Hotel Semáforo de Bares, Galicia: 360 Views and 5 Star Service
This post is really dedicated to Merce, a hotel staff member who really went above and beyond to make my stay amazing.
I first heard of the Hotel Semáforo de Bares (not to be confused with Hotel O Semáforo, also in Galicia, but on the west coast in Finisterre), from a travel article in a British newspaper. Someone had written in looking for advice about traveling on the FEVE narrow-gauge rail in the north of Spain, wanting to know which were some nice towns to jump off and see. The “expert” who replied recommended stopping at O Barqueiro, and said that the “nearby” Hotel Semáforo de Bares would be a good place to stay. So this expert was right in that O Barqueiro is a nice town, and the Hotel Semáforo is a special place, but completely wrong to recommend the two for a traveler arriving by train. That’s because, if you’re taking the train, you obviously don’t have a car. Walk from the train station to the hotel would take TWO HOURS mainly on motor vehicle roads, and there are no buses between the two. Taxis might exist, but would need to be researched and reserved in advance, because there aren’t any taxi stands in town or at the train station.
From pictures on the internet, this hotel appeared absolutely gorgeous, with expansive vistas and a pretty stone building. So I was kind of wanting to find a way to stay there. I looked to see if there might be a hiking bath from the town to the hotel, and contacted a local outdoor sports outfit to inquire. I also asked the girl from the hotel, Merce, who responded to my reservation request if there was a good trail to follow. She said that it might be possible to walk, but it would be a long walk, and instead, she would be happy to pick me up in town and bring me to the hotel. Merce reasoned that the hotel had stunning views, because of how remote it was, and going by car would be the most practical. I happily accepted her offer!
Sure enough, the day before Merce texted me over WhatsApp to reconfirm that I wanted the pickup, and we settled on a time. And then the day of, she texted me when she arrived in O Barqueiro, and came out of her car to find me.
And off we went! I’m so glad I didn’t try to walk to the hotel, because most of the road was shadeless and all of it lacked a sidewalk.
And once we were at the hotel, I knew I had made the right decision to stay there for the night. The views really were impressive, since the sight sits at where the Cantabrian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
The stone building, on the left in the photo below, is an old military building. There are three guest rooms in that building, along with the hotel restaurant. The annex on the right has three guest rooms. That’s where I stayed.
Besides the buildings, the hotel also had a pleasant lawn area and gardens, which were open to the public, and from where you could take in the views.
In both buildings, there was a lounge area for the guests staying in the building. In the annex, we had this pleasant gallery.
When it got chilly outside, I retired in here, where I could still enjoy the views.
The two main rooms of the annex were on the upper floor, hence the tall ceiling.
The decorator had very… floral taste! I really liked the big futon to sit on and put things on.
The bathroom was quite basic, though functional. A naked fluorescent tube shone cold light on the space. When I entered the annex, I saw prominently featured on the door the designation that this was a 2-star property. I couldn’t really believe that a hotel on such a stunning property could be only 2-stars, but I suppose bathrooms like this one would be firmly belong in the 2-star category.
I would think with a newer construction like the annex, that they could put the windows wherever they wanted. So why does the window look out exactly at the electricity pole?
Stepping outside, the view is much better.
After dropping my things off in the room, Merce helped me look at a map and point out the path to the lighthouse nearby, Faro da Estaca de Bares. On the first part of the road, there were cars passing by, cars that were going to and from the hotel. But then I made a turnoff and while it continued to be a road open to traffic, there were hardly any cars here because the only ones which would take this path would be cars going from the hotel to the lighthouse.
This path was lined with eucalyptus trees and ferns.
Eventually, I ended up at a parking lot and then a path towards the lighthouse.
The rugged northern coast of Spain was beautiful - and quite a contrast with the Mediterranean coast!
And here - I guess that little rock out there in the ocean - is the most northern tip of Spain!
After my little hike, which took about 45 minutes downhill from the hotel, and then about an hour back uphill, I decided to just rest on the hotel grounds.
Merce pointed out that there was a little garden “reserved for guests.” I was the only one here - and it was so peaceful.
She also had told me, earlier in the day, that there were the most beautiful sunsets from the garden. So I stayed out to watch the sun set, and was lucky to have clear skies. I think all of the guests turned out for this!
After the sunset, I went to the restaurant for dinner. After my wonderful lunch at Sobreposta, I kind of knew that dinner would have a hard to matching up. Nothing really spoke out to me on the menu, so I ordered some clams. And with clams being what they are, this was not surprisingly a rather “light” dinner, with bread to mop up the sauce.
That did give me permission to order dessert, so I chose the chestnut flan. There was kind of a chestnut puree at the top of the flan (or bottom of the flan cup, if that’s how you look at it). Unique and something local, I suppose.
After dinner, there was a spectacular view of the moon on the side opposite where the sun set, really showing the remarkable 360 views of the hotel.
My room rate was 95€, one of the less expensive rooms on the property, but breakfast wasn’t included. I kind of thought that was strange, because the hotel is rather isolated so it’s not like you have other options for breakfast. For 9€, it was a hearty spread though, with what seemed like homemade cake, wonderful crusty Galician bread, fruit salad, the local tetilla cheese, and various cold cuts (chorizo and lomo for example).
You could also ask for eggs (I think Merce herself fried up my egg) and coffee. There was also DIY orange juice, where you cut up your oranges and put them in the juicer yourself. I’d never really encountered that before!
There was no one up at 8:30 when I took breakfast, so I had my choice of tables inside and outside. I know I could have gotten closer to the edge, but my seat here was nice and shady. I wish I could have breakfast with this view every day!
All in all, this was one of the most relaxing stays I’ve had. And it was really thanks to Merce, who made it all possible, with her offer to pick me up from O Barqueiro. In my next post, I’ll detail the hike she sent me off on this morning, which really completed a special couple of days in this corner of Galicia.
When she dropped me off at the starting point of this hike, I asked her if she was the owner of the hotel, because I really expected that extra-mile service like this could only come from someone personally invested in the success of the enterprise. To my surprise, she told me that she was actually just an employee. The hotel is basically owned by the government, but they granted a concession to private people to run it, and a father and son. The son I came across a few times, and was quite friendly, but the father I was not impressed with at all! Shortly after I checked in, he loudly was showing the hotel around to some friends, I suppose, and entered my room with his key without knocking. There was no apology; he simply closed the door and told his guests (not me) that “yesterday there was no one there.” Really unbelievable, and the only negative mark of my experience.
Which made it all the more amazing that Merce would put in so much thought to making a wonderful experience for me, because as she said, she was “just an employee.” When she dropped me off at the trailhead this morning, I actually tried to tip her. She drove me from O Barqueiro to the hotel, stayed overnight, and then drove me to a beach to start a stunning hike. Along the way she gave the best advice about hiking to the lighthouse, the sunset, and the lunch restaurant in O Barqueiro. I felt like it was the least I could do. Upon seeing my outstretched fist clutching (and hiding) the tip, she pushed it away and ran towards her car, saying that she did it all because it was a pleasure for her. So as I said, this post is really dedicated to her, for making my time on the northern coast of Galicia so wonderful.
Thank you, Merce!