Dodecalogue of hotel restaurants


A survey has confirmed some ideas about the food service that hotels should offer their customers in order to retain them longer. They must make a commitment to entice palates but with the minimum number of resources. Unlike restaurants, whose chefs manage them on their own, hotels are required not only to lure guests to the table, but also to meet their food needs. Here are 12 suggestions deducted after analyzing this survey. Continue reading

Cheap and expensive hotels in Spain

An amazing expensive hotel

Les Cols

Les Cols Pavellons (Olot, Girona). Double room: €340

It is categorized as a boarding house, but Les Cols Pavellons (Avenida de les Cols, s/n; +34 699 81 38 17), in Olot, Girona (a province in the northeastern region of Catalonia), is an establishment that boasts among the highest average prices in Spain. And this year, it received the top international distinction for its design: the Pritzker, which is considered to be the Nobel Prize of architecture. The award was accepted by RCR Arquitectes, which comprises the talents of architects Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta.

When Judit Planella started the project, she never imagined that it would reach such heights in these beautiful glass structures that now constitute not just her home, but the home of hundreds of travelers arriving from all parts of the world. But still, it was clear in her mind that hospitality is not limited to the physical necessities of lodging, but to a psychological experience of the senses. She pursued a unique objective, an approach to the concept of “the nowhere place.” And she obtained from the now award-winning architects an ethereal fantasy of beauty between glass. Judit describes it with these poetic words: “To be alone before the night and the emptiness, a refugee between walls, where opacity and the reflections of glass blend in a dialogue of lights and water, so that you regain a sense of nature that we believed to have been forgotten.”


One of the peculiarities of this accommodation is its paradoxical placement: inside the industrial complex of Olot – because it is considerably easier to build a luxury hotel against magnificent scenery like the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa, for example. But to do it between factories, as Judit and her collaborators have done, requires tremendous talent.


They do not exist. Les Cols is a nowhere place. Over the surface of transparent glass float emerald-colored mattresses that can be transformed into sofas, carpets, or beds. They appear and disappear. They are opened and closed. The guest decides. And at night, they can be folded back up so that you can lie back and gaze at the moon.


Nor is there a breakfast room in this nowhere place. The guests are not directed to the first meal of the day, but rather, the meal comes to them. The hostess serves them in the glass rooms at the agreed hour. Local products are made especially for the hotel, treating guests to aromas and flavors in a concert of the senses with a soul of glass.


And a charming, affordable hotel

Venta de Ulzama

Venta de Ulzama (Ulzama, Navarre). Double room: €70

Many readers will remember that winding road across the Belate mountain pass, between the cities of Pamplona and San Sebastian, which used to be packed with trucks. The trip took so long that no one could avoid a stop at the Venta de Ulzama.

On such a journey, the asphalt would give way to the lush, green landscape of Navarre, where awaiting the traveler was the hospitality of the Díez de Ulzurrun family, which is now represented by its fourth generation, Felisa Goñi and her daughter-in-law Inma Berberena.

The highway tunnel now avoids the ascent through the mountain, and with it, the inn has been left isolated in a forest of beech trees. But homeliness, attention to detail and good food still captivate the traveler in search of solitude. The hostesses ensure it with elegant discretion. Remnants of the old inn permeate the air as one walks up the stairs. A first floor, then another. Room 206 is perhaps the most charming, with its wooden headboards, exposed beams, and small windows. If the weather permits, there is nothing like engrossing yourself on the porch with some Patxaran liquor. As soon as it gets quiet, a herd of 20 deer owned by the inn will leave the thicket to seek amusement in the field.


To spend the night in the middle of snowfall like that which regularly falls on this mountainous area in Navarre is an unforgettable experience. And in the summer, the facade exhibits balconies lined with geraniums.


The continued refurbishments have left the inn in a current condition that cannot be criticized. Especially satisfactory is the double bed of Room 103, from which one can admire the forest of trees that enshrine this rustic home.


In the basement of the inn, one can find an authentic factory of milk curds. This cuajada, a typical dish on many Basque tables, is the star of the menu here and will be served at dessert and breakfast. Made with the same hot stones that were used more than a century ago, the artisanal curd is famed for being the best in Navarre. Especially if Mrs. Goñi is putting the pot on your table.

The EL PAÍS travel critic reviews two unique and very different experiences at both ends of the price scale

Hotel Complaints


About the controversial issue of Internet users’ reviews and the discomfort they cause among the most reluctant hoteliers, I host some doubts about how many hotels are constrained by the same Achilles heel. Or are the most sensitive factors in a hotel, those that can disappoint travelers, always the same? Let’s see what the study of a popular online booking engine brings us. It is an interesting research which has gathered the main complaints of its clients after has evaluated all this knowledge and effects for its platform affiliates.

Continue reading

Fishing in the Network

fishing in the networkIn 2010, when Facebook had barely reached 400 million followers —compared with 1.2 billion it has today—, I wrote a prediction about the increasing power of this social network and the importance that I anticipated for the future of the hospitality industry. Now we already know how it is. Actually, without Facebook utilities, a tourist accommodation has no chance to exist in the next decade, simply because the tourist market is all digital and connected. Soon, travelers will choose and book their rooms on Facebook. And hotels will know on Facebook who their customers are, how they think and what they really want. Welcome to Planet Earth, welcome to Planet Facebook.

The future of search is social, I hazarded in a short essay about the use of social networks on the Internet and its so-called ‘Facebook effect’.  Could Mark Zuckerberg’s ecosystem dare to unseat Google’s digital culture dominance? Assaulting the algorithms used by the company of goggles, Facebook has come to optimize its search engine which allows displaying in real-time all that we are writing on our timeline. Continue reading

Toying with the idea of non-reception


Over and over again, the most bitter of all hotel experiences is the moment of arrival. When everything should suggest opening the doors of imagination and hospitality, we usually see something like a wall barring the way to happiness: the reception desk, the final frontier. No way to find the way! The Iron Curtain falls. So, “what can I do?”, wonders any innovative hotelier; perhaps it is the most convenient way to welcome the customers; maybe it is the most useful method to take their ID; surely it is the most practicable place from which to control visitors. Others, owners of small charming hotels, claim that furniture like this helps the communication with the newcomer, and no digital check-in could replace the warmth of human contact. Continue reading

Five Legendary Hotels in Spain

Ritz sculpture

The Westin Palace (Madrid)
The former palace of the Dukes of Medinaceli was inaugurated by Alfonso XIII in 1912 and refurbished in a French style. It was frequented by Picasso, Buster Keaton, Sarah Bernhard, Mata Hari, Dali, and Ava Gardner among other celebrities. Hemingway drank dry martinis at its bar, while the bullfighter Manolete walked out the hotel door towards the arena of Las Ventas. In the Palace halls, the Socialist Party held its first victory in the general elections of 1982. Here was celebrated the Madrid Peace Conference (1991) and the dance-opening of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

Ritz (Madrid)
It was the first hotel in Madrid designed by Cesar Ritz, in the early twentieth century. King Alfonso XIII ordered it built, because he wanted to offer a luxury hotel in the Continue reading