Imerovigli, Santorini, Greece
Trust me, the view’s not half bad, though I failed to take a decent picture of it. In my defence the caldera, from my viewpoint 1000 feet up, was too awesome to be truly ‘captured’. I had the same problem with the Grand Canyon. Neither I nor my camera were up to the task. In fact, in one sense, the manageress of Anastasis Apartments has one of the easiest jobs in the world. Every time a new guest arrives she checks them in and leads them to the rear of the hotel which is on the cliff top and, with a gentle wave of her hand, indicates the horizon. It’s stunning. I witnessed the performance several times. The manageress stands quietly by while the guests take the sight in. Some people gasp an ‘ooh’ or an ‘ah’, some whisper ‘oh my God’ or a muted ‘wow’, some are silent, and some shed a tear. I shouted, ‘look at that bastard!’ much to the chagrin of my spouse. New arrivals are always suitably overwhelmed.
The caldera is all that remains of a volcano that exploded 4000 years ago, much to the irritation of
those living there in (supposedly) Atlantis. It must have been a disappointing day for them as they screamed in the molten lava and boiling gases thrown a thousand feet up in the air. Hopefully they expired before they plummeted back to earth. On a brighter note, the sea quickly filled the crater in and it has left us with a jolly nice place to sunbathe, sip cocktails, and enjoy canapes. Oh well, one man’s meat etc.
I don’t normally mention where we stayed, but Anastasis Apartments warrant some explanation because it was a major part of our experience. It was (and maybe still is) number one in Europe on TripAdvisor in its category, it has a 98% excellent score, and it was a big reason we enjoyed Santorini so much. It has no bar or restaurant though decorative morsels of food and cheeky drinks are served to guests by the pool every half hour, and more often if you want them. For your money you get a bed and a breakfast fit for a god; and a fat greedy god at that.
The service, normally something that doesn’t much interest me, is outstanding to
the point of being comical. For example, many guests opt to go for a stroll along the caldera path, in summer it’s a hot and sweaty journey. On your arrival back at the hotel two grinning staff ‘magically’ appear to open the gate and give you a chilled, lemon scented face cloth and a glass of iced water. Later they shared the secret of how they did it with me. The path and gate are on CCTV surveillance, as you set off the staff note what you’re wearing and keep an eye on the monitors to await your return. As soon as you round the corner, they pop out with the goodies! The cheesy smoothness of it made me laugh and the staff enjoy springing the surprise on guests.
Inevitably this level of service comes at a price. Out of season, remember this is only for bed and breakfast, the cheapest apartment is about £200 per night and this goes up to £600 in summer for the best rooms. It’s a pricey joint, and consequently we only stayed four nights, but it was great. The best feature of Anastasis for me stems from its lack of a
restaurant. In reception they keep a copy of the menu for every place in Imerovigli. You choose the one you fancy, they book it, they take you there, and they pick you up afterwards. They offer recommendations and they can get you in popular ones that are supposedly fully booked. There’s a wide range of eateries in the town from the reasonably priced to the silly money. One evening I had a pork chop that I will forever judge all other pork chops by. If I close my eyes I can still see it.
On occasion, while you’re out feasting, staff sneak into your room, sprinkle rose petals on the bed, light fragrant candles, make sculptures out of the towels, and prepare you a boutique liquor night-cap. They leave your boudoir looking like a posh knocking shop, but it’s very tastefully done.
Lounging by the infinity pool is a mellow way to spend a day there. It won’t be a day of great achievements but it’s damn hot in Santorini in summer. A honeymooning Australian couple we got to know hired some quad bikes for a day’s fun driving around; they’d given up by
lunchtime. For the record they were called Kylie and Jason – seriously. He was having commitment issues, so she went off on a road trip. This had the desired effect and Jason jumped on a plane and booked them into Anastasis for a romantic reconciliation. I hope it worked because I swear that a casual snap of them in the pool is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken. In a rash moment my wife and I attempted the cliff top walk to Oia, we gave up after twenty minutes roasting in the sun and found a shady bar instead. It would have been a heavenly stroll in a cooler season.
In any westward facing part of Santorini the big event of the day is sunset. There are a few towns set along the cliffs overlooking the sea and the view as the sun slips below the horizon is well, who doesn’t like a good sunset? It must be part of the human condition, like going to sleep listening to the sound of waves breaking on the beach. Anastasis turns the sunset into of bit of a performance, guests are alerted to the looming event, drinks are served and the muzak system goes into mega mellow mode via Lionel Ritchie, Sade, Luther Vandross, all that musical treacle. I got them to turn it off. They meant well, God bless ‘em.
I’m not a huge fan of luxurious places because being pampered and coddled irritates me. I can’t stand having doors opened for me by peevish staff, it’s just embarrassing. Perhaps if my parents had paid for me to go to Eton College I’d get a kick out of another person’s subservience. However, Anastasis struck the right note, the staff clearly took pleasure in looking after their guests, indeed they found it fun. The smiles weren’t put on for our benefit, they loved their jobs, it was sincere, and that was why it worked.
For our last night we had messed up our booking, but they still found a nice room for us, they weren’t obliged to. To cheer us up they laid on a breakfast of Bacchanalian proportions on a balcony overlooking the caldera (see above).
Should you go?
We arrived at Santorini after a cheap and cheerful stay on the island of Naxos, which was a quarter of the price. Was Anastasis better? Yes. Was it four times better? No. If you feel up to splashing out on a luxury break it won’t disappoint; read the reviews on TripAdvisor. But, for me, it’s a question of money and there must be other places near Imerovigli which have the same view. It was an absolutely brilliant few days, I’d be surprised if we ever went again because of the cost.
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