Hovolo Hotel, Neo Klima, Skopelos

A bed that doesn’t creak, a shower with flesh-ripping pressure, free air-conditioning, breakfast included, very friendly staff, a good price and last, but not least, a sea view. And none of that “give me 5 Euros to turn on the air-conditioning”, like cretins do.

The things I’ve just mentioned will make Hovolo Hotel in Neo Klima, Skopelos, a memorable place.

Just like that lunch at La Bastide Moustiers, which, I later found out, boasts a Michelin Star. Or Viraggas Inn from Vrastma, hidden in the hills, but so pretty and quiet.

Hovolo should be an example to all Greek hotels. The imbecile receptionist at that hotel in Athens (the name of which I won’t even mention) comes to mind. That moron who questioned my ability to understand English. That guy should learn a bit from Hovolo.

It doesn’t take a lot to run a hotel smoothly. Just make sure your customers get what they’re paying for and be a little smart. Satisfied customers will tell 10 people about your hotel, but angry customers will tell 200. I’d tell thousands, which that moron from Athens should better believe.

“We have no Mythos, but I’ll go to the supermarket right now and I’ll get some”. That’s the spirit. +1 Hovolo.

“Here’s a map of the village, which looks like it’s been drawn by a child. It shows where the tavernas and shops are. We made the effort”. I’ll remember that.

Listen, Greek hotels ! What happened to cleaning the room, changing the towels and bed sheets ? Hovolo does that, you know…

A platform for people in wheelchairs ? Sure, Hovolo has that as well. How about transfer from the harbour ? It’s free. Hovolo has its own shuttle.

Ok, the coffee could have been better. But we didn’t get fried hot-dogs day in day out, like at that ridiculous Dani Hotel from Alikes, Zakynthos.

See ? You remember stuff like that.

The furniture at Hovolo reminded me of Hotel Mercure, from Bordeaux. At Hovolo, we had a couch and one of those cylindrical pillows, which was as long as the bed was wide and for the first time in a very long time I felt like I had enough support for my neck to read a book in bed. The room had wooden shutters and a thick courtain. We had a small fridge and a kitchenette.

And the beach was 100 m from the hotel. No shops, no souvenir stores, no usual seaside bullshit. It’s a quiet, peaceful and very very relaxed place. That I obviously recommend.

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There is something strange in the woods of Skopelos

Someone made a horrible mistake with the Skopelos maps for tourists. On these maps, there’s a red road from Skopelos Town straight to Neo Klima, the “resort” where we were staying. The map legend conveniently says red roads are “main roads” (no mention of tarmac), yellow roads are “asphalt roads” and white roads are “dirt roads”. The road I’m talking about is drawn on the map as red from end to end.

One evening, I decided to take that road. Little did I know, obviously.

It went quite well for about 10 km. The road, although narrow and abrupt, seemed fine. It was dusk, and I had been reading Stephen King. Besides, my wife always has premonitions with shortcuts.

We were both silent, trying to ignore the GPS’s constant babbling, knowing it had it all wrong. Very wrong. Turn right. And fall off this cliff, GPS lady ?

“One wrong turn and we’re screwed”, my wife said. I knew that. My instinct performed well that night and I actually made no wrong turns.

It was a beautiful route, though, through pine forests. Some isolated houses, a cluster of lights in a valley, indicating a mountain village.

Then we got to an intersection, with a nice wide road, which goes up to the island’s helipad and crosses the main road. I should have taken that road.

A few km up, the tarmac ended and then I realized what it means to get a map wrong. There followed about 6 km through the forest, on a dirt road. It wasn’t actually so bad, but it did have the ocasional diagonal ditch, boulders and potholes.

The hard part was looking at my wife, who had a “I told you so” look on her face and maybe she even said it once or twice.

I lowered my window and drove carefully, 10-20 km/h, smoking a cigarette, until I realized that a beast might rip my arm off and then I put the cigarette out, raised the window and took a few deep breaths. Enough to get a little whiff of goat. The smell grew thicker and thicker, although there were no goats anywhere. I didn’t ask for a confirmation from my wife, for fear of another “Told you so”. So, I’m happy to say that there might just be a ghost flock of goats on Mount Daphni, on the island of Skopelos.

At one point, as we had passed the watershed and started descending towards the west coast of the island, I noticed a car on one of the many paths that spread from the road. I don’t know what exactly was happening in that car or who was more afraid of who, but they started the engine and got right in front of us. Thoughts of rape, torture, hold-ups, axe murders and bloody pine trees swarmed through my head, I admit. But probably through the mind of the guy in the other car, as well.

They changed course after about 500 m, taking a sharp left, which apparently led nowhere on my GPS and looked more like a precipice. They might be stranded even now.

And then, abruptly, the road became nice, polished, brand new tarmac again. As if the Greeks said: We can do it, but we won’t.

It was the shortest distance from Skopelos town to Neo Klima, but undoubtedly one of the longest trips I’ve ever taken.

From the veranda at Venetiko, Naxos Chora, Cyclades

White walls, blue doors and windows, stone, marble and vines. Painted tables, comfy chairs, Wi-Fi, seagulls and an alarm clock sheepishly blaring the sounds I had almost forgotten. Someone just woke up and snoozed it.

We’re somewhere inside the maze of Naxos ¬†Chora and I bet the stairs I’m looking at are in fact a street. I can hear the sounds of the harbor. Blue Star Ferry Paros has just left. In 6 days, I’ll be on it, probably sad and wishing to return.

I’ve just witnessed the horror of a lizard attacking and chewing a fly.

As for ourselves, we’ll go look for an English breakfast, a tradition in Cyclades.

A, I notice someone has a red window. Communists. They’re everywhere.

Casablanca, Kriopigi

We had a pretty good English breakfast today, at Casablanca’s, in Kriopigi. A proper English breakfast, too, with beans and rashers, toast and butter, eggs and mushrooms. No boudin noir, unfortunately. 15 Euro, including cafe-latte.

The place has a chic inside, with Casablanca themed posters and photos, glittering chairs, posh tables and very tasteful ornaments. The outside (photo) is airy, the chairs are very comfortable, you may smoke and watch the entire world of Kriopigi go before your eyes, or you can spot souvenirs or beach accessories which are sold across the street.

The place looks very promising and we’ll return to explore the menu. (They have steak and kidney pie !!).