Paradors in Spain are a great find. Sometimes I look at holidays as being like recipes you need a bit of this and a bit of that to make the dish perfect. A very basic dish can be brought to life with a few star ingredients. Paradors are the star ingredient.
So first steps were to get a cheap two week villa in Andalucia from thomson holidays. Car hire, flights and villa for £400 for two then we booked a tour of paradors. Paradors are a bit like a cross between the National Trust and Landmark Trust they have preserved buildings of historical importance often in areas with low levels of tourism (though not always!). The food they serve there is always local to the area and they are very proud of the sourcing of the food. The Paradors vary in price and they often have really good offers. We paid £90 for Ronda, £60 for Jaen and £150 for Granada. This added another £300 to our holiday bringing the total to £700 for two weeks for two people (bargain) and I would say it was almost honeymoon standard.
Our trip consisted of staying in between Nerja and Frigiliana which was good, a few nice villages nearby for food , a beach front down the road and it made a great base especially for the first few days where we just wanted to chill out (remember this is a holiday). The villa was clean, though dated and the swimming pool as big as a postage stamp. We planned to go to Parador Ronda, Parador Granada and finally Parador Jaen. First two were picked as we had always wanted to go, the last was picked because of the accommodation an 18thC Arabic fortress. The thing about Paradors is that you can guarantee you will have a good meal there and it will be completely different food at each one – so this is a gastronomic tour as well.
Our first stop was Ronda, this is a modern parador in the old town Hall and is a bit bland inside but OMG could you be any closer to the gorge? and it was a wonderful start to our adventure. We loved wandering around Ronda at night and the bar in the hotel was very good fun.
The second stop was Granada, but this being a Parador it isn’t any hotel in Granada, no you get to stay in the 15thC convent inside the Alhambra Gardens. Not only that but you get views of the Generalife from your bedroom. The restaurant is on the terrace and is one of the most romantic places in the world to eat.
Truth be told we booked all the other accommodation around this as Granada Parador is often booked up a year in advance. We just asked if there was any availability in the two weeks we were there and booked the other Paradors around it. You do need to buy a ticket to get in to see all the Alhambra but do this in advance.
Jaen Parador, who hasn’t dreamed of being a princess in a medieval castle. So when I saw this place with its Arabic fortress and four poster beds with tapestry’s I knew we had to stay. The Fortress stands on a hill and you can see for 40 miles all around the flat landscape (probably why they built it there!) The building’s majestic appearance continues inside with the impressive 20 metre high arches in the main hall, the dining room with its distinctive Arabic character, and the bedrooms with their magnificent views. The soft interior decoration of the building is complemented by a varied gastronomic menu: ajo blanco (chilled almond and garlic soup), ensalada de perdiz (partridge salad), pipirrana (typical salad) and espinacas a la jienense con huevo (Jaén spinach with egg).
Jaen is like the Pontefractof Spain once important but now in decline and not generally considered a tourist spot but look at the accommodation when have you ever stayed in a castle, and the interior was just as grand it was like a fantasy.
All Paradors were booked with Keytel who are the only UK representatives, really helpful and charming.