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Friday, December 18, 2015

Castle Stay: Parador de Alarcón

The Spanish government runs a chain of 94 paradores all across Spain. Paradores are all historic properties (medieval castles, old Moorish palaces, ancient monasteries and nunneries) converted into luxury hotels. Paradores are expensive to stay in. So, I budgeted only 2 nights in paradores and made effort to find economical accommodation for the rest of the stay.

I booked us one night in Parador de Alarcón.

I knew it was a castle when I booked it but I did not know it was a castle in the style of Gondor (c.f., Lord of the Rings). The entire town sits high atop a hill and there are 2 rings of defensive walls. Much of the walls have collapsed but our car passed through the 1st gateway and later on, when we walked around the town, we saw the humongous 2nd gateway.

Passing through the 1st gateway, I wished so hard to be mounted on a horse with my posse of knights clattering grandly alongside me. Passing through that gateway, I did not want to be a Princess, I wanted to be a knight. Princesses don't get much fun, really - sitting up in the tower, sighing for their princes.

Paradors are Spain's best kept secret. Their existence is not yet common knowledge in the rest of the world. As a result, only the Spanish and foreigners who live in Spain seek out paradors to stay in. I found out about paradors 20 years ago on a backpacking tour of Spain. I somehow wandered into one and made a wish that one day, I could come back and stay in one.

The Parador de Alarcón dates from the 8th century. The first structure was built by the Moors. The Catholics later developed the structure to its present design. A river curls around the foot of the hill forming a natural moat. It is surrounded by 3 hills, each with its own defensive tower. This place was really well defended.

The rooms are toasty warm in winter. The marble floors in the bathroom are heated. Hardwood floors line the bedroom. The restaurant delivers almost as good value for money as Taberna Luque. This place far exceeded my expectations. Best of all, this place is so little known that there are no hordes of visitors. It is an authentic Spanish experience. Indeed, the concierge can ONLY speak Spanish.

Go HERE to book the Parador de Alarcón.

Our bedroom looks out of the walls lighted by the setting sun on the left side of the castle.

This is the main gate into the parador. The sign states that the Parador de Alarcón has been a parador since 1928.

Steps up to the castle.

The restaurant in this huge hall. Unlike most restaurants, where the breakfast is buffet, this hotel serves breakfast to the table. One feels very pampered indeed!

The bar in another huge hall.

Outside the castle, there are interesting trekking paths. December is great weather for trekking. It isn't too cold here in Spain.

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