A clue to how lush Elounda Bay Palace is. When I was first on my way there some five years ago with my friend Saz, we saw Melvyn Bragg and his wife at the luggage carousel and went over to speak to them. When they found out where we were staying - Elounda Bay Palace - the be-maned one exclaimed, 'Oh, you're at the POSH one! We're at Elounda Beach, next door!' Considering that we soon saw a uniformed driver waving a card seeking LORD BRAGG, we felt pretty good about our choice as we lugged our shabby luggage to the taxi rank. Four visits later, EBP is still the lushest resort in Crete, which in my humble opinion is the loveliest of the Greek islands.
The outdoor pool. Courtesy of Elounda Bay Palace Hotel
Our cosy, hi-tech suite (a rare combo, but one which was brilliantly done) had two steam rooms and five flatscreen TVs and a bedroom ceiling like a marble sky, but with the breathtaking Bay of Mirabella beyond our balcony, they barely got a look-in. My husband and I spent our days swimming, sunning and shrieking our way round the bay on the incomparable Crazy Sofa in a haze of Mythos beer, Dafni wine and Kitsch Revolt cocktails (champagne, vodka, strawberries) between stop-offs at the Sail-In Beach Bar, a gorgeous white-sofa-strewn space slap bang in the middle of the bay, with a perfect beach on either side. I've been in many bars during my long, lush life, but hand on heart(burn) I can honestly say that I've never been in a more beautiful one that the Sail-In at EBP.
Small and perfectly formed, the facilities of the bigger, only slightly less luxe Elounda Beach next door are a short golf cart's ride away. But anyway EBP is gorgeously situated, with no chance of the cabin fever that can afflict even the most luxurious resort after the third day. One one side, you're five minutes by cab from the small, tranquil Elounda village - lunch at Bacchus, booze at Bar 74 (motto: RELAX ON THE DAY, FUN AT NIGHT!), take a boat to wherever takes your fancy. On the other you're ten minutes from the bustling port of Agios Nikolaos on the other - take The Little Train tour of the town and reward yourself for sightseeing beyond the call of duty with Ursus Rotter (a brand of vodka - really!) cocktails at the hip, trippy Molo lounge, done up like a cubist computer game. In both places you'll be struck by how many motorbikes there are, used in a gracefully utilitarian way, rather than in a flash or macho manner, and as likely to be ridden by ladies bearing laundry as lads showing off to lasses.
A deluxe hotel suite. Courtesy of Elounda Bay Palace Hotel
Amid the loveliness of Crete, you can see signs of the economic crisis now afflicting Greece. The new buildings, almost done but stopped at the eleventh hour, their lack of windows and doors giving them them an eerie look of classical Greek architecture - abandoned before they were even finished. The way the proprietor at a local restaurant put his arm around his waitress daughter and shook his head as they stood staring out at the quiet street in front of their near-deserted dining room. I left sadly, longing to stay, but certain that the bravery, bonhomie and beauty of Crete will ensure its survival this time, as it has so many times before.