Guest Author - Rachel L Webb
Whether itís a flying city break, a leisurely slow-travel one-stop trip or a round-country dash, for style and splendour the Paradors of Spain have it all.
Parador Ė literally means stopping place, and what beautiful, majestic, luxurious, historical and stylish stopping places they are too. Since the first one was opened in Ńvila, north-west of Madrid in 1928, an age of poor inns and hostels, these government run luxury hotels have now increased in number to 91.
Many of them are historical buildings carefully restored such as the 15th century convent in the grounds of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Others are brand-new modern structures, many with internet access and the Parador of Vielha on the Spanish/French border with its own spa.
It was the idea of the Marquis Vega InclŠn, S.M, whose mission was to create a better class of accommodation at the same time reclaim some of the abandoned national monuments. King Alfonso XIII himself opened the first Parador, apparently some of his wedding guests had to stay in private houses, which was rather beneath their usual standard. This helped him see the need for a higher standard of accommodation and the ever-travelling Marquis got an improvement in the choice of places to stay.
Covering the whole of the mainland from the Pyranees to the Portuguese border, from Cadiz in the south-west to Girona in the north-east, the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands to the Spanish outposts of Ceuta and Melilla on the north African coast. The Paradors have maintained a recognisable and unbeatable standard of accommodation, service and local gastronomy wherever they are.
The Parador network has some nine suggested routes such as The Green Spain Route in the wetter north of the country. The Silver Route based on the Roman road built from the north to the south that became known as the silver road. The White Towns Route through the scattered habitations in the dry south of Andalucia.
These routes, even all of them together them donít cover all the Paradors and I for one am rather keen on visiting and experiencing each one with itís local customs traditions, food and wines, as well as each individual town or city with their own fascinating history.
Iím planning on becoming a Friend of the Paradores Amigo de Paradores, is a membership card thatís free at any hotel. The card will allow you to accumulate points when paying your bill, these can be exchanged for free nights accommodation at any hotel, at any time of year and as I want to visit them all a few free nights wonít go amiss.
Prices are mainly between 90 Euros and 150 Euros, for a double room, 80% for single occupancy. Special hotels such as Granada cost 250 Euros with no reduction for a single occupant.