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Getaways – A Taste of Old Europe and Mexico in Busy Guadalajara

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mar10homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, March 10, 2008-(MCT)-The butterfly clearly knows about my superstition about small bright signs of good things because she is flitting about in the sunshine pouring into the lush, almost wild garden of this charming 10-room boutique hotel in Guadalajara.

And standing here in the garden after meandering through the nearly 70-year-old former family mansion, I decide that this is a sign that I cannot ignore.

CHECKING IN: I had immediately liked the small hotel on arrival because it has the feel of a quirky art gallery run by delightfully quirky people. Carefully pieced together by owners Sally Rangel and Klix Kaltenmark, her Swiss-born hotel partner and long-time resident of Guadalajara, it is a mixture of old Europe and old Mexico.

“I don’t want you to feel like you are in a hotel. I want you to feel at home,” gushes Rangel, who has made a career of helping businesses use design and fashion. Her touch shows here.

ROOMS: Antiques are everywhere, expensive ones and bargains. Mexican antiques and curiosity pieces scrounged from Kaltenmark’s family attic as well as from all parts of Europe. And they blend together.

Old mirrors cover the walls, and old travelers trunks are spread out in the rooms and always as ornaments and reminders that traveling is an ageless devotion.

There are large candelabra that stand several feet high and small sets of candles in all the rooms and a massive sprawl of candles in the closed-in patio beside the garden where there’s a fireplace and tables and chairs, and the setting seems ideal for mandatory romantic night-time dining.

Three of the grand suites have giant hammocks slung near the windows, and the thought strikes me as I peek into one sun-drenched room that a perfect way to waste away a day would be to crawl into one and rock away, staring out at the garden.

Pure white Swiss-made duvet covers stand out against the rooms’ earth-colored walls, and there are goose down comforters, but hypoallergenic bedding is available on request.
My room leads out to the garden from a large glass and metal door, which makes it incredibly easy to be able to roll out and have breakfast (it’s included in the price) at a table set up only a few feet away in the garden. There’s a TV hidden away in a closet.

There is Wi-Fi service as well, which I quickly disregard because being connected would surely disconnect my karma.

I am welcomed to the room by fresh flowers and a small basket of fruits and a complimentary bottle of Mexican wine. You can request tequila instead, and since the Guadalajara area is the motherland of tequila you just might want to do so.

BATHROOM: Five rooms have bathrooms remodeled with tall dome-like ceilings that resurrect for me pleasant memories of Middle Eastern hamams or baths. But these are brand new, not like the ancient ones I once knew.

My room has a massive candelabra beside the shower, which is almost a room itself. Besides a regular shower head, there is a large overhead rain shower at the other end of the bath. An old mirror sits above the marble-topped vanity and copper basin.

KID FRIENDLY: I am not sure I like the idea that the hotel doesn’t accept children under 12, but it does allow small pets.

PERKS & PEEVES: Wine and cheese-included in the rate-are served in the afternoon, and at night there’s a very ample honor bar in the small dining room.

One detail catches my eye: a small library of books in English and Spanish on a table, and I think as I peruse them that I would like to read at least one.

Something else strikes me: the feeling of seclusion.

Outside is Mexico’s second largest city, but here behind the hotel’s walls I don’t sense a massive city swirling by. Not in the garden, which was planted by the family that lived here eons ago. It has been allowed since then to grow in an endless assortment of plants and trees, among them an orange, a lemon, a persimmon and a black olive tree. The trees and plants perfume the air though right now the smell of oleander is the strongest.

Nor do you hear the city in the rooms that face the street because they have double-glazed windows, which shield out most sounds. The hotel sits in a quiet part of the city in an area that seems fine to saunter about. Downtown is about 20 minutes by taxi.

There are fancy, upscale restaurants up and down the street, and close by are a few bookstores, coffee houses and a string of antiques stores whose crowded clutter waits to be sized up, dusted off and bargained for.

I like the courteousness and willingness to please at this hotel, like setting a small table for breakfast in the middle of the garden. The table is covered with white linens and there are fresh flowers. Breakfast is served whenever you wake up because Sally thinks you shouldn’t have to live by a schedule at her hotel. Room service is around the clock too.

I also like that guests can have a chef to cook lunch or dinner for them, or they can order out from about 20 nearby restaurants.

And, of course, I like the butterfly.

BOTTOM LINE: Prices are not out of line for this kind of luxury: a junior suite for $200; six master suites (single or double) for $230 a night; and three grand suites for $260. There is a 12% federal tax, 2% state tax and a 5% service fee. It is not wheelchair friendly-there is only one room with a handicapped-accessible bathroom.

VILLA GANZ
Lopez Cotilla 1739, Col. Lafayette
Guadalajara, Mexico; 011-52-33-3120-1416; villaganz.com

© 2008, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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