The Poseidonion, Spetses, Greece
La Grande Dame of the tiny, verdant island
in the Argo-Saronic gulf
Crossing over from the Peloponnese to Spetses by sea taxi takes about fifteen minutes. As you approach the island, the Poseidonion hotel becomes clearer and clearer, and it becomes the central, focal point due to the predominantly French style of its architecture. When you first see it, you find yourself wondering what it has in common with the rest of the island’ s style, but the truth is, I couldn’ t imagine Spetses without it.
When the Poseidonion was built in 1914, there was no other hotel quite like it anywhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. It’ s owner, Sotirios Anargyros, from an old island family, envisioned it being visited by members of the Athenian élite, after travelling and staying at various resorts in the south of France during the Belle Époque. Up until that time, wealthy Athenians would go hunting in Spetses in the autumn, as the island found itself a stopping point for birds migrating south from Europe to Africa before the onset of winter – turtle doves, quail and woodcocks would come flocking in.
A luxury hotel would also bring in the crowds during the summer months, and the fact that the original intent, that it resemble the Carlton in Cannes, or the Negresco in Nice, was the reason for its being constructed in the French style, with the grandeur of its entrance, the cast-iron railings of its balconies and its domed roof which very much resembled an overturned boat hull.
The Poseidonion entered my life significantly when it was on its last legs. I had grown up and was living in Italy. For two weeks every summer, I would accompany my mother there as she was too used to her yearly visits there to want to change. She always booked the same room on the top floor, over the central entrance flanked with Doric columns. When we arrived and I opened the shutters out onto the verandah, I could hear her say behind me, with a smile in her voice:
“Such a view doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world! My mother used to say the same!”
For three generations to say such a thing upon opening the shutters must surely mean that the view was truly spectacular. The sea, with its perpetual motion of sailboats, fishing boats and yachts, while the shores of the Peloponnese could clearly be seen with the Arcadian mountains further behind. And there was Hydra, with the sun setting behind it, a sunrise that is one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.
The past few years there have been several rumours that investors have been found to bring the Poseidonion up to par with past glory: you could see the staff whispering, hopefully; visiting friends to the island speaking of it; but nobody believed it, as I didn’t, as the wait stretched out interminably and we returned each year to the room on the second floor with the Greek flag waving outside above us.
But the old Grande Dame stood on... and waited patiently... until the day for the great news finally came. When her doors were reopened in 2009, it really came as no surprise, as she only rightfully reclaimed the place that had always been hers. A hotel/palace with guests strolling through the lovely lounge areas; numerous staff at their places, waiting to serve; a first-class restaurant; paintings with a maritime theme; and the rooms decorated in perfect luxury. Just like the Carlton in Cannes, or other similar hotels of the French Riviera. Maybe even better, as a happy balance was struck among old grandeur, comfort and naturalness.
An excerpt from the book: GREECE, The Dance of the Seas