Paradores of Spain
While in the planning stages of my last trip to Spain, one of my friends suggested that I be adventurous and veer away from the traditional hotels and stay at a Parador. Of course, my initial response was, “What the heck is a Parador?” She then explained that Paradores are state-run luxury hotels in castles, palaces, convents, monasteries and other historic buildings that have all been conserved and restored on the exterior and modernized on the interior. The draw is that you get to experience a real taste of Spain. After a little research, I decided that it seemed like a good idea to step out of my comfort zone and go for it.
El Parador de Salamanca
Our first stop was the Parador de Salamanca, just a few hours northwest of Madrid. In contrast to most other Paradores, the Parador de Salamanca is a modern Parador. The exterior of the Parador was pretty nondescript and not too impressive, to the point where I was questioning my decision to stay there. Once inside, I was very impressed. The Parador was clean, modern and tastefully decorated.
We were exhausted from traveling and immediately went to the room to take a nap. However, all did not go as planned! We encountered a slight problem. Two educated adults could not figure out for the life of us how to turn on the lights. Completely embarrassed and perplexed, we went to the front desk and in my broken Spanish I asked for help. They smiled as if this wasn’t the first time this had happened and escorted us back to our room. Upon entering the room, the young man simply slipped the key into the slot by the door and like magic, we had light! Of course, our first thoughts were, why don’t we have this in the U.S.? What a great way to conserve energy! With light, we could see that the room was large and tastefully decorated.
All Paradores have restaurants that serve traditional food indigenous to each region. My rate included breakfast and dinner. At dinner, I quickly realized that my broken Spanish was better than the waiter’s English. Trust me, that’s not saying much! I was also a little disappointed that the waiter didn’t have much patience for my “gringo” Spanish. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I somehow managed to translate the menu to my husband. The food was edible, even though to this day I’m not sure of exactly what we ate. Breakfast the next morning was good with a decent assortment of food. I ordered fried eggs and found like in all of Europe I am always disappointed when I try to order something typically American. Things just doesn’t taste the same! Lesson learned, when in Spain, eat like the Spaniards.
This photo of ours was featured on Fodor’s Instagram page. This is an early morning stroll through Salamanca.
El Parador de Toledo
Next stop was the Parador de Toledo. Most people day trip to Toledo from Madrid, since the high-speed train gets you there in about 30 minutes. We were driving back from the south of Spain and decided it would be fun to spend the night. The drive through Toledo and then up to the Parador was very tense! You see, the Parador sits up high overlooking the city making the drive both steep and windy. Once there, we were amazed by both the building and the view. The view is so exquisite that you could just sit at the terrace overlooking the city all day and not get bored. I would totally recommend ditching the car and taking a taxi to and from the city! It was an inexpensive, short ride and best of all, stress free!