Sunday, 2 April 2017

Hotel Los Cisnes

Surprisingly, as recently as 1961 Jerez had only four hotels, and the grandest was the much lamented Los Cisnes (the swans) in the central Calle Larga. This Jerez institution stocked Sherry from all the bodegas and served afternoon tea to the many British bodegueros’ wives and families.

The facade, 1950s

It was originally founded in the early 1890s by Blas Gil López on a different site, further down the Calle Larga, which was then known as Calle Duque de Almodóvar, at the corner with the Plaza del Banco. It consisted then of a luxury hotel, café and restaurant. It was fitted out with all modern conveniences and even had a car at the railway station to collect guests, and luxury carriages to take them sightseeing. Service was impeccable but came at a price.

The gardens

The old Los Cisnes would be converted at around the turn of the century by a later owner into the sumptuous Gran Café Fornos, with a high class restaurant, which from the 1940s, offered musical performances from a local quartet. It survived until the 1950s.

The dining room

Meanwhile Blas Gil López had died and his widow established a new, bigger and more luxurious hotel with the same name further up the street. There were 5 storeys with 25 rooms on each and behind the entrance patio there were magnificent gardens. Opposite the large bar-café, the walls of the gallery were lined with works by contemporary artists, most of which were sold to American collectors. There was also the annual competition for the best Fiesta de la Vendimia poster.

Part of the bar

The heyday of the hotel was probably between the refurbishment of 1938 and the 1960s when anyone who was anyone stayed there, from bullfighters to flamenco and movie stars. Names like Lola Flores, Manolo Caracol, Conchita Piquer, Tyrone Power and many more could be found on the register. Lola and Caracol were infamous for their constant bickering and fighting, much to the bemusement of other guests. The hotel also had royal approval.

A business card

After the death of viuda de Blas Gil López the hotel was bought by a firm called Hotelera Andaluza but sadly, at the end of the 1970s it was sold to a property developer and converted into the ugly shopping centre we see today. Many of its external features can still be seen, however. Other fine hotels have opened since the loss of the old Los Cisnes and the era that it represented, but excellent though they are, none could be described as institutions.

A luggage label

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