My friend Myra and I had a mid week break to Seville in Spain this September. We travelled with Ryan Air from Stansted Airport on very cheap flights but, as they have, over the years reduced the size of their hand luggage to the diameters of a match box we ended up paying the same again for a check in suitcase! (£50 each for the return flights and £90 for one checked-in bag!) There is something very wrong with this equation!
Anyway our hotel was The Hotel Ateneo in Calle Angostillo. This was described as a “boutique” hotel and it is indeed very small (only 20 rooms) but it really is one of the most delightful places I have stayed. Upon arrival the outside of the hotel is in a cobbled back street and does not look like anything special. However as you walk through a large iron gate you walk into a covered courtyard that is difficult to describe. It is full of antique furniture, paintings, chandeliers, chaise lounges and a large telescope, it is like stepping back in time. There is no obvious reception desk but immediately a very polite gentleman appeared to greet us. Our room on the 2nd floor again had the most wonderful chandelier and thick curtains and furnishings that would rival those in Versailles! Our “wardrobe” was a tent like structure of curtains which looked like a punch and judy booth (every time I went to get something to wear I expected to see Punch with a club in his hand!) In contrast the bathroom was much more modern with a huge walk in shower and the most beautifully lemon scented toiletries. After unpacking we went to explore the hotel. Off the courtyard there were numerous little rooms, all comfortably fitted out to relax in, there was a library one, a boat themed one and a larger one with an enormous dining table. It was here that breakfast was laid out each morning and small tables were set out around the courtyard and in the other rooms so that no one was sitting right near other people. It was like being in someone’s house. There is a very small swimming pool with 2 sun loungers and a table and chairs in another courtyard. I doubt that more than 2 people could get into the pool at the same time so it was more of a dipping pool than somewhere you would want to do serious swimming. The hotel was situated near one of the main shopping areas and it was very near The Antiquarium, a wonderful mushroom like structure under which they discovered some interesting old ruins. You can go to the top of the structure for great views or visit the museum to see the ruins below you.
We could walk from the hotel to The Cathedral, The Alcazar and The Plaza Espana. (We did 3 walking tours with Pancho Tours and I would highly recommend them). The hotel organised the first tour and it was free and took us all around the various sights. Then we booked a tour around the Jewish Quarter and then another to see The Alcazar which is the Royal Palace. The Cathedral and The Alcazar get very busy and there are long lines to get in, if you book a walking tour you can walk straight in with your guide). We also did a river trip but to be quite honest that was a bit boring with nothing to see but the bridges (ranging from ugly to impressive) and the remains of the 1992 EXPO which looked rather sad and abandoned. However The Torre del Oro which is now a Maritime Museum is interesting with nice views over the city and this is situated right by the boat pier.
One other rather unusual thing to consider in Seville is a spa visit at AIRE Baths. A totally relaxing but rather weird spa experience. In a very dimly lit building you have 3 floors of baths to enjoy. On the roof is a small marble bath with great views (you can order wine and nibbles to enjoy up there). On the next floor down are the cold bath (VERY cold!), the warmer bath (nice!) and the hot bath (VERY hot!) and below that is the salt pool which is lovely as the salt lets you float peacefully. However it was rather bizarre when we walked in there and in the dim light saw about 9 bodies all spreadeagled in the water, it looked like a crime scene! (We did join them and it was so relaxing with the dim lights and eerie music however it was difficult not to bump into other people and at one point I did have to gently push away a gentleman whose head had floated onto my bosom!)
Seville is absolutely beautiful. We enjoyed the tapas and Cava and the lovely buildings but I think we both loved our little boutique hotel more!