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A Winter Retreat: Las Casas de la Juderia, Seville, Spain
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The Independent Travel

"The frying pan of Europe" - that's the unkind description of Seville in summer, when the sun sears the Andalucian plain and scorches the streets of Spain's most beautiful city. But outside July and August, Seville is more like a glass of fino sherry: cool, complex and (usually) dry.

"The frying pan of Europe" - that's the unkind description of Seville in summer, when the sun sears the Andalucian plain and scorches the streets of Spain's most beautiful city. But outside July and August, Seville is more like a glass of fino sherry: cool, complex and (usually) dry.

The traditional luxury choice has been the Hotel Alfonso XIII, the massive pile that underpins the south of city centre. But hidden in the Santa Cruz district is a more romantic choice, in a part of town where even the screeching mopeds fall silent.

The hotel is really a composite of several adjoining houses, with rooms scattered around a large, airy courtyard enlivened by tiles, potted plants and fountains.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Callejon de Dos Hermanos 7, Seville, Spain (tel: 00 34 95 441 5150, lascasas@zoom.es), buried in the Santa Cruz district 500 metres from the Cathedral; be prepared to get cross as you try to track it down. The "houses of the Jewish quarter", as the name translates, is the ideal base for exploring the centre of the city - and for dining, being surrounded by cafés, tapas bars and restaurants.

Transport: who needs it? You're close to the centre of the greatest concentration of history and culture anywhere in Spain.

Time to international airport: 15 minutes by taxi to cover the 12km to or from Seville's cavernous modern airport. The problem with the airport is that there are very few international flights, with one a day to and from Heathrow and five connections a week with Gatwick. You could fly to Madrid instead and connect with the AVE high-speed train to Santa Justa station in Seville, taking a bit over two hours from the capital.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

The rooms have not been over-modernised, which means they are odd shapes, mostly with stone floors, and some are on the small side. But the beds are comfortable, and the en-suite bathrooms are well equipped.

Freebies: don't get excited; standard-issue toiletries.

Keeping in touch: your friends and colleagues could send a fax (to 00 34 95 442 2170), but the information superhighway is not yet speeding through the historic core of Seville.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double 17,000 pesetas (£65), single 11,800 (£45), including tax but not breakfast.

I'm not paying that: try one of many nearby hospedajes , from about 3,000 pesetas (£12) double. Or wait until July or August, when the Casas de la Juderia cuts its rates for high summer.

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