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Castle Sleepover in Spain
2018 saw the debut of my Fifty Weeks of Spain with an original weekend away at the 9th-century castle turned hotel, some 100 km away from Barcelona.
Spending the night in a castle was a first for me, especially in what can easily be one of the oldest of Spanish medieval castles.
Canopy beds, hand-painted headboards and woven bedspreads. And perhaps even a ghost or two.
Castell de Cardona dates back to 886 and is one of the most important castles still standing in Catalunya, unique also by the fact that it consistently remained unconquered throughout its thousand year- existence.
The fortress castle was turned into a hotel – or parador – in the mid 1950s.
What is a Parador
Through the initiative of Alfonso XIII of Spain, Paradores de Turismo was founded in the roaring 20’s as a means to promote tourism in Spain – a very popular and profitable initiative that turned former castles, palaces, fortresses, convents, monasteries and other historic buildings into luxury hotels.
Giving ordinary people the chance to experience modern day comfort in a medieval setting contributed greatly to the success of the initiative. The Paradores chain now counts a hundred such establishments.
So we spent the night at the oldest Parador in Spain and one of the 10 best castle-hotels of Europe, according to TripAdvisor.
Rooms have that certain flair you only get with canopy beds and vaulted ceilings. Ours was right next to the supposedly haunted room 712, and I am happy to report we had no paranormal sightings whatsoever.
We did have quite a view though:
The hotel premises are as inviting and promising as the rooms: beautiful and tasteful decorations at the bar, lounges and or course, the restaurant!
The restaurant is located in an stone vaulted room – just picture any movie with knights and damsels – where you can spoil yourself with dishes like wild boar in chocolate, or duck breast with chestnut puree.
Possibly the best thing? The medieval setting is perfectly complemented by the professionalism of waiters who know what they’re doing, while staying perfectly polite. Take that, Paris!
A Medieval Love Story
Our castle has its own tragic Romeo and Juliet version: the 11th century love story between Adales, the daughter of a viscount, and the Moorish jailer of a neighboring castle.
The Moor gave up his faith and converted to Christianity in a sign of supreme love; but this was a time of war between Christians and Moors, so his love was rejected by the noble family. Adales was closed off in the “Torre de la Minyona” or Minyona Tower, where the girl soon died of heartache.
Here it is again, from our room. Bittersweet setting.
Roaming Around the Castle
Church of St. Vincent is the first thing you should visit. Built in early Catalan Romanesque style and open for hotel guests and tourists alike, the church is beautifully unadorned, save for the old paintings covering the entrance vaulted ceilings.
My favorite spot was, ironically, in the peace and quiet of the crypt:
If you fancy a walk down the hill, you’ll find Devil’s Bridge not too far away from the castle.
Its construction started in the long ago 15th century, and legend goes, the builders made a deal with the devil to speed up the work. But when the devil found that the bridge was designed for pilgrims, he stopped the work and cast a spell on the bridge, which remains unfinished to this day.
By Car: Those of you who drive a car will simply tell Google Maps, or Waze, or whatever app/navigation system you want to take you to Parador de Cardona. You don’t need me for that.
It’s a bit over one hour away from Barcelona.
By Bus: there are buses from Barcelona to Cardona at least twice a day; check the website and bus schedules of the ALSA bus company for more info. (hint, look for the bus to Andorra). It’ll take around 2 hours to reach Cardona – since the bus makes several stops along the way. So you can take some time to enjoy my blog! 😉
Prices at the Parador start at 120 EUR/night, and if you do go, make sure you get the breakfast. It doesn’t come cheap at 16 eur, but it will be completely worth it! (& the first time I saw baked apples as an option. Yum!)
Picture Credit Rolls