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When we came to choose our favourite Paradors, the hardest part was determining the criteria with which we could have a fair and useful attempt at selecting our favourite Parador. After much debate, we went with our hearts and each of us chose the Parador that appealed to us most.
We could have chosen the Parador de Granada because of its magnificent setting within the grounds of the Alhambra, or the Parador de Santiago de Compostela with its historical significance (”reputedly the oldest hotel in the world”). We considered which were the oldest, the most charming, which had the best restaurants, which ones were haunted! We even considered which one we would choose (or would have chosen) to get married in.
In the end, we decided to share with you our preferences which, rather remarkably, resemble a list of the Paradors that encompass the best of Paradors – a list of properties that showcase what the Parador concept truly is.
“Striking, really different, best of both worlds”
This Parador is so striking in its bold design and its defensive setting atop the hill above the town of Lorca. What most struck me was the tremendous skill of the architects in combining the original archaeological remains with the contemporary design of the new building, leaving you wondering if you are in a wholly new building or a marriage of new and old. Also their boldness in building on top of the low walls of the synagogue alongside, in the form of a suspended construction of walls and ceiling above it to avoid damaging the crumbled remains, permits you to visit the synagogue and view its layout and design even though so little of it remains above ground. The terrace has unrivalled views of the landscape around, but my favourite views are those across the town to the hill range beyond. There’s so much to take in. The spa is genuinely worth a few hours of time spent relaxing, with or without a treatment or massage, with one of the most attractive indoor pools ever, again with those incredible views!
“The ultimate Parador”
The Parador de Cuenca is an absolute jewel and perhaps the best example of what consititutes a Parador. To say ‘’it ticks all the boxes’’ does it a disservice because it is a very special place to stay and defies being categorised so easily. Housed in a 16th century convent which has a thoroughly authentic feel to it, only a few modern features have been added to the original building to make it more comfortable, such as the glass enclosure of the cloister. Set on the edge of the shallowish gorge, seemingly on an island of raised land, it stands proudly and majestically opposite the famous hanging houses of Cuenca, separated by a short footbridge.
To me the highlight of the Parador is the restaurant, which feels like a step back in time and is well worth the experience. The chef specialises in desserts (always my favourite course!) and I was not disappointed with the delicious dinner and beautifully presented desserts. The service throughout the building was also notable and I felt that the staff were very proud to be working in such a prestigious hotel. As a history lover, the old town of Cuenca particularly interested me and also deserves a mention because the Parador forms a key part of it. A walk around the old streets and up the hill is a great experience of how Spain used to look and feel in times gone by.
“Just bring your boots and a good book”
For me the overriding attractions of this Parador are its remote, natural setting and the significance of this huge Benedictine monastery. Its renovation and conversion to a Parador was carried out so carefully that its opening was delayed by serious projects such as the delicate relocation of the graveyard outside to make space for the underground car park. Having waited eagerly for its entry into the network, I was delighted to visit it in 2009 and to enjoy the wonderful views both of the buildings and of the valley around it. I love Paradors whose history is clouded by the discovery of earlier ruins than the main site, such as Santo Estevo and Corias.
To enjoy this Parador, you just need to bring your walking boots and a good book. Nature and the peaceful nooks and crannies of this building will provide you with the perfect settings to enjoy great walks along the valley and uninterrupted reading, whilst the Parador staff will take great care of you. Enjoy the spa facilities, the views from the restaurant, the authentic feel of this sizeable monastery, and just relax.
“A stylish old Parador with some great modern touches“
I love the old, authentic Paradors that are steeped in history and tranquillity and my stay at Trujillo stands out in my memory in this regard. Nestled in the old town and surrounded by narrow cobbled streets, this restored convent is a delightful place to while away a couple of days of relaxation. The original building has been restored in a way which allows touches of colour and design to complement the bare, natural stonework. The communal areas and bedrooms are all stylish and full of character. Be sure to look upwards as some of the rooms have particularly ornate ceilings.
The terrace by the inviting swimming pool is the ideal place to soak up some early afternoon Extremaduran sun. Relaxation over, the city itself is a treasure trove for history lovers and being fairly compact it is easily explored on foot. The Parador has a Gastrobar serving a superb selection of local specialities while Trujillo’s historic Plaza Mayor lies just a short five-minute walk away. Enjoying an evening meal in one of the square’s many outdoor restaurants while watching the sun go down really does make for an atmospheric and quite romantic dining environment.
“Majestic, stylish, atmospheric”
Having spent the afternoon strolling round the town and taking in the views of the plains and hills all around, we settled into sunbeds by the Parador’s pool and enjoyed the last of the sun before it slipped away behind the horizon. To me, this is a great place to slip away to in the winter when you can’t take the cold and the rain, and you just need to feel warm to the bone again. A great place to escape to for a long weekend.
Carmona enjoys a very mild winter really, and with Seville far enough away, you can enjoy peace and relaxation in the Parador and the tranquil town, before heading into Seville for lots of active sightseeing and lively summer evenings on one of the cities popular terraces. The Parador is cherished fondly by many clients, a historic fortress with a great deal of charm and style, and the staff are some of the friendliest I have met in a hotel yet.
‘’Imposing fortress with fabulous sea views and great beach walks’’
The historical significance of Baiona in Columbus’ return to Spain just adds to the mythology of this wonderful corner of Spain, a period when Spain’s navy was exploring the globe and making enormously important discoveries across the seas, which fascinate me. This is a wonderful, imposing fortress with water on almost 4 sides. The setting is very impressive whilst its interior retains many of the original features, with some authentic timber furniture, subtle colours and natural furnishings.
You can walk into the town, which is not frequented by all the tourists who flock to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino de Santiago, so you can enjoy its authentic charm and lovely old buildings. The beaches along this stretch of coastline are excellent, and the nature reserve of the Islas Cies and Rodas beach are well worth the trip out on the ferry, some of the beautiful islands visible on the horizon from the Parador.