In somewhere as small as Vathi, you might not expect it to be difficult to find the only boutique hotel in town. But so far we’ve been back and forth along its little harbour twice – and nix
. It hasn’t been a tiring trip to get this far – we’ve come to Ithaca
from neighbouring Kefalonia where we’ve been staying at the Perantzada’s big brother, the Emelisse. All the same, if we don’t solve the puzzle of the Perantzada’s whereabouts soon, one of two things will explode – Mr Smith’s temper or worse, Baby Smith's. Neither will be pretty, so it’s a great relief when we finally track down our destined Greek Island hideaway.
Inaccessible by car, Perantzada Hotel is hidden down a little alleyway that leads to a topsy-turvy flight of stairs and a metal gate. (For the record, it’s the blue-fronted villa set back from the waterfront at the far end of the bay and when you do strike gold, the sign telling you you’re in the right place isn’t exactly large, but one senses this is more about being unflashy than unhelpful.)
A swing through the gate and we’re in a beautifully decorated, nautically themed little courtyard. Seaside blues and whites dominate while pots of cheerful geraniums lead the eye up more stairs past little model boats to reception. Wth just 17 rooms, the Perantzada is more intimate in form and in feel than the Emelisse. It’s the kind of place where you’re on instant first-name terms with the staff (Steve is front-of-house, Fotini’s a whizz in the kitchen). And boy, did someone have fun styling this place…
What started out as an already elegant 19th-century mansion has been enhanced with carefully judged 21st-century touches. So you’ll find quirky modern art nestled among the mansion’s period balconies and traditional wooden staircases alongside ultramodern glass ones. It may sound jarring, but it works. Most of the hotel is decked out in classic white but now again there are vivid splashes of colour in a bright red tablecloth here, a shocking pink neon uplight there. The overall effect is mishmashily eclectic but in no way overstyled in the way a modern art gallery might be in a flashy seaside villa.
Central to the Perantzada is its breezy breakfast room where antique dressers and chunky Sixties’ plastic tables continue the old/new juxtaposition. There are copies of Vogue
for leafing through, but we’re straight out to gawp at the sun-drenched infinity pool, framed by vast French windows. Upstairs, we get a surprise. It’s beautifully airy and we soon twig why – the corridor to our room is carved into exposed rock and open to the elements, so looking up, we glimpse blue sky.
Like the Emelisse, all rooms here come with king-size doubles draped in designer linen and lots of upscale goodies such as iPod docks and Korres cosmetics. The added thrill of the Perantzada, though, is that each boudoir has a different look and feel, boasting high-end contemporary design from the likes of Philippe Starck. In this big-name design lottery we get Eames, specifically Eames iconic plastic armchairs and an industrial-chic interior (concrete floors, angular furniture and a vast white flatscreen that looks for all the world like a giant iMac) that wouldn’t look out of place at the HQ of a Soho advertising agency. Mr Smith groans – it feels like being back at work. That is until we draw back the shutters to reveal views of the shore from our private balcony. Beyond uniform terracotta roofs, Vathi’s sparkling bay hosts the odd chugging sailboat but there’s nothing more to shatter the silence. We couldn’t ask for a more peaceful location.
Nor could we ask for a friendlier welcome. It’s spring, so the hotel isn’t yet full but even in peak season, one suspects, the service would be every bit as personal. Once we’re installed by the pool, Steve is straight out offering to fix us a snack – à la carte, or off-menu – using whatever we might fancy from his fridge. I plump for a simple Greek salad and I swear it’s the freshest I’ve ever tasted – something to do with the context perhaps. Bottles of complimentary chilled wine are delivered discretely to our room – a little gesture to make us feel at home. At one point, Steve apologises that he has to pop out, leaving us the run of the place. It’s that kind of trusting, generous, mi casa es su casa
kind of place. And it goes without saying that little Baby Smith is treated like one of the family.
More adventurous types may opt to explore one of several walking tracks in Ithaca’s verdant hills, but I’m afraid, what with the bambino, we don’t make it much further than nearby Filatro beach. And why would we? Much like the Perantzada, Fliatro is small but perfectly formed, a little shingle beach backed by shady trees and lapped by turquoise water. Apart from the odd snorkeler, we’ve the place to ourselves. Where to eat? For lunch, try Vitha’s trendy waterfront ouzerie Pinakothiki, where mezedes of dolmades or deep-fried, almost tempura-like, aubergine are perfectly portioned (ask Fotini for directions as the sign’s in Greek). By night we like Nicos, just off the square, for pita gyros and people-watching.
And it’s at night that the Perantzada really comes alive. Returning after dinner, the floodlit mansion is accented by different colours from each room so that bright blues and reds shine from alternate windows. In summer, Fotini runs magical-sounding supperclubs, here overlooking the lantern-lit pool. Judging by the addictive homemade cakes that form part of her breakfast spread, these might be worth a return trip alone. And there will be
a return we concur as we give Baby Smith one last dip in the Perantzada’s pool. After all, his mum and dad know where to find it now.