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

Baeza | TRH Ciudad de Baeza Hotel

baeza - hotel trh (1)

The TRH Baeza proved to be in a perfect location just inside the old town, and just around the corner from the Paseo de la Constitución – the town’s social centre (we were there immediately after the local feria, and the awnings were still up) – and the local market. The hotel itself, although making much of the fact that it’s in a 16th century convent, doesn’t really have a historical feel, though it retains the ground floor of the original colonnaded courtyard (a pleasant space with tables where you can enjoy a coffee, drink or snack), with the bars, restaurant and other public areas arranged around it.

For the rest it’s an essentially modern building, and none the worse for that. Our standard double room was comfortably spacious, with pleasant enough décor. The first room we were shown had very noisy air-conditioning, but we were moved straight away to the mirror-image room next door, which didn’t. Breakfast was okay, a fairly typical hotel buffet.
baeza - hotel trh (2)A few complaints. The WiFi really didn’t work well, and I was told the hotel “was having a problem with Telefonica” (this has happened in almost every hotel I’ve ever been to lately). The cheap wall-mounted soap dispenser in the bathroom was weird enough in itself, giving a “public bathroom” feel, and then fell off the wall just after we got there. Also I wasn’t told when booking a couple of days earlier that there were roadworks in the narrow street outside our room (and the hotel entrance). I know that roadworks are outside the hotel’s control, just feel I should have been told, although in the end it didn’t really affect our stay.

The convenient location was what really saved this place for me. I did check out a couple other boutique hotels while I was there, which were charming, but up (and I mean UP) small winding streets further from the “action”.  I’d say the TRH Baeza is good for a short stay – it’s comfortable, next to everything, and good value.

TRH Ciudad de Baeza
Concepción, 3
953 748 130

Úbeda | Hotel Rosaleda de Don Pedro

ubeda - roselada (1)

The Rosaleda de Don Pedro is right in the middle of the old centre of Úbeda, making it a perfect base from which to explore, although it’s a bit of a trek from the bus station. Part of the Sercotel Hotels group of 3-5 star hotels (the Rosaleda has 3 stars) there’s a full range of rooms from singles to junior suites. There is also has an outdoor pool and terrace which we didn’t have time to enjoy, but it looked very nice.

ubeda - roselada (2)Our standard double room was up on the 4th (top) floor, with a sloping ceiling that added to its rather rustic feel, but made the bathroom sink and mirror a little inconvenient. Well okay, useless really (had to do hair and make-up out in the room). It could also have used a few more power sockets, and you had to keep signing in to connect to the WiFi, which got a bit frustrating.

But these minor complaints aside, the room was quite spacious and comfortable, and we really enjoyed our two-night stay. I especially loved the fabulous view from the window – a cascade of rooftops on the hill below, and took multiple photos of it at different times of the day. In fact I loved it so much that when the very helpful staff offered to move me to a poolside room with a better WiFi connection, I chose to stay with my view and work downstairs in the comfy TV room, with rustic wooden tables and leather chairs.

Breakfast was fairly “standard hotel”, adequate but nothing special. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and the bar in front of reception is open all day long. Overall, excellent value for money, and I’d be very happy to stay here again.

Hotel Rosaleda de Don Pedro
Obispo Toral, 2
953 796 111

Madrid | Room Mate Hotel Mario

mario superior room
Third time totally lucky! This was my third stay at a Room Mate Hotel, and this time it was Mario, the original Room Mate hotel, in the heart of Madrid just off Plaza Ópera. An easy metro ride from Atocha station, I was there within half an hour of arriving in town. Check in was quick and welcoming, and I really appreciated that complimentary bottle of mineral water (why don’t more places do this?).

My spacious superior room was on the first floor with a balcony facing the street. Bright and charming, I loved that I could open the balcony doors and enjoy a pretty leafy green view. Super comfy bed (as usual at Room Mate) along with plenty of closet space, which included a mini bar and safe. The attractive grey & white tiled bathroom had a full bath and shower (with detachable shower head). I’m getting a bit hooked on the lovely bath products at Room Mate, especially the body lotion, but those hairdryers! Useless for anyone with longish hair. Also, the bathroom lighting could be better – I had to do makeup in front of the full-length mirror next to the balcony. Not a serious hardship, but thought I should mention it.

mario collage[click on image to enlarge]

As I always travel with three devices (notebook, iPad and iPhone) I was very happy to see lots of well-placed electical sockets around the room, and I was also pleased with the excellent (free!) WiFi connection. This time I had breakfast included but mostly went for fruit and coffee as I had lots of serious eating to do throughout the day (occupational hazard!). Have to say I’m not a fan of the “buffet breakfast”, but I did enjoy my coffee in the sunny breakfast room. It was a nice start to the day.

I think what I loved most about my three-night stay was feeling like I was in a cosy barrio, and overlooking that pretty street scene every day. A home away from home.

Room Mate Mario
C/ Campomanes 4
Tel. 915 488 548

Antequera | Parador Hotel

parador antequeraBack in February I won a free night for two including breakfast at the Parador of my choice and had decided to stay at the fabulous castle one in Carmona, but then found out that this wasn’t included in the list of available choices for Andalucía. So I ended up going to Antequera, which turned out to be quite serendipitous as I had never been there before and I was keen to do some research for my new trip planning biz. To wit I asked to book a second night along with my free offer, and I’m very glad I did. My friend Peter @SVQconcierge joined me for the first night and I stayed on by myself for the second.

The Antequera Parador is a modern 4 star hotel on a hill at the edge of town, with an easy walk to the town centre and monuments. Reception was friendly and efficient, and although we arrived quite early our room was already ready for us. One odd quirk that results from its hillside location with reception and “ground floor” at the top, is that the first and second floors are numbered in reverse, so that our second floor room beside the pool was the lowest level. Although we didn’t get to spend any real time there, the pool area was attractive with a terrace area and bar on one side, but otherwise the public areas, though clean and comfortable, seemed a little lacking in personality.

parador antequera collageOur room was quite spacious, with comfortable twin beds, a big desk, lots of cupboard space (with mini bar and safe) and a nice view of the pool outside the window. The bathroom was also roomy, and had some nice touches – twin sinks, big mirror, cleverly positioned make-up/shaving mirror with excellent lighting, and a sensibly simple shower in a full bath. I also really liked the pale green opaque coloured glass wall that separated it from the bedroom, but it could have been better ventilated. And it was a bit of a shame that the complimentary bathrobes and slippers didn’t show up until the second afternoon. But these are very small “complaints”.

Breakfast was typical large hotel fare (though with spectacular views from the dining areas). There was plenty of choice, from coffee and toast to fruit, to full English, but everything pre-prepared and a bit bland. It set us up for the morning, but I think hotels generally need to rethink how they do breakfast. I actually preferred the simple tostada & churros breakfast we had at a nearby bar when we first arrived.

But as you can see, I have no serious complaints at all. It was a lovely and luxurious getaway in a beautifully quiet and peaceful spot. A perfect introduction to Antequera. I’ll be back!

Parador de Antequera
Paseo García del Olmo, 2
Tel 952 84 02 61
Antequera, Málaga

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

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…]

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