There's a chain of hotels throughout Spain called Paradors that tend to be really cool old buildings in really cool locations. Most offer basic, but nice rooms at decent prices along with yummy restaurants. Some other locations are fairly luxurious. Diana and I prefer to stay with locals through airbnb when we travel but places like the Paradors provide a nice excuse for us to bust out of our routines plus it's kinda' fun for a change to stay at a place where everything is onsite.
Originally the hotels were founded, I learned recently, by a Spanish king about 100 years ago as a way to get folks to travel. Diana and I spent one night at the Tortosa Parador, which is located on a hilltop in an old, tenth-century castle/fortress.
Interesting side note: the hotel chain is government-owned and profitable. The Tortosa Parador meets both Parador requirements, a cool building and an exceptional location (overlooking the town of Tortosa).
Tortosa is an old Roman-empire city located at the mouth of the Ebre river in the southern-most corner of Catalunya about two hours away from Barcelona. The former-fortress-turned-hotel dates from 944 and still has some of its original features. We spent the early afternoon after our arrival walking around the hotel and grounds checking out the architecture, which includes lots of stone walls, defensive positions, and arches like these:
During the late afternoon, we took a boat ride on the extensive Ebre-river delta just in from where it meets the Mediterranean. The evening was fairly cold and windy but we enjoyed the provided snacks and wine along with the river views.
Once we got back to shore, we rushed over to check out one of the spots where flamingos hang out and feed. Unfortunately for seeing flamingos, we arrived a little too late but, fortunately, for sunset views, we arrived just in time.
The next morning we took a quick guided tour of the old part of town. The guide took us to see a couple of old churches (of course), a government building or two, and some other local of-note buildings. There was nothing super exciting but it was a nice mellow walking tour that left from the hotel and had a few gems.
Our bus headed back to Barcelona a little after we finished our buffet breakfast. It was a fairly uneventful trip overall (read: relaxing) but we did enjoy the short weekend away.
Oh, and during the ride back, our bus got passed by the Stuttgart professional football (soccer) team bus, which brought back some memories! Guten Tag VFB!!!