I was proof that ladies more than perspire. In the 35C heat I was desperate to find somewhere with air conditioning. But all the savvy Valencianos had gone home for a siesta. I stepped into the Palau de la Mar where everything was cool, from the dazzling white walls that curve into the yawning arches of the ceiling, to the smart staff that appeared from nowhere to assist with carrying bags.
Occupying a pair of 19th-century listed buildings, the hotel encapsulates Valencia's recent regeneration. Inside, the Palau retains the ambience of the graceful townhouse in which it stands, the decor taking inspiration both from its history as a former aristocratic home and from its surroundings.
First, the light: drenched by the sun for most of the year, Valencia is also illuminated by festivals such as the explosive Fiesta de San Juan summer solstice celebrations, reflected in the hotel's gaping windows and bright white interior.
Second, the sea: the hotel's name translates as Palace of the Sea and the city will also host the America's Cup this summer, so a scaled-down replica yacht of the Alinghi team takes centre stage in the lobby.
Last, the dark wood used throughout and the lush courtyard garden are nods to the region's fecundity: Valencia still enjoys its legacy as the garden of Spain. Original features such as the grand lobby, colossal wooden front doors and carved staircase preserve the history.
In the gentrified Eixample Noble district, a short walk from the trendy bars and restaurants in the labyrinthine old town. The impressive Modernista train station is about 10 minutes' walk and the main shops of Calle de Colon are even closer. The lush gardens that have reclaimed the drained riverbed of the Turia are at the end of the road.
The comfort factor
Besides the cloud-like beds, draped with Egyptian cotton and bolstered by an array of soft and squishy pillows (there's a menu if they aren't to your liking), there's also a moody black-slate spa to unwind in with a small hydrotherapy lap pool, sauna and steam room. Four treatment rooms based on each of the elements surround the central courtyard. The 66 rooms also feature plasma-screen TVs with satellite channels and cordless phones and there is complimentary internet in the library.
Take an empty washbag. The bathroom is stocked with a generous supply of Korres Natural Products, from vials of shampoos and shower gels, to a lip balm, deodorant and a chic wooden comb. The goodies only temporarily divert attention from the smart white marble bathrooms, offset by dark wood and shallow tray sinks - accessed from the bedroom via a Japanese-style sliding wooden door.
The food and drink
At the restaurant, Senzone, breakfast is an art. Delicate slithers of pata negra ham, tiny pastries, mosaics of fruit and jugs of sweet Valencian orange juice adorn the buffet table, and scrambled eggs come zig-zagged with basil oil. During the evening it serves modern Spanish fare, using local produce including herbs from the courtyard garden to create dishes such as cherry gazpacho.
Despite the design, the hotel is laid back and attracts wealthy weekenders (this is the boutique hotel in Valencia), families, business travellers and the odd celebrity. (David Beckham is rumoured to stay when in town.) The honchos of the America's Cup will also take over the hotel.
Less kooky than Barcelona but just as vibrant, there's plenty to keep visitors occupied, from the charismatic Barrio del Carmen in the old town to the futuristic architecture of the City of Arts and Science. It's also the home of paella: work your way around the specialist restaurants sampling the variations from the traditional (snail and rabbit) to the modern (seafood), then wash it down with a glass of horchata (a dubiously refreshing drink made from tigernuts) in the Modernista food market.
The nature of the building means that access for guests with disabilities is difficult and there are no specially designed rooms, although there is lift access to all floors.
Doubles start at €193 (£138), room only. Breakfast costs €16 (£11.50).
Hospes Palau de la Mar, Navarro Reverter 14, Valencia, Spain (00 34 963 162 884; hospes.es).Reuse content