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

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

Archidona | Almohalla 51

almohalla

I feel a bit late to the party here as so many people I know have stayed at – and totally loved! – Almohalla 51, which this year was voted Best B&B in Spain by Trip Advisor. So I was thrilled to be invited to spend a night there during my recent Andalucía getaway. I had just spent two nights in nearby Antequera and was planning to take the bus over to Archidona (a short 20 minute ride) but then I randomly met two other Almohalla 51 guests while having lunch at Arte de Cozina in Antequera and they offered to give me a lift. Already this short stayover was starting to feel a bit magical.

Almohalla 51 is a charming boutique guesthouse owned and run by former Londoners Myles Rainsford and David Matthews. Made up of two abandoned homes that were basically in ruins, it has been lovingly restored and the five rooms (two standard, three deluxe), along with the various common rooms and terraces, are filled with so many “oh wow, look at that!” moments that I finally had to stop taking photos of everything. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself.

almohalla collageMyles warmly greeted me when I arrived, showed me to my (GORGEOUS) room and then invited me to a glass of wine in the cosy book nook common room. His partner David was away that weekend, but Myles said not to worry because he was nicer anyhow. Ha. We chatted about the history of the guesthouse and it became clear why it felt so special and intimate as it is clearly a well-loved place, which is not something that can be faked even by the best interior designers. So it came as no surprise to learn that the entire place had been not only designed, but often physically transformed, by Myles and David themselves. So much attention to detail, adding modern comforts (loved the bathroom!) while respecting the tradition and, well, the soul of the buildings.

That evening Myles took me out on a “tapeo” and we hit what are probably THE two places to eat in Archidona. First stop was Bar Central, which had also come highly recommended by friends. We sat at the bar and basically left it to Salvi the barman to decide what we should eat – he chose well. Then we wandered over to Arxiduna, in Plaza Ochivada, Spain’s only octagonal square. We ordered drinks on the terrace and food also appeared – amazing lovely tapas that come with drinks! – but I was still stuffed from not only Salvi’s choices but also that lunch at Arte de Cozina, so I decided then and there I would have to come back the next day for lunch.

archidona eating outNext morning while Myles prepared breakfast for the other guests (fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt, eggs cooked to order, molletes, etc), I opted to take myself out for churros and industrial strength coffee at nearby Cafe Bar La Churrería, which I loved. Later on Myles arranged for a taxi to take me up to the stunning hilltop Sanctuary of La Virgen de Gracia and Moorish castle. Well worth a visit for the amazing views, and also walkable (about 45 minutes). Then after a wander through town, and that lunch I’d promised myself at Arxiduna, it was time to head back to Antequera and catch my train hom.

I can see why everyone I know (and plenty of others) have raved about Almohalla 51, yet at the same time not wanting everybody to know about it. It has a very unique and personal style that makes you feel immediately at home. The various common rooms invite chat between guests, but there are also enough of them, including the terraces, so everyone can relax in their own private world if they prefer. Honestly, my only complaint is that my stay was much too short and left me wanting more. Like, I’d have loved to spend a couple of hours reading by the pool or in that cute little cushioned reading nook in my room… next time!

Almohalla 51
Calle Almohalla 51
Archidona, Málaga
Andalucía

Ronda | Baraka Boutique B & B

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One of the nicest things about travelling is the chance encounters you have with people, and the places that you could so easily have missed. On my recent trip to Ronda with friends to the beautiful town of Ronda we were lucky to find this pretty little B & B in the old town, just around a corner from the Puente Nuevo. Baraka is an Arabic word that loosely translates into English as a blessing – you use it when you want to wish someone all the best in their lives.

We were met at Baraka by its owner and very charming hostess Anahid Blannin, a Lebanese of Armenian extraction who had arrived in Ronda by way of California and London, and who helped make our short stay such a pleasant one. Indeed, almost as soon as we arrived, some friends dropped in for a visit, and we ended up sitting around the table in the patio drinking sherry and eating biscuits. It’s the kind of impromptu get together that adds something unexpected and special to a holiday.

The building itself is one of those “typical” Andalusian houses built around a small internal patio that is all tiles and greenery, with a lovely rooftop terrace. There is one suite, and two double bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. Ours had a partially timbered ceiling, a pretty street view, and most importantly, clean, comfortable beds. I liked that there were little extras like a kettle and fixings in the rooms for tea or coffee, and a fridge in the kitchen where you could purchase drinks and mineral water. And although there is free WiFi available, Anahid has also thoughtfully put in a desktop computer that clients are welcome to use.

The highlight of the stay, however, was probably the breakfast that Anahid served us round the table in the patio the next morning. Lovely fresh coffee, orange juice, fruit, and toasted rolls with tomatoes, basil and olive oil, and a fabulous Lebanese dish called labne, which is a sort of yoghurt cheese with olive oil and herbs that was perfect with the toast and tomatoes. It was just what we needed to set us up for what turned out to be a fairly strenuous, but fun and interesting day in Ronda. It was late in the afternoon when we finally picked up our bags and said goodbye to Anahid, vowing to be back when we got the chance.

One of the delights of staying in a personally run B & B like this is that you are made to feel at home and comfortable, which is ideal for a relaxed visit. If you are more used to hotels a couple of things to keep in mind is that the parking is about a ten-minute walk away but Anahid gives you easy-to-follow instructions and a map to the parking options. Also, there is no central heating or air-conditioning, but space heaters are provided in winter and ceiling fans make sleeping comfortable in summer. I think I would personally miss having air-con in July and August for an extended stay, but for a weekend get-away it wasn’t an issue. The location of the Baraka is perfect for exploring and it’s close to pretty much everything you’ll want to see in Ronda. Anahid puts out information leaflets in the patio about tapas bars, flamenco, and things going on in town. It’s all these personal touches that made our stay so wonderful and we would definitely go back again.

Baraka Boutique Bed & Breakfast
Calle Ruedo Doña Elvira 16
Ronda, Málaga
Tel. +34 952 872 843