Arriving at sunset at any luxury hotel can be breathtaking but, says the gal, how about THIS? After a three hour-drive west south-west from Athens, the car pulled up to the ‘main building’ of The Romanos, a Luxury Collection resort that is part of Costa Navarino, the premier mixed-use development in the Peloponnese if not in all of Greece, even all of south-eastern Europe. The entrance to the main building is actually on the fifth floor. The ‘lobby’, to give it a name, is open front, and back, so you look through, down over the resort, although it is getting dark, and out to sea and the sunset. This must have been the view that inspired the much-loved sea-faring ‘the Captain’ (Vassilis Constantakopoulos) to spend two decades buying up small parcels of land, one by one, until he had enough for his vision.
Costa Navarino, the 2,500-acre complex put together by the Captain is now run by his son, Achilles Constantakopoulos – it has two golf courses, a serious spa, squash and tennis and the Ionian Sea. The Romanos has 321 rooms and its adjacent Westin Costa Navarino has 445 rooms, which means they can do ‘big events’. Tonight, as every night for nine weeks, the village square that the two hotels share has been roofed over for a spectacular dinner and show to launch a car. Yes, the same format, every night, six nights a week, for nine weeks, the car re-wrapped to be unveiled to a fresh batch of 450 eager-beaver car sales directors and media.
I watch from afar, amazed at the efficient organisation and planning that has gone into this. Today’s car guests in fact stay 26 hours, arrive before lunch, leave after lunch tomorrow but dining separately from tomorrow’s guests (today’s vacated their rooms after breakfast, so their rooms could be tidied). I, however, am not dining with 449 others but with Michel Cottray, who runs both resorts. We head to Flame, in the golf club, and start with olive oil martinis, yes really – and what a divine taste. Pure olive oil, Navarino’s own, is blended with green apple and cucumber purée, Greek Mastika liquor and gin. Made me feel even better.
This is a lovely restaurant, with the kitchen running all the way along its long side. Main decoration is an assortment of olive wood platters, used for everything. Even a salad comes on a platter. I wonder how they are going to serve breakfast eggs? The evening ends with a buggy ride wending down to my stunning villa, 1307, one of six at this luxury resort that is right down on the seashore but with its own beach…