This was our second visit to the hotel and we were welcomed back like old friends. All worries and cares lifted as we stepped through the bougainvillea-covered archway and followed crazy-paved pathways past fruit-laden fig trees, lemon trees and scarlet hibiscus to our Minoan-style bungalow looking out across the glittering Mediterranean.
In the cool, compact interior, fresh flowers, fruit and a bottle of wine awaited us, along with a fridge which we filled with ice-cold beers and water, at a fraction of the hotel’s prices, from the neighbouring Bacchus supermarket. The bed was divine and the pillows unbelievably comfy: the bungalow’s two, rock-hard single beds had been made into a super king sized bed and covered with one of the hotel’s luxurious, padded toppers, at our request. Our bathroom contained a power shower, towelling robes and slippers, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo
The wardrobe, with its free safe, had plenty of hanging space but just two tiny sock drawers, so we used our cases as storage. It was positioned opposite the dressing table (with a wired-in, good quality hairdryer concealed in its drawer) in the narrow corridor between the bedroom and bathroom causing some congestion when both getting ready for dinner. There was nowhere else to sit inside the room, but the veranda with its table and two chairs more than compensated in the wonderful warm weather and occasional passers-by were treated to the sight of me discreetly moisturising, post-shower, and applying make-up.
The resort has an extensive sea frontage with two small private beaches, an almost olympic size swimming pool and plenty of empty sunbeds on stone promenades and patios. The more expensive waterfront bungalows have dedicated sunbeds and umbrellas; several private villas have their own pools and gardens. The crazy paving paths through the gardens are uneven so if you are staying in the grounds, killer heels are a definite no no. Bungalows at the far end of the resort near the excellent Pelagos water sports centre can experience late-night noise from local bars and the road, and are a fairly long walk away from the main building so should be avoided by anybody with a walking difficulty.
Unaware of the resort’s dog-friendly policy, we were surprised by several small pooches and a golden retriever running around on the private beaches; and accompanying their owners inside the restaurant and bar area. However, all dogs we encountered were very well behaved, as were the children: there is no kiddie’s pool, playground or club so families tend to be those happy to relax and play together, snorkel, swim peacefully, enjoy fine dining and engage in conversation at the dinner table.
Food in the main restaurant was mostly excellent, as were the staff who, bar one grumpy man, were a model of customer service. The buffet was not always labelled but Head Chef regularly popped out to check the food and describe contents. Breakfast provided plenty of fresh fruit and yogurts, breads, cold platters, a pancake and egg station, bacon, potatoes and beans, cereals. Tea and coffee were served to the table. Evening meals were part-buffet part-waiter service with a nightly choice of meat, fish, vegetarian or Cretan main meal. “Mains” portions were on the dainty side so, after our fruit juice or soup and rolls starter, we filled up with salads, dips and gorgeous tit bits from the buffet: baked aubergines, stuffed tomatoes, fried courgette flowers, cheese and spinach pies. Fabulous dessert buffet: pastries oozing honey and pistachio; layered chocolate cakes, mousses, fresh fruit and cheeses. The hotel attracts a fairly sophisticated European clientele who dress smartly for dinner: no one nationality dominated whilst we were there. There is a smaller, fully-waited restaurant for the higher-paying guests, which we found slightly divisive, as our standard bungalow was not exactly cheap! The hotel’s third restaurant, the romantic, sea-view Bouillabaisse, is available at discount to half-board guests and we treated ourselves to a delicious meal of amuse bouche scallops, skate wing starter, fish soup, and sea bass. No space for dessert.
Entertainment was very low key, provided by a few talented local musicians a couple of times a week. The main bar was busiest pre-dinner when guests gathered to watch the changing hues cast on the distant mountains by the setting sun but was virtually deserted after dinner with people going out to neighbouring tavernas or into Agios Nikolaos – a 10/15 minute walk away. The gym had limited opening hours so I took early morning runs along the coast into Agios Nikolaos, around the lake and back and daily long swims in the sea to maintain my fitness (and work off the puds!) Hours of amusement can be found wandering the tranquil garden paths enjoying the flowers and discovering the many zany sculptures that give the hotel its name.
We travelled with Thomson and enjoyed a private taxi transfer each way, avoiding the hair-raising experience of the coach manoeuvring through the madness that is Malia on its way to and from Heraklion.