STAY in Madrid
- Hotel Ritz —Wonderfully stylish designer Carolina Herrera stays here every time she goes to Madrid (per Departures 2012). Elle Decor also recommended it, as do I. Particularly heavenly is the outdoor patio behind the hotel!
- Casa de Madrid —Carolina Herrera’s daughter reserved this for her wedding (per Departures 2012). Elle Decor also recommended it and described it as, “Antiques and 18th century portraits grace this luxury B&B in a grand apartment near the Royal Palace.” Website currently under construction but the few photos I found (like below) in travel mag’s look very pretty! 7 rooms, moderately priced
SEE THE SIGHTS in Madrid
- Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado)—world-class & world-famous art collection
- Flamenco–“On Thursdays, Laray (Calle de los Hermanos Becquer 6) is the insider dance venue–but the show won’t start until after midnight,” per Carolina Herrera (Departures 2012)
- Hidden Treasure, per CH–“Cinephiles shouldn’t miss Cine Dore (Calle de Santa Isabel 3) housed in a gorgeous 1920s theater.”
- See a bullfight at Las Ventas–While the tradition and symbolism of bullfights are interesting & the spectacle dramatic, I felt sad for the bull but it’s worth seeing once.
- Walk Madrid de los Austrias, the old city center–visit the Plaza Mayor, Casa de la Villa, Palacio de Santa Cruz
- Museo del Traje (Avenida de Juan de Herrera 2)–costumes from the 17th century to the present, including the fabulous Fortuny and Balenciaga
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Santa Isabel 52)–home to Picasso’s famous “Guernica,” and other paintings by famous 20th-century Spanish artists
- Convent of the Descalzas Reales (Plaza de las Descalzas)–evocative 16th-century convent where cloistered nuns live with a museum-worthy art collection
- Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Alcala 13)–“exuberant neoclassical exteriors and some of Goya’s best works,” per Elle Décor
- and many, many more!
EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Madrid
- La Tasquita de Enfrente (Calle de la Ballesta, 6)–“best tapas,” per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)
- Samm (Calle de Carlos Caamano 3)–for paella, per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)
Cocktails & Dancing in Madrid
- Le Cabrera (Calle de Barbara de Braganza 2)–“You can’t beat a gin and tonic at Le Cabrera,” per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)
- The pool at Room Mate Oscar hotel (Plaza Vasquez de Mella 12)–also per CH
- Evaristo Club (11 Calle Marques de Santa Ana)–per Travel + Leisure (2013)
- Hit the dance floor at Charada Club de Baile —Travel + Leisure (2013)
- “For one of the city’s most cinematic views, head to the rooftop terrace at the cultural center, Circulo de Bellas Artes (42 Calle de Alcala),” per Travel + Leisure (2013)
SHOP in Madrid
- For espadrilles, Lobo (Calle de Toledo 30) “is the place for the more traditional shoe, in every color. For more fashion-forward styles, try Castaner (Calle de Claudio Coello 51),” per Carolina Herrera.
- Sunday’s outdoor flea market El Rastro for antiques (recommended by CH in Departures, 2012, as well as Travel + Leisure 2013)
SEVILLE (“Sevilla”)–300 miles SW of Madrid, Seville is the capital of Andalusia and the fourth-largest city in Spain (pop. 700,000+). “Though its history dates back to the Roman times, an invasion by the Moors in the eighth century left a cultural imprint that largely defines the city today.” (Travel+Leisure, 2014)
STAY in or near Seville
- Trasierra (Cazalla de la Sierra)–“Tucked away in Seville’s foothills, this tiny whitewashed town is a favorite of Carolina Herrera, who stays at the 16th-century hacienda Trasierra. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring nearby Seville.” (per Travel+Leisure, 2014) The town of Cazalla de le Sierra is located 80 km. north of Seville and looks intriguing. Trasierra is a 19-room inn that has received rave reviews by excellent sources (interior designer, Mark D. Sikes, the New York Times Style magazine, and Condé Nast Traveler). I am so in love with the photos and feel of Trasierra that I have posted three photos below, as well as several more at the very end of this post*…check them out!
- Corral del Rey (Seville) –“a chic, low-key boutique hotel in a restored 17th-century palace” (Travel+Leisure, 2014). This is a sister property of the Hacienda de San Rafael (Pippa Middleton’s b-day bash location, described below). Its website looks okay, not amazing.
- Hotel Alfonso XIII (Seville)— Built in 1929 and renovated, this is the grand dame hotel in Seville’s city center. The website looks great: lots of Spanish tiles and character!
- Hacienda de San Rafael—tranquil, rustic, luxury hotel set in an olive grove 40 minutes south of Seville; site of Pippa Middleton’s 40th birthday party weekend; 11 bedrooms, three suites, three pools, bougainvillea-lined courtyard, gardens, al fresco dining, plus spa services and flamenco classes (per Hello magazine, 2013). While at Hacienda de San Rafael, Pippa and her friends visited “Cortijo de Arenales, a traditional Andalusian estate about 45 minutes from Seville. Owned by the Count of La Maza, the beautiful estate maintains the traditions of Andalusian country life. Pippa’s party were given a tour …and taught about the fighting bulls that are bred on the estate and roam around its 7,000 acres.” (Hello magazine, 2013) Check out the other good cultural excursions on HdSF’s website, like touring the great white hilltop towns of the region!
SEE THE SIGHTS of Seville
Following is a partial listing to whet your appetite:
- La Giralda & the Cathedral–12th century bell tower, originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period; a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Alcazar –also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcazar is a royal palace originally built by Moorish Muslim kings, one of the most beautiful in Spain, and it is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe
- See a bullfight at Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza
- Since Andalucía is the birthplace of flamenco, the Museo del Baile Flamenco is a must
- Plaza de Espana – The beautiful Plaza de España, Seville, was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Its tiled wall, benches, floors and walkways are an example of the Renaissance Revival style in Spanish architecture. Feast your eyes below…
- Basilica de la Macarena –has one of the most revered sculptures in Seville, the 17th-century Virgin of Hope, which locals call La Macarena. La Macarena is the patron saint of matadors and a favorite of Spanish gypsies.
- Casa de Pilatos—Duke of Medinaceli’s 16th century residence with STUNNING arabesque mosaics; considered to be prototypical Andalusian palace
Case de Pilatos (photo courtesy of Fundacion Casa Ducal de Medinaceli)
EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Seville
- La Moneda—traditional tapas bar near the cathedral that is a favorite with locals (Hello magazine, 2013)
- El Rinconcillo–for tapas, “the oldest tavern in Seville, dating from 1670…as old-school as it gets” (Travel+Leisure, 2014)
- Eslava–“at the other end of the tapas spectrum, Eslava, hip, modern joint, draws a smart urban crowd”…”the tourists come here early; the locals come late.” (Travel+Leisure, 2014)
Elsewhere in Andalucía
- Granada–I could find no good hotels in Granada proper. Years ago, we stayed in the parador, a former convent called the Hotel San Francisco and it was dumpy, though its website looks as if they’ve made improvements. HOWEVER, it is on the grounds of The Alhambra, which is a sight to behold! It is the only medieval Islamic palace preserved in its entirety, with beautiful gardens and magical architecture. Another option: Located 18 km. north of Granada is Cortijo del Marques, a former convent turned small hotel in the midst of olive groves. TIP: Advise you buy tickets to the Alhambra the day before to avoid the lines. Staying on the grounds facilitates that as you can go to the ticket office at off hours or late in the day when there are no lines.
- Cordoba–This smallish city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and these are always good. It has been occupied since 42,ooo BC, ruled by the Moors for many years, and then conquered by Christians. Its Great Mosque of Córdoba and current cathedral, alongside the Roman bridge are wonderfully memorable and definitely worthy of one night. STAY at the 53-room Hospes Palacio del Bailio, as recommended by Andrew Harper and Tablet Hotels.
- Carmona–Carmona has been continuously inhabited for 5,000 years, is 15 minutes from Seville International Airport, and has a lovely hotel, the Casa de Carmona, where we stayed years ago. Nice hotel and nice little city!
Should you prefer an upscale tour to driving/self-guided exploring, Al Andalus is a renovated, beautiful old train that has several different tour routes through Spain, including an Andalusian route. The Al Andalus is a luxury train finished in 1930 and designed in France for England’s royal family. “There are five routes: two run along the mountain-sea routes of the north, two more traverse the central areas of the country, and one in the south, where the Al Andalus stops in Seville, Jerez, and Granada and at other monuments to Spain’s Islamic past.” (Departures magazine, 2015)
*MORE PHOTOS FOLLOW OF Trasierra, BECAUSE THEY ARE SO BEAUTIFUL THAT I COULDN’T RESIST…
-Posted May 2016