GREECE Winning tip: The Good Life, Syros
Picture a Cycladic island that no one seems to know. It’s easy to get to and explore, with sandy-sheltered beaches almost empty in summer. , This is Syros, and our hotel is The Good Life in Poseidonia. We found it on an organic farm site, but although it is in a vineyard with olives and figs, the restored traditional stone cottages are seriously comfortable. The Australian owners live nearby and make sure you experience the best of the island: wines, walks, beaches, the many music festivals. You can cook at home (the kitchens are luxurious) using vegetables from the gardens or stroll down to the water’s edge for a choice of tavernas. The restaurants have real chefs without Mykonos prices, and the locals are genuinely happy to see you.
Elspeth Reid Casa Vitae, Rethymnon, Crete
A beautifully restored 16th-century Venetian manor house with an idyllic courtyard garden, Casa Vitae is a winner. Not only for its location, architecture, and breakfasts but also for how its staff personifies the Greek spirit of hospitality. Manager Maria, formerly a lecturer, was a casualty of the country’s economic downturn and relocated to Crete from Athens. Here, exemplary customer service (finding a late-night optician to repair my specs) and friendliness (inviting us to a restaurant with her family) make a stay so rewarding.
The Red Castle, Kastellorizo
This little pension on the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo is the Greece of a time gone by: a perfect horseshoe bay lined by pastel-colored buildings, crystal-clear waters, fishers fixing their nets, smoking, and playing cards. Owners Monika and Damien are welcoming and sincere. This is a place to escape the world, appreciate the beauty in life and let lazy days drift away. They have the cutest little olive garden restaurant for lazy evenings chatting over wine. Ball-ache to get there, but harder to leave.
Ailanthus Suite, Crete
We love this small B&B apartment development at Tersanas on the Akrotiri peninsula near Chania. Comfortable rooms open out into a garden filled with fruit trees and flowers, with a swimming pool and tennis court and views across the bay. It attracts quiet, relaxed visitors, the staff are friendly, and the sandy beaches and great traditional restaurants are within walking distance or a short drive. Been here four times now over the past seven years.
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SPAIN Hotel Santa Anna, l’Estartit, Costa Brava
The location, rooms, and restaurant in this hotel are all fabulous, as is the view from the breakfast terrace. It’s on the main street in the old town, but you would not know it from the quiet rooms. It’s also close to the old port, diving center, and five miles of beach, with an immaculate, well-maintained pool. It’s family-owned and .runs