M_kingdom2 in Santander

Jun 15th, 2006, 01:01 PM
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M_kingdom2 in Santander

I've finally found the time to compile a report of last week's break in Santander, I'm sure there are many things I've missed out...when/if I remember them I'll add them in!

I'll start with a critique of the hotel, Hotel Real:

I arrived early evening (a ghastly Ryanair flight from Stansted - an awful airport, but the only way to fly direct to Santander from London), took a taxi to the hotel (about 12EUR) and there was no porter standing outside to take my luggage from me. Whilst this is no tragedy, it's simply not what one expects from a property that claims to be among the best in Spain.

The receptionists were frosty, and had to be asked to send someone for my baggage. Eventually a porter turned up, and took the luggage up to the room. It was the wrong room, not the "special" upgraded one that had been booked. They made no fuss about changing the room, but I should not have had to remind them of what had been confirmed in my booking.

The room itself had two balconies, one of which had a table and chairs on it. Some original (antique) furniture, chintz material, and a bathroom that was a relic from the eighties completed the setting. The best thing about the room was the view, the hotel enjoys a prominent position on a hill right above the city, and fabulous views across the bay and over into the mountains beyond. Had it not been for the view, the room would've been deemed a complete disappointment. They were serviced well, and well looked after, but the walls needed repainting, and at the very least, a new bathroom. The bathroom even had marble tiles, rather than the slabs of marble that one expects in a deluxe property. Etro toiletries were a bonus.

The public areas of the hotel also seemed to be - and very sensibly - centred so that their windows all had this picture perfect panorama. The public areas didn't feel nearly as dated as the bedrooms, largely because they enjoyed more original features which had aged well. The restaurant, and bar were very reasonably priced, and served good food (nothing spectacular) and quite well mixed drinks. The service was a little amateurish however, the waiter made far too much fuss when opening a bottle of wine, and cut the foil very messily. The junior staff seemed to speak little English which is very, very poor show for a deluxe property. I have no objection to speaking Spanish - which I will do most willingly when I am out and about - but when in an hotel, the staff should understand what I am asking for. An example of this is when ordering 'tea for two" and they brought (and charged) two pots, rather than clarifying that I wanted one pot with two cups.

The hotel has a fabulous - and relatively new - spa centre, however, guests have to pay 29EUR each for a "day-pass", I did this once, and yes it is pleasant, but if one had wanted to swim daily (and the pools are more for paddling in really) that's 203EUR despite being a guest of the hotel. I queried one of the managers over this, they didn't seem very sympathetic to my cause. This is yet another area the hotel slips up in, they have a wonderful space that should be complimentary to the guests...as in every other hotel I've stayed at.

Admittedly, the hotel is far cheaper than any other property of its class in Spain, but then so is Santander itself. Hotel Real needs a pretty major refurbishment for at least some of the bedrooms, and the staff require a shake up to be more courteous and efficient. A fitting epitaph to my stay was the porter taking over a quarter of an hour to bring my cases down to the waiting taxi..things had gone full circle!

Now for the city itself:

The area directly fronting the sea has all been regenerated with wide walkways, benches, and the odd sculpture or two. One could walk from the heart of the city to the beach...and there are several beaches: none were ever crowded (I'd imagine that's due to its being early June), the sand was golden, and the sea absolutely freezing! The city itself had surprisingly good shopping in the form or little boutiques, and also some excellent delicatessens. The museums there were mildly interesting, but one doesn't really go to Santander for museums. Nothing was more pleasant than just sitting in the sunshine in one of the city's squares whilst sipping a coffee.

Dining out was very inexpensive, and also surprisingly good. I did try an Italian restaurant (out of curiousity more than anything) and it was awful, overpriced, and lousy food. Lots of tapas bars which I'd recommend, one called John Lemon stands out in particular as it served innovative dishes that wouldn't seem odd on the menu of Gordon Ramsay's Maze in Grosvenor Square, except for their tiny price. Wherever I ate - save for the Italian - the food tasted fresh, and was well executed...quite unlike most British seaside towns.

I did a day trip to Bilbao (on a bus), which I'd been to a couple of years ago..my comments still hold for that city. Also I went to San Sebastian, and am considering going there for another break at the end of the summer.

If you're after a relaxing time, and not too much to do then Santander would be the perfect destination, but for a few nights rather than a whole week (which I spent there). I suppose I'd also have to reommend Hotel Real as I can't think of any alternatives. I just hope it improves as it has the potential to be a really wonderful hotel.

m_kingdom2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:19 PM
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Nice report so far, but....you took a bus? I'm having a hard time with that image.......
StCirq is online now  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:22 PM
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It's more of a coach than your standard bus, but public transport nonetheless...much more charming than its British equivalent though I hasten to add, in fact, more comfortable than the Ryanair plane!
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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Hi M_K and welcome back!
I do hope you will post your review of Hotel Real on www.tripadvisor.com. You have a gift for relating the details and it would be nice for others to have access to your observations.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:26 PM
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[email protected] back, and you do know, don't you, that part of your Antwerp trip report is now enshrined in the new Fodor's 2006 guide to Belgium. It opens the chapter to Antwerp, actually, so congrats. for that.
Spygirl is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:34 PM
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It's a tragedy, when such refined citizens like M-kingdom are reduced to traveling Ryanair like the rest of us, common folks.

I've heard Ryanair has strict luggage rules, how much is to check-in a 33"?
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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I am most intrigued what part of my report they have used...I don't suppose you could enlighten me?
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Actually, because I agreed with your assessment of Antwerp, I did read it-it is the part where you talk about walking along the water, and that the shopping was better than in London-something like that. About 3 or 4 good sentences worth, and unlike many of us, yours was the only one for that city that was chosen for the chapter-the "setting the scene" post for the city, if you will.

You'll just have to go to the bookstore (I'm sure they're stocked in London) and check it out! Who knows, I didn't check the Spain edition, you could have gotten lucky (like I did) and ended up in more than one guide.
Spygirl is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 02:49 PM
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I always find your trip reports to have such good detail, especially your hotel reviews. I don't ever stay in that class of hotel, but I enjoy reading about them and the details you summarize. You could write hotel reviews for publications.
Christina is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 02:52 PM
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Do you remember any of the other tapas places you went to? Location?

Was your trip to San Sebastian a daytrip as well? I thought SS was approx.3 hrs from Santander, but if it's closer I might consider doing that too.

cruiseluv is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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Very interesting report with welcome detail and thanks very much for taking the time to post it.
Dukey is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 03:02 PM
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San Sebastian was quite a journey, but I had it in my head to go there, so go there I did...it's one of my favourite destinations in Spain. It's sort of double the trip to Bilbao, timewise.

The tapas places tend to be very traditional and plentiful, but it was the more modern ones - like John Lemon - that appealed to me. The other one which I enjoyed (whose name escapes me) was just a minute's walk from there. If you stick to places that are busy with locals (and there are very few tourists from France/UK/US) you will find it hard to go wrong.
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 05:44 PM
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Thank you for another interesting report on a city unfamiliar to me; I look forward to hearing any clothing details. And I grieve for you having to endure the marble tiles.

Did you happen to see the thread about Who are the Funniest Fodors Posters? You might have been mentioned.

Fidel is offline  

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