The Haçienda de San Rafael, just outside Seville, is (without question) my favourite of all the hotels I’ve stayed in this year. The property is surrounded by olive groves and fields that are full of cotton plants in the summer. The sandy lane that leads from the main road up to the hotel gives little away. The trees divide, opening up to reveal the haçienda, a stunning old white building that surrounds a pretty cobbled courtyard. An old well draws your eye in the centre and around the outside established pink and yellow bougainvillea. Each of the rooms is accessed from the courtyard and there’s a small dining area in front of each where you can sit and enjoy breakfast or lunch. It’s impossible not to enjoy either (or dinner for that matter); food here feels both indulgent and healthy. The Galician style octopus with potato that I had for lunch the day we arrived was tender and full of flavour; I can still conjure up its taste and texture now, weeks later.
If I was to use one word to describe what I felt at Haçienda de San Rafael it would be tranquility. I was incredibly relaxed whilst there and didn’t want to leave; two nights just wasn’t enough. It’s not one thing that makes it special but an amalgamation of so many small details that they get so right. There’s a very homely feel suffused into every room, thanks to the attention to detail of Cookie, the mother of the two brothers that now run the Haçienda de San Rafael. Cookie’s influence can be seen everywhere you look, she and her family are visible on the walls, in the pictures and paintings around the building. When you sit down in the living area you feel as though you’re in her home. I suppose on some level you are, although she doesn’t live there, the building has been in her family for many years.
The bedrooms are simply decorated with a few well-chosen decorative details. Ours had a double height bedroom area, with stairs leading up to a cosy lounge, and below it a large bathroom with a wonderful shower and a bath tub I happily whiled-away at least an hour in. I don’t know what they wash their towels with but I’ve never felt any so soft.
The gardens are perfect for a wander before dinner, we caught the sun setting over the olive grove which was incredibly beautiful. We then headed in for a gin and tonic from their honesty bar in the lounge, before sitting down to a delicious three-course dinner which included some perfectly cooked sea bass. A comforting hot chocolate back in the lounge after dinner and we were ready to sink into our bed for an incredible night’s sleep. We then got to do it all over again the next day!
The Haçienda de San Rafael is a 45 minute drive from Seville, we got a taxi to take us out there as we weren’t planning to go anywhere once we arrived but if you’re staying longer a car’s a very good idea as there’s plenty to explore in the area. I arranged to go on a 2 hour horse trek with Gerry from Pure Andalusia. The stables are halfway between the haçienda and Seville which made it a perfect stop on our way back into the city. Gerry took me through old olive groves, fields and eucalyptus woods on an incredibly well-behaved horse. It was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, even if I could still feel it in my legs three days later. It gave me a great feel for the area and I immediately understood what had drawn Gerry to move out there in the first place. If you’re looking for someone to take you hiking or would like to explore the vast food and drink specialities of the region, Gerry can organise it all.
Haçienda de San Rafael, Carretera Nacional IV (km 594), Las Cabezas de San Juan, 41730 Sevilla