If my brief were to create heaven as a film set, I wouldn’t bother with studios and props and special effects. I’d bundle the crew on a flight to Santorini and set up camp at Aenaon Villas. Hidden up in the rocks on the highest and narrowest part of the island, it’s a vision in clean, celestial whiteness. It’s hidden away on the road between Fira and Oia, so you aren’t stacked up like playing blocks here – but totally crowd-clear in a secluded sanctuary. Cycladic villas set into the cliffside, designer loungers scattered around curved infinity pools that melt into the Aegean horizon, billowing linen on outdoor four-poster beds – even the flooring is a bright, crisp expanse of snow-blindness-inducing white.
Checking in, I anticipate a man in robes with a long fluffy beard; instead we find George, the owner, tapping away on his brand new (white) iPad. George tells us that it has taken him, and his wife Alexandra, almost 15 years to perfect the seven villas at Aenaon; it is truly their labour of love. And the properties are indeed lovely, rising from the dark rock as neat and gleaming as a Hollywood smile. All the villas are connected, but cleverly so across different levels so that each feels entirely private and separate. At first, it all looks traditionally Santorinian, but scrutinise closer and spy unique details: gates handmade by gypsies in Athens, devotedly buffed wooden doors, and dark cement used in place of whitewash overkill.
Mrs Smith and I are staying in Villa Marily, the largest of these stylish Santorini stays. Our Aenaon abode has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large living space with a double-height ceiling. Gliding through yet more wonderful whiteness, I feel as though I should be wearing linen trousers and leading a tiger cub about on a diamanté-studded leash. I knew I’d underpacked.
Yes, two bathrooms. Mrs Smith declares the master bathroom hers (naturally) and secures it by instantly covering every inch of surface with beauty paraphernalia. I retreat to my own, smaller bathroom – but not before Mrs Smith dashes in and swipes the Korres products from next to the sink. ‘I’m saving the nice products for home,’ she announces clutching the herbal homeopathy-inspired potions. ‘You can use that shampoo in your wash bag.’
Now, a note to the prudish: there is no door, or even wall, between our master bedroom and ensuite. So for those of you who don’t enjoy listening to the morning symphonies of your loved one, the extra bathroom is a welcome bonus. In my books it’s a strange notion that ‘in-bedroom’ ensuites are an aphrodisiac – if you want to keep the romance alive, I reckon that includes a solid bathroom door.
Distraction comes in a complimentary bottle of a nice Santorini white waiting for us in an ice bucket. We clink glasses at our outside table before plunging ourselves into that searing Greek afternoon sun. Oddly, even though all the villas are fully booked, there’s not a soul to be seen. Perhaps it’s Aenaon’s ingenious layout, or maybe everyone is out ‘doing things’. Mrs Smith, however, balks at the idea of any activity when there is sunbathing to be done. On this note, she deems she has carte blanche to de-robe and gets stuck into what she calls her proper sunbathing. (Read: improper sunbathing.)
There is no restaurant as such at Aenaon, so appetites are catered to by the multi-tasking Archangel Dennis; he has a marvellous knack of appearing only when you need him. There’s no menu, but if you’re peckish, ask your hosts to rustle up a salad or pasta dish in their little kitchen and they will. This is what I love about Aenaon – there’s just the right amount of ‘hotel’ involved. You can order snacks when you can’t be bothered to move from the poolside, but there’s no fuss, and you’re mostly left to your own devices. Everything has been fine-tuned for romantic seclusion so it’s like being on honeymoon, but without the post-traumatic stress disorder.
While Mrs Smith slowly bastes and roasts, I sip a strong iced coffee. The caffeine kick instantly renders me unable to lie still, so I pace about the huge expanses of terrace, taking photographs, talking to myself. To call the view from Aenaon ‘dramatic’ is an understatement; steep, dangerous cliffs plunge into deep inky waters of the volcanic caldera with mysterious isles dotting the kingfisher-blue horizon.
Admiring the light and how it constantly changes the landscape, I reflect that I could sit like this for hours. But as the sun begins to drop Mrs Smith, like a vampire, rises from her bed; three shades darker, she insists we galvanise ourselves to action. We take a taxi down to the old harbor at Oia and nab a table at Dimitri’s Taverna in time to see the blood-orange-red sun setting.
The seafood is as fresh as can be and we order shrimp, calamari, octopus and a rainbow of dips and salads. Dishes in busy Greek restaurants seem to arrive haphazardly but we devour each dish as it arrives and wait greedily for the next. Soon enough we’re stuffed, and we roll into our villa to fall asleep quickly to the surprisingly soporific sound of a whistling wind rattling the shutters and twirling about the terraces.
Less than one waking hour later, we’re eating again. Breakfast has been magically laid out on our table before our eyelids have even flickered. Yesterday we’d whizzed through a long tick-list of options and our choices have now manifested. I plumped for my usual boiled eggs with rye; Mrs Smith, newly emancipated from the restraints of her latest ‘bikini diet’ went berserk and ordered just about everything on the menu.
As we munch our way through a mountain of pastries and fruits and yoghurts, a thick mist descends on the luxurious villas so that only the very tops of the cliffs are visible. ‘It’s like… Dining with the Gods.’ I announce.
‘Hey, what a great idea for a TV series,’ says Mrs Smith.
And I know just where they could shoot it...