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First Four Seasons Hotel to open on my childhood’s favorite beach in Vouliagmeni

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A. have announced plans to bring the first Four Seasons hotel to Greece on the Astir Palace peninsula. Following extensive upgrades to the existing hotel, the new hotel will debut as Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens in spring 2018. The luxurious complex in one of the most beautiful places of the Athens Riviera was offered for privatization in the context of the second bailout agreement between Greece and international creditors in 2012.  The Greek National Bank had a lion’s share, with the Greek state to own a small stake.

Located 25 kilometres south of Athens and 24 kilometres from the Athens airport in the area of Vouliagmeni along a pristine shoreline of the Aegean coast, “the new hotel will bring Four Seasons signature service to Greece for the first time,” the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts said in a statement.

The Astir Palace has long been favored by elite international and Greek clientele. In addition to the hotel, the peninsula, stretched across 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine-dotted and scenic landscaped gardens, also comprises upscale retail and dining options, including Matsuhisa Athens by Nobu; Astir Beach, a unique seaside concept; Astir Marina; and high-end seafront residences.

“Astir Palace has always been a landmark destination of international stature, located in the Athenian Riviera, one of the most coveted areas in Greece,” says Stelios Koutsivitis, CEO, Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A. “We are strongly committed to embrace its legacy and elevate Astir Palace to a world-class premium destination. Our redevelopment plan includes the Hotel’s complete renovation, a significant upgrade of Astir Marina, the advancement of Astir Beach, the development of up to 13 high-end residences, and the creation of Peninsula Park.”

“As one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations, Greece has long been an area of interest for Four Seasons and we are pleased to mark our entry into this important market in partnership with Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A.,” says J. Allen Smith, president and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “The hotel’s location offers a unique combination of seaside tranquility and easy accessibility to Athens city center, making it an ideal destination for leisure and business travelers year round. ”

In preparation for the hotel’s rebirth as the new Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, more than EUR 100 million is being invested into refurbishing its facilities. Features will include:

approximately 300 rooms, suites and luxury bungalows;
spa and recreational facilities;
state of art conference and event spaces;
infinity pools;
beaches;
a unique beachfront promenade;
and more.

Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A. (“Astir Palace”) is a hospitality market leader with a history of over 50 years during which it became a world renowned luxury destination. The company is currently undergoing a major redevelopment of its portfolio, including the re-launch of the hotel as Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, the upgrade of Astir Marina and Astir Beach, the development of up to 13 high-end residences and the creation of the Peninsula Park.

The company was acquired by Jermyn Street Real Estate Fund IV LP (“Jermyn Street”) in October 2016 in a transaction that valued Astir’s share capital at EUR 444 million. Jermyn Street, advised by London-based AGC Equity Partners, is an investment fund whose investors comprise two sovereign state funds from Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, other Arab investors and the Turkish Dogus Group.

Although the Astir Palace complex was offered by Greek Privatization Fund (TAIPED) in 2012 and the Jermyn Steeet Fund made the best offer a year later, the deal was delayed as several ministries and courts involved raised founded objections for several reasons.

One of the objections had to do with the construction plans of the new owner. In May 2015, Greece’s Council of State rejected the plan to build 100 bungalows would “burden the natural environment of the peninsula of  Mikro Kavouri” (Small Crab) as the area is called. The plan was modified, the protected area is 217,000 sq m instead of 140,000 sq.m, the number of bungalows to be built is limited to 15.

The final form of the presidential decree essential for the sale foresees among others also  construction height does not exceed 7.5m in order not to alternate the texture of the surface.

Free access to the archaeological site of the Temple of Apollo Zostir should be ensured.

Image result for Temple of Apollo Zoster

The Temple is right behind one of the beaches of Astir Palace.

Image result for Temple of Apollo Zoster

Image result for Temple of Apollo Zoster

Video – Drone: Temple and Beach

Access to the Temple will be possible through the public road and at certain days and hours.

The Temple of Apollo Zostir (zone) was founded in the sixth century BC. It was transformed into a church in the early years of Christianity.

The temple was uncovered in 1924 when children from the Vouliagmeni Orphanage were playing on what is now known as the Astir Beach. The site now lies sunken, at the back of the Beach, and is surrounded by a lawn and hedges. The Temple is almost at sea level, and so is often flooded outside the summer months. Excavations were undertaken by the archaeologists K Kourouniotes and M Pittidis during 1926-7.

How is it possible that an archaeological site belongs to a private property? In other times and under different circumstances, this would be a scandal and archaeologist Council would never allow this to happen. What??? The deal was signed end of 2016? Go figure…

According to website kourdistoportokali.gr, the public land where the hotel complex is situated was bought in 1959 by the Greek Church. Apparently, laws for the protection of archaeological sites were different back then. And nowadays? Where the investment in the old Athens airport Elliniko is being delayed again and again because ‘an old stone’ is discovered here and an other one there? It must be one of the notorious Greek mysteries….

by the way, also the Lake of Vouliagmeni with its famous natural spa water has been privatized. Low-income Greeks who would enjoy a cheap thermal bath, saw suddenly that the ticket prices went up to 10 euro and 12 on the weekends.

Swims and free camping on Vouliagmeni peninsula

When I was a child we used to go to Laimos (the ‘Neck”) for a swim or even a free camping under the pine trees over the weekends. Laimos is called the narrow sandy piece of land connecting the peninsula of Mikro Kavouri to the mainland. I was always so exited and a bit scared when my father would announce “We go to Laimos”.  The road was full of curves and pines trees and sea in front and on both sides. After we would pass the Laimos land tongue,the only think you could see between the trees was the blue sea. My father would always take us to the very end of the road, of any road, because he was thinking there ‘was the best view’ – and the best octopus and fish, if at the sea side. On my part, I was often thinking we were driven to the edge, and we were going to fall into the sea together with the car. We never fell and the award for this nightmare touring the last hundred meters of peninsula was plenty of hours under the sun and in and out the sea.

Another confusing thing during these family excursions to Laimos was the phrase “We pass by  Astir bells.”  I was always looking for some huge bells between the pine trees -or where they at the sea shore? – and never saw any. It’s just a linguistic issue. Because in Greek we call ‘bungalows’ …’bells’ = kampanes.

PS Now I swim on the other side of Laimos and the Small Crab, at the beaches down the Vouliamgeni lake. All through the summer,  I had the opportunity see construction works in Astir Palace.

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