By Art Terrero
The newest addition to the Gran Meliá collection of hotels is a gem in the heart of old Seville, close to the city’s major historical sites and fabulous side streets, filled with shops, cafés and tapas bars.
We arrived at the Gran Meliá Colón just after it had opened doors to the public, and were instantly taken to the Red Level—the adults-only boutique hotel-within-a-hotel. Perks include an in-room Nespresso coffee machine and access to a private lounge with its own concierge to enjoy breakfast and happy hour. Another bonus of being Red Level guests and receiving “red glove” service is the combination of white-glove and red-carpet treatment, including preferential treatment in dining rooms and the spa.
Top digs at the hotel are the Penthouse Suites (Nos. 701, 705, 706), all with private terraces overlooking the city. For a step up, book the Penthouse Master Suite (No. 703); aside from an enormous terrace, it has a hydro-massage bath and a Balinese bed. It can also be enlarged by booking an adjoining suite, whose separate entrances make it ideal for those traveling with an extended group. Note: Rooms in the deluxe category tend to be cozy so we suggest booking no lower than the Grand Premium level. All accommodations can be reserved via the GDS.
Luxury travel advisors can contact Reservations Manager Magdalena Guzmanmagdalena.email@example.com; 011- 34-954-507-864). The rooftop spa had not yet opened during our stay but has since made its debut this month. Word is that the 1,000-square-foot facility has five treatment rooms. Hint: Be sure to reserve treatments two weeks in advance to get the best time slot; contact (Maria Frois (firstname.lastname@example.org; 011- 34-954-505-599), the head Red Level concierge. If you’re sending a group to the hotel, consider renting out the entire spa. The spa has its own terrace overlooking Seville’s historic district.
On-property dining is an experience at Gran Meliá Colón, where Michelin-star Chef Dani Garcia’s El Burladero, Tapas y Tintos restaurant is billed as an “ultra-modern tapas bar.” Recommended: Dani’s famous cherry gazpacho and the caramelized fois gras bites. Top Tip: Be sure to ask for a table in the middle of the dining room if your client is looking for a more intimate experience. Book a week out via Frois, who can also arrange private tours of the city with renowned local guides and, during La Feria de Sevilla, can arrange to get elite access to family tents. Note: This event, which is usually in April during Holy Week, is a busy time for the entire city (as is the Christmas period) so be sure to reserve in advance.
Also ask Frois about arranging for your client to attend a Sevillana dance or to secure ring seats at a bullfight. Fun Fact: The property, prior to its massive renovation by Sol Meliá, enjoyed a legacy as “the hotel of the bullfighters,” who resided there and then conveniently left the hotel in a procession that led to the Real Maestranza bull ring (think Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises).
Seville International Airport, which also allows private helicopters and jets to land, is 20 to 30 minutes away; the hotel can arrange private transportation in luxury vehicles.
After three great days in Seville, it was easy to fly over to Tenerife in the Canary Islands via Iberia to get a good look at the Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora. Much of our interest in this palatial resort had been piqued by the fact it had served as one of the locations for the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. It did not disappoint. Upon arrival, we again checked into the Red Level to enjoy the same amenities as at the Gran Meliá Colón. We loved our Demi Suite (No. 2069) with private terrace and outdoor Jacuzzi. In fact, the space proved spacious enough to host several members of the entourage accompanying us on our jaunt through Spain. Another Plus: Our suite (which had a shower but not a tub) led directly to the exclusive Red Level infinity pool where a posh Bali bed had been reserved for us.
Six Red Level Ocean Front Villas with a private entrance, garden and pool are ideal for those who want to neither see nor be seen. Contact Mickey Pasic (mickey.pasic@solmelia. com; 011-34-922-869-000), the hotel’s luxury travel advisor liaison, for further details.
Note: While the concept of the Red Level at Gran Meliá is meant to provide an adults-only environment, the rest of the resort is perfect for families, in particular the one- and two-bedrooms oceanview Master Suites. There’s also a “Family Concierge” program (think milk and cookies at turndown, in-room PlayStations and a 24/7 dedicated concierge service).
The 21,500-square-foot YHI spa is a main feature at the resort and we found the beautiful series of water-ritual pools and showers to be as impressive as the lush 12 treatment cab- ins. Tip: Be sure to book two weeks in advance, particularly if your clients prefer to receive a treatment in one of the outdoor cabins, all of which have views of the Atlantic. Spa Director César Álvarez (email@example.com; 011-34-922-869-000) can make arrangements in advance and may recommend the YHI Mandala Experience treatment, an Ayurvedic-style treatment that incorporates aromatherapy and a full-body hot-stone massage. Insider Secret: Tamara Rodriguez has already received accolades for being the top therapist in the spa. Contact Red Level Concierge Miguel Angel Barrionuevo (firstname.lastname@example.org; 011-34-922-869-000) if your client wants to rent out the entire spa.
Chef Garcia has made his mark at this Gran Meliá hotel as well. At the Calima restaurant, his most popular dish is the cherry gazpacho with pistachios and cheese “snow,” which is created by deconstructing and freezing goat cheese with liquid nitrogen.
Concierge Barrionuevo can also make arrangements for your clients to reserve Calima’s private dining room, which has already played host to Prince Felipe and Princess Leticia of Spain. Be prepared to make such arrangements two to three weeks out. Note: Calima is just one of five restaurants, four lounges and bars and a discothèque at the Palacio de Isora. We say it’s a true destination resort; we didn’t want to leave. Barrionuevo can also arrange exclusive experiences, such as mega-yacht charters and a tour of the island.
Fly into the Tenerife Sur Airport, which is about 20 minutes from the resort. Guests can also travel to the Tenerife North Airport, about an hour-and-a-half drive from the resort, which can provide private transportation. Both airports allow private helicopters and jets to land.