Hostal Spa Empuries, Spain

On a beautiful Spanish Tuesday afternoon, I landed at the Hostal
Empuries, near the sleepy Spanish town of L’Escala, in the Costa Brava
region, near Girona. Don’t let the name of this wonderful hotel confuse
you: ‘hostal’ does not mean ‘hostel’: far from it. It simply means
‘hotel’. Nestled between pine trees and sand, the hotel rests on
Portitxol Beach with its “dainty” cliffs.

This seaside resort
is a quiet and beautiful hotel and spa, established more than 100 years
ago. It is the first hotel in Europe to be awarded Gold LEED
certification — the highest environmental achievement, and aside from
being gorgeous and environmentally responsible, boasts a beautiful
restaurant as well.  Serving sumptuous eco-mediterranean cuisine, the
Villa Teresita provides formal dining under the excellent care of Chef
Rafa Peña, as well as the more casual Bistró del Mar.

In a
pleasant afternoon interview with Susana Bosols, Director of Marketing,
we shared black coffee and she described for me their main objectives:
social and ecological responsibility, rejecting waste culture, and the
notion of “following the ant’s trail.”  Along with LEED certification,
the hotel espouses the concept of “cradle to cradle.” From their
website, they describe their principles:

“One of the
principles of Hostal Empuries, according to our social and ecological
responsibilities, had been to think globally and act locally, in order
to create awareness of the Earth as an organism which must be cared for.
Based on the idea that the population of ants on the planet is 3 times
greater than that of humans, understanding that they are beneficial to
this biological organism, the Earth, we want to follow the ant’s trail.

The
building type we have used, therefore, has green roofs which increase
plant life and biodiversity. We have chosen plants typical of the local
area, which are drought tolerant and are only watered from rainfall
collected from the roofs or recycled from the bathrooms and kitchen. For
fertilizer we use nothing more than organic matter left over from the
kitchen.

At Hostal Empuries we care
about humanity and the inheritance to which we are connected. We aim to
provide the best experience possible for our guests and leave a lasting
legacy for future generations…In truth, human beings are the only ones
capable of carrying the responsibility for their harmful behavior and
actions which instigate the destruction of our habitat and the habitats
of all other life forms on the planet.

We
must therefore commit, in a personal way, to take preventative action
and plan for a better future.In order to best plan and develop the
greater part of our initiatives we take advantage of the finest
standards available in order to guarantee sustainability.”

The LEED certification and Cradle to Cradle principles are:
* The Certificate of Sustainable Architecture “LEED,” whose aim is to
ensure that a building becomes a regenerative agent in its environment,
preventing erosion, improving water quality and increasing biodiversity
to benefit the whole community.
* The “Cradle to Cradle” Principle
or “C2C” which promotes the use of materials which are not only
sustainable but whose useful life might continue beyond that for which
it was originally intended, to be re-used in other ways and finally
being converted back into new base material.

Aside from
outstanding environmental stewardship, the hotel has a beautiful
restaurant, including on-site organic gardens which supply the kitchen.
The spa too adheres to the strictest environmental standards, using
natural oils and other products for the body, and natural products for
cleaning. This is true throughout the hotel.

Chef
Rafa Peña generously spoke with me after a beautiful evening meal, and
even shared his recipe for Cod Brandada. He offered a great tip for
finding the perfect restaurant while traveling:

“When
you travel, go to the best restaurant you can find and afford –
Michelin starred, for instance – and have a meal there.  Lunchtime is
often a bit less expensive. Then, ask the chef him or herself where to
eat in that city. Go where they tell you.  The good chefs always know
where to go!”

What a great idea. Thank you, Chef!

I
loved the Hostal Empuries, its philosophy, the lovely rooms, the
gorgeous beach environment… and the food was outstanding. I’d go back
tomorrow if I could. Maybe I will!

-Anjani

Hostal Empúries – Platja de Portitxol s/n Ap. Correos 174.17130 l’Escala, Girona, Spain

Tel: 972.77.02.07 | Fax: 972.98.29.36, info@hostalempuries.com, GPS: 42.13182400, 3.12234900

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Hotel Review: Silken Park Hotel, San Jorge, Platja D’Aro, Spain

On a sultry afternoon in September, I finally found the Silken Park Hotel in the town of San Jorge, Platja D’Aro, in the Costa Brava region of Spain. I had been invited, as a Travel Blogger’s Expo guest in Girona, Spain, to stay at, review, and write a piece on the resort. I was excited about the seaside resort, which was said to be top notch. I arrived two days early due to a scheduling error but the hotel kindly found a room.

Unfortunately that room was not facing the blue sea at all.  It was a dark brown prison-like room facing the parking garage, which faced a busy highway. The room was depressing and lightless, with one tiny window, and smelled of mold and fuel. Unfortunately, I had another night to spend there two days later, with a brief interlude at another hotel the following night. I was glad to leave but would have to return in two days, much to my chagrin. I couldnt’ wait to leave and didn’t want to return.

The day I did, I was given a room with a view – of a tree. I asked nicely if they might have a room in which I could actually see the ocean, since I had been invited there to report to their potential clients about how great the oceanview hotel was. I was begrudgingly given one. A room with a gorgeous view was made available and it made more sense why the hotel was well-considered. The room, though, was nothing special and retained a distinctly mildewy smell, as had the two before, but the view was spectacular. Just beneath my lanai was a sandy veranda, and below that, the beach and its lazy sea, dotted with one tiny island. Its crest was adorned with a few enthusiastic trees stretching their happy limbs out over the water. The island could be reached on a brief walk from the hotel.

That evening a wedding was taking place in the main gathering area of the hotel and as I relaxed over a book and a glass of wine, I was asked by a waiter to leave. “No hotel guests are allowed here right now, because of the wedding.” Guests had to clear out of the bar, restaurant, cafe, foyer, and patio, and had to either leave the hotel entirely or head to the beach for several hours – or go back to their rooms. In those rooms, incidentally, wifi was iffy. But why would you spend time on the net with that view?  Dinner that night was surprisingly delicious, though expensive, and service was curt.

Once the pretty bride left with her retinue, the veranda was clotted with 14 drunken Irish retirees, who were so amusing I laughed Coke out my nose. As they left I asked one of them how long they’d all known each other. “Over 40 years!” he answered, “They are the best men you’ll ever know, that’s certain.”

The next night, despite my shyness, I crashed their party and they took me in for a long night’s silliness. They boasted one beefy young man in the group, a handsome firefighter who never once took his sunglasses off in the dark night. He couldn’t remember our waitress’s name, so she gave him her badge so he’d remember – “StePHANIE,” he repeated over and over. Eventually he got so drunk, StePHANIE had to stop him from falling off a balcony trying come back down to the party from his room – three stories below it, in fact. He’d forgotten he could take the stairs.  Eventually the gentlemen insisted I join them in town for dinner, where they competed over who in the restaurant would sing me the loudest song, or give me the biggest bouquet of flowers (borrowed momentarily from the busker), or buy me the next round of huge, head-sized drinks I couldn’t possibly finish. At 2:30 a.m., when when I couldn’t keep up anymore, one of them walked me by the hand to a taxi. I told him I needed to get to bed, which he noted was ‘pathetically pathetic’. He was easily 20 years older than me. Evidently the swoozy crew, all pushing 70, stayed out until 4:30 a.m., or so said StePHANIE at breakfast; they all appeared at 8:30 sharp, chipper and Irish, for breakfast. Except the fireman, who couldn’t bear morning just yet.

That final oceany day, so sunny and blue, was eclipsed only by that evening’s lusty full moon floating over her watery view. I lingered in my room for hours in the dark, listening to the tide and watching the world disappear into the azure evening.

The moonlight was worth the bride, the mildew, the closet, and the curt staff. All of it was worth the drunken golfers with their crazy loud songs and brazen disregard for noise regulations and good punchlines.

I wish I could promise you the Irishmen or the moonlight. Barring those, my advice on this hotel is to skip the stay and visit the hotel and beach during the day, or if you do stay there, be very sure you’re getting an oceanview room. Without that room, I’d skip this hotel.

-Anjani Millet

happypersons

Silken Park Hotel San Jorge Platja D’Aro – Costa Brava

Avenida Andorra 28, 17251, Spain

T. +34 972 652 311

F. +34 972 652 576

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