Doric slabs and whatnot | Review: Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

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Stephen Unwin stays at the Grecotel Cape Sounio, the first hotel he’s ever been to that has a fridge in your room for your make up. He is suitably impressed

Doric slabs and whatnot | Review: Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

I’ve been to Cape Sounio before, but I’m buggered if I remember. But then, in the absence of photographic evidence plus a precocious relationship with Bacardi, most of the 1980s are a blur.

‘There’s a huge temple there, it’s dead nice. Remember?’ said my mole.

The temple is Poseidon – which even stupid people have heard of – and it’s dead nice. It’s part of a triptych of temples, one of which is the Acropolis, that together make a perfect triangle across southern Greece – thus reminding you just how clever those Ancients were, bearing in mind I need GPS to find my arse over my tit.

Getting around is a doddle, in golf buggies driven by a male member of staff – all of whom seem to wear their black-black hair to the left – which can never not feel a bit Bob Hope-ish

Poseidon looms over Sounio Bay, a perfect scoop of Athens Riviera where rich Greeks used to play before it all went tits-up, and now where rich Euros go to play after a day or two in Athens, 40 miles away. Grecotel – a portmanteau that lowers your expectations until you get there – dominates the Cape, and has done for decades. Peppered among prickly vegetation in low-rise breige (if it works for Grecotel!), the resort – all five stars of it – is the hotel group’s flagship property, acres of unscary luxury in the form of pooled villas, gorgeous bungalows and the central hotel complex, an unsurprising homage to what’s peering over it with its great big Doric slabs and whatnot. And getting around is a doddle, in golf buggies driven by a male member of staff – all of whom seem to wear their black-black hair to the left – which can never not feel a bit Bob Hope-ish.

Nice, huh? Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

Nice, huh? Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

There’s the big communal pool over there with the requisite mini one for the kids, the Elixir Spa up the hill a bit, and the private beach ‘n’ bar down a cutesy, winding walkway that opens out onto myriad photo ops. Here is where you’ll find arguably the loveliest spot in the resort, a crescent moon of a beach with shallow waters containing an old wreck, which is handy for scuba divers or snorkelers buoyed by the mostly calm, tepid and remarkably clear waters. Speaking of which, there’s this thing that happens every year that goes by the name of Drops of Breath, which only someone who speaks English as a second language could come up with. But once you stop rolling your eyes, what you have is a stupendously clever piece of performance art, done under water. Under bloody water! A group of world class dancers, many with disabilities, performing a watery ballet with spectators looking either overhead with a snorkel or, bleachers style, in scuba gear or, for the fainter of heart, via video link up on the beach. With all proceeds going to charity. It’s such a big deal, Nikos Daskalantonakis, the major cheese of Grecotel who’s avuncular to boot, attends every year, bringing with him major Greek hobnobs.

There’s a lot of water going on, some of it trickling, all of it in gilded pools or bowls, which makes people think of money and moneyed people feel safe

The residences, for that is what we shall call them, are in undulating clusters, connected by roads that look handmade, and it all looks like a dinky Hollywood Hills. If we’re sticking with the LA motif, the hotel core would be your Chateau Marmont, where anyone who is anyone and some people who are no-one at all go to sip highly alcoholic things while, in the distance, something jazzy tickles the air. Children on plastic bikes shuffle across marble. There’s a lot of water going on, some of it trickling, all of it in gilded pools or bowls, which makes people think of money and moneyed people feel safe. And there are a lot of restaurants going on, in which the food and service are spectacular. And gazing over at Poseidon after you’ve been mainlining Skinos makes you say “amazing” with far too much intonation on the ‘ma’.

Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

My residence is a bungalow and it’s about the size of Germany. There’s a plunge pool out front, fitting beautifully into the view from me to Poseidon, which isn’t heated but then apparently you can’t have everything. And this is “the one Shakira stayed in,” which of course I care about because celebrities are better than everyone else. Mine and Shakira’s bungalow is up some winding steps, has pinus wallichiana for shade, and a whole room I didn’t even go into because I was too busy showing off about the plunge pool on all the world’s social media. The entrance space – “hallway” is too domestic – looked like Fortnum and Mason had swung by, towers of food at every turn and champagne never knowingly not being chilled in a gilded bucket, while the master bedroom – for there are two – contained a bed roomy enough for CrossFit. And there was a make-up fridge in the bathroom, which I have never seen in all my days. I decided to keep my contact lenses in there, because who doesn’t want chilled eyes.

And there was a make-up fridge in the bathroom, which I have never seen in all my days. I decided to keep my contact lenses in there, because who doesn’t want chilled eyes

Once upon a time 200 years ago, Lord Byron, he of romance and philandering, came here. It being the days before commercial tourism he only had Poseidon to play with – no Elixir of Life body treatment using the healing power of gold, minerals, artemisia and passion flower for him – and on a quiet day up at the temple you can see his doodles on the Dorics. It wasn’t a quiet day when we popped up, dragged kicking and selfie-ing from our plunge pools as the sun set like it does in movies, for there was a same-sex pagan wedding going on with a whole bunch of billowing chiffon and possibly Sandi Toksvig in a headdress, made all the more lovely because you could imagine the Pope twitching in his dolly cassock were he downwind of all of this.

Shakira was here… Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

Shakira was here… Grecotel Cape Sounio, Greece

There are also a few cute little towns dotted here, maybe there, should you be mad and wish to leave this enclave. These towns have tavernas and Ouzo, citronella flickering and yachts swaying, men in Blue Harbour from Marks & Spencer buying blue-hued porcelain for wives in yellows from BHS. I once spent a week in a similar enclave that had a volcano on one side and a UNESCO heritage site on the other, but why would you bother when you’ve got sun-drenched silver-service at your Elixer-ed fingertips?

Grecotel is the sort of place which Instagrams-that-break-the-internet are made on, our little lives rammed with memories made to linger by that new citrus scent from Athens Duty Free and, henceforth, Byron by the bed and cocktails made with raki. I mean, #seriously, just wait till you get a load of their property on Mykonos. C

 

Cape Sounio, 67 km Athens-Sounio, Σούνιο 195 00
+30 2292 069700; capesounio.com

 Stephen Unwin flew with Aegean Airways from London to Athens
en.aegeanair.com