31 October 2018

Las Casas de la Judería,
a Seville hotel that is worth
visiting … just for itself

Las Casas de la Judería, a Seville hotel that is worth visiting … just for itself (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

There are some places I keep going back to because I am so comfortable there. There are some places I feel so comfortable in that you would have to peel me out of them if I spent too long there.

In some of those places I feel I am at home, even though I do not live there at present; in others there are happy memories of how I have been shaped in my values and my personality.

I find myself going back to these places time and again. And usually it is about the places themselves rather than where I am staying. Usually, the destination is the point, and the journey adds to the excitement.

Sometimes, there are hotels that are worth staying in just for themselves. Hotels can never be homes, and I would never fool myself into thinking that any hotel could be home.

But then I am reminded when I watch Fawlty Towers, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and similar series that there was a time when hotels were natural places for people to retire to.

There are hotels that I would return to time and again just because of their location. They include the Ferrycarrig at the mouth of the Slaney in Wexford, Pepi Boutique Hotel on Tsouderon street, Rethymnon, in Crete, the Hedgehog Vintage Inn in Lichfield, and the Varvaras Diamond Hotel in Platanes near Rethymnon.

But if they were not there, I would still keep returning to Lichfield, Wexford and Rethymnon.

However, last week I stayed in the most wonderful hotel in Seville.

Las Casas de la Judería is in the historical centre of Seville, beside the Church of Santa Maria la Blanca and across the street from a range of tapas bars, cafés and restaurant, and part of the city’s old Jewish Quarter, on the edge of the Barrio Santa Cruz.

Here it was a ten-minute walk from Alcazar, Seville Cathedral and the Giralda Tower and it is just another five minutes to the Torre del Oro, the University and the banks of the River Guadalquivir.

Inside, the hotel is paradise of its own making, another world away from the city. This is a collection of 27 different 15th century traditional houses. They appear to have been assembled randomly, but they have been restored to reflect the atmosphere of the surrounding neighbourhood.

There are baroque influences, and rustic charms in this self-contained barrio with a variety of buildings, courtyards, alleyways, overhanging balconies, gardens and terraces.

The 40 patios are typical Andalusian courtyards and ooze with vibrant colour, with hanging baskets, fountains, frescoes and classical features.

We moved through the hotel, from one courtyard to the next, one garden to the next, through a lair of labyrinthine tunnels, steps and arched passageways, often to the sound of water dripping from a tap or fountain that was heard but not seen.

There are surprises everywhere in these courtyard and tunnels. Fountains, statues and Roman amphoras decorate the winding passageways linking the rooms and shared open spaces.

A Roman tunnel connects the rooms with the breakfast room and spas. At times, we criss-crossed the narrow streets and alleyways of Seville itself, yet still found ourselves in the hotel.

The hotel has 178 rooms, individually designed and decorated, each with its own unique touch, filled with history and character, and facing into beautiful cool courtyards filled with plants.

Some of the rooms have names that are reminders of the people said to have lived in these houses down through the centuries: Duke of Bejar, Count of Villamanrique, Casa del Cura … one room is even named after Christopher Columbus, who is buried in Seville Cathedral.

Some of the names are a reminder that this was the heart of the Jewish Quarter before the Inquisition … Casa de Mose Bahari … or an intricate Star of David interlaced in the woodwork of a door.

The Palace of the Zúñigas once belonged to the Zuñiga family and is now the site of the hotel reception and the piano bar, which is named the Marquis of Villamanrique Saloon.

The Padilla family once owned the area that serves as the porter’s office, and they give their name to the Palace, Garden and Small Patio of the Padillas.

We were too late in the year to use the rooftop swimming pool, which is open from May to September, and has views cross the city.

There are so many cafés and tapas bars on the doorstep we never ate in the hotel. But on Friday evening, on our last night, we enjoyed a glass of wine and the live music in the piano-bar.

Of course, if this hotel was not there, I would still want to return to Seville. But if there was no Seville, and this hotel was in the middle of nowhere, I would still want to return to Las Casas de la Judería.

Photographs: Patrick Comerford, Seville, 2018; click on images for full-screen resolution

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