80km north of Seville, in the middle of a nature reserve, framed on one side by a white-washed village and on the other by the surrounding farms,the Palacio San Benito used to be a lodging house for pilgrims built in the 16th century. It was tastefully and slightly eclectically reconverted 15 years ago into a 9 room hotel in the tradition of the sevillian baroque palaces.
Sena and Iván took over in late 2012, setting out to create the experience they were unable to find in other hotels; the delicate balance between the comfiness of feeling like at home and the pampering feeling of having everything revolve around you. Fresh flowers everywhere, blazing fireplaces, organic infusions, local produce, candle-lit dinners in trompe-l’oiel’d 500 year old churches, lavish homemade pastry tables for tea, sun-drenched patios in bloom…It’s all about the details here, but the small details that actually do matter.
There are 3 Standard rooms, 5 Double Deluxe and 1 Suite. Every room has it’s own character and is named after it or acquired it as a result of it. For example, Frédéric’s room is named after Frédéric Castet, the legendary Dior designer that spent a few years of his life here, leaving behind a spectacular collection of french literature in his room. Or, the Lover’s Suite’s large bathroom is occupied, contradictorily, by two striking red eathenware bathtubs. The Militar’s room dons portraits of a local military hero…etc.Canopied beds, oriental lacquered furniture and cast-iron fireplaces adorn some of the Double Deluxe rooms; every piece of furniture and textile is there as a result of the owner’s quixotic errands around the antiquaries of europe or Sena’s careful curating of her own collection. Breaksfasts, when possible, go on until after noon and the same goes for late check-outs – if there’s no-one waiting for the room, we won’t make you hurry.
Birdwatching and hiking are probably the activities of choice around here, with the Sierra Norte nature reserve surrounding the village and offering plenty of delightful hiking trails reachable by foot from the hotel. We prepare picnic baskets that are quite a hit among guests. For something a bit more special, try a day-long excursion into the Sierra or a ride around the village on a period horse-drawn carriage.
The breakfast consists of french pastry and homemade jam and is served until late – in the patio, indoors, or in bed. Dinners at the restaurant are light and digestible – simple dishes, masterfully prepared. Quiches, rices, salads, tapas…all from local and seasonal produce. Romantic candle-lit dinners in the church’s dining room with a gin&tonic sorbet by the fireplace are a favourite.