Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hotel España

I don't think that I've ever written specifically about a hotel before especially one that I haven't stayed at but this one's worth its own story. Diana invited and treated me and few friends to lunch and a tour at the Hotel España in Barcelona last Friday afternoon.

Why would anyone want to tour a hotel you might ask? Well, this one just happens to be a pretty amazing example of the city's famed Modernist architecture (think Gaudi).

In classic Spain style, our lunch started around 2:30pm or so in the hotel's worthy-of-being-a-museum restaurant, La Fonda:

After a yummy meal and, more importantly, a couple of bottles of wine (remember: Spanish-style lunch!!!), we started our guided tour of the hotel, which you have to pay for but it's worth the couple of euros. The tour starts in the reception area and continues in the adjoining Arnau Bar. One of the highlights of the tour and of the hotel is this stone fireplace, which for some crazy reason was once painted! Why someone would paint something like this is beyond me but I guess preservation wasn't always as cool as it is now.

Vincent checking out the fireplace:

The hotel's in one of Barcelona's more "diverse" (and cooler) neighborhoods, which just so happens to be about a four-minute walk from where we used to live. If you go out the front door of the hotel and make a left, the same direction we used live, you go through the Raval neighborhood, which has (one of?) Barcelona's red-light district, where you can "make a friend"and buy "something to make you feel better/different/whatever".

According to our guide, the hotel used to be more of a backpacker-type place, which probably fits what the now "up-and-coming" neighborhood is today (why do they always say up-and-coming when they probably mean "still-a-bit sketchy"?). The reality is the hotel is right near La Rambla and the Liceu Theater (which I can't believe that I've never written about). I miss living in nearby Poble Sec because of all the awesome and cheap restaurants and the fact that the metro's right there.

Anyway, the hotel was built in the mid-1800s and was most recently renovated a couple of years ago. It's definitely not pack-packer style now. Just look at the stairwell below to see the detail this place has. There's relief-style wall decoration, marble stairs, wrought-iron railings, and display-case-type windows that expose what's left of the mosaic floor. The Sistine Chapel it's not, but it is surprisingly nice for a hotel.

The design is a bit unusual in that the rooms open into a central space that looks like something out of the 70s. Not in an avocado-colored-oven-and-fridge way. Just that the style/decoration's not what we'd see today. The openness is incorporated in the underwater theme they've got going on down in the Sirens' restaurant below. The gold lamps are supposed to be bubbles rising from the sea floor.

One interesting note is that those six-sided gold boxes house ventilation fans for the space below. Apparently, they're non-functional now and locked up because, as our guide mentioned, "little kids might get [have gotten] into them"...

The Sirens-restaurant's theme is like being underwater or, maybe, in a fish bowl (sort of like Casa Batllo, I guess). The underwater theme (and the hotel's modernist design) was created during the early 1900s renovation done by local Catalan architect Luis Domenech i Montaner. He also did the also-amazing-modernist-style Casa Fuster on nearby Passeig de Gracia, which is also now a hotel.

Below the giant, naked-chick wall art is a series of white, round ceramic disks that each have a symbol from the different regions of Spain. Some of the disks have the No8Do symbol that's representative of Sevilla but, if you look hard enough, you'll find one that seems to have been created by a dyslexic craftsman.

The tour lasted about an hour and included going up to see the hotel's rooftop bar and pool. We ran out of time or we would have gotten drinks and hung out. The only bummer about the tour is that there's no "behind-the-scenes" included. I think it would have been interesting to see the kitchen in the adjoining building that used to be a bakery or perhaps seeing the basement or something. Oh well. No biggie.

Thanks to Diana for treating us to lunch and the tour as well as to our friends Victor, Vincent, and Vladimir for joining us. Wait, I just realized that our names make up some sort of odd full house - DDVVV! Let's do it again soon. Maybe a picnic inside the Sagrada Familia?

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