"Beauty is not enough" Almagro by Hesus
Almagro Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 44 photos
Spain’s history speaks through its buildings and surroundings, taking us back to the ages of the Romans, the Arabs and the Renaissance. A unique mixture of cultures we can experience by staying in palaces, monasteries and medieval castles, now restored by the government-backed hotel chain Paradores of Spain to preserve their ancient ambience, while incorporating many modern aspects of today’s life to ensure comfort.
The word "parador" (or stopping place) was the lodging offered to persons of respectable rank in medieval times. Based on this tradition, the hotel chain was established in 1926 and today the Parador network adds up to more than 90 hotels throughout the country, including the Balearic and the Canary Islands.
Don’t be fooled by the statement that the government backs the hotel chain. All efforts seem to be dedicated to provide luxurious comfort and personalized service. The menus can be extensive with a definite emphasis on regional recipes, including wine and local products, using modern techniques and gourmet presentation.
There are more than 20 routes associated with the hotel chain, whether your interests are the wine or olive oil territories, Andalusia or tracing Don Quixote’s footsteps. However, you can also make your own by visiting the website www.paradores.es
So I visited Almagro, a historical charming town, some 130 miles south of Madrid, in the middle of La Mancha. A piece of land graced by the windmills and Miguel de Cervantes’ hero Don Quixote de La Mancha (1605), later the inspiration for Dale Wasserman's musical Man of La Mancha.
Almagro’s parador, formerly The San Francisco Convent, dates from the 16th century and holds an art collection. Fourteen patios enhance this edification with plenty of long corridors that look out the inner courts. A walk down the halls can’t be any more pleasant than admiring the magnificent oil paintings hanging on the walls you usually expect to see in museums.
Then you find the rooms. Although the former nuns’ cells have been restored to accommodate all the comfort and electrical goodies they never imagined and we expect in today’s world (ample bathrooms and showers, television, telephone and even wireless Internet), they preserve their character of peace and solemnity. Old furniture, including hand-carved armoires, tables and trunks; as well as tile motifs and big black iron hardware on the doors make us travel back in time and actually visualize the 400 years ago occupants. An on-going environment you find in every single parador. Even the restaurant resembles the original dining room with tall white-painted walls and very dark brown wooden beams, where you find lunch or dinner a la carte, and plenty of home baked bread, local cheeses and Spanish ratatouille “pisto manchego” for breakfast.
A five-minutes walk through a quiet neighborhood will take you to Plaza Mayor, a medieval square that host several bars and restaurants, that even now remains the center of town life. Every July, the International Festival of Classical Theatre is held and plays take place at the Corral de Comedias, just as they did 400 years ago.
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