Thursday 13th May to Tuesday 25th May ((12 nights) (from Jerez forum) Drove to Mazagon which meant returning to Seville to cross the Guadalquivir River and then heading south on the Huelva road (the only road with holdups and roadworks we experienced in Spain), turning off just before we reached Huelva and passing near to Palos de la Frontera and heading to and through Mazagon to find the Parador, as always well signposted, on its own in pine woods. Passed endless plastic sheeted strawberry growing beds and a huge petrochemical complex. There were also number of young African men on the roadside we wondered about.
Staff were charming, showed us to a spacious room overlooking well tended gardens leading to a (functioning) pool and then the surprisingly blue Atlantic ocean beyond. The sun shone, the sea sparkled, we were very happy. We climbed the 179 steps down to the beach, deserted apart from a couple of fishermen, not a beach bar or facility in sight so we climbed back up and didn’t venture down again.
We needed a few essentials so set out shopping, Mazagon itself appeared to be shut so we headed into Huelva. Passed the full length of the petrochemical complex and into Huelva which didn’t exactly inspire us, but found a supermarket for what we wanted and returned to the peace of the Parador.
Another day we took a trip in the opposite direction and went as far as Matalascanas, which is a pretty dire 70s looking resort of apartments apparently owned by Spaniards in Seville or Huelva, but a lot were for sale or for rent...
Weather, though sunny, was a bit cool for the first couple of days with a chilly breeze, but on the Sunday morning we realised that the breeze had dropped, and from then on the weather continued to improve and everyone decamped to the pool. Apparently in high summer there is a pool bar and restaurant which would have been fun, but we used the terrace of the main bar where the swallows were nesting, and enjoyed light lunches and watching the bird life which was spectacular. It was all very peaceful and relaxing, the weather was good, the staff looked after us, we read, swam, dozed and had the relaxing few days we wanted. See separate review of hotel.
We took another trip to Huelva and visited the Columbus monument, then continued around the coast through Punta Umbria (enormous Barcelo resort we noticed!) and on via various towns and a lot of fruit growing to Ayamonte, where we enjoyed a tapas lunch at the Parador overlooking the Portuguese border and bridge across the River Guardiana...
Things were busy over the Pentecost weekend, we could see the beach and the nearby picnic areas were very busy. On Monday 24th May the weather was not so bright so we went to Rabida Monastery (closed) replica caravels (closed) and Palos de la Frontera for Museo de Martin Alonso (closed). All looked very interesting and worth visiting, but Monday was not a good day to choose! We were very much in Christopher Columbus country which added interest. Palos de la Frontera looked a nice place.
Nice food at the hotel though no changing menu, despite the petrochemical plant we tried the seafood which was delicious, Huelva prawns, coquinos ajillo, almejas a la marinera, even the Chocos, local speciality squid (only once though..) We avoided eating huge meals several times a day, enjoyed fruit based breakfasts (lots of strawberries of course!) a snack lunch and then a nice dinner in the evening. The Maitre D’ reserved a table overlooking the sea as the sun went down through the pine and palm trees for us each evening.
I learned a lot about the Rio Tinto Mining Company that I didn’t before, Huelva was the port they used to export their ores, and they built an English enclave there for their staff, ‘Bella Vista’, and were responsible for the origins of the Punta Umbria, a resort for their workers! I felt a bit kindlier towards Huelva after that. We didn’t visit the Parque Nacional de Donana nearby, wetlands at the estuary of the Guadalquivir, but tours were available.
One thing that I thought a bit odd about the Parador was the ordering of supplies, for a hotel in Andalucia, they first of all ran out of Manzanilla sherry, then La Ina, and finally even Tio Pepe? On our last evening I ordered cava! The hotel gave us a half bottle of wine and a plate of pastries, after we had ordered our dinner the Maitre D’ treated us to a further aperitif each (chilled Oloroso) and then after our starter he sent over a plate of Jamon Iberico, phew! And then afterwards in the bar when we went to sign for our coffees and liquors the staff said they were on the house. Such a nice place! Though I don’t think many people stay at Paradores for 12 days..
Farewell Mazagon, it was the perfect spot, and we had never heard of it 24 hours before we arrived there...
(to Cordoba forum)