Kinsterna Hotel in Grece

Wow, this is really overdue and I’m looking forward to reliving this holiday with you all.  Last October Mr Rigg and I set off for 10 days in Greece.  Mr Rigg had done a sailing holiday with friends around some of the islands when he was back in his teens, but for me it was my first visit to this beautiful country.

He’ll probably not be very impressed with me sharing this piece of information with you, but last year Mr Rigg reached that grand old age of 30.  To celebrate his mum kindly gave us a very generous budget for a holiday – a decision which was incredibly difficult for us because it was a budget that we could have gone almost anywhere on.  Should we spend most of it on flights to the other side of the world with meagre accommodation?  Or should we spend most of it on staying somewhere really special?

Mountains in the Peloponnese

In the end, we opted for the latter – we decided that we should spend the majority of the gift on staying in the kind of place we’d never ever be able to afford normally.  I’m not sure how other people plan their holidays, but I like to find somewhere I want to stay, I fall in love with it, and then we attempt to figure out how we’re going to get there and what there is to do around it. Perhaps not the best way to plan a holiday, but it’s my way.

Last summer I fell in love with this goat farm in the Dordogne and it was quite a palaver figuring out flights there, so it can be a bit of a pain.  Mr Rigg set me off looking on the Mr & Mrs Smith website (oh my gosh there are some stunning places!) and this is where I came across and fell in love with Kinsterna.

Kinsterna Hotel in Monemvasia

Kinsterna Hotel & Spa is a 5* boutique hotel in the hills above Monemvasia. Monemvasia is a small town with an ancient fortified city out on a large rocky island way way down the coast of the Peloponnese in Greece.  Drive from Athens?  About 4-5 hours.  We weren’t fazed by a bit of a driving adventure in Green with what the hotel promised from its website, plus the added extras we got through booking via Mr & Mrs Smith.

So at the beginning of October last year we arrived at Athens airport and headed off to find our hire car.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the ever-so sexy car hire car park and studied the map of where we were going.  The lady at the car hire desk had looked at us like we were mad when we said we driving to Monemvasia that afternoon – she said it would take 7-8 hours (she was wrong).

Travelling in Greece

Leaving Athens

Despite a long hot drive through miles of Greek towns and countryside, we got to see the incredible changes in landscape – some of which I hope you’ll see from my pictures.  One minute it’s huge mountain ranges shrouded in dust and heat, then next you’re surrounded by acres of lush citrus groves.

Greek roads

Driving through the Peloponnese

You know when you’re getting close to Kinsterna because you come around a bend in the road and there is sea ahead of you, and this massive rock just off the shoreline.

Sky and sea

You can’t see the old walled city at this time as it’s on the opposite side, but it’s like a beacon that says after 4 hours driving you are almost there.

Approaching Monemvasia

The drive up to Kinsterna from the road is interesting to say the least.  I’m sure you begin to wonder whether you’re really going to stay in a 5* luxury hotel as you wind and bump along a dirt road that continues to get more ‘rustic’ and dusty the further you go.  You begin to think you must have taken a wrong turn, but if you keep going you will eventually arrive at the pretty gates to Kinsterna.

Kinsterna Hotel and Spa

Front entrance at Kinsterna

Byzantine mansion

Kinsterna Hotel in Greece

The terrace at Kinsterna hotel

Beyond these gates it really is a little oasis – it’s hard to believe it’s hidden away at the top of this long dirt track, but you soon forget about the rest of the world when you get welcomed in to the hotel.  The old bits of the hotel date back to the Byzantine era and our room had this incredible old domed ceiling.

Byzantine hotel room at Kinsterna hotel

We had our main bedroom with a little lounge area, a patio and small garden with views down to the sea beyond, a dressing room and bathroom.  We even got a complimentary bottle of wine and truffles displayed on the cutest mini glass cake stand and dome for booking through Mr & Mrs Smith.

Wine and truffles

Being terrible romantic and wanting to embrace the beautiful Greek weather, I flung open the patio doors for the afternoon – we later paid for this misdemenour as we were plagued by mosquitoes ALL night.  Worst.  Mistake. Ever.

It was seriously one of the worst night’s sleep we ever had – you could just hear them buzzing round your face, so you slept with the sheet over your head (or at least I did!), then you got to hot and got mad and turned on the light and insisted on hunting the f*@%£$’s down and killing them.  In the process you peed off your husband who by this point didn’t care if he got bitten and just wanted to sleep. Plus, with the brick domed ceiling it was almost impossible to see them…I feel stressed just thinking about it!

Kinsterna hotel bedroom

Thankfully before this sleepless night we had spent a wonderful evening meal on their terrace.  Part of the restaurant is built out over the ancient cistern which gave the hotel it’s name, so you sit at your table enjoying your dinner with trickling water and a shimmering pool beneath you.

Kinsterna restaurant overhanging the cistern

Kinsterna restaurant overhanging the cistern

Being the nerd I am, I have carefully noted down what we ate each day (after all, my holidays do focus around food!).  For dinner that first night I had a Laconian salad with mizithra cheese and this Greek cured pork – now I wrote down what I thought the name was of this pork, and on Googling it I have clearly remembered it very incorrectly.  Thankfully, I did a search for cured Greek pork and I believe what I ate was called syglino.  At any rate, it was delicious.  Mizithra is a traditional, unpasteurized fresh cheese made from goat or sheep’s milk.

Us at dinner at Kinsterna hotel

Mr Rigg had a started of veal fillet salad, and then we both couldn’t resist having the organic chicken for our main which came with homemade pasta and a tomato sauce.

Organic chicken with homemade pasta and tomato sauce

This was our first taste of the food at Kinsterna and I was so pleased that it was all so tasty – I appreciate you would expect this from a 5* hotel but if you read my recent personal post I was pretty anxious about being reliant on someone else for all my food needs.

Happy and on holiday – post dinner but before the night of the mosquitoes…

Me and Mr Rigg

The next two days were spent firmly ensconced on one of the hotels (amazing!) poolside loungers.  Imagine a double bed outdoors with a sun shade, next to a blissful infinity pool with views out to sea.  If you can’t imagine, here’s what it looked like from where I was sat for two days…

Infinity pool at Kinsterna hotel in Greece

The fab poolside loungers…

Pool loungers at Kinsterna hotel

It seems that at this early point in the holiday I was beyond taking pictures of our breakfasts, they do come later though!  So we just relaxed by the pool with our books and the sun for two whole days.

Kinsterna hotel and pool in Greece

Kinsterna infinity pool

Mr Rigg at Kinsterna

Every so often one of the lovely hotel staff would appear with ice cold glasses of water, and we also drank freshly squeezed orange juice and even this fab drink which I think was just a blitzed up peach with ice.

Drink by the pool at Kinsterna

A couple of evenings we had a lighter meal sat on the terrace.  It was such a blissful place to hang out, especially as the hotel was so quiet at this time of year.  We ate things like burger and chips (Mr Rigg), Club sandwiches (for me…more than once) filled with smoked turkey, bacon, and omelette; salads; baguettes and so on.

Pretty flowers

The terrace at Kinsterna hotel

Light dinner at Kinsterna hotel

View from Kinsterna hotel in Greece

Oh, and some very good ice creams for pudding.

Ice cream

Me enjoying the ice cream 🙂

Eating ice cream at Kinsterna

Some friendly local wildlife…

Grasshopper or cricket in Greece

I could just scoff this right now…

Club sandwich at fries

We also explored a little around the hotel, finding a very sweet pony who as I understand it pulls a cart for those having their wedding at Kinsterna, as well as being hooked up to the old-fashioned grape press to help with the wine making.

Friendly pony at Kinsterna hotel

Kinsterna hotel in Greece

Greek flowers and squash

What I also loved about the hotel is that there are edible things growing almost everywhere you look – they are lemon/lime trees around the pool, trailing squash and pumpkins plants behind a wall, and pomegranates hanging from branches – I always get excited on holiday to see ‘exotic’ fruits growing.

Pomegranate and lime trees at Kinsterna

Trailing squash plant at Kinsterna hotel

Gardens at Kinsterna hotel

Citrus trees at Kinsterna

Basket of pomegranates

On the third day we took a trip out to an island called Elafonisos for the day – I’m going to save that for my next post as it deserves a full one to itself.

Two more days were spent lounging around at the hotel, with another day trip out to the Mani (again, I’m saving that for another blog post).  We both went for a complimentary massage in the hotel spa, which was a bit of a surreal experience – I think it’s just not my ‘thing’ despite how nicely we were looked after, and a bit weird to be sat in a dressing gown sipping herbal tea with your husband in a spa.

Kinsterna hotel and pool

Blue skies over Kinsterna

We did a lot of this during our holiday…by the end of our stay at Kinsterna I can quite honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed and unwound.

Relaxing on the terrace at Kinsterna

And quite frankly, who could blame us when there was such pretty views from the hotel and such nice food?

Kinsterna hotel in Greece

Food at Kinsterna

View of Monemvasia from Kinsterna hotel

Now, onto breakfasts.  Breakfast at Kinsterna is a feast, and I guess you would hope so for the price you are paying to stay here.  As with all places abroad it took us a little while to get into the swing of how they did things at the hotel.  Mr Rigg trying to decide what to have from the menu…

Breakfast at Kinsterna

You could basically have a three course breakfast – yoghurt to start, followed by either a cooked breakfast or filled crepes, and then rounded off with cake and pastries.  We soon realised if we ordered everything together it arrived all together.  Some days this was fun and you can see our greedily filled table!

Breakfast at Kinsterna

Me at breakfast at Kinsterna hotel

The menu included the following (and I think we tried pretty much everything during our stay!): Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts or fruit; crepes with cheese; crepes with cheese and turkey; crepes with chocolate praline; all kinds of full English combinations; waffles with chocolate praline; pasties including croissants and pain au chocolat; ‘sweet pie’ which was filo pastry filled with some kind of custard; chocolate cake…and breathe.

Greek yoghurt, honey and nuts

Homemade croissants and pain au chocolat at Kinsterna hotel

Sweet pie at Kinsterna hotel in Greece

Chocolate cake for breakfast!

Sadly there’s no picture of the giant waffle topped with thick chocolate praline that defeated Mr Rigg – I’m sad that I didn’t capture that on camera, and there was no persuading him to have another one another day so I could get photographic evidence of how immense it was.

The very beautiful view from our breakfast table every morning…

View from breakfast at Kinsterna hotel

Whatever we chose at breakfast, we always started off the same way – Greek yoghurt and honey.  For him – with fresh fruit.  For her – nuts.

Greek yoghurt with honey and fruit

Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts

Breakfast at Kinsterna

Those days we stayed at the hotel we also ate dinner there too, a combination of early evening relaxed meals on the terrace from their bar menu (more burgers, Club sandwiches and ice cream), and smarter evening meals.

Terrace at dusk at Kinsterna hotel

At the risk of listing of menu items, I want to share some of the other dishes we ate (despite lack of pictures – it was too dark) as they were as delicious as they sound: Monemvasia stonefish bouillabaisse, garden vegetable soup with saffron and airiani milk foam, langoustine salad, scallops and crayfish with vegetable spagetti, creamy risotto with sweet pumpkin mousse (heavenly!!), pork fillet with Manouri cheese and celeriac puree, and chocolate Mille-feuille with orange.

Mr Rigg at dinner at Kinsterna hotel

The risotto with sweet pumpkin mousse…

Risotto with sweet pumpkin mousse

Mr Rigg’s pork fillet with Manouri cheese…

Pork fillet with Manouri cheese

I really liked the hotel’s emphasis on local and regional products, as well as their own garden grown vegetables.  Plus each dinner was started with a small bowl of the hotel’s own extra virgin olive oil and a variety of bits to dip and nibble on.  Even breakfast which had it’s fair share of standard breakfast items that you’d find all over the world, still had a few regional/Greek specialities included.

I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing in the first part of our Greece adventure and for a few moments have been swept away to the beautiful Kinsterna hotel. Looking back through all the pictures I just want to return there even more.

Next up in our food memories of Greece – our day trip to the pretty island of Elafanisos…

Ferry to island of Elafanisos