Cross a small bridge from mainland Greece and you come across the lush, green land of Evia, home to luxury hotel Thalatta – where no stone is left unturned
They certainly know how to keep the kids quiet at Thalatta. Eating at the seaside resort the night of our arrival, we are told that there are some 40 little ones at the resort – and we don’t hear a peep until a rather hardy double act appear in the distance, fancy dressed up to the nines, with a horde of remarkably well behaved children in tow. They are kept so entertained that, I have to admit, my wife and I went to bed before them…
It’s a sign of how Thalatta goes above and beyond the ordinary. It’s quite a journey to reach the resort – up and down the mountains of Agia Sofia – but once there you are whisked into your own little world of luxury. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Thalatta Seaside Hotel offers 44 rooms and six luxury suites, the family rooms there were generally bigger than my flat back in London. The layout is very simple to get around, and the first hotel beach library in the world was certainly a USP with a difference.
‘Greece? Guaranteed heatwave…’ So said my barber when I had a trim the day before my trip. Of course, after our first night’s good sleep we woke up to unbroken cloud and, amazingly, a chill in the air. That unbroken cloud remained solid for most of the day, so the ideal time to test out the Thalatta spa. It’s small, but no less impressive when it comes to their offerings. The Cleopatra treatment certainly sounded grand, but we opted for the luxury massage, which was the perfect precursor to an afternoon nap (yes, more sleep), waking just in time for the sun to come up.
But that wasn’t the end of the weather. Days two and three were no better, so it was time to get out and about to investigate the surrounding area. At first you feel that Thalatta is rather isolated, but we hopped on a couple of bikes and took a trek around and encountered plenty of quaint bars, the odd restaurant, and one particularly adorable cat. Day three saw us head up into the mountains and try out some traditional cooking with local resident Kyra. Now, not being the most blessed when it comes to kitchen prowess, this trip filled me with more than a little trepidation. I had nothing to fear: Kyra was absolutely lovely, the perfect host (I don’t know many, if any, people in London who’d happily say to me ‘go and look around the house, have a nap, make yourself comfortable’). We learnt to cook, to varying degrees, vegetables filled with rice, spinach and feta pie (amazing), and tzatziki, something I’d never fancied until I actually knew what went into it. Socrates, our hotel sommelier who joined us for the trip, made sure our thirst was quenched with a traditional Greek liqueur (which scarily reminded me of my stag weekend) followed by local wine, which was much better on the palate. A wonderful afternoon – even the sun emerged for us to have a bit of shut eye in Kyra’s garden.
It leads me rather nicely on to the food in general at Thalatta. One word: superb. For the first couple of nights, we enjoyed the buffet dinner, which was the perfect way to enjoy the cooking on offer at Thalatta as it meant you could mix and match to your heart’s content. The chef was an ever-present at breakfast and dinner, proudly explaining what we’d find behind each lid. Once the weather improved, we had the opportunity to eat at Asado, an adults-only part of the complex where you can enjoy some Greek fine dining or simply enjoy a cocktail looking out to sea. The meal we had there would not have looked out of place at any London Michelin-starred restaurant: Karen’s seafood paella was so fresh we were convinced they popped down to the sea after we ordered, and my duck and wild cherry was quite possibly my favourite dish of the past year, home and away. Its quality was matched at the beachside seafood restaurant, where we ventured for lunch the next day. The tapas-style menu encouraged us to plump for five dishes, which we were calmly assured were small and manageable. Clearly small has another meaning here: the dishes were worthy mains on their own, but that didn’t stop us from gorging on grilled sardines, fabulously large shrimp and proper calamari (ie, where it hasn’t been smothered in batter). We can’t rate the food highly enough.
By day four the weather started behaving itself as my barber said it would, so we took the opportunity to go on a boat trip. Skopelos, which you can see in the distance from the room, was our destination, arguably the one Greek island that hasn’t been completely changed by commercialism. A green, lush island, it has lots of little enclaves and beaches, and we stopped off in two and soaked up the sun, whilst taking in some local culture. Friendliness was paramount, it has to be said. Seeing a couple of wild cats looking worse for wear, we asked a local expat about any help we could call – and were pleasantly surprised to learn that she worked part-time at a cats’ protection group.
The last couple of days saw temperatures rise, so time to relax by one of Thalatta’s pools, occasionally meandering on to the beach when we mustered up the energy, although we found it much easier to stay put such was the terrific service throughout our stay (kudos, too, go to Managing Director Dimitris Dokoros who was constantly on the go checking if every guest was happy). As we ordered another Fix – sounds so wrong, but worry not this was the local beer – it’s safe to say that everybody is kept well entertained at Thalatta.
WORDS Mark Kebble
Thalatta Seaside Hotel offers superior sea view rooms on a B&B basis starting from £115 per room, per night – visit thalattahotel.gr to find out more