Domes of Elounda
I’m lying as naked as a jaybird in front of a man that isn’t Mr Smith. This is disconcerting. To add to my unease, this stranger is more muscle than man: beefier than Popeye post-spinach, wide as a wall, and as handsome as Hercules. ‘No paper pants! No paper pants!’ – the thought pings around my head like a rabbit as I lie in the spa of our Greek retreat.
Bizarre images pop into my head: a plucked chicken, Oli Beale and his ‘bishop’ in Marrakech (see his review of Maison MK, if you need that explaining.) The Muscle (real name, Nikos; resident masseur at boutique spa resort Domes of Elounda) leans in, grabs my foot, and elevates my leg to a 90-degree angle. He leans in and whispers huskily in my ear: ‘Set your body free’. It’s too late. The giggles rise like bubbles. ‘I’m sorry!’ I sputter. ‘It’s just – I’m – terribly – ticklish!’
Half an hour later, I wobble my way across to Mr Smith at the outdoor pool soaking up that incredible Cretian sun. He’s surrounded by glamorous Europeans snacking on pasta and panini – men in tight trunks who look as though olive oil and liquid gold flow through their veins. Their Cavalli-clad women are equally fabulous, encased in sexy one-pieces and matching turbans. Inevitably, there’s the odd Brit or two to lower the style stakes, buried in Lynda La Plante and as prawn-pink as the Domes’ concrete curves. ‘How was your massage?’ asks Mr Smith, squinting in the sunshine. ‘Really, er, relaxing. When’s dinner?’
Supper at the Domes: now there’s relaxation for you. The hotel hosts gastronomy festivals, inviting internationally acclaimed chefs to cook for their guests. Luckily, we’re here when Yves Mattagne, an exceptionally talented French chef, has culinary control. Despite initial reservations (‘Will we have to talk to other people?’) Mr Smith and I are fizzing with excitement as we dress for the festival. It’s a wrench, though, to leave our boutique boudoir: a sea-facing suite with an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking Elounda’s ink-blue bay.
Sleeping in the Domes of Elounda is like bedding down in a shell (with a lot more space, a lot less water, and no uninvited snails): stone and slate hues with splashes of turquoise, decorated with stacks of bleached wood, frosted glass lights that mushroom from the ceiling like sea urchins, and spiky green plants. Our suite is also deliciously private – a peachy, dome-topped pod with dazzling views. Snatching one last admiring gaze around us, Mr Smith adjusts his tie, I attend to my décolletage and we’re off into the night.
Drinks at the sleek main bar get us started, and we watch boats threaded with lights wend their way across the waves. Soon we’re summoned, along with an expectant party of guests. Tables are laid out by the pool, candles are lit, and a cavalry of waiters are dispatched to tend to us. The meal is so good, it feels illegal. Each multi-component concoction sounds like a science experiment: royal Belgian caviar with potatoes and quails’ eggs; crayfish with lime, tomato water, wasabi and sesame; sea bass with carrot harissa, rouille and saffron emulsion; coconut-raspberry marshmallow with caipirinha sorbet. And with each course comes a different wine.
After meeting the twinkly-eyed chef, and praising his efforts with wine-induced eloquence, Mr Smith and I slip away: just one thing in mind… Sleep. Back in our suite, we waddle onto the bed, unbutton trousers, remove binding garments, and breathe. (I’m setting my body free.) We wake the next morning, full, hungover, and happy. The sunshine pours in, and a knock at the door heralds breakfast. Breakfast! It’s hard to conquer another feast, but athletically, we rise to the challenge. ‘I couldn’t eat another thing,’ says Mr Smith afterwards, peeling a banana. ‘Me neither’ I say, nibbling on a cinnamon-dusted pastry.
It’s time to kill calories with a swimming session at the Domes’ private beach. It might sound as though we’re being incredibly lazy (well, we are) by not exploring Elounda itself, but this chic Greek hotel is a mini-empire: spa, three restaurants, two bars (one beachside), two pools, tennis courts and a boutique or two. There’s even a fleet of buggies to transport guests from hotel reception to sand (a four-minute walk). We muster the bravado to summon one but, somewhat to my relief, it doesn’t show up, so we wander down and stretch out on two loungers, right by the water.
‘I’m so full and happy’ says Mr Smith, from his Agatha Christie. ‘Me too,’ I purr. ‘I can’t imagine being hungry again’. Children splash in the waves. Tanned goddesses rub lotion into their bronzed husbands. Seven minutes pass. I prop myself up on one elbow and peer at Mr Smith.‘Topos 1910 tonight? It’s the Michelin-starred-chef’s fish restaurant and I’ve heard its seafood is some of the best on Crete...’
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Smith extra at Domes of Elounda
A Thermae Experience for two in the spa; for guests staying seven nights or more, a three-course dinner