Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Travel: Hotel Primero Primera, Barcelona

i-escape: Only the most stylish boutique hotels and hip hideaways around the world

The reason I know this line well is that, a couple of weekends ago, I was the first ever Instagram takeover guest for i-escape. And the stylish boutique hotel being photographed? Hotel Primero Primera in Barcelona.

Bristol to Barcelona is about the most perfect weekend city break you can get. Flights are short and conveniently scheduled to maximise the time you have in Barcelona. The city has it all - shops, beach, culture - making it a brilliant destination whatever your personal peccadillo. The people are friendly, the food is fabulous, the sun is shining. 

And this hotel? Well, Hotel Primero Primera is to hotels what Barcelona is to city breaks. Set in a quiet and leafy residential neighbourhood up towards Mount Tibidabo, Hotel Primero Primera occupies half a block or so, but is (and always has been) owned by just one family. But this is no cutesy, rustic getaway. The understated entrance to the hotel leads guests past an outdoor lounge area peppered with grey day beds and midcentury Acapulco chairs in red, white and black. Once inside, black dominates. At first, the dark interior seems entirely gentleman’s club, with leather chairs and antique lamps scattered around the bar and breakfast areas. But then you notice chic Mediterranean touches such as light curtains used as room dividers and ornate garden furniture, or the industrial detailing, metal lettering and mirrors, and the overall look transforms into a style that’s 100% Conde Nast Traveler-ready.

At the heart of the hotel is a beautiful antique staircase extending up to a skylit rooftop that channels light down to the reception area. Across the driveway is the breakfast room, with a cheerful mix of furniture - low tables and armchairs in one corner, upright, mismatched table and dining chairs in another - and a further door out to the gravelled terrace. Cushioned outdoor furniture here means you can choose to breakfast alfresco in the shade of a leafy tree. Up steps scattered with potted plants and through a small gate, and you’re in the main garden. Look up. Yes, those ARE green parrots flying about in the trees above. The dinky kidney-shaped pool does not dominate - instead, it lies in the far corner of the walled garden, surrounded by sun loungers and umbrellas, and next to an outdoor bar where guests are invited to help themselves to soft drinks. The water is warm-ish, just right for a cooling dip; towels are rolled up and ready for you. Nooks in the rest of the garden mean there’s always a secluded spot, with comfortable chairs and curtained day beds, to read or rest.

Back in the quiet, cool bedroom the dark colour scheme continues, with heavy wooden panelling that extends into the bathroom. A giant inviting bath sits under atmospheric lamps, and light pours through the louvred blinds onto the black tiled floor. Countering all these sombre colours are the bright whites of crisp bed linen adorning the super kingsize bed (complete with pillow menu!), a linen covered bench, and light curtains, which create a cool and quiet retreat. The framed, decades-old photograph of the family kids taking a dip in the pool was a sweet, personal touch. All the usual amenities you’d expect are there: enormous television, luxury bath products, tea and coffee-making with lovely china crockery, plus a big slab of chocolate cake with a little welcome note from the hotel manager.

The downsides? Depending on what you want from a city break, the hotel might be a little far out of the city centre for you. We took a cab in and out each evening, which took ten minutes and cost fifteen euros each way. Nearby, there are neighbourhood bars and restaurants - we ate two meals locally - but not a huge number and neither meal was a highlight. (But if none of the local bars tickle your fancy, there’s always the honesty bar. Hotel Primero Primera has provided a well-stocked drinks area with roomy sofas, stacks of books and National Geographic magazines to peruse, and even an iMac for use of guests.) And after a few days you may get a little weary of the jazzy, easy music piped throughout the communal areas. 

Small niggles, however. Hotel Primero Primera - like Barcelona - is practically perfect in every way. 

With huge thanks to i-escape for arranging our stay at Hotel Primero Primera. 

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