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OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
In Spain, Paradors Found

By Julie Skurdenis
The Washington Post
Sunday, January 25, 1998; Page E04
   


Sometimes I yearn for a castle in Spain. Not to own one. Just to sleep in one. Sometimes the yearning extends to medieval monasteries or Renaissance palaces. When the urge comes, I begin by daydreaming and end by booking a flight and reserving a parador.

Each of Spain's 87 paradors (government-run inns) is unique. Although many occupy ancient castles, monasteries, palaces and manor houses, others are modern, built in the traditional style of the region in which they are located.

I "collect" paradors (29 at last count), and on my latest trip to Spain I added half a dozen more:

* Parador de Tortosa. This inn began life 1,050 years ago as a Moorish fortress. Today, visitors to Tortosa (93 miles southwest of Barcelona) stay in comfortable rooms (the rate is $128 per night double), each with a balcony. A highlight -- as it is in each parador -- is the emphasis on regional cuisine. At Tortosa, this means oysters from the Ebro River delta and black rice. Most memorable moment: the view of the castle-fortress looming overhead while driving up from the town.

* Parador de Cuenca. Cuenca, 100 miles southeast of Madrid, is famous for its "hanging houses," and now there is a parador from which to admire them. Originally a monastery built in 1523, the inn offers spacious rooms accented by handwoven rugs. Regional specialties include roast suckling pig and the sinful almond, honey and bread dessert called alaju. Rooms start at $159. Most memorable: the view of the hanging houses at dusk from our bedroom window.

* Parador de AlmagrO. Almagro lies on the vast plain of La Mancha -- Don Quixote country. Its parador was built as a monastery in 1596; the monks' cells are now cozy guest rooms that start at $159. Most memorable: the lacemaker who plies her trade in the lobby.

* Parador de Ubeda. One of the loveliest of Ubeda's Renaissance palaces is now a parador. The elegant dining room offers gazpacho with almonds and stuffed green peppers with partridge. Rooms start at $164 double. Most memorable: Our high-ceilinged room with its dramatic view of the Salvador Chapel.

* Parador de Cordoba. This inn offers a splendid view of the Mezquita, Cordoba's famous 8th-century mosque. Regional cuisine features beef Cordoban-style. Rooms start at $159. Most memorable: Dinner served on our balcony as the sun set over the city.

* Parador de Merida. Roman columns grace this inn's interior courtyard. Regional specialties include lamb stew and Almoharin figs. Rooms start at $151 double. Most memorable: the storks nesting in their ungainly perch over the inn's front entrance.

We booked in the United States through Marketing Ahead, 1-800-223-1356. Prices are good for March through June and during September. Spain's tourist office (212-265-8822, http://www .okspain.org) can provide information.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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