Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Delphi Art

“A hotel isn't like a home, but it’s better than being a house guest.” I had to look this up – it’s by William Feather – because the Delphi Art Hotel in Athens deserves much more than a standard tourist’s website description.

Our stay here on St. Constantine Square was enjoyable and the hotel itself is a cozy example of an older hotel – a small neoclassic-style building that goes back to 1927. In time for the Olympics, it was renovated from top to bottom – and that included the management and staff. So it’s somewhat arty, comfortable and tremendously appealing. The people have a “strong service orientation.” Read this to mean we were never without a coffee or ouzo even while we played cribbage in the lobby on New Year’s Eve.

The tiny square, about the size of a house lot here in Houston, is named after Agiou Konstantinos – St. Constantine – because of the very large (and probably pretty ugly) church completed in 1896. But you can’t tell that the church is ugly on the outside because it’s draped in netting, currently undergoing a very long renovation itself. The inside is…glorious in the tradition of Greek Orthodox churches. This puts the hotel itself about four blocks west of Omonia Square, which gave us easy access to the excellent Metro station.

The Greek National Theatre across the street is also being rehabilitated. So the Delphi Art sits like a little jewel box surrounded by packing crates. The hotel’s appeal is inside.

Neat rooms, all modern conveniences and plenty of smiles make the place a treat…not quite home but warm-hearted and cheery. The current management team came with the hotel’s renovation and it’s plain where the smiles originate: Foni Bitra and her husband Christos have put their combined travel agency and professional experience into the place and made it a family operation.

Foni explained the efforts they’d put into making the Delphi Art a great place to stay – including wrestling with the city authorities to speed up refurbishment of the church, the theatre and the little square. To grow the clientele and keep it, they focus on one-to-one marketing, making each guest feel a bit more welcome and a bit more comfortable than many of the other couple of hundred four-stars available for the traveler in Athens. Check out the photos on the hotel’s website for a better look at the fixtures and fittings.

It’s no chain hotel, no costly pile in the full-dress European tradition (like, say, the five-star-plus Grande Bretagne up on Syntagma Square which, coincidentally, was German Army headquarters during the occupation of Greece in WWII.)

I’m embarrassed to say that on New Year’s Day, Christos’s mom, elegantly dressed for an upcoming lunch, emptied our ashtrays while we were talking to them. The family dropped by the hotel to break open a pomegranate in the corner of the lobby steps – a New Year’s Day good luck tradition.

William Feather was an American publisher and writer who died at the age of 92, primarily famous these days for being so damn quotable. He must have stayed in some good hotels because he got it right about the Delphi Art: it isn’t home, but we were treated much better than house-guests.

Best wishes – and many broken pomegranates to come.

1 comment:

Foni Bitra said...

I was really touched and moved reading your outstanding comments about us and our hotel.
Having guests like you and your wife make our business an absolute pleasure and it makes us feel even more responsible towards our guests.

Your description is the best advertisement we ever read about Delphi Art and be sure that we will treasure your kind words in our hearts and our files.

It would be great to welcome you again sometime in the near future (hopefully not after 15 years!) and it is needless to say that we will be glad to host any of your friends or family, making sure that they leave Athens with the same good feelings and memories you and your wife did.

We are so greatful that you have been one of the very few guests, who understood our mentality and goals.

We will keep in touch and we wish you and your family once again all the best for a joyful, healthy and full of harmony New Year.

Sunny greetings from Athens. Kindest regards...