If you thought Seville didn’t already offer enough Spanish historic beauty, culture and entertainment, let us invite you to discover the five-star Hotel Colón Gran Meliá. Oh, you’re welcome!
Despite delivering the whole luxury package for anyone’s idea of a dream city break (spacious rooms, great on-site restaurants, heart-of-Seville location, rooftop plunge-pool, spa, all a short distance to river walks, nightlife and eateries…), this newly renovated, quirky hotel also offers an immersive off-site experience that takes you even deeper into Spanish culture. Bullfighting. I know, right? Bit controversial! (Good job the vegans on the team didn’t come on this one!) But there is a legitimate historical connection. Bear with me.
Established in 1929, the hotel was once the changing room for matadors before their performances at Seville’s famous Plaza de Toros (bullring), so was often home to Juan Antonio Ruíz, Seville’s most famous bullfighter (now retired, still hot), whose family business lovingly breeds and cares for bulls on his nearby finca (which is ‘farm’ to you). Ironically, these are the very bulls bred to be slaughtered in the ring. It may sound weird, but the two-hour coach trip out to Finca Spártaco, organised by Hotel Colón, actually gave us a fascinating insight into what, to Brits, seems a dark bit of Spanish culture.
Greeted at the stunning grounds of the finca by Señor Juan Antonio himself, with al frescosherries and trays of Spanish delicacies (a decadent boozy fireside lunch was to follow), we tried to brush away comparisons of pre fox-hunt rituals, and boarded an armoured tractor to view the adolescent male beasts roaming freely, gambolling happily, charging and fighting each other and even getting frisky with one another. Boys will be boys.
We then witnessed a part of the breeding process. With thrillingly risky inside-ring viewpoints, we saw how Juan Antonio tests potential parents’ charging temperaments (our cow wasn’t daft – she’d had enough after five minutes and played dead… we’ve all been there). They never re-test any animals as they quickly learn to use these survival tactics, which makes for a less aggressive character.
So only eight of the 400 bulls reared will make the grade to enter the ring each year, which means at least 382 got away with it! The remainder and the few who survive the ring, stay at Finca Spartaco until their dying day in their chilled-out, well-fed retirement home. And, not to apologise for this, but slaughtered bulls are used for human consumption, so compared to our mainstream livestock food chain, perhaps this isn’t so bad? Let’s have a heated debate.
Of course this excursion is optional and not for everyone. Besides, the hotel’s location and interior – part grand (that beautiful stained glass cupola!), part modern (the chairs that look like they could be discarded bullfighter’s capes) will be enough to feed any hispanophile’s appetite. Coupled with their displays of Spanish artefacts, original sexy matador costumes and flamboyant vintage flamenco frocks, what’s not to olé?