Greek Column™ No.1: #GrecotelCapeSounio, An Overdue Orientation. By Anthony Grant

Why resist? Or more accurately, why had I resisted visiting Cape Sounio on repeated visits to Athens? Is not its iconic 5th century BC Temple of Poseidon, with 15 of the 36 original Doric columns still standing some 200 feet above the Aegean Sea, a must on any Grecian traveler’s checklist? Of course it is, but lingering in Athens, drinking in the Acropolis or drinking up another iced coffee, you can get lazy.

But the Grecotel Cape Sounio, Exclusive Resort is a far better place to invite a little languor into your overprogrammed life. This is something that dawned on me gradually as my taxi gradually left the concrete and traffic of Athens behind, going deep south into the dramatic Attica heartland with one stupendous sea view giving way to another in crafty, breathtaking succession. What kind of place on earth is this I thought to myself, and why had I waited so long to come to it?

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Reconnecting with one’s sense of selfie at the entrance to Cape Sounio Grecotel Exclusive Resort

Is The Cape Sounio Grecotel Exclusive Resort luxurious? Obviously, but not overbearingly so and that doesn’t surprise me because I have experienced Grecotel hospitality before,  namely in Crete at the fantastic Grecotel Caramel resort, and I’ve heard a thing or two about the Grecotel Corfu Imperial, Exclusive Resort too.

So let’s say refreshingly so, starting with a welcome drink upon check-in. Like the jar of passionfruit lemonade pictured below, with ice cubes (and for all you American ice cube lovers out there, listen up: I didn’t even have to ask for them). Sooo good!

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Guests can enjoy their complimentary welcome libation in the lobby, like I did, or in the indoor/outdoor Lounge Bar, with its views to the sea, Cape Sounion and the temple.

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At first I thought these swing-beds were just for swinging,, but actually they are the al fresco dining arrangement for SO Oriental, the resort’s Asian fusion restaurant.

daybeds

His name tag read “George,” but whenever I hear “George” in Greece of course I think “Giorgos” — anyway, after I checked in and enjoyed the welcome drink, George escorted me up to my bungalow-style accommodation in a nifty modified golf cart.

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On the day I arrived in June it was quite hot and I was somewhat peckish, so I was delighted to see this epicurean treat in miniature in the room, featuring organic Greek cherries and a mini orange semolina cake, along with mineral water in a glass bottle.

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My bungalow-style room featured a view of Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. It also featured a small private swimming pool, which I jumped into as soon as possible. 

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Splashing completed, I found the pool area to be the perfect spot to inspect a range of gourmet items from Grecotel’s own line, many coming from their organic Agreco Farms in Crete. These products  include genuine Cretan thyme honey and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Treats

Then it was back to enjoying those spectacular views, which were both balm to my city-frazzled soul and, with a yacht coming into view, fuel to fire up my Instagram, too. 

yacht

By the way, as if the ruins of the Cape Sounion headland weren’t ancient enough, there are ruins of an even more ancient Neolithic village adjacent to the resort’s pool area. 

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The new Elixir Spa Retreat at Cape Sounio is a 350 square meter complex on the resort’s most prominent location, behind and above the main swimming pool area. It has 5,000 square meters of landscaped gardens and its own swimming pools within the forest.

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The mountainous Attica scenery beckons as you approach the spa area on foot.

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Before indulging in a restorative aromatherapy massage, I stopped by the Elixir Spa’s check-in desk area, where you can also browse an array of spa-related gift items.

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As if to remind me that hurrying can be quite overrated, I was greeted by one of the spa’s three resident turtles.

spaturtle

I thought the perfect way to unwind after a spa treatment would be to hit the beach, which is the best maintained beach in the whole area. You get there, like this lifeguard, via one of two tunnels that go underneath the roadway.

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And voila…

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Though I didn’t have time for it, you could book a table in a cabana for a casual lunch at  Yali, the resort’s waterfront restaurant…pure poetry.

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But I did make time for dinner at the Cape Sounio Restaurant, where frankly my camera lens wasn’t big enough to capture all the delectable items on display…but here are some:

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…and just a few more…

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The Cape Sounion Restaurant is where the daily breakfast buffet, an extravaganza of fresh fruit in season, just-baked breads, cheeses, yogurts, and other dairy, breakfast meats, cereals and muesli, nuts, home-made marmalades, honey and more—mostly organic and locally-sourced—is served. Unfortunately, I missed out on the farmhouse-style Cretan scramble with vine-ripened tomatoes and oregano picked from the kitchen garden.

But the dinners are no less remarkable. One evening I had dinner with my friend Stefanos Pertsemlidis, a leading Greek nutritionist, who told me “The traditional Greek diet, which is a major representative of the Mediterranean diet, is a very healthy and balanced diet. It can help maintain a healthy weight, as long as there is energy balance.” The Grecotel menu is an apt reflection of that observation. 

“The Restaurant” on the rooftop terrace of the main building,  has a Greco-French menu designed by acclaimed chef Sakis Tzannetos. But dining at the main restaurant, both Stefanos and I found the food to be of such remarkably high caliber that we were quite content with everything—including the nighttime view of the floodlit Temple of Poseidon.

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What impressed me too was that the service was every bit as cordial and attentive at 1AM as it was at 9PM. Here I am with Stefanos (center) downstairs from the restaurant.

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By the way, the resort maintains a small boutique and mini-market across from the beach, where you can not only shop for tasteful souvenirs but also buy some snacks to nibble on at the beach. 

souvenirs

Some closing thoughts on Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, in the words of  Heidegger who visited in 1962: “these few standing columns,” the German author wrote,  “were the strings of an invisible lyre, the song of which the far-seeing Delian god let resonate over the Cycladic world of islands…this single gesture of the land suggests the invisible nearness of the divine.”

At the Grecotel Cape Sounio resort that sense of the divine becomes more deliciously tangible than you could imagine. My suggestion is to experience it sooner rather than later. Eat well, rest, go for a swim, perhaps reconnect with a good friend and above all, stay as long as you can. 

The city can wait.

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