November 26, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

A year and half ago I spent eight nights sleeping in Camino hostels: these clearly weren’t my best hotel experiences in Spain. In fact, that was the first and probably last time that I will be roughin’ it backpacker-style (until my next Camino rendezvous, anyway).

Why? Well, although I consider myself a very low-maintenance traveler, I’m pretty much crazy high-maintenance when it comes to my lodging (cleanliness, vibe, location — I’m flipping neurotic about it). So, being the picky hotel-selector that I am, I’ve decided that I ought to put all of my madness to good use and share with you some of my favorite hotels across Spain.

Casa Morisca Hotel, Granada
After staying at various questionable (and over-priced) establishments during my visits to Granada, I finally happened upon this one thanks to a recommendation from a friend. Indeed, in a city full of tourists, it can be hard to find lodging with charm that remains untainted by the masses — but then there’s Casa Morisca. The house-turned-hotel dates back to the 15th century and recalls those times when the Moors occupied a healthy chunk of Iberia (creating magical places like the Alhambra!). And while restored, all the rooms are different, each still maintaining old-world details such as intricate wood-carved ceilings and interior access via a riad-style patio. While I haven’t been back to Granada in a couple of years, you can bet this is where I’ll be staying whenever I return.
Casa de San Martín, Huesca
This off-the-grid (seriously) piece of paradise is what motivated me to write this post. Previously an abbey, the hotel is located at the end of a five-kilometer gravel road that takes twenty minutes to carefully navigate. It may be remote, but the drive is worth it, as the hotel is a perfect mixture of antiquity and pure lodging luxury. The grounds are impeccably landscaped and the service as good as it gets. Even better: since you probably won’t be too keen to make that off-road excursion back to civilization for dinner, you can stick around at the hotel, where the multi-course meals are lavishly rustic, just like the setting itself.
A Casa de Aldán, Galicia
Once a fishery, this hotel is situated along the quiet waters of the Rias Baixas fishing village of Aldán. The rural lodging is an understated mishmash of weather-worn granite and modern cedar-wood detailing. Marry that with bedrooms of humble white linens, miniature porthole-like views of the small bay, and a sprinkling of local restaurants that serve morning-caught seafood, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Galician getaway. In fact, I loved it so much during my first visit that I returned once again simply for the pleasure of staying in such a sweet hotel and in one of Spain’s sweetest little spots.
Marques de Riscal Hotel, Frank Gehry
Marqués de Riscal, La Rioja
Yeah, and then there’s Marqués de Riscal, which practically drips indulgence; the only “rustic” things about this place are the winery’s old bodegas, and the views of Elciego village. Ranked up there among the world’s most luxurious hotels, expect this lodging experience to come with an appropriately hefty price, though. But doggonit, the place is pure magic, so much so that I convinced my mother to return there with me last February; a trip that I’m fairly certain was her favorite of all her annual journeys to Spain. But really, between the wine, the luxury, the Michelin star-rated food, and the surrounding La Rioja region, how can you go wrong? You just can’t.

So now it’s your turn: What have your best hotel experiences been? And even better, what have been the best ones in Spain or even Madrid? I’m always looking for good recommendations!

March 16, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

Another day, another stop on my European tour – or so it seems. I arrived back in Madrid from Prague late last Thursday night, only to hit the road to Galicia the following day, where we were met with nothing but sunshine and blue skies. Below, a few more iPhone shots from my few days of play in Spain’s northwestern-most region.

This weekend, I’m off to Asturias…

Street in Santiago
Street in Santiago
Streets of Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
Cabo de Home
Cabo de Home

May 8, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travels in Spain

Last weekend was a three day weekend here in Spain, so Jacob and I took the opportunity to visit one of the few remaining places in the country that I had yet to check off my list – Galicia. Galicia is the northwestern most region of Spain – nestled right above Portugal. It’s known for its amazing food (but then again, what place in Spain isn’t) and the abundance of rain (among many other things). It is also the final destination for the famous “Camino de Santiago,” – a historic pilgrimage route that has existed for literally thousands of years. To this day, many people still make the pilgrimage for either spiritual or physical challenge (hmm, as I read that I am having flashbacks to the TV show “Double Dare” – 80’s children, you know what I’m talking about!!).

Our first stop in Galicia was the city of Santiago de Compostela itself – the final destination of the pilgrimage. It is there that you will find the large cathedral, the final stopping point of the camino. Jacob and I stayed in the Parador right next to the cathedral, so we were right at the center of the bustling little city. Right after we arrived to Santiago, we set out to try some of the delicious Galician food by hopping from restaurant to restaurant. We tried berberechos (small clam-like shellfish), empanada, pulpo (octopus – my favorite!), clams, shrimp and the well known cake called “tarta de Santiago.” It was a filling afternoon, so much so that we headed back to the hotel for a several hour siesta, followed by a dinner in which I was far too full to even eat a thing.

The next day we got an early start and headed out to several of the coastal cities, including Cambados and O Grove. We walked the shoreline in each town and enjoyed some more tapas. We discovered a strange little custom there too – I noticed that many of the cars had somehow affixed to them this plant with yellow flowers (which is quite abundant, growing everywhere in Galicia). We asked a local old man (Spanish grandpa, hee hee) who told us that in the beginning of May it is customary for people to put them on their cars for good luck. Take note people!

After these two stops we headed to a bodega in the mountains where we enjoyed a delicious lunch of clams and wine while overlooking the vineyard and the ocean in the distance.

At this point the weather was getting quite toasty, which was completely unexpected (it’s like going to Seattle this time of year and having it suddenly be 80 degrees – it completely blindsided us), so we made a detour to the city of Pontevedra in order for me to buy some appropriate shoes and a dress. Thank goodness for Zara, which has come to my rescue on various excursions (Amsterdam, Rome, New York, you name it). It was there that I bought myself a new dress without trying it on – after trying it on, I realized it looked more like a potato sack with holes for my head and arms….but that’s fine, I consider it my tribute to the really fantastic potatoes they serve in Galicia – YUM-MY!

Finally we headed to our stop for the second night which was in a small fishermen’s village called Aldán. There we stayed in this phenomenal rural hotel built in an old building used for preserving fish. The whole building was made of stone, but the handful of hotel rooms were a combination of both cedar and stone. The smell of the wood mixed with the sea (right out the window) was so incredibly therapeutic and refreshing. It reminded me a lot of my favorite place on earth – my grandparents house on Vashon Island (on the beach, and also made of cedar)…and I’ll be there next week!!!

That evening we had an amazing dinner at a restaurant renowned for its amazingly fresh seafood – so fresh that they literally don’t serve anything that wasn’t caught that day! We had to try their lenguado (a white fish), the speciality of the house, which had those famously delicious potatoes on the side.

The following day we decided to get lost in the hilly village – what a charming place it was! Views of the port were abundant and small houses fit in quaint little vegetable gardens wherever they could. My kind of town. Another thing I discovered in Galicia were these strange little shed-like things perched up on four legs, usually with a crucifix at each end – and literally almost every old house had one. I couldn’t figure it out, but after a day I had come to the morbid conclusion that they were family crypts and was highly disturbed by it. It turns out, after asking a local fisherman, that they are pretty much just oversized pantries called hórreos. So not quite as disturbing as I thought, and thus the reason why I ended up taking a wildly large amount of pictures of them.

So that was our lovely trip to Galicia. Next stop for me now is SF and then Seattle.