Sleepover: La Casa Grande
A bed for the night in Spain
Sunday 03 August 2003
Where is it?
Where is it?
Arcos de la Frontera, one of the pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalusia, 30km east of Jerez. The town is spectacularly sited, clinging to a long strip of sheer cliff, almost 200m high.
Describe the setting
A mansion built in 1729 by the Nuñez de Prado Lopez Maldonado family. Set in a quiet cobbled street, it has been lovingly restored by the owners Elena and Ferran. There are six rooms, two of which are suites, and two more will open next spring. Each is decorated in a smart rustic style, with fabrics, antiques and art from the owners' personal collections. Original tiles, exposed beams and plasterwork enhance the bohemian feel.
Does it have a USP?
The roof terrace has stunning views of the Guadalete river and the rolling Cadiz plain. Relax here as evening falls, with a chilled sherry and a selection of tapas, while watching the swallows swirl and dive. The church of San Pedro rises above you, its tower turned pink by the sun's last rays. The flickering candles and lanterns that light the stairs and corridors at night add an atmospheric touch. The owners have managed that rare feat of making guests feel they are in a private house, but with personal service moments away.
La Suite, the biggest room, has a large, comfortable bed, a couple of chairs in which to sit by the French doors, an en-suite bathroom and living area with sofabed, table and chairs and kitchenette. Other rooms are similarly comfy. All rooms have air-conditioning, telephone, TV, radio/cassettes (with classical music supplied) and hairdryers.
What's in the bathroom?
Ours had rustic décor and modern fittings. There is only one room that is not en-suite, but it still has a private bathroom. Pamper yourself with handcrafted soap, shower gel and shampoo made with the famous olive oil of nearby Olvera.
A traditional breakfast, priced at €6.50 (£4.50), is served in the beautiful interior patio to a soundtrack of classical music. Fruit, yogurt, pastries and warm bread rolls are accompanied by jam and savoury butters. For cheap and delicious tapas, sit outside Café-Bar El Faro, at Calle Debajo del Corral, and try the pulpo aliño (octopus salad) and gambas al ajillo (sizzling prawns in garlic). Meson Los Murales, at Plaza Boticas, serves up tortilla and fresh fried fish. For a meal in grand surroundings, the Hotel Restaurante Marques de Torresoto, at Marques de Torresoto, 4, has a menu of Moorish-influenced dishes for €11 (£8), including wine.
What are the people like?
The staff are friendly, helpful and unobtrusive and the owners are at your disposal, as is their library. Guests are mostly British or American.
Despite being on the white villages trail, Arcos retains an authentic Spanish atmosphere. Explore its winding medieval cobbled streets and pretty hidden patios and plazas. The tourist office (round the corner from the hotel on Plaza del Cabildo) runs one-hour tours of the old town's patios and monuments, €3 (£2) per person. In July and August there are free open-air flamenco performances (Thursdays, 10.30pm, Plaza de Canameo) and other outdoor concerts (Fridays, 11.30pm, Carpas de Verano, Avenida Duque de Arcos). The unspoilt Costa de la Luz beaches are an hour by car, while three nearby national parks, Grazalema, Doñana and Los Alcornocales, are perfect for walking, cycling, riding and wildlife-spotting. The white village of Ronda, the sherry town of Jerez and the cities of Cadiz and Seville are all an hour's drive.
What's the damage?
Doubles start at €75 (£50), suites at €78. Subsidised parking can be provided by the hotel for €2.70 (£1.90) per day.
Access for all?
Planning laws prevent the installation of a lift or ramp, so there is no access for wheelchair users. Children and pets are welcome.
La Casa Grande, Maldonado 10, 11630 Arcos de la Frontera, Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain (00 34 956 70 39 30; www.lacasagrande.net). La Casa Grande is affiliated to Rusticae, a collection of small hotels with character, which includes more than 100 in Spain. ( www.rusticae.es).
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