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

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
Tel 952 224 079

Archidona | Almohalla 51


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

Málaga | Urban Living Holiday Apartments

liborio apt 4 (1)
A couple of weeks ago I booked a two-bedroom holiday apartment with Urban Living in Málaga for a three-day getaway with friends. I shared the apartment in calle Liborio with one friend (our other two friends were staying at another Urban Living apartment in calle Fajardo). The apartment was located on the third floor with balconies in every room, which gave a lot of light. The beds (one double, two single) were very comfortable and both bedrooms had lots of closet space. The open kitchen was well-equipped and the living room next to it was bright and attractive. The only complaint about the apartment itself was that the bathroom was missing a light over the mirror (there were just wires sticking out of the fixture) and it really needed some shelves – both in the room and in the shower – to put toiletries. In the end we had to leave our things on the floor.

liborio apt 4 (2)
Calle Liborio runs between Larios and Nueva streets, an ideal central location, though it can’t be directly reached by taxi and is a few minutes walk from the main road. The Atarazanas market is nearby, as well as a supermarket, so it’s easy to pick up food and supplies. The Urban Living office is located on the fourth floor of the building, which was convenient for leaving our bags after checking out (my train wasn’t until 7 pm), but checking in was a bit of a fluke. I’d made arrangements for someone to meet me there at 2 pm because I was on crutches at the time, and they forgot – it was just by chance that someone else was in the office when I arrived.

But my main complaint – and it is a big one – is that I had specified before booking that I needed to have an excellent WiFi connection because I had to work that weekend, and I was assured of this. But the connection was very poor. I mentioned this immediately after arriving on Thursday and was told that something would be done to “boost” the connection. By late afternoon Friday nothing had been done and when I called the office nobody was there. Finally someone brought over a router (while we were out) which didn’t work at all, so we went from having a poor connection to none at all. And nobody returned my calls for the rest of the weekend. VERY disappointing. The connection should have been tested before we arrived, as it had been a specific request and had been guaranteed.

Overall it was a pleasant stay, in a nice bright apartment right in the centre of town. But I’d hesitate to book with Urban Living again because of the management issues.

Urban Living Málaga
Calle Liborio García, 1
952 60 22 47

Málaga | Hotel del Pintor

hotel del pintor room
After three fabulous nights in Málaga mid-December I realised I needed/wanted to extend my visit by one more night. Unfortunately the lovely hotel I’d been staying at had no availability and they asked me if I would like them to call somewhere for me. Well, back in July while I was on summer holiday in Málaga a friend of mine came to visit and spent the night at Hotel del Pintor. I’d seen her room and, while not as nice as where I’d been staying, I thought it would be fine for one night. But imagine my surprise when I showed up at the hotel and saw that my room was nothing like the one I’d seen before. In fact, it was barely a room at all. There was one single bed in a room just slightly larger than the bed itself, with two small windows looking into two other small windows across the patio. Small, dark and uncomfortable. There wasn’t even a place for me to put my carry-on suitcase and I ended up leaning it against the door. The (surprise!) very small bathroom was clean enough, though the toilet seat was soaking wet when I arrived, and the toilet made odd gurgling sounds throughout my stay.

hotel del pintor
I spoke to the receptionist who told me she couldn’t change rooms because they were fully booked and when I asked to speak to the manager I was told he was away in Sevilla for a meeting and couldn’t be reached. What? This was at midday on a Friday. I was pretty much resigned to spend my final night in Málaga in that dreadful room but certainly didn’t want to spend 54€ (the same price my previous – and much superior – hotel had charged per night) and so asked for something to be done. When I returned to the hotel in the evening to change for dinner (I’d stayed out as long as possible so I wouldn’t have to spend time there) I was told that the manager was still unavailable. I told the receptionist – a different one this time – that it was scandalous to charge so much for what was little more than a walk-in closet and was told that this was because of the hotel’s “excellent location”. Yes, on grimy calle Álamos, with no parking, no restaurant… all of which was available at my previous hotel (which is actually in an excellent location). Whatever. I left to meet my friends feeling very upset.

That night I had a terrible sleep on the small bed that creaked whenever I turned over (receptionist: “oh, that must be because the bed is new!”) on a too-soft pillow that was full of lumps. The next morning I got dressed and got out of there as soon as possible, and while checking out yet another receptionist told me that the manager – who was now unavailable because he was off for two days – had instructed her to tell me that they would not adjust the price for me. Unbelievable. What kind of hotel has no manager available from mid-day Friday until Monday morning?? Totally unprofessional. When my friend stayed there during peak season in July she paid 48€ for a room that was easily twice as big, yet management maintained they could do nothing for me. Trust me, there are plenty of other places to stay in Málaga where you will be treated much better than here.

Hotel del Pintor
Álamos 27
tel 952 06 09 80

Cádiz | Hotel Argantonio

argantonio beds

The Argantonio is a small 2 star hotel in a traditional style building, not luxurious, but with considerable charm. I stayed there with a friend mid-November and our room on the third floor was simply decorated, clean and comfortable with a good sized bathroom that had a walk-in shower. Tip: ask for a room with a balcony on the (very quiet) street as these get better light than the interior rooms. Also, the rooms with two beds are considerably larger than those with a double bed. There was also a pleasant little terrace on the roof with a couple of comfy chairs for relaxing with a drink and a book, though the day I was there it was a bit too cold to take advantage of it.

Breakfast was included in the price (79 euros, double occupancy), with fresh hot coffee made to order from the bar, juice and toast, charcuterie, pastries and some hot dishes of eggs and sausages. Another plus was that the staff were friendly and helpful. We came back around midnight from our evening tapeo and a couple was being served a nightcap at the bar in front of the reception area, which I thought was a nice touch. And very important: there’s free WiFi with good reception throughout the hotel.

argantonio hotel[click on image to enlarge]

The location was excellent, on the edge of the old town and not far from the train station, giving easy access to both. Overall I thought it was good value for money. My only tiny “complaints”: the lack of a detachable shower head, and that the safe in the closet wasn’t bolted down, rendering it pretty much useless. But I would definitely stay here again.

Hotel Argantonio
Calle Argantonio, 3
Tel 956 21 16 40
Hotel Argantonio Website

El Puerto de Santa María | Casa de Huéspedes Santa María

casa huespedes bed
This quirky and charming family-run guest house was recommended to me by a friend who lives in El Puerto de Santa María and I have to say it was perfect for my overnight stay there mid-November. My room was on the ground floor at the back of the house, so not much light from the row of small windows just under the ceiling (presumably opening onto a patio), but it was brightly decorated in primary colours against white walls and bedding, which made it quite cheerful. The bed was super comfortable and everything was clean-clean-clean. I had an ensuite bathroom (some of the rooms share) which was small but serviceable.

casa huespedes room[my room]

Owners Carlos and Myriam were very welcoming and helpful. I arrived with about fifteen minutes to spare to make my appointment for a sherry tour at Bodegas Gutiérrez-Colosía, which happily was not far away, and Carlos not only gave me easy directions but also a couple of recommendations for places to have tapas afterwards. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t have time to take a peek at some of the other rooms and by the time I got back after lunch they were all occupied.

casa huespedes common spaces[common areas of the hotel – click to enlarge]

Nice touches included a small kitchen where you could make tea or coffee and snacks. The fridge was stocked with bottled water that you could take and leave payment (1€) in a tin on the countertop. There were two complimentary coffee capsules with cups in my room and additional ones were also 1€ each, which seemed reasonable to me. The common rooms on the ground floor were also charming. A TV/reading room with a stack of books and comfy retro chairs, and a typical patio Andalúz, not-so-typically decorated. There was free WiFi in the common areas. All in all a pleasant stay and, at 40€, also a very good price.

It’s also an excellent location. It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station and just a 5 minute walk to the catamaran, which I took to Cádiz city the next morning.

Casa de Huéspedes Santa María
Calle Pedro Muñoz Seca 38
El Puerto de Santa María
Tel 956 85 36 31

Córdoba | Hospes Hotel Palacio del Bailío

Córdoba has long been famous for the Mezquita, the beautiful mosque-cathedral with its perspective-shifting array of columns and arches, but in recent years this fascinating city, which has the second largest preserved historic centre in Europe, has been increasingly recognised as one of the essential must-see places.

The Hospes Hotel Palacio del Bailío (Palace of the Knight-Commander), Córdoba’s first ever 5-star hotel, combines modern luxury with the charm of a building whose history is intertwined with that of the city. The site was occupied by the Romans (there are Roman ruins in the basement) and the Moors, and after the conquest of the city by the Christian king Ferdinand III in 1236 it was given as a reward to one of his supporters. It was owned for many generations by the family of the Great Captain (El Gran Capitán) Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, and the present palace was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. After part of the palace had been donated to the convent of Dolores and the Hospital of San Jacinto, and with the death of the last descendant of the Fernández family, the palace fell into decline until it was purchased by the Castejón family in 1929, who began the work of its restoration. It was declared a historic monument in 1982 and became a hotel in March 2007.

The entrance to the hotel from the street is surprisingly modest, and is watched over by a statuette of San Rafael (the unofficial patron saint of Córdoba), and a small stylised metal dragon. Once inside it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the combination of the grand and the cosy. The basic facilities are what you would expect from a 5-star hotel, but the special charm of this hotel is the way in which these are combined with Hospes’ own emphasis on restfulness and well-being, and expressed through the fabric of a historic building.

Last week my friend Peter (aka Seville Concierge) and I were invited to spend the night and also enjoy a flamenco-themed dinner. Our room was a modern standard (dreamer), with a fabulous slate-tiled bathroom, two balconies that overlooked the main patio garden with its swimming pool and fountain, and of course the amazingly comfy beds that Hospes is famous for. There’s also a pillow menu available. I loved falling asleep – and waking up – to the soothing sound of running water from the garden.

In the evening dinner was in the Roman patio, with an excellent singer and guitarist duo (there’s a different entertainment theme every month) and wonderful food by Senzone. The main restaurant is in the next room, and there’s also an attractive tapas bar, which are open to the public as well as guests. The patio also doubles as the breakfast room, where we had a substantial breakfast (well, it would be really, wouldn’t it?) on our second day. The Roman patio is so called because beneath the glass floor you can see the remains of a mosaic and marble columns of the Roman building that was once there (rediscovered by accident in the 1930s when the owners were building a tunnel to bring coal into the house without blackening the floors). It also has restored eighteenth century murals, including a row of upper story windows to match the real ones on the other two sides.

One thing we didn’t get to do was to sample the pleasures of the Bodyna Spa Roman baths and massage (having slept through our alotted time in the late afternoon – darn those comfy beds!) but we were able to have a look around the next morning when sales manager Laura Baena took us on a tour of the hotel. We were duly impressed, especially by the peacefulness of the cool, dimly lit stone baths (there are three of them, set to three different temperatures). I could certainly have spent a blissful hour there just soaking up the silence. We also got a peek at the Roman ruins, which aren’t open to the public and are under special protection, similar to the mosque.

All too soon our 24 hours of luxury were over. I can honestly imagine spending a couple of days at the Palacio Bailío and not even leaving the hotel, so if you do plan on staying here (and I highly recommend it) book yourself an extra night so that you actually get to see the city. I’m still dreaming of going back…

Oh, and did I mention the free WiFi?

[photo gallery below…]

Continue reading “Córdoba | Hospes Hotel Palacio del Bailío”

Seville| Las Casas de los Reyes de Baeza

hospes sevilla

Hospes Hotels Las Casas del Rey de Baeza

As you all know, I don’t get to travel much, and certainly not nearly as much as I’d like to. But a week ago today I got to take a “day trip” to a one of the most beautiful hotels in Sevilla . The hotel Las Casas del Rey de Baeza (longest name ever – try tweeting that several times a day!) is part of an exclusive chain of luxury hotels called Hospes Hotels, most (all?) of which are restored palaces. I have to say that it was interesting to see – and experience – how the other half lives…

My 24-hour staycation getaway was lovely and it was very nice that my friend & flatmate Peter was able to come with me. We got there around 5pm and, after getting settled in the room (mostly me taking tons of photos and both of us going WOW) we retired to one of the lounge areas just off a lovely plant-filled patio to read our books and enjoy some cava. Heaven.

After a couple of hours we went back up to the room, changed for dinner and went to try out the Senzone restaurant. They had us booked for a couple of tasting menus but we never like eating the same thing, so I convinced the waiter to bring us a selection of this and that to share. It was all very good but there was something about the place that made it feel “hotel-y” in a way the hotel itself didn’t. But we still enjoyed it very much. Back up to the room and I took a luxurious bath in the massive circular tub while Peter curled up with his book. By this time we were both pretty zonked so it was lights out and and I have to say the bed was amazingly comfortable. We were supposed to have been given a standard room with twin beds, but got upgraded to a deluxe one – nice!

Next morning we went down for brekky, not quite sure how things worked, and were told we could either have the buffet breakfast or order off the menu. So we decided to go for it and tucked into the buffet as well as ordering some very nice bacon & eggs. After all that we were so stuffed that all we could do was head for the fireplace lounge, sink into the big fat leather sofas and read some more.

Suddenly it was check-out time but we really didn’t feel ready to leave, and that wasn’t a problem. We were told just to leave our packed overnight bags in the room and later we could ask for them at reception, which gave us some extra time to go upstairs and enjoy the rooftop for awhile (see pic on the right).

I took so many photos that I really didn’t know what to do with them all, so here are a couple of collages (click on them to enlarge) of the hotel and our room, and of the food. It really was a fabulous getaway and many many thanks to Hospes Hotels for making it happen.

Senzone Restaurant

[click on collages to enlarge]

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