By Barrie Mahoney [email protected]
Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.
I had a ‘significant birthday’ a few days ago.
Birthdays are strange things and I guess I now take the view that if we are lucky enough to celebrate one, it means that we are still alive, which, I guess, is something of a plus. However, what to do and where to go was initially something of a problem.
Frankly, I didn’t fancy the idea of a party, dinner and the like this year, but really wanted to go somewhere, and well away from the tourist route, where my partner and I could both relax, enjoy a change of scene, eat good food (we are both vegetarians, which can still be an issue where we live) and would, hopefully, provide a stimulus for my next novel.
I really didn’t want to travel too far and have the hassle of flying, nor did I want to leave the fluffies (Bella and Mackitten) in their respective kennels and cattery for too long either. All in all, it was a tall order, but one which we resolved remarkably easily.
We finally headed to the Parador at Cruz de Tejeda, billed as being in “the heart of Gran Canaria”. What a treat! Not only did this Parador offer the most spectacular views in the most peaceful of settings, but the food was exquisite, the service remarkable and facilities second to none.
Best of all, this Parador was only about 30 kilometres from home – although it seemed much further, because of the winding mountain roads.
The whole experience was a delightful as well as an enriching experience that I would happily recommend to anyone, but it has set me thinking about exploring more Paradors in some of the other islands, as well as in Peninsular Spain and Portugal.
In the UK, I was a member and supporter of the National Trust, and we would often enjoy time exploring some of the magnificent buildings and gardens open to the public. In many ways, the Paradors fulfil a similar purpose – that of both preservation and accessibility.
Paradores de Turismo de España is a chain of luxury hotels that was an idea initiated by King Alfonso XIII, as a way of promoting tourism in Spain. What a good idea it was too.
It is now a profitable state-run enterprise and the hotels are situated in palaces, convents, fortresses, monasteries and other historic buildings throughout the country.
There are 93 Paradors in Spain that operate from Galicia in the north-west to Catalonia and Andalusia in the south of Spain. There are five Paradors in the Canary Islands, as well as in the Spanish cities in North Africa.
They are not particularly cheap to stay in, and prices vary according to room, region and season. However, there are often special discounts for residents and other offers from time to time.
There is an equivalent organisation also operating in Portugal. These are called the Pousadas de Portugal* and were founded in 1942, which are very similar to the Spanish model and well worth visiting.
During our stay, I spoke to one gentleman who has visited many Paradors over recent months. Both he and his wife are truly hooked on the experience. Sadly, he has a life threatening condition, but both he and his wife are determined to make as much of the time that they have together as possible.
They have the financial resources and, as a result, they visit Paradors throughout Spain for part of each month throughout the year. It seemed to me a very good way of spending your money, if you can afford it, and to enjoy it whilst you can.
As for cost, they actually compare very favourably to the price of a night in a Premier Inn in the UK, particularly if you take advantage of the special offers, and the food is much better too.
As for my next book? Yes, it did the trick and I am sure that the influence of the Parador in Cruz de Tejeda will make an appearance in a future novel.
For more information about Paradors in Spain, as well as Pousadas in Portugal, have a look at the Expat Guide information page on my website www.barriemahoney.com.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ (ISBN: 978 184 386 6459).
*Editor’s note: Pousadas de Portugal, set up by the Portuguese State in the 1940s, is a chain of luxury, traditional or historical hotels in Portugal, offering quality accommodation, fascinating environs and superb Portuguese gastronomy. In 2003, the management of the 42 Pousadas was taken over by the Pestana Group, who is largely responsible for their marketing in Portugal and abroad. For more information, please visit www.pousadas.pt (available in English)