Tag Archives: Boutique

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.

 

L’épicier Grand Cru – Cheese library of Strasbourg

You might plan to eat lots of “Tarte flambée” in Strasbourg, which I can definitely recommend, but if you want a truly unique experience, in a rather uncommon place – you have your lunch or snack at the L’épicier Grand Cru.

Strolling through the charming streets near the “little Paris” area in Strasbourg, we came across a shop that was decorated with lots of happy birthday snick snack and preparing to host a party.  Looking through the window we were drawn in by the cheese room in the back protected by a glass sliding door. What followed was something you cannot plan, but just “happens” whenever you allow yourself to dive in and just take things as they come.

Our adventure began with the very friendly staff giving us a short explanation (in English) of the different wines, meats and cheeses available as well as our options for how to combine them all into our very own lunch tasting.  The store also carries a large choice of teas, honey, traditionally made jams and marmalades, a very special, medieval cooked wine with pepper (you should definitely try this), snacks, spices and other assorted treats.

We asked for whatever they recommend, tried at least 5 wines and were happy when the surprise platter with local cheeses, dried fruits, nuts and spices with fresh bread arrived.  Each glass of wine increased the chances that I would begin singing in a short while. The cheeses on our platter included a Munster accompanied by cumin powder (even if you normally don’t touch cumin – you’ll love this), a local brie with jams, Roquefort, and was accompanied by salami, dried hams, salad, and fresh bread.  What a feast!

I really have to comment again that the Munster with cumin is a must.  The wines are all delicious, but you will need to find your own way regarding the taste that suits you best.

We also really enjoyed the “cheese library”. Literally set-up as a library, behind the sliding door, it was kept so nice and cold that you had to put your jacket on to go in.  Each cheese was carefully labeled and presented making this a small, but great cheese lovers paradise.

The service, modern décor, and variety of French foods from local providers (each with their own background story) are worth the investment of 2 hours of your Strasbourg visit.  Beware, you might spend a lot of money here, but you’ll love every cent you spend – I promise.

A magical journey through time – Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg

The Germanic name for Strasbourg, “the city of the roads”, captures the essence of a city that is worth the relatively short drive to get there.  Geographically closer to Zurich and Milano than to Paris, Strasbourg offers an diverse selection of monuments and sights within its complex maze of streets making it perfect for a weekend get away. Even though it hosts the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament it is metropolitan, without being in the least bit overwhelming. The chosen hotel, Cour du Corbeau fits perfectly into the Carrefour de l’Europe (crossroads of Europe).

Located only a short walking distance from the heart of the city (near to the cathedral and Place Kléber) the Cour de Corbeau invites you to feel the magic of past times. The hotel belongs to the MGallery Hotel Group (memorable hotels by Accor – whose ambassador is Kristin Scott Thomas).

Led by our navigation system, we arrived at the hotel only to find the entrance to the street blocked by an electronically controlled pole.  Luckily, a nice man asked us where we were going, directed me to drive up to the barrier, buzzed the hotel (explaining the situation in French) and magically the pole disappeared allowing us access to the hotel entrance.  Thierry, a valet came out right away and opened my door, making me feel like I was a celebrity.  After asking where we planned to park, he offered to manage the car for us directly, took the keys, and drove off to I don’t know where leaving me with a trusting feeling that everything was in order.  The first impression of the Cour du Corbeau was magnificent. The décor was serene combining old with new, luxurious with Neo-Baroque. The welcome at the reception desk by Gregoire was very pleasant and included a surprise that we were upgraded to a junior suite. He informed us about breakfast and that the hotel didn’t have it’s own restaurant, but was happy to provide a 24 hour room service, delivered by a nearby restaurant. We asked for a recommendation for dinner in the town (a place where locals would dine) and were rewarded with an excellent choice, the Restaurant L’éveil des sens.

The hotel was renovated in 2009 after spending a number of years as a vacant building.  The “before and after” pictures in the hotel were marvelous and really highlighted the accomplishments of what the builders were able to manage.  The hotel features 57 rooms, including 19 suites. The rooms are simple, with wooden floors and a post and beam construction that exposed much of the original structure – a wonderful blend of old and new. The bathrooms contain natural stone floors and romantically styled sinks in the form of a shell.  The lighting in the room played up the violet hues and taupe colored fabrics giving everything a warm feeling while still being chic and simple, not the usual overwhelming feeling of many historical places. In short, the suite was beautiful and contained the additional surprise of a complimentary bottle of white wine (from the region Alsace) as well as a somewhat hidden door (or at least not very obvious) that led to a long, wooden porch running along the inner courtyard of the building.  Simply charming!

The staff was discrete and very attentive, and the turn down service even left a rose on our bed, as it was women’s day.  There was also a hand-written weather prediction for the following day and breakfast info placed by the night stand.  The towels in the bathroom were even replaced with fresh ones, something I really appreciate, but wouldn’t have expected at a four star hotel.

I read another review that stated the breakfast is “not to be missed” and judging by the little tables in the gallery I am sure would make an exquisite start to any day. We chose to walk across the canal into town to have fresh pain au chocolat from the local Boulangerie, which was definitely worth every minute of the wait. Before leaving the area we stopped at “Les mains dans la farine” the Boulangerie in 16, rue du 22-Novembre to load up on supplies.  The selection was excellent and we ended up with bread and pastries for a whole week.

Check out at 12:00h is very generous at the Cour du Corbeau, which allowed even more time for a stroll through the town before leaving.  The receptionist Carol was so lovely, and Anne Gerber, the manager of the hotel was also very attentive and didn’t mind helping guests with information, check in and out.

With bags in hand we called for our car which was retrieved by Sebastién, who placed a bottle of water in the center console along with a note on how to exit the area through the one way streets and around the Pl. de Austerliz and wishing us a pleasant journey home. This last little surprise was perfect and really impressed me.  Many times it is the small things that make an experience special and this was a perfect example.  All in all it was just a lovely stay at the hotel.

Dreaming in Antigua

Nestled into a cliff overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, this rustic but charming Antigua resort features 26 individual wooden Caribbean style cottages, each offering a private balcony with spectacular views and showers opening to the sea.  You will definitely find peace, an opportunity to decelerate and a place for your soul to relax.  What you won’t find is a boutique environment (by European standards), but rather a charismatically rustic, simple hotel, with very friendly staff, moderate and sometimes outstanding food, and a wonderful beach with powder white sand.

cocos_beach_viewWe landed in St. John’s, happy for the warm weather and the sunshine. Our pre-booked chauffeur, John, awaited us at the airport with a name card and pleasant smile. The ride to the hotel took approx. 25 minutes and I appreciated John’s calm driving style, especially after seeing the driving style of other locals.


The staff welcomed us in a very friendly manner giving us a positive first impression of the resort. Check in took longer than expected (approximately 40 minutes) and concluded with the delivery of a letter containing information on restaurant hours, and an offer for a complimentary massage of 30 minutes. Hasani, a young employee walked us up to our cottage via a steep concrete ramp that was not really adapted to people with walking issues.  The entrance to our cottage was down a set of really steep stairs made of both stone and wood with several landings.

All cottages are build in a traditional Caribbean chattel style with natural dark wooden floors and private balconies as well as outdoors showers.

The view from the room overlooking the ocean is spectacular.

The ocean looks like a postcard and faces west towards the setting sun.  The room itself however, does not make the same first impression. The outdoor shower is as advertised with a sea view, very open, but still very private.

Due to problems with our air conditioning, the manager gave us the option to relocate to another room.  This is a cottage we can definitely recommend (room no. 5).  Although smaller than the Premium Plus we left, our new room left us with a completely different experience.  Entering the room, our first impression was that the room was tidy, cozy, and had a romantic feel (this was in large part due to the “towel swans” on the bed and in the bathroom, which also contained a small arrangement of Bougainvillea flowers.  The porch wraps around the room in an “L” shape and is only half covered, the other portion open to the sky leaving you with a panoramic ocean view that covers two sides of the room.  There is a small plunge pool, two deck chairs, and two loungers that provide a nice alternative and more privacy than the beach.  The cottage is rated a premium, although in my opinion it easily could pass for a premium plus.

cocos_beach_view

If you do not mind sleeping during a green tree frog concert (in a room like ours that had problems with the air-conditioning), but with the gentle sound of the ocean, you’ll enjoy the experience. The sunset and sunrise are spectacular and waking up to a view of turquoise water and endless sea is truly special.

Dinner is served on a covered deck with an ocean view on two sides.  Consistent with our experience at the reception, the staff is very friendly and attentive, quickly responding to almost all requests.  The menu is simple with three choices for the main dish (fish, meat, and pasta) as well as a series of appetizers.   Complimentary drinks include water, mixed drinks, beer, and house wine. The house red is a Merlot or Cabernet and it not of the Bodegas Forjas del Salnes and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Three champagnes round out the menu including a Bollinger Special Cuvee, Prosecco Brut Sartori and a Nicolas Feuillate Special Cuvee. The food is good, and uses local fish with small to moderate sized portions. The desert choice is good, with at least three items to choose from.

The beach is beautiful, the water clean, and there are enough loungers available for the guests, although not all of them have their own umbrella.

It is important to set your expectations correctly before you arrive in order to fully enjoy your stay at the Cocos Hotel.  If you are looking for a romantic and rustic get-away, are willing to adapt to the Carib easy going ways and do not need permanent pampering – this is the place you want to be at. You will definitely have the chance to step out of your everyday life and relax as much as you are able.  You will find yourself welcomed by friendly staff including the security.  You can choose to accept things as they are or voice any complaints to the hotel’s staff that will do their best to set things right.

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.