Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Athen’s Three Hotel Hotties…


Plaka, Athens Centre Square, Hermes
by Nancy Snipper
Having been to Athens a dozen times, I’ve become a pro at avoiding accommodation angst.  I always book into one of these three terrific hotels:  Plaka, Athens Centre Square, and Hermes. They’re on my hotel hit parade for reasons even Socrates would have found difficult to dispute. 
Location, location, location! Plaka Hotel is about five minutes from Syntagma, Athens central hub where the airport bus drops you off. Another plus:  it’s only a stroll away from Ermou Street, one of the swankiest shopping places in town.  No cars clutter this commercially spun pedestrian paradise sporting a plethora of popular upscale in-store products. 
Plaka Hotel’s warmth and relaxed ambiance reflects Dorina and George Stathopoulou’s easy-going professionalism.  They own all three hotels, but work out of Plaka.  I happened to meet George when passing by the open door to his office upon arriving.  As it turned out, he had once studied at Concordia University. He spent the next hour talking about Greece’s economic woes, but not without regaling me with hilarious stories. I was so impressed with his candidness and humour. 

Nearby is Athens Center Square Hotel (ACS). It’s only a five-minute walk from two of the capital’s most popular hotspots: the buzzing market of Monasteraki and the Plaka district – the latter spilling over in outdoor tavernas and restaurants buzzing with lively conversation while souvlaki aromas waft from every corner.  
ACS has a colourful fruit market right outside its door.  In fact, the hotel’s entire exterior lower level presents a non-stop mural of fruit which makes it fun to find the actual opening doors into the hotel. Look for the door mat to enter, and once inside, let your eyes receive another pictorial feast: the lobby’s walls have big bright paintings of fruit created celebrated artist, Corrina O’Brien. 
Each of ACS’s 54 rooms reflects the bright colors in these paintings; mine was restful ochre. In fact, each of the 8 floors of the hotel has distinct colours:  blue, kiwi, red, yellow, and so on – all reflected in the neon colours of ACS’ façade.  This place has a vibrant vibe, and the 2010 renovations totally mask the fact ACS dates back to the 1960s. 

Fruit Market
If you want to be a step away from Plaka area, then Hermes is the hotel for you.  Its sleek renovations and rooftop terrace are gleaming in beauty. What class! 

Although lobbies differ in design, the hotel trio comes with those vital must-haves: modern comfort, internet and tasteful décor. No ostentatious eyesores or fancy extras that the big show-off guys have and gouge you for.  Big on breakfasts, they spoil you with their international gourmet feast, but I always indulge in the Greek yogurt over which I shamelessly pour heaping helpings of heavenly honey.  
What makes these hotels addictive to the traveler is the marvelous communication, and it begins right at the reception desk and continues up on the rooftop terrace where the panoramic view of Athens is simply incredible. The capital is all lit up far above the maddening crowd, and there you are watching it all like a god from on high. By the way some rooms at ACS and Plaka have incomparable views of the acropolis - Athens’ most iconic beacon beckoning you back into the golden age of antiquity.

        Recapping the reasons for my hit hotel trio: 
·         quiet yet superb location downtown 
·         lovely interiors  
·         great views with rooftop terrace   
·          personal and professional service 
·         all amenities with high tech  
·         big breakfasts included   
·         rooms delightfully priced