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.

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

parador carmona (3)
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

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

Córdoba | Hotel Balcón de Córdoba

balcon cordoba bedroomAlthough “just” a 4-star hotel, Balcón de Córdoba is one of the growing number of luxury boutique hotels that has the look and feel of a 5-star and offers exquisite attention to detail. Just a couple of minutes from the Mezquita, and with a discreet back entrance into the small square at the top of Calle de las Flores, it’s a friendly and comfortable 10 room hotel in a 17th century building arranged around three courtyards. The style is a blend of Moorish, Castilian and Flemish, with intricate “china Cordobés” floors in the patios, over 100 archaeological pieces to delight the eye, and rooftop terraces looking over the city.

balcon cordobaGuests can opt for a chauffeured pick up at the Cordoba train station or from any airport in Andalucia, and valet parking is also available. Upon arrival you are given a short tour of the hotel, its patios and rooftop views before being shown to your room. I like this very personal touch and especially that it is at once very professional without being stuffy. From the moment you arrive you feel at once at home and very well looked after.

balcon cordoba royal suiteThe Royal Suite is 72 square metres and is immediately welcoming. Like all the rooms in the hotel it is tastefully done out in pale whites, off-whites and soothing earth-tones. You enter through a lovely reception area, which has a desk and small table in front of a large window overlooking the central courtyard, and then continue on to a cosy salon with comfy chairs and a sofa. The charming bathroom and spacious bedroom comprise the second half of the L-shaped space, with a claw-footed bathtub at the far end of the bedroom. Fluffy robes and slippers are placed at the foot of the bed.

balcon cordoba rooftopsFor the record I was hosted by Hotel Balcón de Córdoba, but all opinions here are my own. Frankly it was hard to find any fault as every detail was perfection. My only honest “complaint” was that the potato in the breakfast tortilla was a bit undercooked. There is excellent WiFi connection throughout the hotel, the staff are attentive and truly understand the needs of a diverse clientelle. It’s a great small team that truly enjoys interacting and being a part of creating a very special Cordoba experience. Highly recommended.

Hotel Balcón de Córdoba
Encarnación, 8
Tel 957 498 478

 

Córdoba | Palacio Viana Revisited

patio viana revisited (1)

Much ado is (justifiably) made about Córdoba’s annual Patio Festival with its colourful flower-festooned patios, posadas and alleyways in full bloom, though I personally prefer to go a week or so after the festival to avoid the crowds. And one of my favourite places in Córdoba to visit any time of year is the Palacio de Viana, Córdoba’s very special Patio Museum. It consists of 12 patios and a garden spread through and around the buildings of the palace, each designed and planted in its own unique style. As well as Moorish and classically influenced patio gardens there are also the gardeners’ patios, the Patio of Los Gatos, an old patio de Vecinos that was incorporated into the palace in the 18th century, and the modern courtyard of the columns.

patio viana revisited (3)Although the spring and early summer are the most obvious time to visit (I had visited twice before in summer), I was recently there again in November on a dull cloudy day that threatened – but didn’t quite manage – to rain, and I discovered that the patios in winter have a unique charm that doesn’t exist in other seasons. Most notably that the many orange trees are full of fruit. There was also an art exhibit of sculptures by Cordobés artist Aurelio Teno with works spread out through the various patios.

Winter is also an ideal time to take the guided tour of the house and its impressive collections of furniture, books, paintings, ceramics and much else besides, accumulated through the centuries by its wealthy owners. It’s a fascinating journey through their lives that complements the gardens outside.

patio viana revisited (2)Palacio de Viana
Plaza de Don Gome, 2
Tel: +34 957 496 741

Opening hours: Tue-Sat 10.00-19.00 / Sun 10.00-15.00
Jul-Aug 9.00-15.00
Closed Mondays
Price: 5 euros patios, 8 euros complete

Cádiz | Parador Hotel Atlántico

parador cadiz (1)

Well, I’d certainly come back here again! This is the second time I’ve stayed at a Parador (first was in Antequera), and both times the experience has been exceptional. It’s true that the exterior of the recently renovated Cádiz hotel is, to my mind, a not-very-attractive modern style (okay, I’ll just say it – UGLY) and that at street-level it appears at first glance to be in a fairly mundane setting. But take a slightly longer look around, or better still go up to a higher level inside the hotel, and you find it’s actually in a very good location, with the Caleta Beach on one side, and the Parque Genovese botanical garden on the other. It lives up to its Atlantico name, too – right on the sea-front with the ocean stretching away into the distance.

parador cadiz collageOur superior room on the sixth floor was wonderful. It was already big, but with a picture window and balcony to let in the light and give an added sense of spaciousness, it felt quite palatial. Great view of the Castillo San Sebastian and the ocean beyond – and of a spectacular sunset too (though the flashing of the lighthouse during the night was a mild annoyance). Useful sized desk with suitcase platform, headboard shelves, well thought out lighting, and a couple of easy chairs, too. Also great were the walk-in shower and a massive 2 metre long bathtub; so nice to be able to stretch out in lots of hot water!

parador cadiz (2)sunset view from balcony

When we first arrived and were getting settled in I realised how thirsty I was and suddenly there was a knock on the door. A waiter stood there offering a very welcome chilled bottle of mineral water. Later after we returned from lunch I kept looking at that long stone tub thinking a good lazy bath would be just the thing. Another knock on the door. This time we were brought a couple of chocolate desserts and a selection of fragrant bath salts. Like, what? Was the Parador reading my mind? So I tried conjuring up a nice bottle of cava, but that one didn’t work. Still, between all that and fluffy robes and our cosy table out on the terrace, it was almost a shame we had ot go out and explore the rest of Cádiz.

Hotel facilities generally were what you’d expect from a good 4-star hotel. Functioning Wi-Fi throughout, a couple of big swimming pools (including an all-year indoor pool) and sauna and solarium (looking a little wind-swept in November, but clearly would be great in the summer). Likewise the dining areas had seafront terraces that are in use outside the winter months and would make you feel like you are eating and drinking directly over the Atlantic. There was a plentiful breakfast in an breakfast room alongside the pool area, which we enjoyed at a table overlooking the park.

Paradors are pricy, of course, but it’s well worth checking the website for special offers. I’d come back here in a heartbeat, especially as Cádiz is one of my favourite cities.

Parador Hotel Atlantico

Avenida Duque de Nájera, 9
Tel: +34 956 226 905

Cádiz | Hotel La Cátedral

hotel catedral cadiz (1)

The Hotel la Catedral is a relatively new boutique hotel (just 14 rooms) in a great location just inside the old city and directly in front of the Cathedral. Pretty much everything you want to see and do in Cádiz is just a few minutes walk away. Despite a few specific problems I found it hard not to like the place, which had a generally friendly and comfortable atmosphere and very helpful staff.

hotel catedral cadiz (2)Our room at the front of the hotel had a wonderful view over the plaza to the Cathedral, but lacked a table or anywhere to put the suitcase. The rooms at the back, which are slightly larger, have the extra furniture but lack the view. We also found the twin beds too narrow (just 80 cm though with good mattresses and pillows), and the hot water supply was unreliable. Upstairs there’s a fabulous roof terrace with a little pool, though since it was mid-November we didn’t take advantage of it other than to pop up and take some photos.

hotel catedral cadiz (3)On the main floor there’s a cosy breakfast room with a little nook that has a comfy sofa in one corner, and there’s a bar next to reception that has a tapas menu and seating both inside and out on the sidewalk terrace. The breakfast itself was more modest than some of the rather wasteful-looking displays you see, but it was above average quality with excellent made-to-order coffee – a good start to the day.

Lastly, that almost universal complaint, the WiFi was really slow and, in spite of the website guaranteeing free WiFi, it really only worked in the reception area. We were told that they are working on changing this, along with a few other things (like putting desks in all the rooms) and it does seem like they are sincere about this. You get the feeling that it’s still early days and that they are doing their best, and so I do recommend it for a short stay of a night or two.

Hotel la Catedral
Plaza Catedral, 9
Cádiz
Tel 956 291 142