Paradors or Inns in Northern Spain?

Old Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Paradors or Inns in Northern Spain?

We are traveling to Santillana del Mar, Picos de Europa, Leon and then back towards Madrid in early May. Should we concentrate on Paradors or Inns? What towns do you recommend? Which specific lodging choices?We are flexible (rental-car)and are looking for scenery, culture and culinary delights.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2003, 11:18 AM
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On the way to the coast, you might want to stop by two small towns south of Burgos: Santo Domingo de Silos and Covarrubias (east of the main Madrid-Burgos road). You'll want to see Burgos and I think that the Guggenheim in Bilbao is worth a detour for its architecture.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2003, 05:40 PM
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ntillana del Mar go down the street at the right hand end of the parador about a block to a brick building that has nothing but locals land eat the lamb! I know that is no help, but it is the gbest I can do!]
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Old Apr 23rd, 2003, 06:22 PM
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The parador in Leon was my favorite of all I've seen. I consider it a don't miss, for the exterior and interior architecture and character, and for the best dinner I've ever had in a parador.
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 04:24 AM
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Thanks. Have any info or opinions on Ribadesella? Given the choice Segovia or Salamanca for 2 nights?
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 06:16 AM
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If you're planning to stay overnight in Potes (Capital of Liebana and gateway to the Picos de Europa), Hostal Picos de Europa is nice. The owner also rents 4X4 for all terrain driving, snow shoes & skis and even whitewater canoeing stuff. It's on your left as you come into Potes from the north.

I believe the road to Fuente De reopens on 1 May (shortly before you get there). I was there in April when the Guardias had mountain rescue competitions. There is a Parador at Fuente De but I don't know if it will be open for the season yet.

For a culinary delight, try Cocido de Liebana (very similar to the Favada Asturiana but with Garbanzos rather than Hanibal Lechter's preferred Fava beans). Try the Orujo (aguardiente) de Liebana and the varied cheeses of the region - not cheap by any means, but when I brought some to a relative in Madrid it made him very happy.
If you haven't been before, the Chasm of the rio Deva is a white-knuckler for whoever's driving.
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 01:07 PM
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We won't be in Spain until July so I can't help you with lodging recommendations but if you don't already have it here is the Parador website:
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 01:52 PM
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Leon is a great town to visit. If you can't get a reservation in the Parador at Leon, try the hotel La Posada Regia ( Beautiful rooms (our room #303 was very comfortable), very centric, the restaurant (La Bodega Regia) has gotten rave reviews. In Leon, you can't park in the old town area, but the hotel will allow you to drop luggage and direct you to the underground parking nearby. Don't miss El Pantheon, the Cathedral and the main square.

Along that route, I would add Ciudad Rodrigo (one of the newest additions to the Spain chain of Paradors; supposed to be gorgeous). and Salamanca, , even Segovia if you have the time on your way back to Madrid Keep posting your travel plans; they sound fabulous!!
Old Apr 24th, 2003, 04:48 PM
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A reply while I check my email between long trips.

The Parador Gil Blas in Santillana is wonderful. The former annex, now called the Parador of Santillana, has less charm but rooms still very comfy. I've stayed in both. Try to book the Gil Blas. but don't be disappointed if they send you to the annex. The very best food outside of the Parador Gil Blas in Santillana can now be fond at La Joraca in the Hotel Colegiata (degustacion menu for 30 euros), and another good choice is the Hotel Altamira dining room (but please don't stay in their old and very stale rooms!).
In nearby seaside Comillas we've enjoyed the venerable Casal del Castro for hearty Cantabrian cuisine. If you want to go further afield, on the way to Santander there's the fantasic "El Molino" in Puente Arce, which is one of the very best restaurants in the province and only 15-20 min. from Santillana.
([email protected]).

For Picos de Europa, the Parador de Villanueva in Cangas de Onis is one of the crown jewels in the Parador chain-spent 3 heavenly days there-don't miss this utterly peaceful, very cosseting, supremely beautiful place! If it's full, as it often is, the next best thing is the lovely B&B Aultre Naray in neighboring Peruyes, or if full, check the Posada del Valle in Collia or the more isolated Halcon Palace in Cofiño-all 3 are members of the delightful Casonas Asturianas group ( and very, very special lodgings.

On the Cantabrian side of Picos, we've stayed twice at the Parador de Fuente De, and it opens March 1. The pass is indeed open in the spring. The rustic mountain Parador truly looks like a factory on the outside, but the rooms are typically parador spacious and comfortable with huge baths. I just prefer the Parador de Villanueva in Cangas, having had the luck to compare the two.

For dining in Picos, please go up to the pristine, spectacular Swiss-like alpine lakes above Covadonga, Lagos Ercina and Enol and eat at the little shack at Lago Enol called "El Casin". Try their baby goat or wild boar chorizo, washed down with a good Asturian cider (watch how the locals pour and drink it, bottle raised in right hand above their heads, glass held outward in left hand at arms length-a true ritual). In "downtown" Cangas, try your hand at cider pouring, as we did, on the outdoor terrace at the locals' hangout, the Meson Los Arcos next to the Roman bridge. And wherever you go in Asturias, make sure to order the regional dish "fabada" at least once (a wonderful stew of broad white beans and chorizo/morcilla). A true culinary delight in Arriondas is "El Corral del Indianu", (14 Avd. de Europa) or "Casa Marcial" in La Salgar, both with Michelin star and highlighted in Travel and Leisure.

And on the road to Fuente De, please stop at the lovely Hotel del Oso for a superb meal of cocido de Liebana or their enormous T-bone, the "chuleton" which is heavenly but impossible to finish. The Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya, very near Fuente De, is both a delightful restaurant and hostelry, and as charming, cozy, sweet and well-priced as they come. The tapas at the bar at El Caserio in Camaleño are also fine. And after a meal in Cantabria, it's customary to order the digestif, "orujo de Liebana", the local firewater.

For Leon, if the Parador de San Marcos, a true must see-must stay (with exquisite, elegant dining, as Patrick says), is booked, do check the sweet Posada Regia, a very fine 2nd choice. And their menu del dia costs only 15 euros. Their Bodega Regia, as Maira tells you, offers a cozy ambiance and fine cuisine, but I would also add tapas at mid-day in the Barrio Humedo, near the cathedral, particularly at places around the Plaza de San Martin, such as El Tizon, La Taberna, El Besugo, Taberna La Piconera, El Llar-whatever tapas bar is packed to the rafters.

As for Ribadesella, my new favorite Asturian coastal town, we loved the B&B, aristocratic tiny inn "Casa de Paloma Castillo", right on the beach and a member of Casonas Asturianas. The 4 of us occupied the Duquesa and the Azul suites on the 2nd floor with sitting areas, both facing the beach. We had a perfect, heavenly stay there. But if it's full, there's the brand new Villa Rosario right down the street. (
or the Hotel Ribadesella Playa on the same beach. (
For dining, the local butcher of La Tiendona sent us to "Basilio" at the north end of the pier on Manuel Caso de la Villa 50, where we had a terrific and cheap meal of arroz caldoso and other shellfish delights while watching the romantic sunset. Perfect! And for fine tapas there's the great "El Repollu" on Santa Marina 3 also facing the water.
Enjoy your wonderful itinerary!
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 05:02 PM
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Thank you so much everybody for all the great help!

Itinerary looks like this:

2 nights Laguardia/ La Rioja Posada Mayor de Migueloa Other good wine towns?

Day trip to Bilbao and Guggenheim

2 nights Santillana del Mar/ Parador Gil Blas (pricey)? Inn suggestions?

1 nights Ribedesella Inn suggestions?

Travel via Picos to Leon

1 night Leon at Parador

1 night Segovia or Pedrazza Inn or Parador?

2 nights Madrid Carlos V (Any other suggestions?)

Thanks again! We'll list a complete report on our return.

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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 05:43 PM
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Hi , as usual I agree with Maribel and Maira , I am always learning from them both, they know a lot.
Maribel you are so right to recommend the Hotel Altamira in Santillana only to eat there!, -excellent food,- unfortunatelly one night we had to sleep there horrible room. ( it was the Only room left in town during a holiday...for a good reason we found out)
How about Hotel El Oso in Cosgaya , in the region of Picos de Europa ? I would recommended it either foreating or sleeping. One of the better choices for a hotel + restaurant in all Spain! As Maira I also liked the
Posada Regia and loved its Restaurant called La Bodega Regia
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Old Apr 24th, 2003, 05:59 PM
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You'll love the town of Laguardia (Biasteri in Basque). It's truly atmospheric, very medieval in feel, and the Mayor de Migueloa has fine dining plus a cozy wine bar with original wine press as table centerpiece. We met friends there in Nov. The other delightful wine towns in the area are Samaniego (and superb dining on wkds. at the exquisite Palacio de Samaniego, run by a charming young couple), Briones (just beautiful at sunset), San Vicente de Sonsierra (go to the very top to the church to see the fine views across the way to Briones) and Elciego (filled with noble homes, but the famous Marques de Riscal vineyards tour must be booked by email in This countryside with vineyards stretching in every direction has a unique beauty, and all the wine towns have their special charm, but Laguardia is certainly the most unique with every house having a 2 floor deep wine cellar. Subterranean Laguardia is larger in surface than the town above. In Laguardia you can tour the Bodegas Palacio, next to the hotel Antigua Bodega de don Cosme Palacio (outside the walled town) by showing up at 12, 1 or 2, T-F or Sat/Sun at 12 or 1.
A 1hr. English tour of Bodegas Fabulista, next to the tourist office in the walled town can be booked a few hrs. in advance. They're done throughout the day and allows you to experience underground Laguardia.
For a state-of-the-art, sleek winery, follow signs to the Camino de la Hoya, below the walled city and then smaller signs past the tiny Poblado de la Hoya archeological museum to the Bodegas Ysios, an ultramodern design of the famed Valencia architect, Santiago de Calatrava, Look for the undulating titanium roof waving in the distance. Pass the entrance door and park behind the lot to the left of the building. Regularly scheduled tours in English without appointment, M-F at 11, 1 and 4. On wkds they're booked with groups.

In Santillana, if you don't want to splurge on the Parador (122-138 euros) then I'd go with the Casa de Guela or the Hospederia Santillana. Both are members of the inexpensive "hotels with charm" group, Posadas de Cantabria. You can see them at I've "inspected" both and they're charming in a more modest way and cute new alternatives if the Gil Blas is booked. They're also tucked away from the crowds, so quiet at night.

Are you sure you don't want to spend at least a night in spectacular Picos either around Cangas/Arriondas on the Asturian side or in Cosgaya/Espinama/Potes in Cantabria? It really can't be fully enjoyed just by passing through quickly; it just takes your breath away. You'll definitely want to return. From Ribadesella to Leon, I'd take the unforgetable drive down through the sinuous Desfiladero de los Beyos to Riano, but allow for plenty of time! You'll have a Kodak moment every minute and will want repeated stops.

If you reach Pedraza on a Sat./Sun, I would actually stay there to soak up the perfectly preserved, harmonious medieval atmosphere and architecture, to tour the castle and small Zuloaga painting museum inside plus the medieval jail and "day trip" to Segovia. Pedraza has sophisticated shops like Atalantar for gourmet foods (Calle Real) and Sanchez Munoz for prints (Calle Mayor), more up market than Segovia.
But if you're there mid-week, Pedraza is very sleepy, rolling up the sidewalks quite early, so I'd overnight in Segovia. We adore Pedraza and have stayed at the Posada de Don Mariano, but there's a brand new alternative, the Hospederia (Posada) de Santo Domingo, which you can check out at (doubles at Don Mariano are 75, at the Hospederia, 85) The Posada de Don Mariano has a stunningly beautiful (and under-utilized) dining room and handy Taberna for snacks (notice the original Botero prints on the walls and picture of now-deceased don Mariano with Prince Felipe). I don't recommend the designer chic Hotel de la Villa anymore due to bad review on
In Segovia I'd choose the Infanta Isabel right on the pretty and lively Plaza Mayor, a Karen Brown favorite (, or if full, try the Los Linajes, tucked in to the walls with lovely views of the countryside, a member of the Estancias de Espana group, a sort of poor man's Parador chain. ( In Pedraza there's fabulous roast lamb to be had at the Yantar de Pedraza, right on the picture-perfect square or the lovely La Olma nearby. Both are renowned.
In Segovia you can also feast on roast lamb at the famous Candido (his grandson now in charge), next to the Aqueduct or Duque on the pedestrian street, Cervantes, leading up to the cathedral and Playa Mayor or Jose Maria, right off the Plaza Mayor at Cronista Lecea 11. And coffee or ice cream (or both-order a blanco y negro) on the terrace of La Concepcion on the square is a must.
When leaving Segovia, don't forget to drive down (follow signs to the north towards Santa Maria de Nieva) below the city, to the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores, where you'll see a picnic area/park and kids playing soccer, Follow signs to the merendero or vista panoramica. Stop the car and take that quintessential, perfect picture postcard photo of the Alcazar floating above you. A magical moment, particularly at sunset. Segovia is actually shaped like an ocean liner, long and narrow, protected by the two rivers on either side and anchored on a rocky outcrop above the plain, the Alcazar being the prow, the cathedral the masts and the Aqueduct the stern, so they say.
In this area, there's the unique in Europe, 12 sided 13th c. Iglesia de la Vera Cruz, founded by the Knights Templar and built on the the pattern of the church of the Holy Seplchre in Jerusalem with a circular nave. Well worth a visit. Open 10:30-1:30, 3-7, closed Mon. Pick up a map and brochures at the handy t.o. at the Aqueduct before starting your Segovia sightseeing. And stray off the beaten path, wander down to the old Jewish quarter, check what's on display at the contemp. Museo Esteban Vicente, peek in at whatever church is open, and finally, on your way back to Madrid try to allow time for a stop at the 18th c. Bourbon Royal Palace of San Ildefonso de La Granja. 40 min. guided bilingual tours (more impressive than Madrid's Royal Palace), or you can just see the priceless Flemish tapestries in the museum annex or stroll the Versailles-designed gardens on your own.

Hope you enjoy your fabulous itinerary through my favorite area of Spain.

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