Best for the high life: Barcelona
Saturday 06 February 2010
I knew nothing about the Gran Hotel La Florida in Barcelona other than I once met a man who stayed there and said it had "seriously the best bedrooms – EVER". He repeated this whilst looking up at the sky. "Ever. Ever. Ever." And it has stayed with me ever since. So when we had four days free over the Christmas holidays I booked it. I know. Crazy.
It's worth saying straight upfront that the hotel is not in the centre of town. Not even a little bit. It's a very beautiful building and it sits rather proudly atop a hill and overlooks the whole city. I just feel I need to let you know the way that you get into town is by driving through lots of bendy roads, in other words, if you get to the Sagrada Familia and you've left your camera on your bed, it's staying there.
The lobby of the hotel is large yet cosy and the man who spoke of the bedrooms with wonder was bang on the money. The bedrooms are IMMENSE. And I should say that I'm using both current uses of that word – indeed, they are very large, but they are also "cool". The bathrooms are all low-level lighting and thick caramel marble. The bath is enormous and the shower is gargantuan and could hold a family of six. We had a terrace that could host a party of 20 and the views of Barcelona are properly breathtaking. Suddenly the mere fact that it takes 30 minutes to get into town seems highly unimportant.
We swam in the pool (just ever so slightly too cold) and the kids ate delicious tuna and patatas bravas (the six-year-old said that they're called that because they could fight a dragon. I didn't argue).
The brilliant things about the hotel massively outweigh what isn't entirely perfect about it. The breakfast is completely and utterly magnificent and you can eat hot, delicious pastries or waffles and the selection of cheeses is actually awesome (I never use this word but they had more than TEN hard cheeses and fresh rye bread). They'll also make any kind of eggs and bacon and egg combo you fancy. The food at dinner can tend to be a bit fancy (the chef likes making swirly patterns but order the straightforward dishes and you'll be safe from foam).
The bar is tiny and lovely with etched glass shelves holding heavy tumblers and the huge wall fountain just outside the spa is beautiful and very nice to look at while you sip local red wine and eat smoked almonds. The spa itself is very beautifully done and if you're looking for a city break that also boasts a freakishly good back rub then this might be the perfect hotel for you.
The downside is that the concierge isn't great. Some of the people working at the desk were incredibly kind but a few were a little stony. I just thought it would be unfair of me not to share this, so if you're reading this and you're going to the Gran Florida, just remember that the service is fine but not amazing. Here's a taster ...
"Hello. I'm so sorry to bother you. I'm desperate to find a pair of water wings for my three-year-old. Do you have any here?"
"Oh. I see. It's very stupid of me to leave them at home. Is there any way I could give someone some money and they could get some? Maybe by tomorrow or the day after?"
"Right. Of course. Would you mind letting me know where I could get a pair. Are they available in most department stores?"
You see what I'm getting at? All in all, it's a great place to stay. Just remember your water wings...
Rooms from £117 per night if booked in advance. See hotellaflorida.com
# Owned and designed by Colombian fashionista Silvia Tcherassi, the new Tcherassi Hotel and Spa (tcherassihotels.com) is a converted colonial mansion with an Italian restaurant, vertical garden and a spa with traditional South American therapies. Rooms from $295 (£181) per night.
# Surrounded by 29 Alpine peaks over 13,000ft, the Kulmhotel Gornergrat (matterhorn-group.ch) has been a meeting point for high society since 1907. Take Europe's highest cogwheel railway to see some of Switzerland's most dizzying views. Ski, climb and stargaze (both celestial and celebrity). Doubles from €270 (£234).
# White, sleek and curvaceous, the towering Hotel Habita (hotelhabitamty.com) in Monterrey, Mexico has jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the city and Sierra Madre mountain backdrop from the beautiful roof terrace pool; sharp black-and-white interiors by Parisian designer Joseph Dirand abound. Doubles from $165 (£101) per night.
# The Vigilius Mountain Resort, 1,500m up in the South Tyrolean Alps, is only accessible by cable car or on foot. This eco-spa is fed by natural spring water, has a breathtaking mountain-ridge infinity pool and the hotel's grass-covered roof hints at the ecologically sound design at its heart. Doubles from €330 (£286).
# Borgo San Pietro is a 13th-century estate that has been elegantly transformed by its Danish owners into a luxurious Tuscan retreat nestling in the hills of the charming Valle Serena. Bespoke interiors, charming 13-acre gardens and innovative cuisine from the hotel's organic gardens. From £308 per night; borgosantopietro.com
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