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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sweets in Crete: loving those little extras!

You love those little extras as much as I do, don't you? You know what I mean... a refreshing welcome drink (when you arrive hot and sweaty at a hotel), chocolates on the pillow with turn-down service (just when you're craving something sweet), an amuse bouche before dinner (when you're feeling hungry or just keen to have your appetite whet), or a liqueur after dinner (when you're in the mood for one drink more). Those small gestures of hospitality, whether they're innate to the culture as they are in Thailand or the Middle East, or whether they're a value-adding service, I don't care. I just appreciate that the host has gone that extra mile to make customers feel special. Whether it's about making us feel genuinely warm and fuzzy or about securing repeat business, it doesn't matter if it works and makes us happy. One independent family-owned hotel that recently impressed us with their attention to their guests was the Four Seasons Hotel Limassol, Cyprus (not part of the Four Seasons chain). On arriving in our room we found an enormous platter of fresh fruit and a bottle of Cypriot wine, the next day a small box of sublime chocolates and jellies left on our table, and on our last day, we were presented with a box of aromatic virgin olive oils (thyme & basil - yum!). We did return. And on our second visit, the departing gift was a delicious jar of local honey. The hotel's high rate of return guests is no surprise. In Crete, we've been eating at traditional tavernas and enjoying the complimentary little bottles of tsikoudhia (a clear raki-like brandy... ah, liquid travels can be so pleasurable...) and generous servings of plates of sweets at the end of each meal - preserved figs, oranges, and quinces, fresh local yoghurt, and tasty cheese pastries with honey. Can't help but love those little extras. Sweet.

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