Pampered Like a Pasha at the Miramare on Rhodes
by Andrew Leech

Deciding what to do in summer can often be a thorny issue and, as usual, we fought about where to go. Jenny just wanted to lie around and ‘chill out,’ while I wanted ‘something to do and somewhere to go.’ Then someone mentioned Rhodes; with castles, museums and history galore for the ‘doers’ and beaches and secluded coves for the less energetic. However, we still hadn’t found anywhere to stay. It had to be near the sea, but we also wanted a large pool. It had to serve attractive, yummy, food, but be near bars and bistros in case we wanted a change of scenery. And, finally, it had to have a history of good service and be an interesting place to stay at that was conveniently located for touring to other, equally interesting, places.

It took a few days of searching, reading others’ impressions and scanning sites like Trip Advisor before we decided on the Miramare Wonderland at Ixia. Jenny loved the pool and the immediate seafront. I liked the menus and the secluded quietness of the villas dotted around the wide expanse of grass and gardens, with every kind of plant that would, and could, flourish and thrive in that particular climate; giving the impression of living in a sort of botanical garden (we later learnt it had three permanent gardeners tending it all year round).

A last point was how to travel. Usually we take the car to islands, but increased boat prices (and length of journey) made it a poor choice, now. However, flight prices had recently dropped and, courtesy of Athens Airways (a new carrier with superb service), we finally flew cheaper than we would have paid going by sea, using a hired car for local touring.

Arriving at the Miramare at 8.30 am, we started to get a taste of the service we would soon learn was standard. Although nearly 4 hours ahead of our scheduled check-in time, they didn’t bat an eyelid; just took our luggage, transferred it to the villa and invited us to have breakfast while we waited for the maid to finish. I must admit I was hungry after such an early morning flight and really enjoyed a custom made three-egg omelette, packed with bacon, sliced peppered sausage, mushrooms and assorted vegetables – all cooked in front of me by a dusky smiling lady chef. This was followed by a couple of brioches and choices from a very impressive cheese board. In fact, the breakfast buffet was so large and varied it would have taken about a week to sample everything! I was also pleased at the fact the dinner menu choices were available in the morning, allowing you to decide whether you would eat in, or sample one of the nearby local restaurants.

The next surprise was the 50 m2 villa. Without saying anything, the Miramare had upgraded us to a cut above what we had paid for; the manager, Mr Ilias Charos, telling us with a smile “it was free on your holiday dates, so it might as well be used.” We had been in the Miramare for only 2 hours, but we already felt happy, relaxed and really looking forward to the rest of our holiday. We knew we were going to be pampered and were determined to fully enjoy it!

A small point, but an important one, was the provision of kettles and a full kitchen for preparing snacks for ‘emergency’ mid morning breaks or late night suppers, with our maid giving her name and telling us to call reception and leave a message for anything we wanted. Very professional, I thought – and my opinion of the establishment was going up by leaps and bounds.

Jenny immediately followed her instincts of lie, tan, swim and read, by placing a sunbed in a secluded knoll of trees in front of the pool, while I explored. I was entranced by the mini-railway (a replica of a 19th century train) that chugged itself regularly round 3.5 km of extensive track (set in immense grounds and1.5 kilometres of sea front), and hopped on for a sightseeing trip. I knew from earlier reading that the Miramare had originally been built by Aristotle Onassis, as a personal retreat, in the 1950s, but had undergone several renovations since (In fact there was one taking place currently, with several villas being upped to super de-luxe standards with private pools and jacuzzis). The building style was rather Spanish ‘rustic’ at first glance, particularly those areas near the entrance and main restaurant, but elsewhere it mingled with other country-style architecture.

However, I always judge a place on its food and service, and I was not let down; both were excellent. On service I would like to mention one instance I will never forget. One evening, after a late dinner, my wife, who has osteo-arthritis, had great difficulty in walking. Although my son and I could have supported her - her arms round our shoulders - the manager wouldn’t hear of it and found someone to start the train (the driver had left for the night), insisting that she be comfortably transported to our chalet. It is little things like this that remain in one’s memory after the holiday is over and contribute to the feelings of warmth that linger on, well after the holiday is over.

The Miramare is not cheap but, on the other hand, it is not wildly expensive. It is a fair price for an extremely relaxing base while you either tour Rhodes or simply chill out. Furthermore, the layout within its extensive grounds meant that you were both near amenities – such as the massive swimming pool, sea or marine-sports centre where you could jet-ski or windsurf – yet very privately and pleasantly secluded. Most definitely a place I want to revisit!

There is a Greek word ‘meraki’ that means something was done with care, attention and love; for me the attention given to visitors by the Miramare staff deserves this word. I was made to feel like a pasha, and I was pampered – and it felt good!

(Posting date 23 May 2010. Previously published by ELT News in February 2010.)

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