Sunday, February 24, 2008

Forest Park Hotel - Platres, Cyprus

How can one do justice to the eccentric majesty that is the Forest Park Hotel in mere words?

Perhaps you can get the best impression of the place by checking its website here. Like the reality, it's all a bit old-school, but terribly well intended. Some days it works perfectly, other days you have to hit the refresh button a few times. As the Overview page says, the Forest Park has a style all of its own...

But don't stop at the overview page, the history and famous visitor sections are a must. Yes, we're following in the footsteps of royalty, presidents, famous authors and Telly Savalas...

The place resounds with the feeling of former times, but it's all spotlessly clean and recent refurbs ensure that it's a case of former, not faded glories.

The best advice I have is sit back and go with the flow. If you're expecting 21st century corporate bland service, you're in the wrong place. However, if you can appreciate the joy of sitting in a 50s style lounge room, with roaring log fire, whilst a waiter with shades on Manuel serves you a Brandy Sour cocktail, then you're in for a treat.

Other advice would be:

Indoor swimming pool - incredibly unpleasant taste (no I wasn't drinking it, but some inhalation is inevitable). Not sure if this is natural due to source of water (spa?), or chemicals added; either way it tastes like the aftertaste you get when you use antibiotic eyedrops...

This unpleasant feature can be easily overcome, by the use of some tic-tacs. They have a two-fold benefit: a) they mask the foul taste and b) sucking on one whilst swimming encourages you to keep your mouth extra shut.

Be careful not to exhale too abruptly though, or mints will escape and it transpires they don't really dissolve (so we can rule out acid then...) and you're left having to dive down to retrieve tiny white pills that show up a surprising amount in a still pool...

Dining - best not to really. Nothing that would poison you but for a four star hotel, you'd expect crab and avocado salad to not have to resort to crab sticks...
The bar food by contrast is simple and well executed. Except the tuna fish salad. Listed as tuna, lettuce, anchovies, capers and onions (and hence ordered as a nice light, fresh snack), I was a little surprised to be served this:

Yes, that really is just a huge pile of tuna-potato-mayo.

When the subject was raised with the waiter (who appeared to be covering the formal dining room, the lounge and the bar and was generally to be seen dashing up and down the marbled corridor from one role to the next), he charmingly and apologetically responded "oh! I made the wrong thing". It seems he was also the chef...

Breakfast is a bit random, but extensive and broad in range and arrangements from completely buffet style to part buffet, part prepared to order, seem to change daily.

However, in counter-balance to the slightly strange pool and decidedly disappointing evening dining, the rest of the experience more than compensates. The rooms are comfy and clean, the communal areas are extensive (you can get lost if you go exploring) and in the most part beautifully maintained, the location and grounds are stunning, the service charming and friendly and the whole tone set by the two rather eccentric elderly brother proprietors, the wonderfully named Mr Hercule and Mr Anthony Skyrianides.

The most outgoing of the two could not be more friendly as he charms the guests and seems to consider it his personal duty to make sure you're ok and know the way to the ski slopes ("follow me!") etc.

If you like the identikit reliability of a Holiday Inn then this isn't the place for you, but if you want old-school charm Cyprus style I highly recommend it.

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