Tim Warrington checks into El Palace Hotel, in Barcelona
There was something Narnia wardrobe and other worldly about El Palace as the revolving door propelled me into a nirvana of liveried bellboys, fragrant, long-stemmed roses and chandeliers. Check-in was as polished as the gleaming brass balustrades.
Location: Central to the hustle and bustle of downtown Barcelona and very close to Las Ramblas, it is surrounded by boulevards, prestigious boutiques and the city's main attractions, but that comes with a good amount of din. Yet inside the hotel is a quiet haven of blissful elegance.
The room: The Classic. I thought I had the spacious, neo-classical room sussed as soon as I entered, but the huge marble bathroom in muted tones surprised, as did the television behind the enormous gilt mirror and mini-bar hidden behind a secret panel. An ornate writing desk quietly suggested I get on with some work, but the peaceful and comfortable surrounds had me horizontal on the bed, daydreaming and then soon snoring. The Goldilocks not-too-hard and not-too-soft pillows and mattress were catnip for this weary traveller. The enormous, tasselled room key is a delightful touch of nostalgia and must be left at reception whenever you leave the hotel.
The bathroom: Glorious, chic and modern, but slightly at odds with the room's decor, which is more vintage Versailles glam. Chopard toiletries did the trick and there was a sneaky little glass panel in the shower that swings back, providing access to the separate bath.
Food and drink: Boasting the largest rooftop terrace in Barcelona, it would have been criminal not to indulge in a princely tipple as the sun dipped behind far-off cupolas. There's a convenience store conveniently placed adjacent to the hotel for the purchase of instant noodles after blowing the budget on a Macallan Gatsby — or two — at cocktail hour. The following morning, the breakfast buffet was a rather regal affair. Conversations of the well-heeled were lost amidst the clink of fine china and crystal as waiters, gliding silently, caffeinated their clientele.
Tech: Fast, complimentary Wi-Fi in-room and all public areas and a business centre with printer.
Value for money: El Palace is well posh, so you're paying for more than just a room. This hotel is both a set piece and a piece of history, and that is reflected in the price. A stash of achingly decadent furniture in the main hall, gilt mirrors, chandeliers, hand painted wall paper and silken drapery are as palatial as the hotel's moniker suggests, harking back to the property's previous incarnation as a Ritz Hotel.
Would I return? Too much of a good thing and a yearning to explore could lead me to seek alternative lodgings on my next trip to Barcelona.. but who am I trying to kid, of course I would.