New Ayres at The Astoria

The Astoria Hotel is nothing less than an icon in Valencia, but as all icons run the risk of becoming outdated, it became the responsibility of director Joan Soldevila to turn the Astoria into a modern, 20th century hotel without losing any of the tradition and history that make it so special.

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So special in fact that the Astoria has been involved in the making of two international films. In 1983 a follow up to the Pink Panther series, but 3 years after the death of Peter Sellers, was filmed at the Astoria by Panther director Blake Edwards. It was called The Curse of the Pink Panther. Before that the hotel was a location for the curious film, The Boy Who Stole a Million, filmed in 1958 during Fallas by A Fish Called Wanda director Charles Crichton.

All of this would make the Astoria special enough, but apart from movies, it is also located in one of Valencia’s prettiest squares, Rodrigo Botet.

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Joan comes from a family of hotel professionals, his parents having spent 21 years in the trade in Switzerland, where Joan himself has also worked in The Bristol Hotel of Geneva.

He has also learnt his trade in London’s Halycon Hotel and at the Concorde in Paris, France.

After a spell at British Airways, Joan returned to the hotel industry at the Hotel Claris in Barcelona; also a movie location curiously, for Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz.

Working his way up from the bottom, he had peeled potatoes in Switzerland, he became the youngest divisional manager of the Ayre hotel group in Barcelona, where he worked for 10 years, reactivating older hotels, opening new ones, before accepting the challenge of coming to Valencia and returning the Astoria to its former glory.

He arrived here in February 2013, and has since then undertaken a policy of unintrusive modernisation; keeping the essentials and improving the rooms, the decor, the electronics, as well as prioritising staff training and the incorporation of company values, particularly in the treatment of guests, giving a much more personalised service.

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Preferring quality to qualifications, he has selected new staff on the basis of their personal integrity and values rather than diplomas.

He is permanently looking to surprise people, both his staff and guests, encouraging staff to reinvent themselves and reach higher. For example, he challenged the Vinatea, the hotel restaurant’s chef to come up with a new paella, which he did, which is why the restaurant now offers the only paella with free range chicken, wild mushrooms and pumpkin.

The Astoria has existed as a hotel since 1958, and it is Joan’s quest that the children and grandchildren of the first generation who enjoyed its facilities, should return to make good use of its 11 events rooms and discotheque, or the various activities that the hotel offers in its spacious ground floor lounge, such as international food nights, musical events and wine tastings, or the Thursday DJ evenings.

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The Astoria is unique in having its own Friends Club, with over 500 members who know that they are family, and can be expected to be treated as such when they want.

Another attraction of the hotel is its enviable views from the 9th floor breakfast and events rooms, the latter being a big favourite for those looking for a very special wedding or party.

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