|Ferdinand and Isabela|
If you get to Santiago de Compostela, do yourself a favor, if not your budget, and have a scrumptious lunch at the Parador. Not a familiar name? Paradors are a series of historic building in Spain that the government has turned into luxurious hotels, the interiors decorated with antiquities, and featuring fine dining, as well as exquisite guest rooms.
The one in Santiago, Parador de los Reyes Católicos, was founded by Ferdinand and Isabela (1486) as a hostel and hospital for pilgrims staggering in from The Way of Saint James. The construction took ten years. Sits right across from the famous cathedral. No longer just for pilgrims, it’s a first class establishment, although I’ve been told pilgrims get a discount. The hotel is often noted as the most beautiful in Europe. I hesitate to dispute that claim, although I haven’t done a personal survey of all the hotels in Europe.
Don’t feel like throwing down a wad of cash for a room, or even burning some plastic on a memorable meal? Stop in for a drink at the inside bar or the outside café. Reasonable, especially for a window on the beating heart of this fab city
Follow this link to find out more about the Parador system and to make reservations: http://www.parador.es/fr/paradores/parador-de-santiago-de-compostela?gclid=Cj0KCQjw78vLBRCZARIsACr4cxwk6kerhDB9wGIlzI59ILNO_gCFluTBy3h3pXF9pMDSjm8FsZcuOo8aAsfaEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
Recently, I had the honor of joining friends for cocktails and lunch at the Parador de Santiago. The experience is as if you’ve joined the fashionable upper crust, if only for a couple of hours. After all, what joy is there without a vivid imagination and soul soothing alcohol?
The outdoor café overlooks Santiago’s main square, Plaza Obradoiro, and the inside bar has the feel of an English men’s club, featuring deep padded leather arm chairs, a long bar of dark wood and a wait staff so attentive you’ll feel as if you hired them yourself. This ain’t Mickey D’s friends, this is the look and feel of stately, old style luxury. Take a moment to stroll out into the central stone courtyard, festooned with ancient pillars and arches. Check out the mother-in-law…I mean gargoyle in the upper corner.
My traveling companion and I had already had drinks in the outdoor café several times. I recommend the Bloody Marys. Also, the wines of any variety. Also the Sherry….also the …well, I think you’re beginning to glimpse my motivation. The café’s a noble respite from daily cares and mundane commerce. But this day, since my friend’s wife had just completed The Way of Saint James, we opt for indoor drinks and a leisurely spot of lunch in the cavernous great hall.
Parador cuisine is first rate and features an ever-changing menu of area specialties. We opt for Chochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig), Lubina (sea bass) and beef tenderloin. (By the way, for those of you still struggling with eighth grade English, op is the singular, opt is the past tense. Just trying to help. Opted sounds like you have a lisp or are missing a front tooth.)
The Parador has been many things at many times, and as I mentioned it served as a hospital for pilgrims. But, that was centuries ago, when the best you could hope for from the hospital staff was educated murmurs over blisters and a little blood letting on your way to the great beyond. What is now the great dining hall, with splendid curved arches, was the hospital morgue. Probably shouldn’t bring that up at lunch, or you may bring up lunch along with it.
Don’t you just love it when the waiter (didn’t see any female wait staff) removes the bones from your grilled fish?
I’ve run out of superlatives, but take it from a stingy man, our visit, drinks and lunch at the Parador de Compostela may have emptied my wallet, but it filled my belly and stroked my self-esteem.
Put this Parador and every other Parador on your list.
Other blog entries on Santiago de Compostela: