A bright and beautiful boutique hotel tucked away in the narrow streets of Seville’s old town, Hospes Las Casas del Rey de Baeza centres on rustic cobblestone courtyards, where you’ll find trailing greenery and help-yourself baskets of Seville’s famous oranges. Built in the 18th-century, its terracotta, white and ochre exterior is classic Andalucía, but, inside, it’s a cool and contemporary world of sleek stone floors, crisp white sheets and marble-tile bathrooms.
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Free dessert with dinner. Manzanilla and jamon iberico for Dreamers room guests; a bottle of cava and fruit gift for Superior room and suite guests
Noon, although later check-out can be arranged, depending on availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £127.75 (€149), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (€17).
At the hotel
Rooftop relaxation and massage area, library, DVD/CD selection, free WiFi throughout and parking (€24 a night, space is limited so book in advance to guarantee a spot). In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, under-floor heating.
Our favourite rooms
Las Casas’ rooms are all cat-swingingly spacious, so there’s no need to go for a Suite unless size really does matter. We like the front-facing Double Superiors, which have wide French doors. All rooms look out over the main courtyard, and are decorated with elegant simplicity – whitewashed walls, slate floors, cast-iron beds – colourfully spiced with contemporary art pieces and Indian carvings.
The little rooftop pool is lined with potted cactuses and blue-cushioned loungers. You can help yourself to fresh oranges left in baskets around the terrace.
Las Casas del Rey also has a small relaxation area and a solarium beside the pool. Ayurvedic, Thai, shiatsu and aromatherapy massages are on offer in the four treatment rooms.
Your dancing shoes – Seville is flamenco’s motherland and there’s no better place to try your hand (or rather, foot) at the sultry skirt-swishing steps.
Pets are welcome. Non-smoking rooms available.
Extra beds can be provided for €50 a night and babysitting can be arranged for around €10 an hour. The restaurant offers a children’s menu and has a supply of high chairs for babies.
Fly with Vueling (www.vueling.com) or Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) to Seville Airport, otherwise known as San Pablo. It takes around 20 minutes to drive from the airport to the hotel. Alternatively, you can catch the bus to Seville train station.
Santa Justa station, in the centre of Seville, is a 10-minute drive from the hotel, and offers high-speed links to Madrid and Córdoba, as well as connections with Granada and Cadiz.
The hotel is in the historic centre of Seville, so you won’t need more than your walking shoes to get around the local area. A car might prove useful, though, for exploring the Andalucían countryside; hire one at the airport or from the hotel. Parking at the hotel costs €24 a day and is limited so book in advance.
Worth getting out of bed for
Take in Seville from the roof terrace and summon a masseuse to pummel you on your sunlounger. There's a cooling plunge pool up there too. Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcázar of Seville are the historic big-hitters nearby. Learn some moves while watching one of the passionate flamenco shows at Museo del Baile, then see the Metropol Parasol (the world's largest wooden structure on Place de la Encarnación) and marvel at the chiselled and painted wonder of the Museo de Bellas Artes at Place del Museo.
The Taberno del Alabarderoon Calle Zaragoza has a bistro with a tasty three-course menu, popular with lunchtime diners. The main restaurant, serving excellent game and fish dishes, is best in the evening. Oriza on Calle San Fernando is one of the city’s finest restaurants, serving Andalusian and Basque cuisine.
The Sun burns at 5,800 degrees centigrade, of which a measly three degrees could currently be bothered to make the long journey all the way through space to a wintry London. Admittedly the Sun is 93 million miles away, a distance that would take 18 years to cover by airplane, but what was baffling Mrs Smith and I was that we’d only flown two hours to Seville and already we felt a hell of a lot nearer. In the time it takes to say ‘Hospes las Casas del Rey de Baeza’, we’d skipped forward two English seasons. ‘Just leave me here to sunbathe,’ declared a delirious Mrs Smith. I suggested it would be best to at least go through passport control first.
To us Brits the sun is a bleary-eyed friend that can be tamed with a glass of Pimm’s and a few cucumber sandwiches. The Sevillanos see things very differently. Right now the temperature was perfect, but in August the sun beats down so ferociously that you’d be wise to pack a hardhat. Like most of the buildings in the historic Santa Cruz quarter, the hotel’s dazzling white and yellow 18th-century façade was designed to repel those beautiful sunbeams back into Outer Space as quickly as possible. It seemed a bit unfair that our welcome was so friendly in comparison when we hadn’t had to cross the galaxy to get here.
We stepped in off the narrow street and through into a cool, shaded courtyard where the fronds of banana plants lolled in the still air and flowers cascaded down the sides of smoke-blue balconies. The house was a gift from the 13th-century Castilian conqueror Ferdinand III to his ally the Moorish king of Baeza, who had wisely chosen diplomacy and real estate over having his head chopped off. In 711AD the sand-laden Sirocco wind that blows from the Sahara had also carried the Moors to Seville, and their influence still lies heavy on the city today. An exotic hint of North Africa was traced into the hotel’s slender columns, its whitewashed walls and its somnolent, introverted atmosphere.
Our eyes struggled to adapt from the bright courtyard to the hushed half-light of our suite where thick hemp shades hung over the windows to keep out the sun. As the room began to take shape before us, the initial ‘ow’ factor of the low coffee table I’d just blundered into gave way to the ‘wow’ factor of contemporary art, black slate tiles and a bed with enough fine Egyptian cotton to robe an entire army of pharaohs. The muted tones were a soothing contrast to the vivid colours outside and, most important of all, the room had that unmistakable feel of Seville – a sultry, electric, moodiness that makes your skin tingle like an approaching thunderstorm.
I found Mrs Smith next to the little pool on the Soho House-style roof terrace determinedly soaking up the last rays of the sun as it sank beyond Seville’s gargantuan Gothic cathedral. I suggested a visit to the hotel’s Bodyna spa but my solar powered companion was by now fully charged and feeling hungry. The city comes alive after dark and its bustling tapas bars should be declared a World Heritage Site. It was the small hours by the time we decided we‘d had too much Serrano ham and not enough sleep, although as far as the locals were concerned the night was still young. The sound of soulful sherry-fuelled flamenco drifted with us down the cobbled streets back to the hotel.
It was only a short morning stroll to the Giralda tower, an icon of the city and once a Moorish minaret. Mrs Smith and I basked like lizards on the warm stonework and watched the day unfold like a scene from Bizet’s Carmen: Gypsies in headscarves and pavement-length skirts sold lucky heather, horse buggy drivers noisily played dice and newly weds emerged blinking into the light from the cavernous interior of the cathedral. Most dramatic of all was the busking flamenco dancer whose nostrils flared like the winner of the 2.30 at Kempton as she stamped, shrieked and shook in a mesmerising musical tantrum. I hadn’t seen a performance like it since I’d forgotten Mrs Smith’s birthday in 2005.
Just as Seville’s sunshine (and its smooth oloroso sherry) will leave your head spinning if you over-indulge, so the city’s colour and intensity is best enjoyed in delicious tapas-sized quantities. In between leisurely meanders along the banks of the Guadalquivir, past the bullring where Carmen got her comeuppance to the Golden Tower that once greeted treasure galleons returning from the New World, we’d sneak back to the citrus-scented serenity of Las Casas. Sightings of fellow guests were as rare as snowflakes, and with the staff taking good care of us it wasn’t so very difficult to imagine how the King of Baeza enjoyed his days in regal seclusion.
In the gardens of the Alcázar – the magnificent palace that Ferdinand III jealously kept for himself – we walked amid the pools of light that filtered through the date palms and the orange trees. Separated from the heart of the city by high stone walls there was only the sound of fountains to break the noonday silence. Even the King of Baeza would have been ever so slightly envious. I asked Mrs Smith if she would miss Seville once we returned back to London. She looked up into the deep blue sky with a look of contentment, as if the sun blazing all those millions of miles away was shining just for her and declared again with a smile, ’Just leave me here to sunbathe.’
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