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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


, a

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


Vacations® •

Winter 2018 • 33

32 • Vacations


Winter 2018

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



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

are the

Parador of Granada

in a

former 16th century convent inside

the grounds of the Alhambra, and


Parador of Hondarribia

in a 10th

century castle just over the border

from France.