By Regina Winkle-Bryan
At first glance I thought this boxy hotel was made of old shipping crates, used to promote sustainable building. But no, Hotel Aire de Bardenas is all brand-new, and though the rooms resemble storage units, they were, in fact, made-to-order.
I’m not sure if I like Hotel Aire de Bardenas or not. However, it doesn’t much matter what I think of it, because the hotel has received many an award since its opening, plus tons of press coverage. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
- I love Aire’s surroundings which are stark and wild. The hotel does not disturb the landscape, but rather lends itself to it, blending in with the shades, scale and harshness of the environment in this dry region of Spain.
- Let’s face it, Aire is interesting. It’s not your average Spanish hotel with busts of Dukes on dark wood antique tables, or paintings of long-dead ancestors covering the walls. Aire is clean-cut and modern, very modern, and this is refreshing.
- I adore the fruit. Aire has fruit trees all over the property, which are more or less the only attempts at landscaping on site, apart from a small garden. Leading up to the front door of the hotel are lines of cherry trees, which were ripe when I was visiting. This region of Navarra is known for agriculture, the designers brought this aspect into the hotel’s design.
- It’s well thought out. Aire’s architects paid attention to detail and missed nothing while creating this unique hotel. I was especially impressed by the color choices used in the rooms and in the halls, which are almost identical to the colors naturally found in the region.
- Each room, or box, is outfitted with one window which is almost the size if the wall itself. The window protrudes out from the box, creating a little nook where guests can rest. These windows offer stunning views and are the only ‘decoration’ in rooms, which are completely white and very bare-bones. You can imagine the window like a painting that changes throughout the day.
- The rooms are quiet and so is the countryside. There’s nothing around Aire for miles. It’s very peaceful.
- Staying at Aire is a bit surreal; it feels a bit like being in a artsy movie.
- The rooms are a bit small. With all the space around Aire, you’d think they would make the rooms larger. During my stay the Wi-Fi did not work, nor did the telephone, which meant no room service. Also, rooms at Aire are not for the timid. Instead of a door between the bedroom and the shower there is nothing more than a white sheet.
- Sadly, there wasn’t any ventilation in our box apart from one small window in the bathroom. This means that you have to use the AC, which is too bad when the weather is so nice and the air in the countryside so fresh.
- Aire has four stars and deserves them for design, however, the service is more like two stars. For instance, there was no one to drag our bags to our box, and we were not offered a drink on arrival; these would be two easy ways to improve service. However, it is not surprising that Aire’s staff lacks when it comes to guest relations. The owners of Aire, a sister team, had never worked in the hotel biz before running Aire. How then, could they know that I want a cold one after driving for hours to get to their hotel in the middle of nowhere? They didn’t.
- The restaurant also left something to be desired. Again, the decor is fabulous -brown leather and cream with chic modern lighting – but the wait staff didn’t know what they were doing. In the morning breakfast was good (cheese, fruit, toast, jams, croissants), but took too long. The background music playing at 8:00 a.m. was Country Western, with hits like ‘My Baby Is American Made’ playing at full blast, making my toast and melon hard to swallow.
I don’t want to be too hard on Aire, but I do want to be fair. You need to be more than just a pretty face to get all four stars. While Aire looks good, its management still needs to iron out a few details. All in all, I would recommend this hotel for those who want to experience something completely different in a gorgeous region of Navarra. Those who dig boutique design hotels will be pleased with Aire and those with an interest in architecture may just want to pop in for a drink to check it out.
Address: Crtra. de Ejea, NA 125. Km 1,5 Navarra Spain
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** When I get a freebie, I claim it. My stay at Aire was 1/2 off. As writer’s we are obliged to say when we’ve been given special treatment…such was the case at Aire. Thank you!