Join me for ...

Join me for ...
... a journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes of Greece
... wanderings through the less traveled mainland and islands of Greece
... a pilgrimage into the deep vistas of the land of the gods

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hotel Laguna’s Beacon: Old World Charm

In the early 1930’s, it was said that it was the huge neon sign that served as a beacon for those traveling north and south on the Pacific Coast Highway.

And, just as moths are drawn to the flame, a parade of pilgrims followed the bright, oversized, rather garish beacon to Hotel Laguna, the first lodge of its kind to debut on picturesque, romantic, Laguna Beach, Orange County, California. Alas, the beacon came down in the mid-1960’s, but today it is word of mouth from seekers of old world charm that draws the discriminating visitor to Hotel Laguna.

I had the pleasure of walking in the footsteps of luminaries such as Joan Fontaine, James Irvine, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and John Barrymore, to drop just a few names. Their signatures, and those of many other stars, can be seen on the guest registration books, now part of the hotel’s historical records. Today it still serves as a secret hideaway for certain stars and Hollywood moguls seeking a comfortable respite from the limelight.

My visit was not to escape, but to spend precious time with relatives, who lived nearby in Newport Beach and Laguna Woods. Rather than stay with them and travel back and forth on the Pacific Highway, I booked a room and invited them to join me for breakfast, dinner, and afternoons on the beach. It was a relaxing stay for me and a perfect way for me to entertain my family and not burden them with entertaining me.

Founded 82 years ago, the “Grand Old Lady,” as she is sometimes known, went through a number of transformations and one demolition before the major makeover in 1985, which gave her an ageing European grace, but maintained her pride of place directly on Laguna Beach. Amenities include a Day Spa for hair styling, manicure, pedicures, and massage therapy. Many guests schedule a spa visit after a day on a beach, where, by the way, lunch will be served to you as you lounge on your beach chair.

Hotel Laguna has 65 rooms, which, because of the age of the hotel, are comfortable, but basic. There are plans underway for major renovations, but in the meantime, please be aware that it is primarily the hotel’s old world charm, service, and location that make it the perfect choice for a stay along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The hotel’s location is in the center of town, directly on the beach, and its front opens to the shops and boutiques of the charming town. It is very popular in the winter months, so do plan ahead; the ocean view rooms and those with views of the Rose Garden are most popular. If you prefer to be part of the hustle and bustle of the town of Laguna, ask for a room overlooking the shops.

Planning a wedding? Do you dream of exchanging vows while your toes are in the sand and the waves are splashing at the water’s edge? No one does a beach wedding like Hotel Laguna. Have a look at comments on Trip Advisor.

The food is varied and tasty and The Ocean View Bar and Grill is a dinner destination for many “in the know” local residents. My brother, who appreciates fine food and a relaxed ambiance, joined me there twice for meals.

The bar overlooks the beach and whether you are having breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you are guaranteed a spectacular view of what some call “The California Riviera.”

At breakfast, if you are greeted with “Good Morning Sunshine,” you will know you are being welcomed by the vivacious Eugenia, whose personality alone makes a visit to Hotel Laguna a unique experience.

The world-renowned Hotel Laguna rooms feature a unique and incomparable experience. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors and floral scents of the Rose Garden, the ocean breeze flowing through your windows, or the hustle and bustle of the shops and boutiques along South Coast Highway, our Hotel Laguna rooms take you away from the daily grind and into an unforgettable getaway.

Hotel Laguna is located at 425 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA. 92651. Parking is beside the hotel, the beach is in front, the spa on the ground floor, and the shops, attractions, and free, sight-seeing trolley, are steps away.

 Because of the beautiful weather and higher temperatures in Laguna Beach, summer room rates apply from May 1 through September 30. For further information, please visit the hotel’s website at or call 949.494.1151.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Magic Moments at Anthemus

“Suddenly, at my bed side was golden sandaled Dawn.” 
~ Sappho, Lyric Poet (630-612 to 570 BCE)

Some say it can take just one “magic moment” to define an experience that will last a lifetime. Such a moment was mine at the Anthemus Sea Beach Resort in Halkidiki, Northern Greece. Let us set the scene. I had not a room, but a suite, complete with a whirlpool, walk-in shower, large living/dining room and my very own private swimming pool near the patio, reached through a glass door extending from floor to ceiling. And through this glass door, each morning, I was awakened by Dawn, standing by my bedside, wearing golden sandals.

Anthemus was my only stop on the lovely Elia Coast on Sithonia, the second peninsula, during a self indulgent, month-and-a-half-long spa odyssey at five-star hotels in the “secret paradise” of Northern Greece. The hotel is noted for its Oriental Spa, named one of the world’s best by HolidayCheck, a leading travel website. During my stay there I luxuriated in the distinctive spa services and relaxed in a private space designed for pampering. When I walked into my suite, I knew that the gods had smiled upon me.

It was an easy drive from Kassandra to Sithonia. The views of the countryside do not prepare you for the beauty that greets you once you pull off the main road at your destination. I was greeted by a gurgling fountain marking the gateway to a very special oasis within.

Anthemus rests on a picturesque bay next to a sandy beach and offers desirable seclusion for a most relaxing and rejuvenating holiday. There are 202 rooms and suites available for singles, couples and families, all aesthetically pleasing. Guests have the choice of accommodations with a balcony or a veranda that provides direct access to a garden, and all rooms have breathtaking views of the sea or pinewoods. It is a hidden paradise.

There is not one, but three outdoor pools, including one for children, and one has an integrated Jacuzzi. If you choose to swim indoors, you will find a heated pool and a most unusual pool in a “cave room.” For guests who are invigorated by athletic activities, you can go scuba diving, play beach volleyball, workout in the fitness center, play golf or go mountain biking or hiking. I chose to be sedentary and indulged myself in the oriental spa services.

Many people come to the Anthemus Sea Beach Hotel for the spa services because they are distinctively oriental and designed to promote relaxation and rejuvenation. How could one not be rejuvenated after a swim in the freshwater pool, a whirlpool soak with a jet massage, an hour long Lotus Harmony Massage by two therapists, a foot reflexology treatment, finished with a nap on a relaxing bed? It was a treat to be so pampered in the hands of these expertly trained relaxation therapists.

The choice between using my private pool and the beach was difficult, but I solved this by going to the beach in the afternoon and enjoying my pool in the evening when the music was soft and the lights dim. One evening I ordered a snack and it was delivered to the patio at poolside. Bliss.

Anthems’ personable sales manager, Sakis Gililoudis, was my host for a sumptuous dinner on the Roof Garden Restaurant especially prepared for us by Euripides Tzinopoulos, Executive Chef, who chose our menu for us at Mr. Gililoudis’ request. My entrĂ©e was a grilled sea bass that was the most flavorful I have ever enjoyed, paired with grilled vegetables and freshly baked bread. A glass of excellent white chardonnay completed the meal.

The following menu was prepared for us from chef Evripidis:


  • Tartar from tuna fish with cucumber, tomato, fresh coriander and soya sauce 
  • Dumplings filled with Feta cheese mousse, mint, dried tomatoes and olives with pomegranate syrup and pistachios


  • Salad with honey melon, watermelon, goat cheese by Stathoris from Athos, rocket and extra virgin olive oil dressing from Sithonia, aged vinegar Gerovasileiou and molasses by Marianna

Main Courses:

  • Grilled black cod with mirin and miso (for you) 
  • Shank from lamb with mint sauce and wine by Livadiotis (merlot-cabernet), bulgur wheat and mirepoix of vegetables (for me)

The hotel opened in 1992 with sixty rooms, and during the past decade, additional rooms were added for a total of two hundred and two. The largest percentage of guests—forty—come from Germany, fifteen per cent each are from Russia and the Balkan countries, and the rest are from Greece, the U.K., Scandinavia and western Europe. Mr. Gililoudis estimated that there are ten to twelve flights daily between Germany and the Makedonia Airport in Thessaloniki, four or five from Russia and three or four from England. The Makedonia airport is an easy ninety-five kilometer drive from the hotel.

If you are from the States and mistake the Anthemus Sea Beach Hotel and Spa for the Hamptons, the south fork of New York’s Long Island, you will be forgiven. Both are highly desirable locations distinguished by luxury, elegance, and serenity. They are so similar in atmosphere and amenities that the Anthemus Sea Beach Hotel could well be called “The Hamptons of Halkidiki.” I don’t know what is offered at the Hamptons, but I do know that at Anthemus you will find a “magic moment” to satisfy all of your senses.

This article also appears in Luxe Beat Magazine