Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Parador Experience Part 1 - Hostal dos Reis Catolicos, Santiago de Compostela

The Spanish Paradores are a state owned hotel group with a long tradition of luxury and gracious service.  Started in the 1950s the various Paradores are either in historically significant buildings or
located in spectacular settings.  

The Hostal dos Reis Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela is in a historic building and
is located in spectacular surroundings,  making it the flagship property of the Parador Group.
This magnificent stone building is situated right beside the Cathedral,  occupying the north side
of the grand Praza do Obradoiro.

Housed in a former hospital built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1499,  it was
made primarily for pilgrims who needed rest and recuperation after withstanding the rigours
of the medieval roads of the Camino de Santiago.  Today, it serves the same purpose for
modern pilgrims looking to relax and pamper themselves after the Camino.

The Hostal dos Reis Catolicos has a superb facade done in the plateresque style. The 
entrance  is through this doorway -- modern glass doors carry the Parador's logo. Directly 
above the door is a small window used only by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella 
whenever they were in town.
The entrance is  impressive and imposing with carvings of both saints and naked men peering 
down on you as you enter.  You can also see the coat of arms of the "dos reis Catolicos",  
the two Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella  on each side of the entrance.

Unlike modern five star hotels, the lobby of the Parador is quite simple and only 
this arrangement of fresh flowers adorns a long wooden table.  Intricate wrought iron bars 
keep non-hotel guests from entering the inner courtyards of the hotel.

So many small touches add to the elegant and tasteful charm of the Parador -- like these gorgeous 
door handles;  I wanted to pry them loose and bring them home.

The Parador has four lovely cloisters.  The guest rooms are located on the second and third
floors and depending on where your room is, you will find yourself looking down on different
views.    Can you see the spire of the Cathedral peeking in on the Parador?

From the earth toned hues of the "stone cloister" as I called it, there is quite a change when
you pass through this arch and go into the "green cloister".  Lush hedges frame walkways
that lead to a charming gazebo.

Our rooms were situated on the second floor overlooking this cloister.

Stone arches surround the cloister. I was glad that it was not yet high season -- I could sit on the 
bench and enjoy the peace and quite while looking out on the garden.

I loved, no I coveted this green bench ... 

It may have seemed random but every eclectic piece of furniture worked well with each other.

Each guest room in the Parador has a heavy wooden door -- there is a small entranceway that
leads to the bedroom and on the other side is the bathroom.  A large wardrobe that matches the
door is built into the wall.

While the Parador is in a building that is hundreds of years old, the bathroom facilities are
definitely not old world.  There is a long deep bathtub and even a combination of shower heads.
After a lot of really tiny bathrooms in the hotels and inns along the Camino, this was pure bliss.

You can't quite see it but there is a flat screen t.v. tucked into that dark hardwood cabinet 
along with a writing desk.

The best part of the room -- this graceful half tester canopy bed.  I could sleep deeply 
tonight, knowing that I wouldn't have to to wake up early to do the Camino the next day.

The next morning on the way out,  I peeked through the little window and looked down 
on this delightful view.  What a charming way to start the day.

The Parador has a highly regarded restaurant called Dos Reis that serves classic regional
dishes in a high ceilinged room that used to be the hospital's stables.
While we were not able to sample the Dos Reis' gastronomic offerings, we did enjoy a generous buffet in the Pilgrim's Breakfast room.

I couldn't believe that there were fresh cherries in the buffet -- it went so well with the yoghurt
made right in the Parador's kitchens.

There were different varieties of chorizos, jamon and local quesos.

There was even a plate of my favourite roasted pimientos de padron,  small green non-spicy
peppers that are native to Galicia.  That plus the chistorras or pork sausages made me
wish I had a cup of hot fried rice.

Since there was no arroz or rice on the table, I had to contend myself with these buttery
croissants -- and a few slices of the excellent tarta de manzana.  The Parador's breakfast
was really one of the best I had ever had.


Staying in the Parador in Santiago de Compostela -- even if only for one night, was a
remarkable experience --  a unique fusion of tradition, history and luxury.  I couldn't
have asked for a better place to stay in,  at the end of our Camino.

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