40.Wow. It sounds so serious, solemn and mature. As if. At the threshold of 40, here I am, very much alive and kicking, feeling most of the times like a teenager. Yet with my birthday looming large, my vanity started to prick me quite badly and I felt depression kicking in. So I decided to put a stop to all of this the, reboot and change course. Instead of mopping, celebrate. With gusto. Loads of it in fact.
When I talked to my best friend about my plans for an all girl escapade, she got excited. “Yeah! This is a fantastic idea. Let’s go somewhere amazing and have the best time of our lives!”, she said.” “I propose Crete. With its striking diversity and special energy, I think it is a great option. It has snow covered peaks, garden of Eden-like plains, steep ravines and gorges and endless sandy beaches with turquoise waters; and that’s not to mention the lovely-and good looking-people, rich history and culture and divine food and drink. I should know. After all I am half Cretan”, she continued. “Of course our best bet in this island is Chania. A beautiful, enchanting city with splendid old buildings and abundant life”, she concluded. Following this spirited prologue, I didn’t need much convincing. Sophia, my aforementioned friend, also suggested that we book at Domus Renier; a quaint boutique hotel at the center of the old town, that is being praised by everyone and has been named the new jewel in Chania’s crown.This certainly sounded promising so I went along with her proposal. It was a decision that would prove to be very much rewarding.
A special birthday treat
Travel these days can be quite tiring, what with the strict security checks and long airport queues. So when we eventually landed, it was positively invigorating to get picked up by the travel agency’s driver- a sweet, polite man, who spoke highly of Domus Renier. So he whisked us to the hotel with his comfortable, air conditioned vehicle where we were met by the smiling girls at reception with a fragrant refreshing towel and a shot of a delicious, homestyle liqueur. A good -no, great!- start indeed.
We had selected the sea view suite, which was named after Lorenzo, a military man with an intriguing story. The two storey loft was beautifully appointed, elegantly furnished and equipped with the latest mod cons. The best thing though was the stunning view to the Venetian port and the old mosque. A sight for sore eyes, it was just the thing to cheer us up. The old town was beckoning for exploration, but this would have to wait.
You see this day was very special for the hotel as it marked its first year anniversary. Of course this was an amazing, delightful surprise, for me especially, as come midnight, I would too be celebrating my own birthday. They have planned a lavish celebration for the occasion and this actually suited me very well as it saved me from the trouble of organising my own thing. Plus my friend Sophia and I would now have the opportunity to socialize with some, judging from first impressions, interesting, rather charming people.
So we put on our glad rags and descended into the Domus Renier elegant living room where the hotel’s staff, contributors and other guests had gathered for a welcoming champagne. We were cordially greeted by the hotel’s charming owner, Ms Paraskevaki and the equally charming manager. This beautiful welcome set the tone.The whole atmosphere was relaxed and joyful and we soon warmed up to each other. While listening to the haunting melodies of the accomplished violinist we had a chat with the architects, Menis and George Varoudakis who were responsible for the renovation and learned some fascinating stuff. This historical townhouse dates from the Venetian occupation and it was once the home of the noble Renier family. These very rooms used to be the stamping ground of Doges, politicians, diplomats, army commanders and countesses. Countless alliances, schemes, intrigues, passionate affairs and love stories were born here and they seem to have imbued the place with an indelible, distinct energy which carries on to the present day. Perhaps this was the reason for the buoyant, feel good vibes that we all experienced during the evening.The cocktail was to be followed by dinner. So after having made some great new friends we went to the in house Zepos restaurant, which was equally enchanting. Apart from the lovely setting we were also in store for a delightful culinary experience. The menu included some inspired delicacies such as peach soup with feta and chorizo, baby shrimps with vegetables, bruschetta with veal tongue and dry anthotiro (a fantastic local cheese), veal rib with porcini and a vanilla panna cotta on top of aniseed flavored crumble with strawberries sauce.
Everything was so good so many kudos to chefs Vasilis Sikalias and Giorgos Tzortzakis and to the whole Zeppos culinary team. We vouched to return for some more!
After this magnificent feast there was -befittingly- the cutting of the cake. This too was delicious -if I wasn’t watching for my figure (I am now 40 after all!) I would have taken a third (!) helping…
Domus Renier’s beautiful, cosy and elegant birthday celebration was completed with a special gift. The hotel’s owners have preserved the old, original tiles from the building and transformed them into unique, decorative presse papiers which they gave to all the attendants. They were lovely; hand painted, depicting the pomegranate which is the symbol of good luck and abundance.
As this was in effect the first thing I received for my birthday (the celebrations lasted well into midnight!), I took it as a good sign, an omen if you will, that this would be the beginning of a truly blissful year. After all the (dreaded) 40’s actually started remarkably well with this great party of Domus Renier. With no sign of the earlier, impending depression and my spirits considerably up I wished happy birthday to us both and vouched to celebrate all of my anniversaries here, henceforth!