Crete chic at Domes of Elounda
I have many memories of infant school: silver-topped bottles of milk at break time (yes, I am that old), jumping elastics every lunch time, and that one time I scribbled in a classmate’s text book and our teacher wrote ‘disgraceful’ in red pen across it, scaring me off rebellious behaviour for life. But one of the most distinct memories was when a girl in my class came back from her family holiday wearing a hot pink dress with hot pink tassels, and ‘Crete’ emblazoned across the front in neon. At the time, the most exotic place I had ever been was Cornwall.
Fast-forward more than a few years and while I’ve visited more than my fair share of Greek islands since the Penzance days, somehow I had never got round to fulfilling my five-year-old self’s ambition to go to Crete. And so, with half-term looming and my boyfriend’s three children in tow (one, appropriately, a few months off his fifth birthday), it was time to tick Crete off the list.
Well, it almost wasn’t, thanks to British Airways having a catastrophic IT meltdown which grounded most of the flights from the UK, and delayed ours – one of only four that left London Gatwick – for four hours. I can rage about that particular journey for more than the word allowance I give myself for these pieces, so will save you the boredom of reading one woman’s advice to an ailing airline, and say simply, when we finally did arrive in Crete, and our end destination Domes of Elounda, it was late and dark, and everyone was feeling a little miserable. Well, four of us were feeling miserable. One of us was fast asleep – that’s the advantage of being four, you get to be carried around with your eyes closed when travel plans go awry.
About five minutes later, the reason this place wins every ‘best family hotel’ award was on full display. Check-in was skipped, food was plated up and delivered to our villa, along with a bottle of wine to accompany it, and an invitation to worry about handing over credit cards, passports and the like the next morning had been made and gratefully received. The four of us still awake munched and slurped our way through bleary eyes and then hit the sack. The view might not have revealed itself until the next morning, but I need say nothing more on Domes’ service. It is faultless.
The rest of the week did not unfold without incident – peanut allergies, an attempted break-in back at our flat in London, then chicken pox – but you’re here to hear about the hotel, and that, well, that was fabulous.
We were in one of Domes’ luxury villas, with generous private pools (more than large enough for games of water polo, and, the kids would have me point out, “their own waterfall”), five-star-hotel interiors, and, of note, although I’m sure you’ll never see it in any of the brochures, the world’s teeniest dishwashers – just the right size to clean your wine glasses at the end of the day.
The resort is sprawling, to the point where the golf carts on hand to whizz you from one side to the other are a necessity rather than a luxury, and I write that as someone who hits her Fitbit 10,000 steps mark by lunchtime most days. A worthwhile walk, on the other hand, is the 20-minute amble to the nearby village of Plaka, where the sea-facing tavernas will top up your halloumi and tzatziki levels while providing a stunning view over to the former leper colony of Spinalonga.
Back at the hotel, as well as numerous swimming pools, there’s a private beach where the resort’s best restaurant, Topos, sits. We lunched here most days, saving the Italian Blend back up by the main pool for evening meals. This is resort living, so the buffet options are extensive, to say the least, but by the time everyone’s had six chocolate doughnuts for breakfast (by everyone, I mean the three children, I absolutely did not eat chocolate doughnuts for breakfast, not once, honest), some kind of portion control was needed for subsequent meals.
There is also what they call the ‘haute living’ option, which means dining at the aforementioned restaurants works on your half-board option, rather than leaving you in the buffet restaurant every night. You can also access a special lounge, which the kids worked out pretty quickly gave them a fast-track to fizzy drinks otherwise not officially sanctioned. There’s wine in plentiful supply there, too, but also a strict ‘no taking the drinks or snacks out of the lounge’ rule, which when the sun is shining makes you feel like something of an alcoholic if you’re prepared to sit inside just so your glass of vino is on the house. Children, I discovered, do not care one jot where they sit to drink 7Up, just so long as it has sugar in it and they’re not allowed to drink it at home.
Sadly, I did not return with a hot pink dress with tassels, but my inner five-year-old couldn’t quite believe her luck at landing at Domes (chocolate doughnuts for breakfast!), and my 37-year-old self was pretty damn happy, too.