Category Archives: summer

Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel – Eastern fairy tale in Crete

The driving style of the Kriti (locals) is just one of the many surprises that await you when arriving in Crete. You will see plenty of European tourists, mostly from France or Russia, and many big hotels along the marvelous beaches. But one thing that will be special even among all of the other surprises on the island, is a little boutique hotel called Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in Chania.

If you are planning to stay in Chania then the Fatma hotel is an absolute must as you really will not find anything like it in the world.
The Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in the Jewish Distric Palia Poli of Chania takes you on a journey into the past.

Owners Giorgos and Marianna have managed to create a real thousand and one night fairytale with the help of local architect Dany Droianos that combines Ottoman and Venetian architecture with eastern elements including a great choice of lightning, oriental carpets, soft fabrics and high tech facilities. The concept, from the hotel’s name to the name of each of the rooms makes you feel as if you are being taken by the hand of Fatma herself into an enchanting and unique world.

The hotel, opened 3 years ago, has undergone a massive renovation. Evidence of this can be seen in the elegant entrance area, the breakfast room and the each of the 6 rooms.

Wood, stone, and glass are harmoniously combined with modern furniture and high quality products such as the i-compatible stereo, espresso machine, and the beds of Coco-Mat (natural sleep products) complete with Tempurpedic pillows. They have also included small details like essential supplies deviantly hidden in the drawers.

We stayed in the Yildiz room for the first few nights, which I personally chose because of my favorite color: green. Isolated on the second floor with it’s an own roof terrace, Yildiz is just as beautiful in reality as displayed on the hotel’s website. But then, the same could be said for all of the rooms.

Our last night (which we added after our initial booking) we stayed in the Yasmin Suite. This suite has a maisonette type room with the bed up on a mezzanine level. Like the other rooms, the wood and glass is nicely blended into the interior as well as the lighting. The only thing missing was a dedicated balcony extending out over Skoufon street. Even without the balcony, you still can admire the view through the windows and the shared roof terrace just outside the door is plenty large.

My personal favorite and the room I would book next time is the Güzel. This wide open room welcomes you in green with a small balcony overlooking the indoor patio and a walk through closet that leads to the large bathroom decorated in both green and blue with a beautiful period bathtub shielded by a glass wall.

Breakfast is served in a sunlit atrium with a beautifully placed pebble stone floor and two cozy oriental niches in the background. The buffet is set-up with a love for detail, offering local products like dakos, cheese pie, and yogurt – a certified original Greek Breakfast.

Of special note is the hostess Marianna. She really made us feel welcome and fulfilled all of our wishes. This includes everything from the morning coffee to suggestions for excellent restaurants in Chania, the surrounding mountains, or even locations as far as the most northeastern part of Crete. Her sunny and charming manner from the first moment you step into the Fatma Hotel, to the last minute, when leaving is exceptional.

Tips:

  • Book a massage with Rita
  • Eat at the  tavern Glossitses

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Manos Small World – a wonderful small world in Santorini

It may seem very difficult to decide on where to book your hotel on Santorini, especially if you are looking for one that combines it all – perfect location, breathtaking views, quality accommodations, and the spirit or heart of the island.

After we landed on Santorini and collected our luggage, we were taken by taxi (arranged in advance by the hotel) to Manos Small World, where we were surprised to be greeted by name.  My first reaction was “Ahem, do I know you?” Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that the person who had walked up to greet us was the owner of the hotel, Thanasis. Like a modern day Hercules, he schlepped our two heavy pieces of luggage down the steps to the hotel.  Hard to imagine that he has been greeting his guests and carrying their luggage this way for over 20 years since he opened the hotel in July, 1990 at the age of 24. Today, almost 50 years of age and the father of two grown up children, he is still full of positive vibes for his small world and guests.

If you were disappointed by the drive from the airport towards Fira and the other villages, you will be very happily surprised or relieved when you arrive at the Manos Small World. This is the Santorini you have seen in pictures or heard of from descriptions of the island. It is complete with white washed cave houses decorated with blue window shades and almost blinding bright bougainvillea flowers.

Manos Small World reflects the personality of Thanasis himself – calm, warmhearted, attentive and full of positive emotions for his guests or friends, as he likes to call them. I had the privilege and honor to take a look the pictures and memos he has collected since the first day he opened his small world for business. It was very touching to read the messages left by guests who came for single visits or returned time and again. The memories include the pictures he has received from all over the world thanking Thanasis for his hospitality and the wonderful stay at his charming place.

Today, Manos Small World offers 11 rooms on three different floors, all facing the Caldera, with views of Firostefani and Fira, as well as Imerovigli and in the far north- west Oìa. The rooms are all plenty large, with a small kitchenette, a sitting area complete with a small welcome bottle of white wine, and a relaxing sofa area. The bathrooms are close to the sleeping area, equipped with hair drier, and basic amenities. Breakfast is served at your dedicated table, in front of the room, from 8am until 11am or even later. The breakfast is simple but of high quality, much better than any buffet breakfast at large hotel chains, prepared from traditional Greek dishes with care and lots of love.

Book your vacation on Santorini directly with Thanasis on www.manos-santorini.com

Thanasis is happy to help with any recommendations for lunch or dinner in any town on the island, information about which beach is good to visit (depending on the wind direction) and organization of sailing trips, rental of car or bikes or anything else you can possible imagine. If you ever think of getting married on Santorini, I am sure that Thanasis will make your dreams come true in his little world.

Tips:

  • 3-5 days on Santorini is enough time to explore the whole island, best by scooter or four-wheel bike.
  • Oìa is famous for the sunset, but beware that the whole island will be squeezing into the tight passages around the areas with a view.  Either you get there early in plenty of time to get a nice drink on one of the many terraces or prepare yourself for a mad rush that feels like “this is the last sunset we will ever get to see” situation.
  • Driving on the island is ok, although you shouldn’t trust too much on the driving rules. As long as you are safe and watch out for the other crazy drivers, you’ll be fine.
  • Santorini compared to other islands may not really offer the best Greek food.  Prices are quite high and quality is average as we found out on the three nights. Fresh fish of the day is always a good choice just beware as many of the seafood options may be frozen.
  • Ask Thanasis for restaurant recommendations to make sure you do not step into the bad tourist food trap and mistakenly take that for traditional Greek food.
  • Recommendations: Mama Thira, Remvi, Aktaion.
  • Room 8 is on the top floor at the end so you have your silence and people are not walking by your door or table. But as guests seemed to be a little like Thanos himself, calm and respectful, any other room is perfectly fine.
  • Rooms 8 – 11 are all on the top floor with the added benefit of no noise from moving chairs in the rooms above.

 

High-end design and Swiss authenticity for desk-huggers

It is ironic to think that Switzerland needs three Welshman to bring out the Swissness of the Cambrian Hotel on the noble grounds of Adelboden. Hotelliers Chris Nott, Grant and Craig Maunder managed to create a strikingly trendy hotel with the help of Designer Peter Silling in 2007, when they renovated the historic establishment from the last century.

big_157Set amid the breathtaking scenery of Adelboden’s Alps, the Cambrian combines sleek, modern design with innovative uses of natural, local materials and the Welsh touch of contemporary original paintings.

We stayed at the Cambrian during a rather special point in time, the first weekend in June, right after their spring break re-opening. It did feel a little bit like the staff hadn’t arrived yet mentally, but it only made the place more likable and less stiff. I wondered how cool and stiff the Cambrian would actually get during mid season considering the regular prices for the rooms and suites. But I do believe, that the unique mix of wooden materials and the coziness of the lounge, restaurant and rooms will bring out the harmony in most people.

The Cambrian offers 71 rooms divided into North and South facing views, with the more magnificent views to the South. The rooms and suites are stylishly furnished, combining steel, leather and wood, with white and red bed sheets, state of the art technology flat screen TVs, as well as Wi-Fi-access. The bathrooms are modern with only one downside – no ventilation system. As a consequence, we needed to vent the room using the balcony door in order to remove the steam and extra moisture. thecambrian_library1

The lounge area features a fireplace and pool table where you can take your Cambrian afternoon tea. Scott’s Bar offers a wide range of drinks and snacks and comes with the same beautiful Southern view. As a last result in case of boredom, you can always try the playroom with both a Play Station and Wii console.

The restaurant, headed by 26-year–old Austrian chef Martin Wagner offers a decent variety of dishes, combining local meats (from Simmental), and regional greens. The meat I tasted was delicious; the accompanying wine made for a great dinner experience. What I really liked about the menu is the fact that it describes the provenance of the products, most of which are local. The Cambrian is truly proud of their metric for “zero food miles”.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant, overlooking the outdoor pool and the surrounding mountains. The choice and variety is great. Options include freshly prepared eggs, fruits, marmalades, muesli, and fantastic breads. If you don’t find what you want just ask the sous chef who will try to make your wishes come true, even if it means leaving the buffet to prepare something special.

thecambrian_indoorpoolThe luxurious Spa facilities of 750m2 include a sauna, steam bath, experience shower, Kneipp pool, indoor and outdoor heated pools and relaxation area. Yoga treatments, massages, facials, and anything else you can think of in terms of beauty treatments you can get.

My personal highlights include the outdoors infinity pool and the stars on the indoor pool ceiling. You really need to experience that one for yourself.

The only thing left to wish for when staying at the Cambrian is good weather for the views.

Axalp – runaway from the city

If you manage to survive the ride up from Brienz to Axalp, without knocking yourself out in one of the hairpin curves and hitting a cow or a hiker, you will be greeted by an open view of beautiful scenery.

The Chalet Alphüsli is setback from the main road leading up to the ski lifts. In winter, the house is basically on the slopes themselves. The owner, Sven Sonderegger from Basel is offering a newly built wooden chalet, ideal for families or friends wanting to spend some quiet time skiing (it is a small resort, one chairlift and three t-bow lifts, ideal for beginners and families) or hiking along the Schnitzerlweg to the Hinterburgseeli.

The chalet is modern, combining steel and wood, open and light. It is not overloaded, which makes the rather small inside comfortable. It offers 6 beds in two rooms on the second floor (one double room and a room furnished with a 4 person bunk bed) with the only drawback being space enough for luggage.

The living area and kitchen are open and surrounded by windows on three sides. There is a Swedish stove with a glass window including wood for your use and a door that opens to a stone patio and bbq area. In the corner a circular staircase leads directly from the living room upstairs to the bedrooms and the bathroom. The bathroom has a bathtub and a nice simple washing stand made out of wood. In the small entrance area, you can hang clothes, place boots and there is the door to a second separate little toilette.

The kitchen is equipped with all the basics (cups, plates, pans, etc.) and even includes a dishwasher, Nespresso coffee machine, Fondue and Raclette tools. Make sure you bring your own dishwashing liquid, sponge and kitchen towels with you.

For the evenings or rainy days you will find games, Sat-TV, WiFi access, Mac Mini, Blu-ray Player and some DVDs to watch.

One word of caution if you want to relax in the fall is to be sure that the Swiss Air Force is not conducting their annual air force live fire event in October. If so, you may be in for some loud training runs. Between 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:30 you will be surrounded by the ear battering noise of F/A-18s and Tiger Jets, that make you feel that the end of the world is near, especially when caught right in the rear-fired boiler at the lake Hinterburgseeli. Luckily for those seeking silence, the Swiss Air force is celebrating its centennial in 2014 and the live fire event will be held in Payerne on 30.-31.08. and 6.-7.09. So, in case you planned to go close to Payerne, cancel that, and go to Axalp.

7th Heaven in Venice – Settimo Cielo

Spend a couple of days in Venice, dive into the streams of people wandering the streets, but then retreat to the wonderfully refined boutique B&B located just a short walking distance away from major attractions like Saint Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Grassi, Accademia Galleries.

Hidden on the second and third floor of a private palazzo that dates back to the 13th century, two B&Bs share the same service, style of accommodation and a communal breakfast area as well as a delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice.

delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice

The lower floors belong to Settimo Cielo’s,  owner Paolo Battistetti, while the upper floors belong to Bloom’s, owned by Alessandra Vazzoler. The two business partners worked with a local architect to design the B&Bs tastefully, merging old with new.

At Settimo Cielo, the B&B selected, rooms are all styled differently, each featuring elegantly original and successful mix of classical Venetian style and modern design, from rich reds and purple brocades to more calming beiges and creams.

While there’s no in-house restaurant, there are lovely areas where you eat breakfast, and, best of all, the breathtaking roof terrace with great views over piazza Santo Stefano. The rooftop is accessed via a cosy lounge, whose fridge stores complimentary bottles of Prosecco – perfect accompaniment to the sunset over Venice.