Wednesday, July 25, 2012

HOTEL NEWS FLASH, Greece, Amanzoe


WOW...WOW...WOW.
Awe inspiring. Amanzoe gives a powerful impression, as if Socrates might suddenly emerge between the columns. Placed on a hilltop with amazing view, this new Aman resort feels like an ancient Greek temple.

"It brings tears to the eyes and chills down the spine," was the comment from one of the Select team during our Amanzoe preview on Select's recent tour of Greece.

The accommodation (pavilions) are absolutely gorgeous, spacious and light. Every pavilion has a pleasant terrace with a small pool, and a dining table that can also be a massage bed. The main restaurant looks like a miniature Acropolis and everything will be very white, very different and very Greek. 

The Beach Club is 5-7 minutes drive through pine forests or 10 minutes by mountain bike. On site there is a huge spa area and separate pools for adults and children.

About 10 minutes by car from the hotel is the village of Porto Heli with some nice local restaurants around the harbour and small shops. No golf course at the moment. The peaceful surroundings are very beautiful, with hills covered in pine forests and olive groves. The indented coastline encloses crescent beaches and the blue sea is dotted with islands.


Accommodation

Deluxe pool terrace

Deluxe pool pavilion

Large contemporary style pavilions with private pools (6m or 12m) - 38 suites in all.
In the future the resort will also include a number of villas.

F&B/Facilities

Three bars & restaurants, and a further dining option at the Beach Club. Huge and spacious spa with seven treatment rooms and two hammams. The main pool area has a big swimming pool and a child pool. Beach Club offers watersports.

Who to stay

Anyone wanting a serene holiday in beautiful surroundings, especially delightful for couples.

How to get to Amanzoe

Amanzoe lies on the Peloponnese. Helicopter about 25 min from Athens. Car from Athens about 2 hours 30 min. By ferry from Athens 2 hours 30 min. The island of Spetses (see our last blog) is 10 minutes by water taxi.

You should know

Best weather May to mid/late-October.

Opening date 1 September 2012

For further information see our web page on Amanzoe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

HOTEL CHECK GREECE, part 6, Poseidonion Hotel Spetses






WHERE THE GREEKS GO.
Spetses Island is a hidden gem among the Greek holiday islands, frequented by wealthy Athenians and educated travellers from Europe. No charters here, but many nice tavernas, bars and small shops, and some of the most expensive properties in Greece.

Here lies Poseidonion Grand Hotel Spetses, a new addition to our Select Collection. Last month we sent a team with representatives from all our offices to experience this and other properties in our Select Collection.

Poseidonion Grand Hotel is grand - a beautiful classic hotel on a very charming and romantic little island. It is not on the beach but at a small public beach within about 10 min walk the hotel can provide sunbeds if guests request.

Lobby of the Poseidonion Grand

Our favourite accommodation is the Tower Suite in the historic building with sea view.


Tower suite



Rooms are white and grey or white and green. High ceilings. Peaceful feeling, calming ambience. They are housed in two buildings: historical building and new building. The style of the rooms is the same but those in the new wing are a little bit bigger and those in the old wing tend to have the best views. Altogether there are 44 rooms and 8 suites.











Food & beverage

The hotel has two restaurants and one café, a beautiful terrace were you can have your breakfast, lunch or dinner and just enjoy the view over the sea. Everything is easy walking distance, lots of other good restaurants, shops and bars outside the hotel.


Dining & relaxing with a view of the sea


Indoor dining

Delicious meals from fresh local ingredients

Facilities

No beach for swimming in front of the hotel. The hotel can arrange chairs and umbrella on the beach which is 5 minutes by bicycle.

The hotel has an outdoor pool between the historic building and the new building, a gym and a nice spa with 4 treatment rooms.


Pool area

How to get to Poseidonion Grand Hotel Spetses

Two hours by ferry from Athens/Pireus or 2½ from Athens by car to Costa and then 5 minutes boat transfer. Helicopter 25 minutes. The island is car free.

Our team met in Pireus Harbour ( not the most Select places) and took the Hydrofoil to Spetses. Quite comfortable with stops in Poros & Hydra on the way to Spetses. We recommend a half day in Hydra before continuing. There is the one main town called Hydra Port and there are many restaurants, bars and cafés with steep stone streets that lead outwards. No vehicles allowed.

Who to stay

Hotel suitable for couples, honeymooners and group of friends. They accept children but don´t provide any special children activities.

In a nutshell

A classic grand hotel on a beautiful island, for cultured and discerning guests who enjoy Greek lifestyle. 5 minutes bike ride from a beach.


Select added values

Bottle of wine and fruit in the room. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.

Balconies and terraces

NOTE: Informal snapshots in blog style by Select with mobile phone camera, apart from three by Poseidonion Grand (the 1st, 4th and 6th images)








Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HOTEL CHECK GREECE, part 5, The Romanos, Costa Navarino





SUNKISSED SANDS.
Costa Navarino is an enchanting coastline with clear sparkling waters and long sandy beach. Steps from the sea, The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort  is surrounded by olive groves, offering chic boutique style and private pools. It shares facilities with sister hotel Westin Resort, and guests enjoy the advantages of a fantastic range of activities including two signature golf courses, diving and tennis along with six shared pools and nine restaurants - two on the beach.

On a round trip of Greece last month, a team of Select consultants from all our offices visited these two resorts on Costa Navarino. Both are tasteful hotels with an eco-friendly philosophy. The Romanos is quieter and more exclusive retaining its boutique feel despite its size (321 rooms; 128 suites with private infinity pools). Westin on the other hand is more lively and family oriented, but is still a good alternative for Select customers.

We loved the wonderful, kilometers long sandy beach. No motorized water activities disturb the peace because the properties are in a natural park with seaturtles. The area is also known for flamingoes and chameleons usually seen in Africa.



Anki from the Select team walking to the beach


Accommodation

The accommodation is very high standard with floor to ceiling windows and tasteful modern decor. At Romanos the smallest room is 43 sqm and the smallest suite 82 sqm (suites include butler service). If you would like privacy we can book you a room, villa or suite with infinity pool, some with a private sandy "beach" area adjoining your own pool.

At the Westin there are 445 rooms built around a common pool area, 131 with private infinity pools. The smallest room is a generous 39 sqm and houses two adults and two kids (if one is under 4). Junior suites are 49 sqm (many with pools), and infinity suites are 70 sqm (two adults and four kids).


 

Premium Infinity Suite at Westin
 

Deluxe room at The Romanos



Villas with private pools



"Own beach" by the pool of a 2-bedroom villa at Romanos



Food & beverages

 
There is a choice of bars and restaurants in a village-style shopping area.
 

Facilities

The resort features a huge and sophisticated spa (Anazoe, 4000 sqm) and gym. An exceptional range of activities is on offer. Two golf courses designed by Bernhard Langer and Robert Trent Jones Jr. Very big pool area for children with waterslides and a fun play island, and another for adults only, 4 tennis courts, bowling hall, basketball, bikes to rent (biking and hiking trips arranged by the hotel ). Kids clubs: Cocoon for small ones (8m-4y) and Sandcastle for older children (there is a fee for the club). Trips are arranged also to ancient sites like Olympia and Messini, and also to neighbouring villages to enjoy local life and cuisine (5 to 10 minutes drive).


The terrace at the Golf Club restaurant
Golf course


Children's pool at the Westin


Kids Pool
The main path to the beach goes from the border between the two resorts. On the beach there is a small towel hut with bath/changing rooms and a nice beach restaurant (rustic style)


How to get to Costa Navarino

Costa Navariono is on the Peloponnese 45 minutes by car from Kalamata International Airport (KLX). It is also around 3.5 hours drive from Athens. This is actually a very good highway, so it is possible to do self drive. In any case it is fun to have a hire car for at least some of the time, giving the freedom to hang out in surrounding villages in your own time and enjoy simple local food and ambience or head off in search of antiquity.

Who to stay

Couples and families, especially those who like a sporty holiday or just want to relax by the pool or on the sandy beach. The Westin is great for families, but families can also stay at the more exclusive Romanos and use all the Westin facilities.

In a nutshell

The Romanos is exclusive and classy, and the Westin is a lively luxury resort suiting families. Both have a high standard of accommodation, with 25-30% of rooms offering private pools. We recommend both these resorts: elegant modern decor, beautiful sandy beach and clear water, 2 signature golf courses, tennis and other activities, including visits to antiquities. 3 to 4 hours drive from Athens on a good road, so a hire car might be considered.

Select added values

Bottle of Messinian wine and fruits in the room on arrival. Early checkin and late checkout if available.
Note: The images are informal snaphots taken by Select on various visits.


























Friday, July 6, 2012

HOTEL CHECK, Greece, part 4, Daios Cove, Crete




TOP VALUE LUXURY.
With spectacular views of its own turquoise cove, Daios Cove Luxury Resort lies 7 km from the port town of Agios Nikolaos. We recommend this tasteful resort for both couples and families and have had many very satisfied clients since its launch last year. Most accommodations offer your own sparkling private pool and terrace - the ultimate in privacy and pure relaxation.

The villas in particular are luxury hideaways, with many special privileges. Among which is a special spot reserved for villa guests on the private beach.

The beach has been extended this summer and all clients staying in a villa are guaranteed that they will have the best place on the beach. Here you also find a beach bar.


Pleasant sheltered beach for swimming

The slope is tall and steep, but glass cabin funiculars take you up and down, with views of that sensational cove and a wild hillside full of thyme and origano. You can also get around with buggy transport or (for the fit) using stone stairs. The resort is a tremendous feat of architecture. It took three years to build, with rock taken from  the very same hillside.

Daytimes it is a place of sensual lazy satisfaction, swimming or lying by your private pool. At night with lights everywhere it is a very romantic place.

Accommodation

There are 39 villas and 261 rooms and suites all with beautiful views of the turquoise cove. The accommodations are smartly stepped up the steep slope so that only one or two do not have a view (and those we guarantee will not go to Select clients).

We stayed in a Wellness two-bedroom Villa (220) and here you find everything you need. Your own gym, sauna, two bath tubs and your own pool. The bedrooms are spacious and the view is amazing!


Tasteful rooms

2nd marble bathroom in a two-bedroom villa

Wellness villa bathroom opening to sauna, gym
and outdoor shower

An oceanfront villa



Food & beverage

The Hotel serves a buffet in the main restaurant and gourmet food in two exclusive restaurants. You can choose between:

Pangea: Buffet Restaurant
Ocean Restaurant: Italian Cuisine
Taverna: Traditional Cretan Cuisine

We had dinner at all of the restaurants and the best was The Ocean Restaurant. At dinner with lovely Sofia Kalomenidou (Sales Manager) we were served the tasting menu. All five courses were delicious. Later in the evening we were honoured to meet General Manager Panagiotis Almyrantis.


Ann and Sofia in the Crystal Box (bar),
where you can enjoy live music in the evenings

If you are staying in a villa you can also have your breakfast in the Ocean Restaurant. You will then have a la carte.


Facilities

The hotel features a sophisticated fitness centre and luxurious spa, 2 tennis courts, watersports and kids club, not to forget a gorgeous infinity pool with view of the cove and beyond.




The Spa is up to date and very spacious (2500 sqm) and fresh. Here you can enjoy Finnish sauna, soft sauna, experience showers and nimfea reaction showers along with a lovely water circuit and indoor pool with view window.


How to get to Daios Cove
From Heraklion International Airport Daios Cove is 50 minutes drive. It takes 15 minutes by taxi (13 EUR) to the pleasant and genuine town of Nikolaos. Here you can do some shopping, visit a museum or art gallery or dine at a long line of restaurants and tavernas by the beach or portside.


Who to stay
Couples and families - seeking tasteful accommodation, pools and privacy, and more luxury than you pay for.

Added value


Bottle of wine and fruit in the room. Early checkin and late checkout if space is available.


In a nutshell


We love this hotel because it is peaceful and relaxing, and the sandy beach has clear water and is very pleasant for swimming. The staff is friendly and an extra thank you to Nikoletta and Anna who both have an eye to our clients needs. We love the privacy of a villa way up on the slope -privacy is  the bottom line of luxury! Finally, due to our special relationship with the resort we can offer excellent prices and added values to our clients. You never know - but you may get the lovely surprise of an upgrade.

Note: Select is constantly travelling to find new exciting properties and to see developments at our chosen Collection properties. We visited Daios Cove resort last year (see our previous blog) and returned this June. In blog style, the snapshots were taken by Select with mobile phone camera.






































Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HOTEL CHECK ITALY, part 10, Villa Mangiacane


TUSCAN LIFESTYLE.
This is a spot for those who love Tuscan country living. Villa Mangiacane is surrounded by its own vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti Classico area. You are enfolded in warm hospitality and Tuscan ambience, and feel truly like personal guests.  

The rustic and intimate hotel does everything to arrange a real Tuscan experience you, including wine tasting tours and bookings at local restaurants – there are 5 good ones within a 5km radius.

Villa Mangiacane was built as a palazzo for a Cardinal in the Machiavelli family and another Machiavelli (the famous Nicolo), wrote The Prince in a stone house on the opposite ridge.

His name lives in the restaurant Albergaccio Di Nicolò Machiavelli, easily reached by a walk through the vineyards. And the spirit of his times lives on in the original villa with frescoes restored and rooms lavishly furnished – a long labour of love by a South African who bought the previously rundown villa.

Afternoon tea and newly baked cake in a salon in the original villa

While the choice suites and lounges in this building have kept an Italian style, the newer Mazzei Villa housing most of the rooms is more eclectic, with African art and trendy modern touches. Africa runs out too into the Tuscan gardens. Among the lawns, pools and fragrant roses and lemon trees, there are dozens of sculptures from Zimbabwe.


Sunny swimming pool  among lawns and rose gardens
A sparkling swimming pool is set amidst open lawns and gardens behind the Mazzei Villa – a pool bar opens later in the summer, and a second pool lies in shadier position by the Machiavelli villa. The signature sculptures from long ago stand on the gateposts – two stone dogs – to illustrate the name Mangiacane (eat dog), trying to rise imposingly above lush growth.


Mangiacane stone dog gateposts beyond verdant gardens

Come good weather, which we did not have, you can dine in the garden. We dined out every night, generously provided with a free shuttle and booked at local restaurants by reception.

In this boutique hotel with only 27 rooms you get very personal treatment by the GM and his multinational staff.

"Where will you eat tonight?" "What will you do tomorrow?" They go all out for you to have a really rich Tuscan experience. Whether hiring a car for you for the day to get to the architectural gem of Siena, or arranging a Chianti wine tour just for you, or booking you at the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David and so on. There is a complimentary shuttle to Porta Roma in Florence. And to nearby San Casciano.


Pretty little San Casciano, 5 km 

The little town of San Casciano is a gem only 5 km distant with narrow streets lined with small shops, eateries and fragrant rose bushes – and no curios at all. An authentic Italian town. We were encouraged to try all the restaurants and trattorias there – Villa Mangiacane booked our tables and gave us free lifts back and forth to we could have that experience. Not just us – but many other guests took advantage of this opportunity.

San Casciano is a great place to eat local food at very reasonable prices – our favourites were Cinque de Vino and Cantinetta del Nunno.

It was also a good spot for buying designer sunglasses (it seemed much cheaper than Florence).



Accommodation

In the newer building (also housing reception and dining room) there are three Superior rooms with private gardens and plunge pools (30 sqm), some deluxe rooms (35 sqm) and Junior Suites (50 sqm), some with plunge pools. The lowest category are Classic rooms – not recommended to top luxury customers. Our Junior suite rose up like a tower in the middle and did not feel at all Junior, more like a fully fledged suite. Downstairs a lounge with easy chairs, sofa and attractive items of furniture. The sitting room opens into a huge bathroom with a big round bath and adjoining open shower, two basins and dressing tables, and glass cabin with toilet and bidet. Upstairs is a cosy bedroom with massive bed – dreamily comfortable – luxury linen and pefect pillows. And a small toilet/bidet cabinet.

We loved our room, but we did envy the private garden next door where people were relaxing on sunbeds while their kids played in the plunge pool. Their plunge pool, looking a bit opaque after the torrents of rain when we arrived, was cleaned up and sparkled.


Deluxe room

Deluxe room bathroom

Junior suite upstairs bathroom (in some it is downstairs)


Junior suite
We looked over a Deluxe room with generous bathroom but rather small bedroom. And another junior suite, this time with the bathroom upstairs. Every room is different and all have hand-plucked items of furniture.


Verandah in the original villa overlooking the hills around Florence

The most sought after rooms are in the Machiavelli Villa. There we saw the Royal Suite (with opulent marble and onyx  Jacuzzi bath, dramatic four poster bed,  and personal steam room), and a Terrace suite offering lounge/parlour and romantic bedroom. There is one two-bedroom suite on the upper terrace expecially suitable for families.




Upstairs bedroom in a Terrace Suite


Weddings, cooking courses and wine...

The wine cellar is rented out for weddings along with the accommodation above it – the extravagantly decorated Royal suite, and often the whole Machiavelli villa is taken up by the wedding party. Prices are very competitive with Florence.

Like so many Tuscan country hotels, they offer Tuscan cooking courses in a dedicated kitchen. You dine what you cook at the adjoining table.

Within an hour's drive there are multitude of sights and wine tasting opportunities. Anything from a half day of wine tasting to 7 or 8 hours including medieval villages and Chianti Classico wine or the famous Brunello di Montalcino, with its brilliant garnet colour. From 450 euro to 1500 euro for 2 people including a  gourmet lunch.

Art

You are only 12 km from Florence and its treasure house of Renaissance culture, with a free shuttle to the city gates  subject to availability. Good idea to book galleries a few days in advance to avoid queues. If you want to do the minimum with regard to art (and concentrate more on the food and wine experience) choose Galleria Dell'Accademia to see the David by Michelangelo. A huge and magnificent piece of work. You are not allowed to photograph it - but feel free to snap the burlesque copy in the inner square.


A copy of the David - great for Facebook inserts



How to get to Villa Mangiacane

25 minutes by car from Florence International Airport. There is a free shuttle from Porto Roma – a circle just outside the Florence city walls. From the city centre a taxi ride to Porto Roma cost 6 euros.


In a nutshell

A place for a great Tuscan holiday with plenty of help to dine around, taste wines and discover the charms of Tuscany. The mood is rustic, laid back, personal and friendly with every effort made to help you expand your Tuscan experience.

View over terracotta rooftops from our tower junior suite

Pool and African sculptures by the original Villa
Entrance to the newer wing including reception

Note: images are our spontaneous snaphots in typical blog style.

See our website for an aerial shot of the attractive pink villa.