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The Parador Paradigm

If like me you groan at the mere thought of another Philippe Stark-designed hipster bar, or über-minimalist white-carpeted trend hotel where you can’t figure out how to turn the bathroom lights off, I bet you’ll love the un-hip un-cool not-at-all-with-it Parador hotels of Spain.

King Alfonso XIII may have been the proud owner of the last proper Hapsburg royal underbite, but he was also the man we have to thank for Spain’s Parador Hotels, having founded the group in 1928.

Since then, they seem to have made blissfully little change to their operational guiding principles. If you like throw-back service, amazing historical monuments, and free plastic bottles of 1950’s aftershave in your room, this is the hotel chain for you.

History buffs among you will point out that Alfonso wasn’t Hapsburg at all, he was a Bourbon (i.e. French) monarch, but I’ll forgive myself the error because it’s almost impossible to talk about the Parador hotels without making some sort of historical bloomer. Why? Because the Paradors aren’t steeped in history or even soaked in history—they practically are Spanish history. State-owned and state run (since Alfonso got deposed), they inhabit many of the finest buildings in the country, the pièce de résistance being the Granáda Parador which is actually located inside the famous Alhambra site. It was in this building that the Catholic Kings were buried. I.e., it’s like slinging a hammock up in St Peter’s and kipping down for the night.

On a recent trip in Andalucia I visited six or seven Paradors, and came to love the slightly musty smell of gilt curtains and varnished four-poster beds. I’ve had some mixed experience with state-run hotels in the former Soviet Republics, but the comparison stops there; quite surprisingly, Spanish state hotels all seem to be run by smiling, friendly staff who are geniunely helpful. I suppose that makes sense: they are all living in palaces.

It’s not entirely true that the Paradors are stuck in time. In fact, special offers for both older and younger travellers mean that unless you’re exactly 33.3 years old, chances are they have a very good deal for you. It’s quite possible to travel around Spain overnighting entirely in Parador hotels, making their ‘recorridos por España’ the ultimate retro trip.

Here’s how to do Andalucia in old-school style:
Parador de Ubeda
Parador de Granada
Parador de Ronda
Parador de Arcos de la Frontera
Parador de Carmona

Jack Dancy now has a small stockpile of tiny aftershave bottles, which he will send you as a free gift with your purchase of a Trufflepig trip.

Special offers for both older and younger travellers mean that unless you're exactly 33.3 years old, chances are they have a very good deal for you.

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