And so to sunny Spain for my hen do… cue visions of Ibiza-style bucket cocktails, phallic inflatables, all night clubbing, L-Plates and waiters called Alejandro... but #finalfling is not really my style. I was seeking sunshine, culture, good food, conversation and a glorious hotel.
So the Matron of Honour and I flew to Seville and based ourselves in the central quarter of Barrio Alfalfa - just five minutes from the Cathedral - in an original 17th century casa palacio which has been beautifully restored to become the luxury boutique hotel Corral Del Rey.
Following a pleasingly swift transfer from the airport to central Seville, MoH and I found ourselves in a labyrinth of streets in the old quarter of this Spanish city. One could even be forgiven for walking right past the entrance to Corral del Rey, tucked away as it is down a ‘breathe-in-it’s-so-narrow’ street of the same name. Only the subtle hotel logo outside tells you that you’ve arrived, inviting the guest to step through the huge medieval Mudéjar studded wooden door then on through a further imposing metalwork and glass-paned door into the reception area.
The ancient stone flagstones and wooden ceilings give a sense of timelessness and tranquility. The atrium is small but beautifully decorated, and draws the eye up through the central air well, surrounded by three galleries off which a number of the bedrooms are located. Carved wood-framed mirrors and clever use of glass ceilings add to the feeling of space and light. A rustic stone staircase leads to the roof terrace, kitted out with a cooling plunge pool and benefitting from glorious views of the city.
The staff, in matching terracotta wrap dresses, float effortlessly around the hotel, looking serene and relaxed. Sole aided us in all matters and was a delight. Friendly and helpful, she explained which restaurants were good and how to find them, booked us into a Flamenco show and arranged our timed entry tickets to explore the gardens adjoining The Alcázar of Seville, the royal palace originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. With limited time and an entire city to discover and experience, guidance and assistance of this sort is simply invaluable.
Corral Del Rey has 13 rooms in total, some of them in another building on the opposite side of the narrow alleyway. Our suite had only been open a few days and the smell of building works still lingered. It was neat and compact with thick, cooling stone walls and muted blue wooden shutters. From the bedroom, a tantalizing staircase cut in stone led up to our private roof terrace complete with plunge pool. The bedroom had been decorated in neutral shades, with rough stone walls, a carved wooden Moorish mirror above the bed, fresh white linens and touches of soft, natural colour. The ancient Moorish influences of Andalucia are evident throughout the hotel.
The roof terrace was formed of dark grey and green white-veined marble. Steps lead down into the plunge pool, flanked by a freestanding shower and well-stocked mini bar; also a sofa area, table and chairs and two delightful potted olive trees to complete the Mediterranean scene.
This roof terrace was such a treat. When aching feet have trotted back along the cobbles, bearing the weight of as many pairs of Spanish leather boots as it is humanly possible to carry, the weary shopper can slide unobserved into the fresh cool water, soaking up the sun to the strains of the Gypsy Kings.
The hotel is a matter of minutes from the bustle and beauty of the Cathedral district, full of restaurants and shops and general sites of interest. And just behind it in yet another charming alleyway is the Flamenco Museum, well worth a visit to see a show.
The continental breakfast is fresh and tasty, with eggs cooked to order and brought with traditional mouthwatering accompaniments – the Manchego cheese being a worthy favourite. House bottled olive oil is available to sample and to take away. The hotel has no restaurant, but there is an abundance of recommendations and tantalizing options nearby.
The city itself is wonderful, whether explored by horse-drawn carriage, Segway or on foot. There is a great deal to see and experience and the sounds of Seville are lovely, Spanish voices and church bells floating on the warm air. The streets are clean, cool and full of life. I came away feeling refreshed and invigorated; ready to breeze through the final matrimonial preparations and flamenco down the aisle.