranean omelets full of chopped tomato and herbs her face broke into a blush of pleasure – so happy to be liked. Car valet service excellent… (we had a hire car which was very neat and handy).

For kids there is a private kids club, kids pool, kids menus and babysitting service. Other facilities include tennis, gym and water sports.

With a paper from the excellent concierge service at Blue Palace in hand we visited some interesting spots. We could have taken boat trips to Spinalonga and other islands, had picnics. Bathed romantically among rose petals. Or headed off for the hills. More about that later…


HOW TO GET TO BLUE PALACE
1 hour by car from Heraklion International Airport. Helicopter transfers possible as the resort has a helipad.


SNAPSHOTS

Trendy traditional restaurant in Agios Nikolaos - 12 km from Blue Palace
Pacifae restaurant on mythical "The Lake"




Buying sunglasses - familiar design



Back at the beach - sparkling blue and white


Plaka - old stone fishing village offers dining and a teeny bit of shopping




Traditional fishing boats in the harbour at Elounda



An ancient olive in the hills behind



And an Orthodox church - with flower garden


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