Sunday, June 16, 2019

Costa Navarino~ A Road Trip Out of Greece

We've just returned to Greece. . .or at least it feels that way. 

Pylos town - Greek Peloponnese

You see we took a road trip to a luxury resort not far from our house. A sprawling oasis of pure bling with two five-star hotels, an enormous spa and so many top-notch restaurants that you could lose count of them all. It is the type of place you'd find in Hawaii and Arizona; similar to posh places in France and Italy . . . for that matter, on our glitzy islands, Santorini or Mykonos. But, Messinia?!



Sailboats docked at Pylos harbor - Peloponnese

We'd driven northwest from our home in The Mani, past Kalamata and then across Pylia, the most western Peloponnese 'finger'. Like most road trips in this area we'd slowed for farmers on tractors and had passed a dozen or so mom-and-pop fruit stands that line the narrow two-lane road that serves as a 'highway' here.  Our route took us through villages so small that a mere blink and you'd miss them; each with some distinctly Greek name,like, Neromylos, water mills.

A common sight on the roads of Pylia this time of year

Eventually signs directed us to an even more narrow road that wound through an ancient olive grove, and then another turn and we were on way to the resort's security gate at the end of a landscaped drive. A gate we wouldn't have gotten past without reservations, I might add.

Fruit stands line the highway - it is orange season


Two hours after leaving home, we'd arrived at Costa Navarino, the 321-acre resort featuring side-by-side hotels --The Westin and Romanos Luxury Collection -- two golf courses, an enormous spa, conference facilities to serve 1,700 and so many swimming pools and high end restaurants that we lost count of them all.

From Agios Nikolaos on the right to Romanos on the left

The lobby of the small  Kalamata Airport, some 40 minutes away from the resort, is a showroom for the resort. Enormous photos, maps and information - you can't miss the hype for the ultra luxury experience to be had at this place. Each time we saw the display, we'd say we should check it out. Finally, we did!

The resort opened in May 2010, a few years before we happened upon the Messinian region of the Peloponnese. At the time of its opening, it featured The Dunes 18-hole golf course. A second course, The Bay, opened the following year. (Two more courses are being developed in the area of Navarino Hills.)

A view of The Dunes golf course - Costa Navarino

Since we can't yet travel outside Greece (still waiting for those residence permits), this seemed a perfect destination for last week's road trip. While the valet parked our car, we were greeted by a charming receptionist from Venice and we were settled in our room shortly after 1 p.m.

Center of The Westin Lobby - Costa Navarino

The common area décor was simply understated elegance.  The guest suites posh and amenities luxurious.  We felt as if we'd left the Greek world we know and entered a different one.  There was at ubiquitous resort feel ~ it could have been a resort anywhere in the world.

'Agora's' restaurants and big screen - Costa Navarino

At times when strolling its grounds, with no sign of the Mediterranean Sea, (it is set back from the beach for environmental reasons) we'd comment that it felt like we were in Scottsdale, Arizona. And there's nothing wrong with that!

Our 'family suite' had two full bathrooms and large deck

For those of us who live in Greece and who would like a change of scenery and tastes, it was perfect option. We were upgraded -- thanks to the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy hotel loyalty program -- to what is called a 'family suite' - a room large enough that we could have lived in the place. It was difficult to pull ourselves away from our room.

One Man's Dream

A bit of Navarino Bay
Captain Vassilis Constantakopulos from Diavolitsi, a small village with 854 residents, about 39 km from Kalamata, had the vision for putting his Messinian homeland on the tourist map. After a few decades at sea, he founded a successful shipping company, expanded into other businesses and by 1980 had conceived the vision of Costa Navarino. While he retired in 2005 and turned the business over to family, he lived to see the resort open. He died in 2011.

He'd likely be quite proud of the award-winning resort these days as  among its accolades are: National Georgraphic Travel Editors named it one of the 20 Best Destinations in the World, it was named the European Golf Resort of the Year in 2017 by the Golf Tourism Association and The Westin has been voted the "Best Family Destination' in The Mediterranean. 


A Sustainable Destination

The resort's web site proudly claims to be 'the prime sustainable destination in the Mediterranean.' After seeing first-hand the environmental and socio-economic efforts going on here, they certainly have a right to such a boast.
Beach café has limited operation in deference to the turtles

Let's start at the beach:  The restaurant, with the most beautiful undulating canvas roof I've ever seen, operates only in the daytime. At sundown the beach belongs to the turtles as explained in the sign in the photo.


A Blue Flag beach - Costa Navarino
The beach is also one of only a few hundred in all of Greece to be awarded the Blue Flag designation. Criteria for the flag recognition include: cleanliness, water quality, organization, swimmer safety, and environmental protection.


How old is this tree?!?!? we exclaimed.

 The development also has the Navarino Pet Community animal adoption center, a place that is open to guests to visit and adopt previously unwanted animals who are cared for by a team of volunteers. Forty animals have found new 'fur-ever' homes thanks to those volunteers.

A decade ago the founders of Costa Navarino formed a partnership with the academic community and created the Navarino Environmental Observatory that operates with a focus on research and educational programs on climate change and the environment.

Keeping locals employed and able to live in Messinia was part of the founder's original vision. Producing Navarino Icons, the private resort label of products including wine, olives and olive oil is one way of doing that. (You can find these at Dean and Deluca and Whole Foods in the US and Marks and Spencer in the UK).

Security guard at work - Costa Navarino

Perhaps the favorite part of our stay was the morning breakfast buffet, which was included in the room rate.  Food displays filled two interior  rooms of a large restaurant and guests sat in an open air covered terrace area.  Aside from the food, what made breakfast a treat was 'the security guard' who roamed (with his handler) through the restaurant.  

Being open air, we learned the sparrows that swoop, dive and entertain throughout the grounds had been little pests: dive-bombing tables and making away with food. With a hawk keeping watch they haven't had that problem. And as the handler said with a smile, "The sparrows don't know he is tethered to me!" They keep their distance now!

On that note it is time to thank you for the time you've spent with us at Costa Navarino and we hope you'll be back next week when we take a look at the realities of road trips and driving in Greece!  Hope to see you again soon! Safe travels to you and yours ~

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8 comments:

  1. I hope your Greek residence permits come through soon, but if you're still there at the end of September, we will on Crete and visiting Athens. You're right, the Costa Navarino is very reminiscent of an Arizona type resort. I guess sometimes it's nice to take a vacation from your real life----even if your real life is in a charming spot on the Peloponnese!

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  2. Soon may not be an operative word in this process. Our attorney tells us that as of last week our applications haven't even been looked at so we've got a summer of Greek road trips ahead. We are sadly going to miss you in September I think as we return to the States in mid-Sept. (it is allowed even without permits).

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  3. Oh nice! It does remind me of a golf resort in Arizona or Palm Springs. Hoping your visas come through soon, if it's anything like here, you go into end of July and you can forget about it till September. It's nice that this is only a couple of hours away from you. With all the islands at your disposal, you might not miss the long wait.

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    1. No such luck it sounds like. . .as of last week, 2.5 months after submitting the renewal paperwork, it hasn't yet been looked at. . .not sure if it is even in Athens yet for the review and was told it likely won't happen until after the elections which take place July 7th.

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  4. That tree is amazing! Wow!
    Thanks for sharing your photos with us at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/06/classical-art.html

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  5. Beautiful.
    www.rsrue.blogspot.com

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  6. That looks like a really lovely resort. Nice to treat yourself now and then to something really special. I think having the hawk in the dining room is a great idea, and we have been to places with a sparrow problem at breakfast too. Happy travels! enjoy the rest of your week, and thank you for stopping by my blog this week.

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We have been having problems in recent weeks with our comment section and I am not quite sure how to fix it. Thanks for letting us know. Some comments have been coming in as emails, so I will respond to those as I get them.

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