If living like our ancestors suggest to you a log cabin or cave or tent, it probably means you're North American and may have forgotten the vast European and North African history. The Paradors in Spain will change your thinking.
The Spanish government has brilliantly taken religious, military sites and palaces in the 17th and 18th centuries and while protecting and enhancing the exterior of these convents and castles, they've created hotels that save as much of the original use as possible while shooting for that elusive fifth star. The results are amazing.
We are currently staying in Convento del Roser, one of these Spanish paradors located in the historic centre of Lleida and we are gobsmacked. The exterior from the street is rough and beaten thoroughly by history but once through the glass door, the magic mix of a convent built in the 1600s with the most modern interior adaptations for creature comforts is both confusing and satisfying.
Lighting, of course, makes a massive difference but very clever architects have made the most of every nook and cranny, from the open spaces of the interior courtyard to the adaptation of the Chapel to a first class restaurant serving local dishes in imaginative ways . There is not one ounce of cookie cutter in the whole 56 room structure and sometimes, you meet yourself coming back in the corridors.
Being right downtown, features like parking require a touch of genius. The tiny streets of the historic area make the feeling of being in the middle of history even stronger.
There is, of course, an ample supply of 4 and 5 star hotels throughout Spain but if your idea of history is to engage as a participant and not hide away as a reluctant spectator, the paradors of this country are an absolute must. Spread through the country in all the major towns and cities, you can turn a very average holiday into a very exciting opportunity to look at our past.
Vila Nova de Gaia is a city in Portugal completely unknown to us. We made our search of places to stay in Porto but somehow ended up in this place. The address says Porto so we kept in putting Porto into the GPS and never made a match..... and, hence, spent a fair amount of time lost.
After two ladies took pity on us and drove us to where we were supposed to be, we still were far from making the GPS work. Luckily, we asked a person in the street who pointed to us that instead of Porto, we put Vila Nova de Gaia as the city and it worked perfectly. We certainly learned how helpful Portugese people are in showing their historic mastery of navigation.
It is on the other side of the Duoro from Porto and here's the fantastic view we have from our 3rd floor apartment. All worth the climb. The Port factories claimed by Porto are all here too...so write the name down now.
But Vila Nova de Gaia is not just the other side of Porto. It has several kilometres of the Atlantic shores. With quaint fishing villages, one can still enjoy watching the fishermen prepare for the sea and have delicious fresh fish in some of the restaurants close to the water.
Other Interesting Places in Europe