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Check In: Andalusian Hideaway

Aug. 23, 2004

You don't go to Trasierra, you escape to it: from the dead heat of Seville in summer, from the crush of tourists in cooler months or, for regular visitor Kate Moss, from the unwelcome intrusions of the paparazzi. The hotel, converted from a 16th century Andalusian manor, is a cosy redoubt defended by 3,000 acres of olive and orange groves in the Sierra Morena, an hour's drive northeast of the city. It keeps the outside world deliberately at bay: there are no phones in the 12 bedrooms, and no TV sets. Upon arriving, the visitor is greeted by a lobby whose walls have been fashioned from giant old-fashioned olive vats, and which leads into open courtyards, scented gardens and a swimming pool overlooking the dramatic hills of southern Spain. The rooms have a rustic feel if you're there in the summer, they are light and airy; in the winter they are warm with blazing fireplaces. That's because the Trasierra is a hotel of balances. It strikes an important one between intimacy and privacy, being small enough for a big group to rent and big enough never to feel crowded. Another fine balance is between a smoothly managed hotel offering professional service and a family-run operation, which provides its guests with homemade olive oil, Jamon Serrano (the famous cured ham of the mountains) from the nearby village of Jabugo, and fine dining (the owner's daughter is an inspired chef). All this for the starting price of $185 per person per night, with breakfast included and special rates for people wanting to rent the entire house, which accommodates up to 22 people.

The possibilities of a restful holiday range from massages to long walks to simply reading in one of the hotel's many alcoves or open terraces. Those seeking an active holiday can ride, play tennis, do yoga or learn flamenco. tel: (34-95) 488 43 24; www.trasierra.co.uk.