artisans, and the hotel’s Mudéjar revival
style reflects his taste. Patterned
brickwork and coffered ceilings define
the largest rooms. Blue and white
tiles sweep from the reception area
into the stunning central patio, where
the Moorish fountain could have been
lifted straight from a medieval saga.
Referencing Pedro’s decades-long
struggle with his half-brother Enrique
for the crown of Castile and Léon, the
fountain’s Spanish inscription says that
its waters should “erase from memory
bloodshed in the most cruel of wars
between princes, sons of the same
The dining room, located in the
castle’s former refectory, is the
most impressive of the public areas.
Soaring Romanesque brick arches,
high vaulted ceilings, and big windows
overlooking the valley below create a
heroic feel. Medieval-style tables and
chairs only amplify the atmospherics.
Although Spanish cuisine represents
the culinary cutting edge in Europe,
parador restaurants concentrate on
executing historic regional dishes with
contemporary finesse. At dinner, we
enjoyed roasted partridge and spicy
Carmona spinach with chickpeas. The
kitchen’s organic vegetable garden
also yielded a rich version of
Spanish take on eggplant ratatouille.
There’s a lot to see outside the fortress
walls. The Roman necropolis on the
west side of Carmona, for example,
contains more than 600 tombs,
including one that replicates an entire
villa. But at the end of a long dusty day,
nothing quite beat lounging by the pool,
terraced into the hillside below the thick
brick fortifications. How would we feel if
we were invaders hoping to scale those
sturdy ramparts 30 metres above?
All history lessons should be such a
Winter 2018 • 33
32 • Vacations
Founded by Phoenicians and enlarged by Romans, ancient
Carmona lies on the road between Seville and Córdoba. It’s
often overlooked by travellers in a rush to get to the bigger
cities. We were savouring Andalusia, so we chose to linger.
Night had fallen by the time we drove through the brick
horseshoe arch of the main gate, so we didn’t appreciate
the strategic location until morning. When we rolled back
the curtains of our rear balcony room, we were greeted by
a vista of a sunbaked plain stretching east to the horizon.
The fortress had been built on a hilltop where defenders
could see an invading army two days’ march in the distance.
Make ready the boiling oil and fiery arrows!
That palpable sense of history is what we like best about
staying in paradors. The hulking structures with their
massive wooden doors exude a permanence, as if we were
just the latest in a centuries-long parade of characters
clip-clopping down those long-tiled halls. Bedrooms in most
paradors, Carmona included, feature substantial wooden
furniture with simple designs and bathrooms tiled floor to
ceiling with marble. Bedrooms are mainly for sleeping.
In Carmona, we did our living in the grand public spaces
– from the tables under the patio arcade to the elegant
brick-red Bermejo room filled with rugs, antiques, and comfy
lounge chairs. Pedro was known for patronizing Moorish
ABOUT THE PARADORES
Founded in 1928 by King Alfonso XIII,
the parador system includes nearly
100 hotels, most in historic buildings
such as castles, convents or palaces.
(The system also has a few modern
urban hotels and some nature
retreats.) Among the most beautiful
Parador of Granada
former 16th century convent inside
the grounds of the Alhambra, and
Parador of Hondarribia
in a 10th
century castle just over the border
PARADOR DE CARMONA’S POOL AREA
ROOM WITH KING BED
ELEGANT RESTAURANT DINING