During the last years, living in the countryside of Posadas (in the province of Cordova) has given us the freedom to enjoy some nice animals, and as I love cats, at one point the count of these animals totalled thirteen (as you will see in the following photos)…
The oldest of these cats was Chueif (spelt that way because at the time, my daughter was too young to being able to appreciate the rules of English spelling — or, rather lack of them!).
Now Chueif was both a fierce and loving creature, and she was a good hunter too, regularly bringing home a half-mutilated snake, and cleaning out the colony of huge grey rats that would often gate-crash our house.
This ‘Right Honourable Chueif’ was our favourite cat, the matriarch of all the others—so how could we leave her behind when we migrated north to our wind-swept cabin situated atop the lofty hills of Cantabria? This brings me to the explanation of how Chueif became a hotel-indulging cat.
From a young age Chueif became accustomed to long drives, but was encouraged to regularly stretch her legs in picnic spots or in fields; she was also allowed to stay in the kid’s tent when camping. On one such camping trip we were obliged to stay an extra night in Salamanca’s campsite because the campsite’s territorial and very fierce tom cat forced her into hiding. It was only by sheer luck and cunning manoeuvres on our behalf, that after pinpointing the source of her woe-stricken meows we managed to cajole her out of her hiding spot—the shrubbery dividing off the swimming pool from the rest of the plots.
When she emerged, we quickly thrust her in the van and calmed her with soothing endearments, as well as bribing her with some tasty tit-bits such as Laughing Cow cheeselets, La Lechera condensed milk and ‘leche merengada’ ice-cream (cinnamon flavoured). We then made a soft nest for her to sleep that night amid plump cushions on the plushly-upholstered back seat of our Volkswagon Camper Van, far from the reach of the campsite’s bully. She didn’t complain!
The following night, after having felt quite traumatised by Chueif’s disappearance, and suffering from the general side-effects that camping can have on some people (such as housewives and mothers who are in need of a proper break and certainly don’t need to take their work along with them when on holiday!), we threw all caution to the wind and booked into a four-star hotel in Burgos (which offered a special deal, but which did not extend to felines).
The name of the hotel was ‘Abba Burgos’, and I’m mentioning that not because I have shares or relatives in this establishment, but because I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there: nice, spacious, comfy, offering an asphyxiating sauna and an ample buffet breakfast sprawling over many long tables which luckily came with a good supply of thick, large serviettes just in case one couldn’t manage to sample all the wares and wished to ‘take advantage’ of the situation and ‘improvise’ by making undercover, doggy bags. (After all, it’s not every day that one stays in a four-star hotel!)
Another definite plus point of this hotel (which benefitted my drawers and cupboards) was the fragrant English lavender growing by the hotel’s entrance. I really had to take advantage once again. (When we did reach our final destination in the windswept hills of Cantabria, my daughter and I devoted much time to making lacy lavender bags.)
The hotel is also situated in the historic, old part of Burgos (which is, by the way, the birth and burial place of Spain’s national hero, the military leader El Cid. He was a key figure in the recapture of Spain during the Spanish Reconquest in the 11th century, fighting both for the Christians and then aiding the Moors in their intertribal battles within Al-Andalus.
Anyway, the hotel lies not far from the Gothic-Renaissance-style cathedral which houses El Cid’s tomb, and is close to the bustling town centre with its many squares, cafes, shops and museum of human evolution; it is also within walking distance of the very full Ebro River.
Well, apart from a little light theft or ‘borrowing’, my second infringement of the hotel rules involved cat smuggling. It really didn’t occur to me that one had to make formal enquiries whether one’s cat could or could not stay in the suite. I actually didn’t think about this—I was just so overwhelmed with relief at not having to camp that I completely overlooked it. So when we did enter the foyer, that’s when I noticed the sign in reception, undeniably obvious, which read ‘ANIMALES NO PERMITIDOS’ (‘NO ANIMALS PERMITTED’).
I gulped. I certainly wasn’t going to leave Chueif all alone in the van, still dealing with the psychological after-effects of her camping experience and feeling abandoned, wandering anxiously back and forth between the steering wheel and crowded luggage compartment (where she would probably be forced to relieve herself in the early morning hours).
So, with a feeling of guilt, we bundled her into my daughter’s pink, diamanté, ‘Little Princess’ shoulder bag. Luckily the strap was almost hip long, so I could smother any protesting wriggling or shifting movements by exerting a steady but gentle pressure with my elbow. It was what I imagine playing the bagpipes must be like.
However, as the minutes ticked passed, muffling the remonstrative meows proved to be more difficult than I had imagined. When Chueif let out the first stifled cry, I was actually in front of the reception desk handing in my passport, so I coughed loudly and started talking to the children with exaggerated excitement. The receptionist, while returning me my passport, shot me a quizzical glance which made me feel as if I were about to be interrogated by the SS. I didn’t wait for the sentence to be delivered, but just beat a quick retreat to the recesses of the nearby lifts. There I stood, cat in bag, hair dishevelled, uncontrollably static and unwashed after our camping, and my daughter clad in grimy leggings next to me. However, we were not alone: hovering next to us was a very poshly, sombrely-attired couple, wearing sombre expressions to match— they must have been there for a business meeting, I hastily concluded.
Just at that point, Chueif decided to let her discomfort be known to all of us. From inside the bag poured out an untiring string of miaowing laments, which varied in pitch from high to low, light to strong and sounded like the tuning of an old-fashioned wireless. What’s more, she squirmed and wriggled frantically inside the baby-pink, bejewelled bag.
I saw the couple’s eyes immediately rotate downwards as their focus travelled to the Princess bag that was firmly wedged between my elbow and hip. I tried to camouflage the movements by gently swaying to and fro, by rocking this way and that, by shifting my weight from one leg to another, by twisting to the right then to the left, and by flexing one knee followed by the other, all in a distracted, absent-minded sort of manner (which comes easily to me), and all in time with the over-animated conversation I was having with my thirteen-year-old daughter.
I was aware that by now a damask flush was colouring my cheeks, and my mid-length hair had become even more frizzy and unruly due to the static produced by the nylon carpets and the hotel’s de-ionised air; and this was compounded by the electric static that my nerves were generating.
The lift did take an awful long time in arriving—long enough, in fact, for the couple to shoot me a second quizzical glance, fraught with unspoken accusations. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ was the berating sentence that immediately popped into my head, although ‘Mad cats and Englishwomen’ would have been far more appropriate!
However, luckily and at long last I heard the relieving ‘ping’ from the lift announce its arrival. I let out a sigh of relief in time to a muffled meow (which only made me look all the more ridiculous). As the couple entered the elevator, they deemed us worthy of a smile—an all-knowing smile, coloured by a hint of sympathy and pity, but which at the same time confirmed the unspoken agreement that they would remain mute partners in crime.
We waited for the arrival of the next lift in which we managed to enter quite painlessly, and which delivered us to our fifth-floor double-suite. It was a luxurious room, and even more luxurious for Chueif, who, before curling up on the plush carpets under the bed, had to push her inquisitive, discerning nose into every nook and cranny. As for us lesser mortals, after testing out the king-sized beds, the multitude of television channels and investigating the array of freebies in the bathroom and miniatures in the fun-sized fridge; and after then pocketing the pens and small writing pads (a mother is always short of stationary, isn’t she?), we then proceeded to unpack our few items of clothing.
My husband had even fewer items, being the ‘no-fuss’, simplistic and modest man that he believes himself to be, and so we had taken advantage of his minimalistic attitude by filling his half-empty bag with the cat’s sand box, together with a small bag of sand, a packet of wet-wipes, a rubber clockwork mouse, her favourite cushion and blanket, her bell collar, a lead and harness (just in case), some fish-flavoured chews, a 250 ml plastic bottle filled with milk and a tube of condensed milk.
The litter box, after having been nicely washed, using the hotel’s shampoo and perfumed with their eau-du-cologne, was neatly placed in the kid’s bathroom. Chueif soon settled down and was ready for a nice long nap; and we were ready to go and explore the historic town of Burgos.
We were enchanted by the town and after much walking and sampling delicious tapas in many bars, we finally arrived back, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep.
The night and following morning went according to plan, with both Chueif and the children behaving very well indeed. There were no other incidents or protestations from Our Right Honourable Cat when we handed back the keys on our departure. Perhaps it had something to do with the bacon and chorizo that we had smuggled for her from the ample breakfast buffet.
Since the hotel experience turned out to be such a success (especially for mothers and cats), the whole ‘cat-in-a-hotel’ process was repeated once again, but this time in a five-star hotel in the historic, medieval town of Toledo.
But I think that’s enough of cats in hotels for now!
Thank you for bearing with me so far!
This story was adapted from a chapter of my illustrated, humorous and factual book, An English Lady in Cordova — the Alternative Guide
As usual, comments and questions always welcome.
Goodbye for now — take care! xxx