|Lobby - The Grande Bretagne (GB) - Athens|
The Butler, with our bags in tow, led us to our 7th floor junior suite on the 'Butler Floor' of the undeniably posh Athens Grande Bretagne Hotel.
Less than 10 minutes into our stay we knew why this property is part of the Luxury Hotel Collection and consistently rated by travelers as one of the top hotels in Athens.
This stay was going to be memorable.
Let the Butler Do It
'The Butler' was one of several staff members assigned the responsibility of responding to the wants and needs of those of us staying on the designated butler floors. He seemed a bit bellman and concierge rolled into one. Anything we needed 24/7, just call his number, he said as he handed us his business card. He'd shown us about our spacious room, opening curtains, explained the wi-fi and the room-card operated electricity (common throughout Europe). Did we need reservations? Recommendations? Help with anything. . .just call.
Problem was that when one lives their lives without a butler, it is difficult to think of something we needed 'buttled' as we referred to his services from then on.
|Our suite at The GB in Athens|
"Why doesn't our house look like this," asked The Scout with a big sigh as we inspected our Athenian digs.
"Well, for starters our interior walls molded while we were gone this winter and now we have the ant problem on top of it," responded his sidekick, The Scribe, who was thinking, 'I could live in a hotel like this.'
Suffice to say, the room itself -- had we never stepped outside its door -- would have been a treat of a getaway.
|Welcome: Liquor and chocolates by French pastry chef Arnaud Larher|
The attention to detail was amazing. Take that down comforter on the bed in the photo below: When made up by housekeeping the top is folded about 45 cm towards the foot of the bed then rolled back over itself to 5 cm from the edge of the fold. This, I learned from the in-room hotel magazine, lets the guest snuggle into the bed using the minimum amount of effort. My kind of bed! Housekeepers use a 10 point checklist when inspecting the made beds.
If Only the Walls Could Talk
|The hotel stairway a metaphor of its layers of history|
The layers of history at this hotel are almost dizzying. And that was a stronger enticement for us than the luxurious accommodations.
|Ambiance is unbeatable in the GB Winter Garden|
As we dined in the Winter Garden, off the lobby, we wondered how it looked in 1842 when it was built as the 90-room 'Stadtpalais' (majestic residence) of Antonis Dimitrio. His home was constructed across from the Palace of King Otto barely more than a decade after Greece achieved its independence from the Ottomans.
|18th Century tapestry in Alexander's Bar at the GB|
Or as we sat at the bar in Alexander's Bar, in the shadow of the hotel's treasured 18th Century tapestry of Alexander the Great entering Gaugamela, we pondered the massive effort undertaken by Savvas Kentros, who purchased the home for 80,000 drachmas and converted it to a hotel.
|Who's walked here before us?|
We wished the walls could talk about the decade of the 1940's when first the hotel was evacuated in October of 1940 to be used as governmental headquarters of the King, the Armed General Staff and the Allied Forces.
Or April 1941 when the invading Germans took it for the headquarters of their Wehrmacht.
|Greek flags in the morning sun from the rooftop restaurant|
Then, with the liberation of Greece in 1944, it became the seat of the new interim government and British forces.
By the late 1950's the hotel was back to being a hotel, renovations and ownership changes marked the subsequent decades. Its most recent $100 million renovation in 2003 created the property as it today.
We often sing the praises of hotel and airline loyalty programs. We are long-time members of the Marriott Hotel's loyalty program, which has become BonVoy the loyalty program of the merged Marriott and Starwood Hotel chains. The upgraded room was part of the loyalty program benefits and an example of the benefits that can be had from such programs. The room we booked was in the 250 euro ($280US) per night range; the junior suite on the Butler Floor we were upgraded to was about 350 euro ($393US) a night.
We used accumulated loyalty points -- 60,000 a night for 180,000 total - to pay for the room. Our out-of-pocket cost was 4 euro a night for the room tax levied in Greece on hotel stays.
|Acropolis from the Grand Bretagne|
If you find yourself in Greece - even if you don't stay at the hotel - we'd recommend a drink or a meal at either the Grande Bretagne or its sister Luxury Collection Hotel, the King George, next door. Both are across the street from Syntagma Square.
That's it for this week. We are back at our Stone House on the Hill in the midst of springtime projects. We are keeping busy and that is good because we can't leave Greece. No joke. And not our idea. But that's a topic to tell you about next week. Hope to see you back then and bring a friend or two as well.
Safe travels to you and yours.