Seville | Hotel Doña María

doña maria

The Doña Maria is a four-star hotel that boasts a perfect central location just across the square from the Cathedral, and close to the Alcázar Palace and Barrio Santa Cruz, making it ideal for sightseeing. These days it seems to be best known for its busy modern roof terrace, which is open year-round, where both guests and public can enjoy a drink while admiring the excellent view of the Cathedral and Giralda Tower. An upper terrace has a small swimming pool reserved for guests, and regular live music events are scheduled during the summer. Check their Facebook Page for concert details.

The building is a Casa Palacio dating back to the 14th century, and though there aren’t really any clues to such antiquity, the hotel, which opened in 1965, does still have the elegant style and manner of a bygone age, including some interesting old prints on the walls. There’s a substantial lounge with a pretty plant-filled patio next to reception, and a separate bar next door.

doña maria (2)

The hotel has 64 rooms, mostly variations on double rooms, although triple rooms, and double rooms with a salon are also available. Our second-floor room was a superior double with two 105 cm single beds (double bed also available), and was quite spacious, with a balcony that had a nice view of Virgen de los Reyes square. It was equipped with a desk, minibar/fridge, TV, and ample closet space. Nice bathroom with twin sinks, good water pressure, and a standard selection of toiletries.

The room was clean and comfortable, with nice firm mattresses, and charming old-style décor. My only real complaint about the room was the lack of power outlets, making it difficult to keep our devices charged. However there was decent free WIFI throughout the hotel and multi-plug extension cords are available at the front desk if, like me, you travel with phone, tablet and laptop.

doña maria (3)

Although there is no restaurant, a standard buffet breakfast is available in the Patio de Cristal, and there are lots of tapas bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Hotel staff are happy to give you recommendations.

The perfect location and the rooftop pool and bar are the main attractions of this hotel, making it a good mid-priced option for a stay in Seville

Hotel Doña Maria
Calle Don Remondo, 19
Sevilla
Tel: +34 954 224 990

Disclaimer: Myself and my companion were invited as guests of the hotel, but all opinions here are my own.

Foodie Hub Tapas Awards

foodie hubAbout three years ago my Twitter pal Niamh @eatlikeagirl got in touch with me about joining a new foodie venture called Chowzter, headed by the dynamic and totally food obsessed Jeffrey Merrihue @jeffreymerrihue, who is also at the helm of @mofilm, as well as being the driving force behind Chowzter (now the newly rebranded @FoodieHub). So okay, I put up my Seville page on Foodie Hub, which I was very pleased with, and then last summer (2014) Jeffrey showed up close to my doorstep and asked if I was free one day to show him my favourite bars in Sevilla. Well, if there is something I LOVE doing it’s exactly that. Plus I was interested in actually meeting Jeffrey. And it was so much fun. We did a crazy afternoon “tapeo extremo” visiting an outrageous number of Sevilla bars in a ridiculously short amount of time, and then repeated the exercise a couple of days later in Malaga with the newly initiated Victor from @WeLoveMalaga. And not only was it great fun, but I got to meet Jeffrey, which made all the difference from this simply being an interesting project I was adding my name to… well, to being a wonderful and crazy foodie adventure that just gets better and better.

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Fast forward to Summer 2015… Jeffrey was going to be back in Marbella and suggested a meet-up/dinner with all the FoodieHub Spain experts, which (of course!) promptly morphed into an epic tapas weekend in Malaga & Marbella, and also gave birth to the FoodieHub Essential Tapas Guide. I love that this is a “living online guide” that is always growing as we add more to it. Here are some highlights from our Malaga FoodieHub tapas tour…

malaga foodiehub tapas tour (1) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (2) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (3)

After this “light lunch” we were whisked away to Marbella for the Main Event. The Essential Tapas Awards event and an exquisite beach-side dinner at the elegant Restaurante Santiago. Rather than MORE food pics I shall just post this lovely photo taken by Victor, which for me captured the gorgeous ambiance of the setting where we dined like royalty.

victor

Here is a shot of the awards handed out earlier in the evening…

foodiehub winners

It was an amazing weekend and really great to meet up again with some of the Spain food experts I already knew, as well as getting to meet the others. But the extra special treat for me was after I came home and got to present the FoodieHub award for Essential Traditional Tapa to my “family” at Bodeguita Romero. Father and son Pedro & Alejandro Romero were thrilled that their spectacular pringá montadito had won.

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romero (1)

You can download the free FoodieHub app here, and keep up with global foodie news on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also check out the amazing FoodieHub YouTube page, but only if you’re not hungry! It’s a real honour – and also lots of fun – being a part of the FoodieHub team.

Jerez | Hotel Palacio Garvey

palacio garvey (1)

The Palacio Garvey was originally built in 1850 as the residence of the Garvey sherry family and still retains its neo-classical architectural style, but is now equipped with all the conveniences of a modern 4-star hotel. Located in the old town of Jerez, just off calle Larga, one of the main shopping streets. It’s a great base for exploring, visiting one of the many sherry bodegas or the famous horse show.

The 16 rooms are spacious and uniquely decorated, with a choice of either a “dark” or “light” theme. Each comes with a modern bathroom equipped with a hydro-massage bath, and have wenge wood floors, flatscreen TV with satellite channels, music system and free Wi-Fi. Downstairs the Patio Andaluz provides a relaxing open air space with plenty of greenery for taking a coffee or reading, and meeting rooms are also available. The two-floor building has several other comfortable common areas with lots of colourful quirky art throughout, mostly Andalusia-related subjects (flamenco, bullfighting, etc).

The La Condesa restaurant serves modern Mediterranean cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (room service available until 11 pm). It has a lovely terrace that runs alongside a part of the old roman city wall.

palacio garvey (2)My first-floor double room (a light-themed one) was the only one in the hotel with twin (90cm) beds. It had beautiful high ceilings and tall windows overlooking the patios. Modern and traditional are combined nicely in the attractive restored furnishings and sleek electronics. The spacious bathroom came with two sinks, spa bath and shower, nice toiletries and exceptionally fluffy towels. Possibly due to the set up of the rooms my WiFi reception was inadequate, but this was my only complaint (though it was a rather important one). The continental breakfast at 12€ will certainly set you up for the day, with a selection of artesanal breads and pastries, spreads, ham, cheese, fresh juice and excellent coffee. A nice touch is having table service rather than the usual buffet-style. The staff are very helpful, professional and friendly. Recommended.

Hotel Palacio Garvey
Tornería, 24
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel: +34 956 326 700

Jerez | Hotel Asta Regia

asta regia (1)

The Asta Regia (named for the nearby Roman town) is a relatively new hotel just off the Plaza Arenal, the main square in the centre of the old city. It’s also near the Alcázar Palace and just a five-minute walk to the central Market, with plenty of good bars and restaurants nearby.

The building was once a palace, but has been completely renovated to provide all the modern services which you’d expect from a four-star hotel, including swimming pool, sauna and gym, while maintaining some traditional touches – lots of those horseshoe arches, for example. The rooms (31 of them) are spacious, and include twins, standard doubles, superior doubles and junior suites, all with TV and free Wi-Fi. Aside from an attractive dining area (open for breakfast only) there is also a lounge/bar in front of reception. If you want a room with a street view, opt for a superior. The standard double rooms are all interior and open onto the patio.

asta regia (2)Room decór is clean and modern, and is consistent throughout the hotel. Our double superior room, which faced onto the street, had two larger than average (and very comfortable) 105cm twin beds, a desk, plenty of closet space and a mini bar. The bathroom was attractive and well-equipped, with a shower/bath, two sinks, toiletries, and a hair dryer. My only small niggle was the insufficient number of electrical sockets to plug in our devices. But it was a very pleasant stay, with helpful and friendly staff. I highly recommend the Asta Regia for comfort and location.

Hotel Asta Regia
San Agustín, 9
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel: +34 956 327 911

Carmona | Parador Hotel

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I’ve been to this Parador several times over the years – for events, or just for a drink at the bar when visiting Carmona – so when I had the opportunity to stay overnight recently I naturally jumped at the chance.

The Carmona Parador is the one that serves Seville, and is about a half-hour’s drive from the city, in the little town of Carmona. Like its larger neighbour, Carmona has a history that stretches back almost three thousand years to the time of the Phoenicians, and was also an important town in the Roman period. The hotel, which opened in 1976, can be found in the Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro (the Palace of King Peter) on the top of the hill at the eastern edge of the town. Originally a Moorish fortress, it was substantially rebuilt by King Peter in the 14th century in the Mudejar style (like the Alcázar in Seville), and became one of his favourite residences. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly due to its location – my stay here was in July, and during the day Carmona was extremely hot, but at night this hilltop location catches the cool breezes, and it was very pleasant to sit out on the balcony and relax in the perfect evening weather.

parador carmona (1)Although quite a lot of the old walls are still standing, in various degrees of preservation, the hotel is a mainly modern building, but it retains many original features and decorations, such as tiles, stonework and wood beamed ceilings, as well as a beautiful central courtyard with pillars and a central marble fountain. I particularly liked the recurring 8-pointed star motif of the shutters and on the woodwork of doors and cupboards, and which gave the hotel a unified decorative theme.

The hotel has all the general facilities you would expect of a good 4-star. There’s a restaurant, bar/lounge with a pleasant terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside, as well as a proper swimming pool in a garden area below the hotel. There is also a children’s pool. The one drawback is it’s a bit of a trek down a winding stairway to get there, though this is at least partly compensated by a splendid view of the castle/hotel on the hill above.

parador carmona (2)[click on images to enlarge]

My superior double room was spacious and airy, with a super comfortable bed, a good size desk to work at, table and chairs and a shelf for the suitcase. There was also a large balcony with a good view (in fact, the balcony, and being an extra floor up, is the main difference between the standard and superior double rooms). Cool terracotta tile floors, and the carved wooden doors of the closet gave it a “period” feel that I liked. The bathroom was adequate, with very good water pressure, and the towels were nice and thick. A hairdryer and plenty of toiletries were also provided. We were also given a complimentary bottle of chilled water and some nibbles, a boon in the hot weather. One quibble was a shortage of power outlets for charging or operating phones and computers, but the free WiFi was available throughout the hotel, no passwords required. The buffet style breakfast was one of the best I’ve seen, with plenty of variety, including several cooked egg and meat dishes, a cold meat and cheese section, breads and pastries, cereals, fruit, juices, and coffee was brought to the table.

Last, but by no means least, it was a handy base for exploring the picturesque old town of Carmona, with its charming little streets and attractive squares. I really enjoyed my overnight stay, and cannot praise the hotel staff enough. Excellent professional service at every turn.  I hope to be back again before too long, next time to try the hotel restaurant.

Carmona Parador Hotel
Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro
Carmona, Sevilla
Tel: 954 141 010

Sherry Sipping in Sevilla

sherry sipsSeana Rizzutto Yee AKA @SherrySips

Some of you may know about my sherry epiphany a couple of years ago, which resulted in the creation of my Introduction to Sherry tours (chosen by The Telegraph this year as one of their top ten food and drink holidays in Spain). Sherry has become quite important in my life and I am always eager to learn more and share that knowledge.

So when I found out that Seana Yee was coming to Jerez I got in touch via Twitter in case she had time to come to Sevilla. Seana lives in Portland and was here on a sherry odyssey lasting the better part of two weeks, visiting bodegas in Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María (sound familiar?). I think because it was becoming apparent that we knew so many of the same people, and also that the planets and stars aligned just right, Seana found she had a free day and took the train to Sevilla to spend last Sunday with me. And what a day it was!

We met late morning and did a quick tour of the Metropol Parasol (which hadn’t existed when Seana was last here) before setting off in search of churros. Instead we ended up having tostadas and cava (don’t ask) at La Azotea in Barrio Santa Cruz, which proved to be a good start to what was to be my first ever Tapeo Extremo con Jerez.

sherry sipping collage[click on image to enlarge, but not if you’re hungry… or thirsty]

First up was Las Teresas for some jamón, queso and caña de lomo, paired with wonderful Botaina amontillado from Bodegas Lustau. Seana had a bodega tour (her last) booked with Lustau the following day so this proved to be a nice preview. Then we stopped in at Casa Morales for some fabulous lomo en manteca – we told barman Diego we were looking for a special manzanilla and he pulled out a bottle of manzanilla pasada from Bodegas Sacristia AB… perfection. Then we headed over to visit my “family” at Bodeguita Romero. Of course Seana had to try their famous pringá montadito, along with Pedro Romero’s equally famous papas aliñás… with these we had a nice Alfonso oloroso. Moving on to my favourite braised pork cheeks in town, Alejandro Romero recommended Palo Cortado Leanor from Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. We were pretty much stuffed at this point but I wanted to take Seana to the home of the “crackburger” La Brunilda, which was just around the corner. We were too full for a burger so opted for some lovely payoyo cheese from Cádiz instead, which was paired with La Bota de Manzanilla 55 from Equipos Navazos.

Last but not least I took Seana to meet the lovely Silvia Flores @vinosyflores who works as sommelier and event organizer for the Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience. There we enjoyed a perfectly chilled glass of Tío Pepe en Rama 2015 (which I’d had the pleasure of trying at the annual presentation earlier that week) and then Silvia surprised us with a glass of Apostoles VORS Palo Cortado and a plate of exquisite Michel Cluizel chocolates. Oh my!

palo cortado

We headed back to my place after this for a short rest before going to an early flamenco show at the Flamenco Museum. Then we said our “hasta luegos” as Seana left to catch the train back to Jerez and I headed off on a tapas tour. Honestly, in just one short (and seriously sherry-filled) day I felt like I’d made a friend for life. I’m also thinking of adding a Gourmet Sherry Tour to my repertoire after this, to complement the “beginners course”. We shall see.

Thanks so much for coming to visit me, Seana. Our love of sherry and cats shall endure! xx

You can also follow me and Seana on Instagram (go on, you know you want to)…
SherrySips  |  azahar

Granada | Hotel Casa 1800

hotel casa 1800 granada

A few years ago I watched the Hotel Casa 1800 in Sevilla transform the large family home next to my barrio Santa Cruz apartment into a lovely boutique hotel and, when asked for a tour upon completion, could not believe what they’d done to the place. Every room was unique and sumptuously decorated. So when I recently planned to revisit Granada I thought a night in their new hotel there would be just the thing. And it was. The Hotel Casa 1800 in Granada is a charming 25 room hotel in a traditional 17th century Granada townhouse (the Migueletes) that bats far above its 3-star rating in terms of comfort and convenience.

hotel casa 1800 granadajunior suite

Rooms range from standard doubles to a Grand Deluxe Suite Room with Jacuzzi. My superior double booking got upgraded to a junior suite, which was spacious and elegant, with a king-size bed with an ornate gilt headboard, and a sofa and coffee table for relaxing with the complimentary water, tea or coffee. Some of the rooms have views of the Alhambra (standard rooms, however, mostly overlook the street or central patio). The marble-lined bathroom was equipped with both a shower and bath, a proper hairdryer, nice fluffy robes and lovely toiletries.

hotel casa 1800 granada s

It’s in an excellent location, just one block away from the River Darro, which runs between the Alhambra and Albaicín (old Moorish quarter) hills, with easy access to all the main sights, shopping, and bars and restaurants. Like their sister hotel in Sevilla, the conversion from house to hotel has maintained the rustic and picturesque appearance of the building, especially the central patio – flagstone floors, wood pillars and railings, and a fountain with water spout grotesques. All the standard services which you’d expect are available, including free Wi-Fi, but they also do a free afternoon merienda (tea and snack) between 4 – 6 pm, which is a nice touch and very welcome after a long day of sightseeing. In fact, it was a struggle to decide whether to relax in my gorgeous room or in the charming courtyard. The staff all speak English and will arrange any reservations for shows and restaurants for you. Highly recommended for both comfort and style, though I’d spend that bit extra for a superior room.

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada
Benalúa, 11
Tel 958 210 700

Granada| RoomMate Hotel Leo

roommate leo granada

Behind a discrete door in a quiet pedestrian street in the centre of Granada is one of the best of the city’s boutique hotels. The building is traditional, but has been completely refurbished to the highest modern hotel standards, though access to the main lift is down a twisty ramp that seems left over from an earlier age. I have to say that I’ve quite fallen in love with RoomMates all over Spain – there is something comforting about knowing you’re going to get excellent quality but not ever feel like you are dealing with an impersonal corporate hotel chain. It always feels like coming home.

roommate leo collageThe location is between the Bib-Rambla square and the Cathedral on one side, and the main shopping street on the other, and is also close to the bustling bars and restaurants around Calle Navas. Plaza Nueva, the Alhambra, and the Albaicín are within easy reach.

The hotel serves breakfast throughout the morning in a pleasant little breakfast room in an interior patio, but the star of the show has to be the comfortable lounge on the top floor with a roof terrace outside that has a stunning view of the Alhambra.

roommate leo upstairs

There are 32 rooms, the majority standard double or twin, but also Executive suites. My room was a spacious standard, decorated in black, white and gold, with a big mirror, desk, and square leather armchair. Nice bathroom with a proper hairdryer (not one of those attached-to-the-wall types) and  the usual fabulous RoomMate toiletries. Free Wi-Fi that actually worked and a good sized wardrobe with plenty of hangers.

roommate leo rooftop

RoomMate Hotel Leo
Mesones, 15
Tel: 958 535 579

Málaga | Soho Hotel Málaga

hotel soho malaga

The Soho Hotel Málaga is an almost brand-new 28 room three-star boutique hotel, just outside the old centre of town in the little triangle of land between the harbour and the Atarazanas market popularly known as Soho because of its bohemian and arty feel. It’s a great location, close to shops and tapas bars, and it was also an easy walk from the train station (with wheelie luggage).

My room was comfortable and attractive and featured a large sepia-tone mural over the bed (all rooms have murals depicting different Málaga scenes). There’s good WiFi in the room and plenty of available sockets for charging devices. The bathroom is well-equipped (shower only) and there’s a good supply of toiletries and a decent hairdryer. Adjacent to the hotel there’s a small bar-cafe for snacks, and a fairly typical hotel breakfast is also served here, though the organisation seems a bit hit and miss. Hotel staff are super friendly and helpful. I look forward to staying here again.

hotel soho malaga collage

Soho Hotel Málaga
Córdoba, 5
Málaga
Tel 952 224 079