With Israel imploding, heat waves unfolding, and piles of work loading our desks, my family and I had been counting down to our holiday in Crete for weeks. At the sumptuous brand new Isla Brown Chania Hotel; my daughter, her two little boys, and I were upgraded to the Honeymoon Suite, complete with a private pool and direct view over the shimmering Aegean Sea. I didn’t even stay in such luxury on my own honeymoon; it seemed like a Greek mythological way to unwind, get fat and tanned, and treat the grandchildren to some heavenly days... all for free.
I had already planned the review in my head: towels: tick; comfortable beds: tick; delish buffets; tick. As fun an assignment as one could dream of.
Early on Tuesday morning my son-in-law drove us to the airport and we bade him a sad goodbye; I felt bad that he was not joining us. The boys shared a hot chocolate, drinking happily from the same cup; we bought them a little Lego and a fluffy toy, and, super-excited, climbed the steps to the plane. That’s when our five-year-old grandson started to throw up.
By the time we got to the hotel he had vomited six times – twice in the plane, in the airport, the taxi, the hotel lobby, the room – and my daughter had contacted her pediatrician back home. He diagnosed viral meningitis and ordered us to hospital immediately. Our baby was so weak by then that we were extremely, extremely scared; an ambulance would take an hour to arrive and then 45 minutes to the nearest hospital; the same with a taxi.
This is where my skill with words is simply not good enough: I cannot adequately describe how the Isla Brown angels sprang into action. Michael Metaxas, COO for Brown Resorts Greece, organized George, the terrace barman, to race us to the hospital in his car; Akis, the bars manager, jumped on his motorcycle and accompanied us. George brought my older grandson and me back to our honeymoon suite to collapse; Akis stayed with my daughter till deep into the night and literally held her up in her hardest moments. Katerina, the gorgeous customer service manager couldn’t have been kinder if I’d been her sister... as I kept saying: we came looking for fluffy towels and sumptuous buffets, and found angels in disguise as (very beautiful) people.
My son-in-law arrived via Athens some hours later; the hotel provided a room for him at no extra cost. Everyone was informed; the staff was so caring, so appropriate, so warm... it was honestly the most unexpectedly embracing experience I’ve ever had.
Very soon after the little one was hospitalized his brother caught the gastro-enteritis virus – thankfully it didn’t develop into anything serious, but still – it was a very challenging few days. The dining room staff let us in and out to take food, Akis kept plying us with water and warmth. Mr. Metaxas (the handsome angel in chief deluxe) put us in touch with Benny, the airlines liaison wizard, who helped us with changing tickets; I really don’t know how we would have coped without them.
The happy end of the story is that our sweet little boy is recovering beautifully at home, and his older brother is completely well. Now we need a holiday more than ever, and the Isla Brown Chania is beckoning.
The Jewel of Crete
This jewel on the island of Crete is the latest in the portfolio created by Leon Avigad, the visionary owner of 27 Brown Hotels in Israel, and 20 more abroad. Each hotel celebrates its location and each, Avigad and Metaxas claim (and I certainly believe them), focuses on enhanced hospitality. Our hotel had a library and a selection of restaurants with reasonably priced delicious Cretan delicacies (the hotel also caters to its many Israeli patrons ,with Greek hummus and loads of child-friendly food), bars, plentiful pools, kiddies’ club and games arcade, a ping-pong table and free bicycles, a shuttle service to the beach, and a soon-to-be-completed boardwalk right into the sparkling sea. A mellow, tailored-for-wellbeing fragrance gently permeates the lobby; a profusion of candles spreads a soft warm light that spells romance and relaxation. The spa is gorgeous – in the interest of working hard I took an hour off for a Swedish massage; it certainly kneaded me away from the edge – and there’s a gym for holiday makers who need to work out even on vacation.
On Mondays and Fridays there are direct flights from Tel Aviv to Chania; the airport is a sixteen minute drive away. You can bring your pets; the hotel provides basins and beds for dogs up to 8 kilos. The 148 rooms (with a projected extra 71 in the advanced planning stage) certainly all have fluffy towels and super-comfortable beds – even in our worst moments we incredibly managed to doze fitfully between the starched sheets – and lots of lovely touches like charming ceramic plates, water pitchers with mint and lemon strategically placed around the premises, lollipops for kids, and pampering bathroom cosmetics. There is a wide range of luxury accommodation choices: family bungalows, rooms with private pools and garden rooms, and the famous Honeymoon Suites.
Although I can highly recommend the General Hospital St. George for the same Cretan care, friendliness, and expert treatment, I hope you never have to visit it.
But rush to book your tickets to the Isla Brown Chania; it looks like the holiday of a lifetime; we will have to return to experience it. In the meantime, please take a dip in the gentle Aegean waves for us.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.