by Henk Bouwman, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
Years ago I took a trip through the mountainous area of Sierra de Gredos in central Spain and was enthralled by the crystalline waters, wild rocks and green pine groves of the region. During that trip I ended up in a village called Navarredonda, and, while I was looking for a place to spend the night, I was advised to choose the local parador. It was my first encounter with the Paradores de Turismo de España (based in Madrid; phone 00 34 902 54 79 79).
A special introduction
The one in Navarredonda, Parador de Gredos, turned out to be an impressive historical building situated in the middle of nature, high above the Tórmes Valley, with stunning views of the Gredos massif and the Piedrahíta and Béjar mountain ranges. The old building had been converted to a modern hotel with all the necessary amenities while retaining its special, ages-old atmosphere. My bedroom was very comfortable, with a terrace and traditional-style furniture, and the food in the impressive dining room was, in one word, glorious. I learned that the Parador de Gredos, inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928, happened to be the first of what is now a collection of 93 paradores spread out all over Spain (including the Canary Islands, Ceuta and, in the north of Morocco, Melilla). All paradores — some really old, others more modern — are state owned, and they are always situated in the most beautiful spots in the area, be it in the middle of the mountains, overlooking the sea or perched high above an impressive city.
The Paradores de Turismo, the publically funded company which manages the properties, has a threefold goal: to renovate and preserve historical monuments for the future, to provide classy accommodation in a special environment and to allow guests to enjoy an outstanding dining experience with dishes that are typical for the area. Read full article here: http://www.intltravelnews.com/2011/03/enjoying-the-ambience-of-spains-paradores