After spending a good part of two decades hunting for small (and charming) hotels in Greece, it’s the question I get most often: “Which hotel is your favourite?” It’s not an easy one to answer. It so depends on the circumstances. What the mood is. Who is coming along. The season. The budget. Ask me the question when I am in a not too chatty mood and I’ll just say “It depends” or, to really kill the conversation straight off: “I don’t DO favourites”.
But now? After nine months of virtually no travel, put that question to me again. Please. I am so ready to tell you all. Can’t travel. At least let me talk about it.
In a strange way, I am rather content in my current bubble of domestic bliss, but I do ponder about where I’d like to go right away, as soon as travel is sweet and easy again. Come to think of it, I might well use the pretext of “inspection” to go to places I know damn well are in no need of any inspection whatsoever. Yes, favourites. Because, to be honest, I do have a few. Even if you love ’em all, it is okay to have a few you love some extra, no?
There are two hotels in particular I am always drawn to, and indeed, keep going back to. In many ways, they couldn’t be more different. One is on the island of Santorini, the other high up in the Pindos mountains. Famous bucket list destination vs rather unknown and off-the-beaten-track. Views of the sea and the Caldera vs views of the mountains and the Gamilla Rocks. Historical restored cave dwellings vs a traditional stone-built village house. Zen minimalist decors of white, grey and an occasional splash of colour vs cosiness, warm colours and roaring fireplaces. Swimming in an infinity pool, sailing and wine tasting vs a dip into rock pools, hiking and white water rafting. Champagne cocktails, a lavish breakfast buffet, fine creative cuisine vs mountain tea, breakfast with fresh juice, village eggs, bread straight from the oven, and home-cooked traditional dishes for lunch and dinner. Repeat cover page star of Condé Nast Traveler (and numerous other travel publications and architecture/design magazines) vs a page in a Greek publication. Room service, massages, gym and spa vs forgetting you ever needed any of all that. Perivolas Lifestyle Houses vs Astra Traditional Inn.
Two places, so completely different in their own beautiful ways, but at the same time, with a lot in common. The important stuff. The feeling of wellbeing they emanate. The serene atmosphere. The care. The fact that both are family affairs stretching over several generations. Creations by labour of love.
When I travel, I get restless. There’s always this curiosity, an urge to go on and discover more. But when I arrive at Perivolas or at Astra, I feel I have reached my destination. There’s nothing better to discover. The need to move on evaporates. Completely. That’s what makes two very different beasts so similar. Now choose which one I will go back to first? It will have to be the toss of a coin.
So this is where my mind wanders as I sit at home, watching one too many Netflix series, cosy, but restless at the same time. To my favourite spots. No, I am not reminiscing. I am thinking ahead. I am planning. I am anticipating. Oh boy, am I anticipating.
If ever you wanted to pick Jacoline’s brains about her favourite Greek places to stay (there are more than just these two), the time to do so is now, before she is off again soaking up the sea views from the Perivolas infinity pool, or losing her way on the Pindos mountain trails.