A Sense of Spain
Caliphs, Catholicism, Columbus and Conquistadores
Frederico Garcia Lorca – great Spanish playright and poet murdered during the 1936-1939 Civil War – once wrote that “In Spain the dead are more alive than the dead in any other country”. His point – that Spain's present is inextricably connected to its past – is one that no visitor to Spain can ignore.
To see how this came about, we first have to look – in brief, I promise – at Spain's history?
This then is a sketch of the uniquely Spanish heritage that awaits visitors (and into which MI has involved itself - big-time).
Next, we will turn to Madrid; the first “port-of-call" for most visitors; today's capital city , but 500 years ago?
A very interesting summary. Spain also suffered from a lot of french/english conflict in the early 1800s which I believe had quite an impact. I have found the cities in Spain to be fascinating but some of the coastal areas are pretty tacky. We stayed at the MVCI Resort in Estepona on one occasion. The Marriott Resort was very pleasant but the area around it was awful. I look forward to reading your summary on Madrid.
I love traveling in Spain, and have made many trips.
My biggest concern is the lack of Marriott Hotels, and the difficulties in getting to them.
My 1st trip, the only Marriott was in Marbella. So when I flew into Madrid, I had to stay at a non-Marriott hotel. I took the high speed train to Malaga, and then on to the last train stop going west, Torremolinos. Had to lug my luggage up 3 flites of stairs to the street and flag down a taxi as it was still another 15 km away. Had quite the lively discussion with my taxi driver, but a hard time finding the hotel, as we call it Marriott and they call it Maro [with the accent on the o]. Took me a bit to figure this out, by then we had passed it, and we had to turn back.
The hotel was incredible, but I no longer see it in the directory? They gave us a fabulous 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom place over looking the ocean. The restaurant was excellent as was the staff. We used it as a home base to explore Sevilla, Xerez, Gibralter, and Morroco before returnig to Toledo and Madrid.
Recently I have made several trips to Barcelona, and there is only the AC properties in the directory. After my problems with the Autograph collection, I was leary of using these properties, so instead stayed at a lovely local hotel with a view of the Gothic Cathedral where you can see the Sardana dancers from the balconey on Saturday nite and Sunday noon. Another property you can sightsee from your room like County Hall in London. Only wish this was a Marriott property!
I just checked the directory and noticed a Renaissance near Paseo Gracia, an area I would like to explore more, so on my next trip, I may try this.
I'm pretty sure the Autograph Collection and AC Hotels are two separate groups. I'm not sure as to the differences between the two.
The ACs are the acquisition that has been transitioning to the Marriott system for a short while now. There are 66 in Spain, 10 in Italy, 2 in Portugal and 1 in France. I believe this was a stand alone chain prior to the acquisition.
The Autograph Collection lists as 35 hotels..23 in the U.S., 6 in Spain, 2 in Italy, 1 in Hungary, 1 in the Czech Republic, 1 in Brazil and 1 in the British V.I.
My concern is that these properties that are not real Marriotts can choose to honor our benefits or not so I have not been in a hurry to try them out given the bad experience I had at the Carlton.
While a nice property, had I known that I would be able to get the type of upgrade I am use to, and points for my spending, I probably would not have stayed there.
Wish this information was provided upfront so we could make an informed decision, e.g. in the directory say this is an affiliated Marriott and they let you spend points, let you earn point, both or neither, like the airlines do with their partners. They are really partners not Marriotts.
Dear GemP and Pp,
First, thanks for your comments on "Sense of Spain" I'll keep trying:-)
Second, Yes - AC Hoteles was an independent Spain-owned chain of up-market, modern-in-style hotels targeted at the business market - a sector in which Marriott was conspicuously under-represented in Spain. The relationship is described as a "joint venture".
Third, Yes - there have been "teething troubles" in assimilating the AC Hotels into Marriott practices. This has been, and in some places, still is a particular problem in relation to "back-office, administrative systems (of which the MR set-up is one). This issue has been compounded by the difficulty in establishing exactly what entitlements are on offer at each hotel to the various categories of MR card holders. Without this, we cannot tell whether the hotel is at fault, or simply different. Clearly, Gem, you have suffered from this one. I too have noticed variations in, for example, the provision of complimentary breakfasts: the Hotel I am in now - Madrid Atocha - does not offer a comp breakfast, whereas the AC in Bologna does (or at least did!) and the AC Valencia offered a free breakfast for one of the two nights I stayed. But, to be honest, I do not think that this problem is limited to the AC hotels; for example, for years the Marriott in Munich (one of Marriott's earliest European hotels) did not offer any of the following - an Executive Lounge, complimentary breakfasts early evening drinks and snacks. The good news is that the latter two are now available.
Fourth, Gem, there might be some light at the end of your particular tunnel in that Marriott - being the very savvy organisation that it is - will clearly look to upgrade some of the AC Hotels where market demand warrants.This has already happened in Barcelona, for example, where the AC Diplomatic is now a Renaissance. If there is a logic to be deduced from this move, one might expect similar upgrades (in time) where the tourist market is strongest; in places where the market is mainly "business-oriented" upgraded hotels will be less likely.
In summary, MR might consider clarifying where (i.e. which web-site) a prospective "Elite" visitor can go to find out exactly what benefits s/he can expect to receive.
Thank you for providing all your insights from first-hand experience.
This is extremely valuable!
Also, I was feeling like I was going crazy, as I was just in Barcelona in Feburary, and when I booked there was no Renaissance, yet when I looked at the listings to respond to your post in June there was one. Had it been there in Feburary, I would have stayed there even though I love the Hotel Colon and had a great view of the Sardana dancing.
I hope you are right, that Marriott will eventually absorb the good properties into their organization. Case in point was AC Diplomat which was in a prime location in Barcelona, but I had no confidence in the services I would receive.
I may actually become more experimental now that I have MI to get advice from on first hand experiences in these destinations and properties
And A, don't worry about getting it right on your Spain commentaries. One of my many degrees is in Latin American and Spanish history, politics, culture, etc, so I have had many years of reading and writing on the topic. Now my interests are more to practical of going, doing, experiencing. The information I am looking for is exactly the type in your response on actually experiences at the current properties, and where Marriott is headed in their Joint Venture relationships.
Many thanks. I know that this sort of stuff won't be everyone's "cup of tea", but it might to help to explain the distinctive characteristics of countries like Spain. I'm currently trying to write one about Madrid - but slightly less educational this time; the foundations have been laid:-)
Sorry to read about your problems in Sydney; it must have been more than a little disruptive. I wonder if there isn't a lesson in your experience that Andy might raise with MI. The same thing - albeit on a much less disruptive scale - happened to me in Hong Kong and Munich.
I appreciate of course that the Marriott portfolio is always in the process of change - additions, deletions, upgradings, modifications etc - and this must always be the case. And I accept that there may well be legal/contractual reasons why some changes cannot be advertised far in advance. But it would be very helpful if Marriott could look at the possibility of signaling - as early and as clearly as possible - those changes that a past US Secretary of Defence might have described as the "known knowns".
More Madrid links on MI
Hotel Ritz Madrid http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madrt
AC Santo Mauro, Autograph Collection http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madma
AC Hotel Aitana http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madai
AC Hotel Aravaca http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madac
AC Hotel Arganda http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madar
AC Hotel Atocha http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madat
AC Hotel Carlton Madrid http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madca
AC Hotel Coslada Aeropuerto http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madco
AC Hotel Cuzco http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madcu
AC Hotel La Finca http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madfi
AC Hotel Los Vascos http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madva
AC Hotel Madrid Feria http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madfe
AC Hotel Monte Real http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madmr
AC Hotel Recoletos http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madrc
AC Hotel Rivas Vaciamadrid http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madri
AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madse
AC Palacio Del Retiro, Autograph Collection http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/hotels/madre