CULTURE

The Hotel Grande Bretagne has reopened (1878-2003, and still going)

With a dazzling new look, refurbished inside and out, retaining all its architectural features, with its «dowry» of old furniture, paintings and prints, and enriched with valuable antiques bought at auctions abroad, the Hotel Grande Bretagne officially opened its doors to the public yesterday. Naturally, Helbi was the first to enter the revolving glass doors, because this historic and traditional hotel, which grew alongside the creation and development of Athens as the capital of the Greek State has bonds of friendship and solidarity with this newspaper. Kathimerini was founded in 1919, and the two have existed side by side for 84 years. Kathimerini, with its new editorial line and management under President Aristeidis Alafouzos, is fully refurbished and updated, with new offices in Neo Faliron, many new journalists and established ones as well, who maintain the tradition of reliably and responsibly reporting the news. That’s why this newspaper was the first to cross the threshold, in the person of Helbi, and to present the new, still aristocratic Grande Bretagne, fully equipped with the latest technology. The hotel belongs to Lampsa SA, in which the largest shareholder is Hyatt Hellas, with the brothers Panos and Athanassios Laskarides, entrepreneur Vassilis Theocharakis, and the Pritaker family from the USA. The management is by Starwood, and the hotel website is www.grandebretagne.gr. The president of Lampsa is Maurice Modiano, a cousin of the well-known London Times correspondent Mario Modiano, and the vice president is Apostolos Doxiadis, great-grandson of the hotel’s founder, Efstathios Lampsas. In 1878, Lampsas and Savvas Kentros, who had a small hotel on the corner of Karageorgiou Servias and Stadiou streets, bought the Dimitriou Mansion on Syntagma Square, designed by the architect Theophilos Hansen, and called it Hotel Grande Bretagne. At that time, there was only the palace opposite, built for King Otto by Ernst Schiller on the site of the royal vegetable garden. The Grande Bretagne’s guest book includes kings, princes and prime ministers, including Winston Churchill, and before him Goering, Himmler and even Hitler on his only trip to Greece. After the restoration of democracy, the late Constantine Karamanlis stayed there for four months, and it was from the balcony of the hotel’s second floor that Archbishop Makarios gave a speech to the people of Athens when the Turks invaded Cyprus. There is also long list of actors and film stars who have stayed at the hotel. Now the hotel is ready for the 2004 Olympic Games. The G.B. Corner has been done up, the bedrooms are exceptional and already booked by faithful clients. Prices range from 400 to 710 euros for rooms, and 850 to 1,200 for suites, except for the Presidential and Royal suites. The general director is John Lagos, and marketing director is the Austrian Gerald Krischek. Here for the opening were Erhard Noreisch, senior vice president of Starwood, and Public Relations Manager Christina Papanathassiou. The first impression was of one of joy and emotion, and the first spontaneous word «bravo.»