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Back in Athens, and its Luxury Collection hotels are smiling

Look out at the Acropolis, suite 614, the Grande Bretagne

Look out at the Acropolis, suite 614, the Grande Bretagne

The gal has written about it before, and she will write about it again. There is NOTHING more glorious than waking up and looking out at the Big A, the Acropolis of course. There are actually now two luxury hotels that give this view, of which more anon. For now, this is the view from suite 614 of the magnificent Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection hotel. And magnificent it certainly is. Business this year has been up to ‘pre troubles’ levels and 2015 looks just as good, so for those thinking of going to Athens next year, make your reservations quickly.

The hotel's Winter Garden, with a display of home-made gourmet products

The hotel’s Winter Garden, with a display of home-made gourmet products

You should also think about hiring a hotel driver. If none are available, call on George Konstantopoulos. This alert, well-groomed taxi driver was taking me about when I noticed an intelligent-looking tourist book in the seat pocket. He put it together himself: it is full of accurate information and clear maps, +30-6977077339 or via gkonstaxi@gmail.com. Other ‘musts’ when in Athens? Have a coffee, any time of day, in the ‘GB’ Winter Garden, where power players and other locals gather. They even do an Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea, which sounds exquisite.

Greek salad, GB style

Greek salad, GB style

I had a perfect Greek salad, up on the hotel’s eighth floor rooftop Roof Garden, again with ‘that view’. As Jamie Oliver says on his site, ‘Greek salad is known and loved around the world; use the ripest tomatoes, Greek olive oil, beautiful olives, creamy feta and lovely herbs, perfect!’. Where better to have it than in Greece? I had breakfasted up here, looking at such local delicacies as sesame halva – semolina pudding made with oil – with chocolate and orange, and toyreki pasties filled with chocolate. They obviously like their chocolate at breakfast. A server in a crisp white mess jacket smiled.

Hotel Manager Gregory Liasides and concierges

Hotel manager Gregory Liasides and concierges

Within a couple of hours of being back in town I had actually commented to one of the concierges how lovely it is to see people smiling again (last visit, in one of the dark spells of the troubles, no-one smiled, how could they?). Yes, people smile now – look at hotel manager, Gregory Liasides, flanked here by two of the concierges.   The only non-smiling face around was actually the hotel’s canine ambassador, a mature golden labrador called Glykas, which means sweetie. Glykas – I know not whether he or she – was actually asleep, outside on the hotel’s white marble steps during most of my stay.

Luxury Collection siblings King George, on left, and the Grande Bretagne

Luxury Collection siblings King George, on left, and the Grande Bretagne

Of course I made the circuit round Syntagma Square to visit the pompom-shoed guards outside Parliament. Looking back, there are now two sibling luxury hotels side by side. In the photo, the GB stands proudly to the right. Joined to it on the left is the King George, which is now being run by the GB team. It is also a Luxury Collection hotel, with prices about 40 euros less than the GB. Stay at the King George and use all the GB’s facilities, with the exception of its outdoor pool. Stay in the GB, and use the facilities of the newly-renovated King George…