The annual question – where to go during the Carnival craziness in my home city? I need to select, of course, a place where they do not celebrate Carnival which I simply don`t like (and let others enjoy). This year, Athens seemed to be the perfect destination. Only 2 hours and a half away, a city that I really like and a scent of spring in early February. So I booked The Margi Hotel, a small luxury boutique hotel in Vouliagmeni, an elegant neighbourhood of the Greek capital and right on the Riviera of Athens. What a great choice! Following are my 11 reasons to book a stay at this lovely place.
Photo: I loved the olive trees right at the pool of The Margi.
1) The Location
The Margi Hotel is located on the beautiful Riviera of Athens – in an elegant and very quiet neighborhood called Vouliagmeni. You just walk a few minutes to get to the beaches (some of them are private and need to be paid for). The cab ride from Athens Airport took a bit more than half an hour and cost me 25 EUR.
Photo: Sunday surf fun in Vouliagmeni - lots of people in black!
2) You are pretty close to Athens
For me, Athens is one of the most exciting capitals in Europe. From my home town, it is only a short flight (2:30 hrs) away. Needless to mention all the ancient sites this metropolis is offering (with the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill as the highlight) but did you know that Athens also has a very exciting gastronomy and design scene? "Don`t miss to visit the Athens & Epidaurus Festival in ancient locations such as the open-air theater of Herodion under the Acropolis this year," recommends Elena Papanicolaou, owner of the travel agency Fly me to the Moon Travel. The Festival is Greece’s foremost cultural festival and one of the oldest in Europe, established in 1955. It is a feast for locals and visitors and the atmosphere for artists and spectators alike is unique. This year`s performers include celebrities such as Sting, Nigel Kennedy and ... Nana Mouskouri (oops, is she still around?).
Photo: THE icon of Athens - Acropolis Hill with the Parthenon. - Photo kindly provided by Fly me to the Moon Travel
3) Just about the right Size - and family-owned
The Margi Hotel has only 89 rooms. Big enough to offer all amenities today`s travelers are looking for but just not too big. I love hotels of that size. By the way, The Margi belongs to the Small Luxury Hotels. "The Margi is a hotel steeped in history and run with the same love and attention to detail from our family since 1960. We strive to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere to make all our guests feel at home," says Thodoris Agiostratitis, Managing Director of this little hideaway. Goal achieved, dear Theo!
Photo: Simply a perfect Sunday
4) Friendly Staff
Be it at the front desk, in the restaurants or in the spa – the staff were so nice and welcoming. Language issues? Not at all. Almost everyone speaks decent English. Nevertheless, I have decided to improve my almost non-existing Greek. It is such a nice language and I would love to say more than "Kalimera". Good workout for the brain!
Photo: With Andreas who always made sure I got my espresso in the morning.
5) Gastronomic Treats
I love Greek food. As an ovo-lacto-pesco-vegetarian (someone who does not eat meat but dairy products, eggs, and fish), I never had a problem in this country. The Greek cuisine with its many vegetables is healthy and tasty at the same time. The cuisine at the Malabar Restaurant is simply awesome. Try the beetroot salad with honey and cheese or the home-made gnocchi with truffles. Simply to die for! Make sure to taste local wines and maybe a tsipouro after your dinner (they say it helps to digest ;-)).
Photo: Elegant ambiance and fine dining at the Malabar Restaurant
6) Breakfast and Sunday Brunch
How about sitting next to the pool, enjoying the spring sun and goodies from the buffet? When in Greece, I start my day with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt before the less healthy stuff follows. To make up for that, you can order a fresh smoothie with organic ingredients from the hotel`s farm. And enjoy a second strong coffee! - On Sundays, The Margi is very popular for brunch - good for people watching (I was told that you may spot a few Greek celebrities).
Photo: I have found my spot just next to the pool - time for coffee!
7) The organic Farm
First and foremost - I could not go there since it only opens to the public in April. However, the photos of lunches, dinners and events speak at this totally natural place for themselves. Greek hospitality at its best and ideal for company retreats. At least I could savour some of the organic goodies such as beetroots and fresh herbs, delicious! And I am definitely looking forward to saying hello to Billy, the friendly donkey when I will be staying again at The Margi Hotel.
Photo: Sit down, relax and eat well at The Margi Farm - photo kindly provided by the hotel management
8) Time to spa
The girl in the spa is whispering to me. The atmosphere in this little hideaway is almost sacred. Beautiful scents, a very pleasant illumination, and relaxing music. The view to the indoor pool is simply awesome - and so is the underwater massage. Needless to say that you can enjoy a wide array of treatments as well as sauna and hammam. A perfect place to spend a rainy day (yes, sometimes it also rains even in Greece!).
Photo: Shshshsh - we are all in relax mode here!
9) Excursions – never a dull Moment
Vouliagmeni is very walkable. Just take care of the (fast-running) cars. Once you have explored the beaches, walk up the hill to the marina with a stunning view over the sea (15 minutes from the hotel). Or go into the other direction to Vouliagmeni Lake (20 minutes from The Margi). You will discover a beautiful fresh-water lake just next to the sea, with impressive hills in the background. Have a swim and enjoy the little fish nibbling at your feet (unless you are extremely ticklish) - wellness at no cost! Deckchairs and bars are available and you have to pay an entrance fee. there are many nice bars and restaurants along the coastal avenue. Don`t miss to visit Glyfada (15 minutes by cab), a nice neighborhood with plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants. And spectacular Athens is only a 30 minute cab ride away (you can even take the public service which is pretty good).
Photo: View from the marina - Lake Vouliagmeni is right in between the sea and the hills!
10) The stunning chillout Areas at the Poolside
Do you just love to hang around sometimes ... watch the sky and do nothing? The pool of The Margi Hotel is perfect for that. Balinese beds or a stool at the bar, this place is perfect to chill. In the evening, the pool area at The Margi is just like a fairytale scene. The olive shrubs and the pool are illuminated in a very refined way, so beautiful.
Photo: Can it get more romantic? - KHL
11) Value for Money
Rest assured, this little heaven on earth is affordable. Watch out for special deals on the hotel website. By the way, The Margi is part of Trésor Hotels & Resorts, an association of 33 spectacular accommodations in 28 destinations all over Greece. In 2016, I stayed at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel on the island of Spetses (only 2 1/2 hours away from Athens) and blogged about it. Why not combining two Trésor Hotels & Resorts in one trip?
Photo: The olive trees are even IN the pool!
And ... a big red Cat!
No way to finish this blog without mentioning that giant red cat. I met her (actually I rather believe it was a HE) at a bus stop. Kitty was standing on a bench and it looked like he was waiting for the bus to Athens. When I returned to that place hours later, he was still there. The next day I saw him close to the bus stop ... relaxing in the sun. Some days later I found out that the little tiger was fed by a lady right at that place! My sympathy for him got lost during my last night. Tom-cat was on heat and made noise all over the place. Oh well. I just put on my earplugs and went on sleeping.
Photo: There he is - waiting for the bus? - KHL
All in all, I had a wonderful stay at The Margi. Spring in early February was neither bad. And Athens is always worth a trip.
Here are a few more images - all of them -(and most of the above ones) taken by Panagiotis Mavrommatis - a fantastic, Athens-based photographer):
Photo: Namaste - yes, you can do some yoga here!
Photo: I almost forgot - there is also a nice little gym at The Margi
Photo: Ready for chillin'?
Photo: Greek charm! - Dorina (left) from the marketing department and Afroditi (right) from the Guest Experience Department
Photo: So relaxing - a walk on the beach in winter ;-)!