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A night away May 2009

Parador de Jaen: Castillo de Santa Catalina

You cannot stay in Spain without visiting a ‘Parador’. This hotel chain is run by the Spanish government, using high ecological standards, and staffed by local people. There are 93 at present but by far the most interesting are the hotels within castles, convents, palaces and other historical buildings.

Jaen is a couple of hours drive from the coast, through a province which grows 70 per cent of all olives grown in Spain. There are acres and acres of olives over undulating hills, making a scenic patchwork quilt.

On nearing Jaen, looking above the town, you will see the majestic castle where you are staying. Do you really want a very special stay? Feeling romantic? The room for you is No 44, Romantica.

Having received keys to the room from a very friendly receptionist, we make our way through a lovely sitting area complete with coats of armour, tapestries and traditional furniture which makes you feel as if you have been transported back to the 18th century when the Arabic castle was built.

Walking to the end of the corridor, we find No 44. This room is exquisite! It sits at the end of the hotel with views over the mountains and the city of Jaen. A four poster bed in traditional fabrics entices you into the bedroom. There is a separate bathroom with twin basins, dressing room area with wardrobes and a lovely terrace where in our case, champagne was waiting.

In the evening we walked to the other end of the castle to find the bar, lounge and restaurant. The lounge is breathtaking. Twenty metre high arches rise in a beautiful curved ceiling, with two massive fireplaces at either end.

The restaurant offered traditional Andalucian dishes, which we felt did not attain the standard of the accommodation or service. Perhaps more international cuisine and a bistro type menu would be helpful for children or those who only want a light meal.

In the morning, we found the breakfast room. In buffet form, we found food to suit every taste. On offer were freshly squeezed juices, fruit yoghourts, cereals, meats, cheeses, and a cooked breakfast for those still hungry. Our stay in the hotel was very relaxing, and peaceful.

There is an outdoor pool surrounded by forest park where we saw a red squirrel which seemed to smile at us. This is the perfect place to stay for a weekend and remember – if it is a special occasion - to ask for Room 44.

ANNE FLEMING

Hotel Parador de Jaén