Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Two Greek hotel gems

Despite its economic woes. mainland Greece has polished its tourism act to brilliant effect in recent years. Finding a good hotel, once a lottery with the odds heavily stacked against winning, has become much easier.

A recent trip to the Zagori region, in the north west, and the Pelion peninsula on the east coast proved the point. Both the hotels, which I booked after an internet search, turned out to be gems.

Breakfast, often in the past a meagre affair of Nescafe, melba toast and thin orange juice, was perhaps the most vivid reminder of how much things have improved. At the Papaevangelou, in the Zagori mountain village of Megalo Papigo, along with the ham and local cheese there was a mouthwatering array of conserves made by the owner's mother - among them orange, fig, green tomato, strawberry and raspberry - to go with the bread abd croissants.

At the oddly named Lost Unicorn, in the Pelion village of Tsagarada, you could limit yourself to muesli and the most delicious yoghurt imaginable. But Christos Martzos, who runs the place with his English wife Clare, was close to disappointment if guests turned up the chance of a waist expanding start to the day. He had worked in UK hotel kitchens, and produced perfect scrambled eggs and bacon.

And the coffee at both, far removed from the old "zesto Nes", was excellent.

The Papaevangelou, at the end of a rough track has a magnificent view of the mountains:

The hotel:

has 10 rooms (doubles range from £55 - £62 in spring, for example, via 4 studios. We had one of the latter, wood beamed and incorporating a small kitchen, which, also in spring, would cost around £95. There are several superb walking routes close by.

The Lost Unicorn, an elegant converted mansion with lovely bedrooms and ab extensive library, also serves dinner (though not on Tuesday or Wednesday night during our stay. Christos' cooking is outstanding - try the Floriana peppers filled with goat's cheese. If it's warm enough you can dine on the terrace, by the village square which is shaded by a plane tree reputed to be 1000 years old or more.

Idyllic beaches, sometimes empty when we visited in mid - May, are a short drive or energetic walk away:

Rates vary according to season, but in summer - outside the school holiday peak - a week's b&b in a double room will cost around £410 at the current exchange rate.

This is not to claim it is now impossible to stumble on a hotel which is less than satisfactory - but it has become much less likely. Both these were blissful. We could find no fault with either.

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