October 22 2011
Sometimes, you don’t feel like staying in a five-star hotel. You don’t want identikit bedrooms, embellished bedspreads, and endless expanses of polished marble. What you really want is a room with a view that feels like home, where you’re welcomed with genuine warmth. I’ve found a place that fits the bill: Hotel Doma, an enchanting throwback to a bygone era on the outskirts of Chania, in western Crete.
“C’est un chic fou!” Melina Mercouri exclaimed when she first set eyes on Doma, an old-fashioned Greek word for “the best room in the house”. The two ground-floor parlours, decked in embroideries and an exquisite collection of headdresses, certainly make an impression. But every one of the 24 rooms and suites, simply furnished with antiques and bold patterned textiles, feels special. (Although none are quite as special as the top-floor suite, with a large private terrace overlooking the bay.)
Originally built in the late 19th century as the Austro-Hungarian consulate, the hotel opened in 1971. Since then, Doma has been owned and run by Irene Valyraki and Ioanna Koutoudaki, two octogenarian sisters who are as perfectly preserved as the period interiors. Their gracious hospitality is a masterclass in attentive discretion. On arrival, you’re greeted with a saucer of candied orange peel decorated with frangipani blossoms and given your own front door key, so you can come and go as you please.
In the top-floor dining room, a traditional Cretan breakfast is laid out on crisp linens: yoghurt with thyme honey and walnuts, brittle rusks and briny olives, dainty pots of homemade preserves and cinnamon biscuits. The obliging staff, who seem to belong here as much as the antique engravings and family photographs, bring pots of coffee and freshly pressed orange juice to every table. Picture windows are flung open to catch the sea breeze.
Every thoughtful detail adds to the sense that you’re staying in a thoroughly classy establishment. As a travel journalist noted when he visited Hotel Doma in August 1972: “It is C class, but in everything that really matters to the traveller it outshines A class hotels.”
Standard suite €145, executive suite €300, including breakfast.