A Return to Marbella, Corfu

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There’s nothing like discovering a place that draws you back, and Kerry May finds hers has everything she needs for a personal retreat…

A couple of years ago Stirling and I took the children to the 5 star MarBella Hotel in Corfu for a fantastic, relaxing getaway. Having our offspring happily ensconced in the onsite kids club whilst we relaxed by the pool left me with very happy memories. Offered the chance to go back, minus the family, I told my loved ones I was a slave to hard work and gleefully packed a suitcase. I should stress, this MarBella is nowhere near Southern Spain.

I had to get up at 2am to make it to Gatwick for 4am, to check in for a 6am flight to Corfu. You may wince but as soon as I’d checked in and negotiated security I was catered for at the delightful No.1 lounge where complimentary hot drinks and food are perfect for recovering from that early start. This comes as standard when you book with Sovereign.

The flight offered both an opportunity to recoup some sleep and also a beautiful view of the hotel as we circled the island on our descent. Nestled into the hillside between beach – hence ‘Mar Bella’ (see?)- and olive grove, the MarBella is a stunning collection of white buildings which house the 384 rooms and suites. You can also spy the beautiful blue waters of the various swimming pools throughout the grounds. Once we landed, a 30 minute transfer delivered us to the cool air-conditioned reception of the hotel in the small settlement of Agios Ioannis Peristeron on the east coast of the island, south of Corfu Town.

The hotel has been undergoing refurbishment for the past few years, and since my last visit has created a new bar at the main pool area, added a jacuzzi by the infinity freshwater pool and a water slide by the kids’ pool and created a tunnel to take you from the hotel to the private beach without even being aware of the road between the two. These additions alone were enough to persuade me back, but there was far more to come. 2016 bodes (another) new pool, with a retractable roof, and even an outdoor cinema.

The rooms are light, spacious, feature contemporary decor and come with balconies and terraces offering either a sea or garden view – my sea-view suite boasting a terrace area with sun loungers and a hanging chair – lounge area, stone walled bathrooms and mini-bar. There is generous wardrobe space and the bathrooms are well stocked with excellent Apivita products. If there weren’t such excellent facilities at the hotel I wouldn’t mind too much simply hanging out in my air-conditioned living quarters.

But excellent facilities there are, and the choice of activities and options should certainly satisfy all but the most exacting fusspots out there. If you don’t want to swim and sunbathe in one of the swimming pools or at the private beach, lined with thatched parasols and sun loungers galore, you can take your pick from a variety of sporty endeavours including tennis, yoga, archery, boules, canoeing, scuba diving or simply visit the gym.

I tried an aerial yoga class run by Sienna Miller-lookalike Elfie, who soon had me hanging upside down from the ceiling in a satin sling. Apparently, having your body weight suspended enables you to achieve deep stretches. It was quite the workout and I slipped back into my more usual pace in the afternoon by visiting the spa for a pedicure, well-being massage and an eye treatment. I enjoyed all these so much that I returned the following day for a further massage which actually lulled me into a micro nap, broken only by my jolting awake with a small snort. My masseuse was kind enough not to mention it.

If your well-being were not already improved by all these activities and environs alone, then surely no guest could fail to feel a sense of contentment after dining at the hotel’s eateries which are many and varied. There’s the main restaurant, La Terrazza, offering American, Continental and International buffet food with either indoor seating or on the terrace overlooking the Ionian Sea. Heading down towards the pools you’ll reach The Comodo restaurant which serves buffet and a la carte breakfast in the mornings, Greek and Mediterranean lunch dishes and fine a la carte Italian delights in the evening. The carpaccio of beef I sampled there was a real highlight for me, as was discovering the wonderful sykomaida (fig pie with spices, nut and kumquat).

Backing onto Comodo, and with a patio seating area which offers the benefit of proximity to any evening entertainment taking place on the terrace above the restaurant, is Platea, the hotel’s Greek restaurant where I opted for the traditional, delicious moussaka. Heading further down past the suites and family pool area you’ll find the intimate La Bussola seafood restaurant which allows you to eat freshly cooked fish whilst sitting on decking so close to the sea that the fish may as well jump straight from water to plate.

The beach also accommodates Dolphin Restaurant which serves up beach snacks, salads and drinks throughout the afternoon. The final dining option I didn’t have time to check out was the new American diner in the family pool area, Splash. Decked out in red and white with a lit up jukebox on the wall, this is one I’ll definitely want to experience next time, especially if the kids get their way to go back.

Should you wish to eat off-site, there is the option of a boat trip down the east coast to the southern shores and the variety of local fishing tavernas up and down this stretch of the island. A spot of snorkelling in the turquoise clear waters helped me build up an appetite before we visited Limnopoula at Petritis, but I could not have foreseen how the vast amounts of food, brought out even before the cod I ordered had arrived, would be so delectable that I would shamefully have to resign before clearing my plate, much to the delight, I’m sure, of the stray cats in the vicinity. Bowls of mussels, Greek salads, anchovies, calamari, bread with olive oil and olive paste all jostled for my attention and I returned to the boat thinking I’d never eat again. (Rest assured, the sensation passed before dinner with the help of a nap.)

I’m sure the rest of Corfu has a lot to offer. Certainly there are historic sites, the water park Aqualand, various museums, nightlife and plentiful water activities across the island, but MarBella is a destination in its own right now. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

MarBella Hotel, Agios Ioannis Peristeron, 490 84 Corfu, Greece. Tel. +30 26610 71183-7. Email: info@marbella.grFor more information about the hotel, including offers, events and vacation packages, visit www.marbella.gr.

Sovereign is offering a seven-night holiday to Corfu staying at the five star MarBella Corfu Hotel on a half-board basis from £515 per person – saving up to £138 per couple. The offer includes an exclusive a la carte diner and breakfast in bed. The offer also includes airport security fast pass and access to UK airport lounges (where available), private airport transfers and return international flights from London Gatwick with EasyJet. Based on departures 04 May 2016. Book the MarBella Corfu Hotel at www.sovereign.com.

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