Return to Agaete; November 2019, Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra

Happy New Year!  For my first (long overdue) post of 2020, I thought it would be nice to write about our most recent visit to Agaete, Gran Canara, in November, where we managed to get a last bit of sun to tide us over during the UK winter.  As I sit here on a dark, cold January afternoon, listening to the rain on the window, it couldn’t seem further away!

I previously wrote about Agaete, on the North-East of Gran Canaria in my post Wild & beautiful Agaete: the Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra, back in 2017.  Please read this earlier post for more detailed information on the area. 


Update on Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra

Since our last visit, around 2018, the hotel has been extensively refurbished, and we were pleasantly surprised by some of the improvements.  It was already of a very good standard, but was probably due some modernisation.

It was definitely a lot busier than we remembered, but still a lot quieter than the Southern resorts, and if you can travel during school term times and in the low season, you won’t find it crowded.

The reception staff were friendly as ever, and as usual their excellent English puts my lack of any Spanish to shame! The reception area and mezzanine level have been re-decorated with modern, tropical vibes.

The room itself was similar to the suite we had stayed in before, with stunning ocean views from the terrace.  It had been modernised and was clean and comfortable.  It was more than big enough, with a large bathroom and separate seating area (and air conditioning that actually works – sometimes difficult to find in the Canaries!)

Elsewhere, there is a new roof terrace area, with Balinese style day beds and seating area, as well as an enclosed bar/eating area for when the wind is a bit too much for sitting out!  The food menu for the bar area was very good, with really fresh and inventive salads, as well as larger main courses.

We really enjoyed hanging out here in the late afternoon, especially as the weather was pretty unpredictable for the time we were there!  The bar tender also made a very good Negroni, which is essential for my Husband!

3AB8BB88-4D79-47C9-8B31-54DBD1566F95IMG_1780The gorgeous new roof terrace area, and a view down across the pool area and beyond 


The hotel spa 

The spa had also gone through a refurbishment since our last visit, and is now an attractive and relaxing addition to the hotel.  The entrance area has been remodelled and moved to form a new, well equipped gym (it looked well equipped to me.. obviously I walked straight past to get to the relaxation area 😆), and separate entrance to the spa.

There is a good spa circuit, with flotation pool, sauna, steam room etc (finishing with a bucket of ice if you’re brave enough!), and a full range of treatments available.

I had an incredibly relaxing full pedicure (while lying down listening to relaxing music), and a slightly less relaxing – though very much needed – back massage, involving lots of digging in of elbows and latex suction cups!  I was bruised for a few days but definitely felt less knotted up and some of the toxins being released.

The spa is definitely worth a visit, especially on those overcast days, or after a long hike!


Dining 

The hotel buffet which I wrote about in my previous post, used to be situated across the road from the main hotel.  That was no longer being used on our recent visit (not sure if there are plans to use this for something else).

The buffet restaurant is now on the lower ground floor, downstairs from the reception.  It’s been decorated in the same bright, tropical vibes as the other areas, and is spacious and well laid out.  The buffet is of a good standard, with varied and tasty food choices.

There are also plenty of restaurants in the town, although we have usually been lazy and eaten at the buffet most nights!  Also, as we tend to visit during the winter months, some of the town seems a bit closed down for the season, and less inviting when wandering around looking for somewhere to eat.

On one such day, while looking for somewhere for lunch, we wandered into the restaurant El Dedo de Dios (God’s finger), named after the rock formation just off the coast of the town.

The plain, uninspiring  exterior of the restaurant belies a huge and welcoming interior, with high ceilings, traditional beams and eclectic decoration, buzzing with local patrons enjoying a fresh seafood lunch.  We were probably one of only two tables of tourists!

We ordered a few tapas-style dishes, which were delicious.   I always take it as a good sign when a restaurant is full of locals.  I would highly recommend for lunch or dinner and we will definitely be returning next time we’re in Agaete.

If you’ve visited Agaete and have any restaurant recommendations, feel free to let me know for our next visit!


Agaete remains a bit of a “hidden gem” of Gran Canaria, and well worth a visit if you prefer to really get away from it all!  The rustic and more wild beauty of the area is a nice contrast to the busier resorts in other parts of the island.  It’s also a fantastic area if you’re into hiking or mountain biking.

As ever, I would love to hear your views or comments on this or other posts on my site.  To be automatically informed of new posts, please follow me using the buttons below. You can also follow my Instagram and Twitter feed to see what other adventures I’m up to!

Adios for now!

Charlotte

Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa & Calafell area

Hola!

After being back from Hawaii for nearly two weeks in July, we were understandably starting to miss the beach again!  So, deciding that we wanted to do a short-haul trip, Spain seemed to be the ideal solution.   After some research on the coastal areas, we settled on El Vendrell, and specifically Calafell, in the wine-growing region of Penedès (in the North-Eastern part of the country).

Less than an hour’s drive or taxi from Barcelona, this area of the Costa Daurada is easily accessible, and a perfect place for a relaxing and sunny beach holiday.

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Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa

Set opposite the beautiful beach of San Salvador, the hotel was originally a sanatorium, harnessing the sunny climate and healing waters of the sea for health & wellness.

Fast forward 90 years, and is is now a Marriott Group 5* hotel, with apparently one of the largest spas in Spain.

The lobby of the hotel is very large, light and airy, with high ceilings and modern decor. The reception staff are friendly and welcoming, although we found that levels of English comprehension differ between staff members. As my Spanish is woefully lacking, I don’t consider this to be a negative aspect! The hotel seems to be just as popular with Spanish guests taking a seaside holiday as with other nationalities, so it definitely has more of a “local” feel to it, which we liked.

The lobby area leads though the bar and out to the back of the hotel, with direct access to a beautiful private beach. We spent most of our 10 days here!

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The private beach @ Le Meridien

If you can drag yourself away, there is also a very nice rooftop pool area, other sun decks, and of course the spa, with a heated pool and fantastic facilities. I had a very relaxing spa pedicure, as well as my first ever Ayurvedic detox massage, which I intend to talk about in a separate little post.  Highly recommended!

We stayed in a duplex sea view suite, which was very spacious, with a separate living room downstairs, one full bathroom, and another en suite off the bedroom.

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The decor of the room was appropriate for the seaside location, and very light and airy. It was in need of some TLC in places, but mostly in good order.  My experience is that 5* can mean different things depending on the country and city.  It’s all about knowing the country and managing your own expectations.

I did read some negative reviews about this hotel before we visited, which we just couldn’t understand once we were there! It’s such a relaxing and friendly place. And the majority of the service is of the 5* level I would expect.

The housekeeping was a little hit and miss, but nothing worth complaining about, and, again, some of it was due to language differences!  Also, as it’s a seasonal hotel, I imagine there are some staff changes during the later summer months,  when some return to college or back home.


Dining and the local area

The hotel itself has some good dining options, with daily breakfast and night buffets, an a la carte restaurant (La Tarrassa del Mar) and a fine dining restaurant, Lo Mam, by Catalan chef Jordi Guillemarea (which we have yet to try).  Both La Tarrassa and the buffet were of a really good standard.

There is also a nice menu for snacks and light meals in the bar area.  And a beach club restaurant serving lunch and lighter meals close to the ocean (although be warned, the servings are very American-sized, so not so much on the light side!).

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It’s a hard life

Less than 5 minutes walk down the promenade takes you towards the main town, which is a typical buzzing Spanish seaside spot.. although I imagine very quiet in the winter! There are all sorts of shops with everything you could need – casual clothes stores, bazaars, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and many types of eateries!

A couple of places to note:

Restaurant Pizzeria Giuseppe, a casual beachside venue serving pretty authentic Italian style pizza and pasta, and with some good, though inexpensive red wines.

Oroma Coffee, a great little independent coffee shop serving brunch, breakfast, and lots more! This is our go to when we wake up too late for breakfast at the hotel.  Soo much better than Starbucks!

Vermuteria L’Espineta,

A fantastic and very rustic little restaurant, which looks as if its been there forever, in an old fisherman’s cottage-style building.  Serving delicious traditional tapas and some more unusual local specialities.  Again, the portions are pretty large, so you may need fewer tapas than normal depending on your hunger level!

Self-catering & markets 

If you’re self-catering or just want to buy some good supplies for snacks or picnics, there is a large Lidl supermarket around 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

A little further along, the Mercat de Calafell is also well worth visiting.  As well as a large supermarket, there are some fantastic independent shops/stalls selling delicious local ham, cheese, fish, wine, and all good things. There’s also a good health food store. Visiting the market was one of our favourite things to do!

Don’t miss!

Castell De La Santa Creu de Calafell

constructed in the 11th century as a border castle between the French Empire and Al-Andalus, with an incredible history, the castle is definitely worth the 1.4 mile leg work-out to get there!

For a pretty small entrance fee, you get to wander the historical remains, including the 15th century prison, and the 8th and 9th century tombs under the current church building.  With some pretty spectacular views of the Calafell area to boot!

Check the opening times before you visit, and note that it is closed in the afternoon from 2pm, and reopens at 5:30pm.

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We stayed at Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel in both July and September.  The weather in September was still warm enough for the beach, with a couple of more cloudy days.  Note that the hotel is a seasonal one, and is only open from May – September.

Calafell is also easily accessible from Barcelona by train in around an hour, with many services running daily 


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about this sunny Spanish coastal getaway, and feel inspired to visit for the first time, or to return to an old favourite.

As ever, I would love to hear your views or comments on this or other posts on my site.  Or let me know if you have specific questions on any of the destinations I feature.  To be automatically informed of new posts, please follow me using the buttons below. You can also follow my Instagram and Twitter feed to see what other adventures I’m up to.

adios for now and travel safe!

Charlotte 🙂

Politics & paella; A sunny Autumn weekend in beautiful Barcelona

It’s a cold, dark day in Amsterdam… the Christmas lights have been put up on our street, the clocks have gone back, the rain is lashing against the windows as I write.  Hard to imagine that three days ago I was bathed in the warm Autumn sunshine of Barcelona, strolling down the Passeig de Gracia, popping into shops and stopping for delicious tapas!

There’s always something going on in Barcelona, and of course, you can’t look at the news without hearing about the Catalonia “crisis”, and the current political turmoil in this beautiful city.  On Sunday, the streets were full of pro-Spanish unity supporters, draped in flags, peacefully (at least to my eyes) having their say.  We walked among them, quietly observing, acutely aware that an important and decisive part of this country’s history was unfolding around us, whatever happens next.

All in all, it was an interesting time to be visiting one of my favourite cities!  I recommend October as a great time to visit – the weather is still glorious, but the city is a lot less crowded.  The daytime temperature is in the early 20’s (c) – a lot more comfortable than it can be in the height of summer, with cooler evenings.

Read on to discover my hotel and dining highlights and recommendations from this trip…  

Continue reading “Politics & paella; A sunny Autumn weekend in beautiful Barcelona”

Wild & beautiful Agaete: the Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra

In my last post about this stunning island, here, I wrote about the luxurious Salobre Hotel Resort & Serenity in the South of Gran Canaria.  If you want to try somewhere completely different (but still with a dose of luxury!) – this is it!  It’s a 4* resort in the Northwestern part of Gran Canaria, in Agaete.  Close to the fishing town of Puerto de Las Nieves, with stunning views across the Northern coastline of the island.

Continue reading “Wild & beautiful Agaete: the Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra”

Bring me sunshine! Total relaxation in Gran Canaria at the Salobre Hotel Resort & Serenity

When I was 19, around £200 each bought us a week, self catering, including flights (!) to the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries.  We were met at the airport by a tour operator, crammed onto a coach with mostly retired couples, and dumped outside the resort, which was located basically in the middle of no-where, surrounded by sand dunes.   I remember the weather veering between hot and windy to very cool and overcast.  The island was pretty much a building site.  It didn’t matter, as it was still an incredible adventure for a teenager, 1000’s of miles away from home.

Most British people will also have memories of holidays to the Canaries in your teens, excitedly looking through travel brochures (yes, actual brochures!) in Thomas Cook on your local High Street.  Or your first thoughts may be the tourist trap resorts of Playa de las Américas or Playa des Ingles, choc full of British tourists and their kids grabbing a cheap package holiday in the sun.

Fast forward a few years (maybe more than a few 😆), and I have returned to the Island of Gran Canaria several times over the past two years.  I was pleasantly surprised to find how much the island has developed and matured, and it’s now one of my go to places for a luxury poolside holiday.  We steer clear of the crowded beach resorts, and head further into the hills, finding beautiful and luxurious resorts to enjoy spectacular food, decadent relaxation and – if you can tear yourself away from the pool – incredible hiking trails.  This is Gran Canaria for grown ups!  Read on for my recommendations and reviews of this beautiful island paradise (unfortunately you’ll need a bit more than £200 these days 😉)

Continue reading “Bring me sunshine! Total relaxation in Gran Canaria at the Salobre Hotel Resort & Serenity”

Beautiful Barcelona

Roof terraces, shopping, lazy beach days, and of course, tapas!

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world.   After the horrific attacks in the city less than two weeks ago, I’ll admit it was with a little trepidation that I travelled there as planned, last week.  But, when I thought about Barcelona, a place the means so much to me personally, I knew that I should and would definitely travel there.  Although still raw from the atrocious events, it’s clear to me that the heart and spirit of Barcelona will not be so easily damaged.

While perhaps a little quieter than I would expect at the end of August, it was as beautiful, sunny and eclectic as ever.

Where we stayed 

Hotel Omm, Carrer del Rosselló, 265, 08008 Barcelona

A departure from our usual hotel in Barcelona (the H10 Metropolitan), as we like to mix it up a little!  It’s in a fantastic location, just off Passeig de Gracia, one of the major avenues in Barcelona for shopping (both designer & high street) and architecture.

Opened in 2003, the design of the hotel is typically modern, with a nod to the luxury travel of the 1960s (think Mad Men style sofas, leather wing chairs, polished dark wood floors & designer lighting).

The check in process was efficient, and the staff were friendly and helpful throughout the stay.

Our room was on the 6th floor, one below the roof terrace & pool area.   The room was spacious and modern, with a large open plan bathroom (behind a partial wall), and another bathroom on the other side with toilet and shower (this room had a door!) There were two small balconies with a fantastic corner view of the Passeig de Gracia.

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Room with a view!

Aside from occasional cigarette smoke coming into our room from somewhere (possibly the terrace upstairs), and the awkward layout of toilet/bathroom areas, the room was lovely, and of the standard I would expect.

 

A big selling point of Hotel Omm is the Roof Terrace & Roca Bar on the 7th floor.  There’s a small pool area, sofas for lounging and table seating, overlooking Gaudi’s La Pedrera.  The perfect spot for sunning yourself with a cocktail and snack and watching the world go by.  I personally recommend the wild rice with vegetables, curry, coconut and shrimps.  My one bit of feedback would be that I would love to see the staff up there smile a bit more!

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The roof terrace at Hotel Omm is a pretty stressful experience…

Hotel Eurostars Grand Marina, Moll de Barcelona, s/n, 08039 Barcelona

After deciding to spend a spontaneous extra night in Barcelona (it’s very hard to leave!), we booked this hotel online, literally last minute, and hopped in a taxi.  Location wise, it couldn’t be more different than the Hotel Omm, situated right on the Port Vell marina. 

It’s also on a much bigger scale, a large complex set around a huge central terraced area. It’s almost hard to know where the huge cruise ships end and the Eurostars Hotel begins! 

The hotel has the feel of being used more by corporate or large tourist groups.  Again, very different to the slightly more luxurious, intimate feel of the Hotel Omm.

The room was again on the 6th floor, with a view over the large central area (shown above), which seemed mostly deserted at the time!  The room itself was spacious and modern.

N.B. We were initially allocated a smoking room on a smoking floor in error.  We called reception and then went back down, where they immediately found us an alternative room and were very apologetic.

I saw on TripAdvisor that this had also happened to someone else, so I would recommend you double check that they know your requirements, whether smoking or not.

The roof terrace of the hotel has a sun deck and small pool and bar, and is fantastic for a spot of sunbathing!  Again, it feels a bit like being on the deck of a cruise ship, and as you’re right in the marina, you are also overlooking the huge cruise liners.  There’s a small library of books, towels provided and a changing room.

I would recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a standard 5 star hotel experience, with good service, convenient to the beach and marina area.  It’s not for those looking for a luxury boutique hotel.  I will definitely stay there again to explore this area more, and make use of the roof terrace!  Also had excellent room service breakfast.  


Where we dined

 

Roca Moo @ Hotel Omm, Carrer del Rosselló, 265

“Roca Moo, gastronomic restaurant with a Michelin star, offers creative Catalan cuisine under the direction of chef Juan Pretel and the unconditional support of the Roca brothers” (Hotel Omm website)

The design of the restaurant is luxurious and refined, decorated in opulent dark colours.  There are around 10 tables, so it’s quite an intimate space.

At Roca Moo you have a choice of two tasting menus, one slightly longer (and more fishy!) than the other.  I’m sometimes wary of tasting menus, because although the portions are generally small for each course (and I’m always hungry!), the mix of all the different rich foods and wine can just be a bit much by around the 5th course!

We chose the classic tasting menu, and we were assured that the portions were perfect, and the food wasn’t too heavy, so you would be able to eat it without feeling too full.  The staff were very helpful with the menu choice and our wine choice (we decided on one bottle of Coma Blanca 2005,  rather than the wine flight).

I can honestly say this was one of the best experiences of a Michelin restaurant I’ve had.  The food was indeed in perfect portions, with beautiful flavour combinations, and, while inventive (e.g. the “golden egg”!), wasn’t too theatrical, as it sometimes can be. Each course was well timed and delicious.

Highly recommended for a luxurious dining experience, with fantastic menu of fresh and interesting dishes.  

Update: August 2018 – unfortunately when we returned to Barcelona this month, we were informed that Roca Moo had permanently closed at Hotel Omm.  We were very disappointed!  The hotel has yet to announce their new restaurant offering at time of writing.


Restaurant Aire de Mar @ Eurostars Grand Marina

We booked this restaurant the same evening we arrived at the Eurostars hotel.  As we were having a spontaneous extra night, we hadn’t booked anything special, and we were happy to stay in the hotel complex.

I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant and the quality of food.  The design of the restaurant is elegant and opulent.  There were only two other diners when we arrived, who were finishing their meal, so we ended up having private dining for two!

I had a starter and main (stuffed ravioli followed by sea bass), both of which were delicious, and nice portion sizes.  The menu has some really interesting dishes, and I will definitely return to sample some more! I was too busy eating to take pictures, but take my word for it!


And finally.. anyone for tapas?!

Obviously it would be a terrible crime to go to Barcelona and not eat your own weight in tapas! I could happily live on tapas dishes, and we find ourselves going to our favourite places at least a couple of times on each visit.

Two of my favourites;

Tapas 24, Calle Diputació, 269 (just off Passeig de Gracia)

Run by Carles Abellan, this is a bustling basement tapas restaurant, serving delicious traditional dishes with a twist, as well as more unusual ones.  You can sit either around the kitchen area at the bar, watching the magic happen, or on high tables along the side.  The staff are friendly, efficient, and of course fluent in English.  We recognise most of them each time we visit – it’s nice to see the turnover isn’t too high!

We have always found the perfect time to visit is for a late lunch/early dinner around 4pm.  Otherwise it can get pretty full, especially with workers on a lunch break.

Recommended for fantastic tapas, great service and relaxing experience after a day of shopping and sight seeing- as well as a very nice Albarino!

Tapa Tapa Xiringuito, Carrer de Pontevedra, 56

Part of the TapaTapa chain, I’m sure food purists will roll their eyes, but it happens to be one of my favourite places in Barcelona.  Fantastic tapas (including smashed eggs & ham, which is amazing), great service, and a picture menu showing all the amazing food you can order – so you can just point at things and they magically appear at your table! My kind of place.  I try to do that at home but it doesn’t always work 😦

We always have a bottle of chilled Martin Codax Albariño alongside the tapas.

 

A perfect spot for a late relaxing lunch after an afternoon on the beach 🙂


 

In my next post about Barcelona, I’ll be reviewing more hotels, as well as talking about a trip to Montjuïc Castle, which is a must do!