From one Hilton family member, in Cairo, to another – the legendary Hilton Athens Hotel, a 13-floor tower that has dominated the junction of Vassileos Konstantinou and Vassileos Alexandrou, opposite the National Museum, since it opened in 1963. It was designed by Alexandros Tombazis, the architect later responsible for Costa Navarino, developed by the Constantakopoulos family, who are, coincidentally, now 50-50 owners of Hilton Athens, a partnership with Dogus. The memorable 527-room hotel is renowned for many things, possibly led by its Acropolis views. Look by day or night from, say, the 11th floor Galaxy lounge and bar, and do not, say the gal, miss the sunsets (see one, above).
Achilles Constantakopoulos called by, on a Sunday evening on his way back from Costa Navarino, to say hello. Better roads mean it is now possible to make that drive in just over three hours, apparently. Best airport for there is Kalamata, which now has really good international airlift, albeit seasonal: this helps fill Costa Navarino’s two luxury resorts, Los Romanos, which is Luxury Collection, and Westin Costa Navarino, in shoulder months and they now only close for two months every year. Here, the new owners plan to take Hilton Athens even higher. There are rumours that some rooms might be converted to condos but not surprisingly Achilles Constantakopoulos merely smiles, as he does the whole time, especially when asked to pose by the Dubuffet-type black and white sculpture on the 11th floor Galaxy terrace.
I had thought of dining up there or down by the pool – that is a big plus, by the way, and incredibly popular at weekends. Swimming your lengths and looking up at the Acropolis makes the lengths well, swim away. The Precor gym is down there, too (work out looking through a glass wall into the indoor pool): the impressive help-yourself refreshment counter has whole fresh fruit, juices and an espresso machine, all of which are shared with those having Germaine de Capuccines facials or other treatments at Hiltonia-Spa. Back to food. No, I did not eat rooftop or pool side. I lunched at Byzantino’s spendid buffet – see a video, below. Byzantino is a glass-walled conservatory of a space, leading off the main floor lobby, and its lunch spread is truly outstanding.
Many with access to the 11th floor club lounge make dinner out of its cocktail hour snacks – well, why not sit on one of its balconies with that splendid view of the Acropolis, which will be floodlit all night long? Food is plentiful, with canapés and dressed rolls, and several Avarino 2017 wines. I preferred to have a Greek Japanese dinner while working in my room, blending a fabulous sashimi selection, on ice, with a Greek salad, with a bottle of Navarino Icons oil (Navarino Icons is another Constantakopoulos operation, cleverly utilising produce from Costa Navarino’s farms, and I remember that on my last visit there I helped, in a distinctly amateur way, to harvest the olives by shaking branches with a long wooden rake). Of course this dinner was highlighted by a glass of 2017 Avarino Dry Red, a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lafazanis family’s Nestor Winery in Messinia. Next time I hope I will be drinking the Constantakopoulos’ own Navarino Vineyards wines… NOW SEE ROOM 1142, AND TOUR BYZANTINO’S LUNCH BUFFET