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

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

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