Remember my first view of The Romanos luxury hotel, here at Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese? That was at sunset. This is the same view by day. Architect Alexandros Tombazis, who did Hilton Athens and also Sheikh Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi, here has deliberately left the front and back of the cathedral-roofed main building of the property open, for best views. By daylight you look down, to the rear gardens two floors below with their succession of decorative pools and serious swimming pools, including one for kids that is shaded with an enormous sail-umbrella, and finally, sloping down to the lovely sandy beach and the bright blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
But it is time to leave. I came by car, from Athens, a minimum of three hours’ drive away. Many visitors to Costa Navarino, and its golf and resorts, fly into Kalamata (yes, just like the olives), 45 minutes’ drive from here. Others helicopter right into the 2,500-acre resort. This is how I am going to leave. Michel Cottray, GM of both The Romanos, which is Luxury Collection, and its adjacent Westin sibling, comes to see me off. The Bell 480 is all ready to go. I climb in, to the seven-seater that I share only with a wall icon of St Nicholas, patron saint of travel – he actually looks after seafaring, which is not much comfort when I am up in the air but I am assured that he does look after me in the sky, too.
This is without doubt the best way of seeing the whole of Costa Navarino, the destination that, rather like Nevil Shute‘s A Town Like Alice, is the fulfilment of a dream, here that of the late Captain, Vassilis Constantakopoulos. The sustainability of the whole venture has seen it given first place, as a destination, in the World Travel & Tourism Council WTTC‘s 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow awards. We fly over the whole, looking down at the Robert Trent Jones II and Bernhard Langer golf courses, and the temporary road-racing track for trying out new cars, and the two resorts, and some of the 40,000 olive trees. I can just make out my own The Romanos villa, 1307, with its own big pool and beach.
And then, a mere 50 minutes after leaving, I am back in Athens. We land by a marina crammed side-by-side with gorgeous luxury yachts, and I am driven to see Achilles Constantakopoulos, son of the Captain. We talk about the luxury hotels that he owns, we talk about his fabulous range of Navarino Icon olive oils and delicatessen products that are selling so well in Harrods, in London, and in over 60 venues in the USA – look for the nearest Dean&Deluca, or make a special trip to Wynn Las Vegas – and then I head for the airport. Where next, Girlahead?