Perhaps it was the unmarked entrance or the greeting of exotic parrots and masses of trailing plants.
Whatever it was, we knew from the moment we walked in that this was no ordinary hotel.
Online reviews touted varying opinions such as:
“It’s like walking into a Fellini movie.” “Charming & Romantic.” “Spooky!” “Not for everyone.” “You get it or your don’t.”
It sounded like the perfect place for us to spend our 11th Anniversary and final days in Puerto Rico.
The children took off within seconds of arriving, following a labyrinth of stairs and hallways to secret rooms and passageways.
Our generously sized family room, the ‘Balcon’, overlooked a courtyard and the sea. It was quite fun to stay somewhere so different from the usual minimalist or modern accommodations I tend to book.
Every ounce of space is filled with something; a piece of art, greenery, color, anything to grab your attention for half a second before your eye is lead to the next thing.
This sprawling 300 year old hotel is owned by American artist, Jan D’Esopo and her Puerto Rican husband, Manuco. Along with creating and maintaining this incredible, museum-like space, she also invites varying “artists in residence” to stay and work at the hotel. We enjoyed chatting with the current artist and painter, Bart Lindstrom, and his girlfriend, Kathy.
When you’re not busy wandering the streets of Old San Juan, there are plenty of activities to do around the property;
from swimming in the unusual sculptural pool…
Lounging poolside in an old world daybed…
To getting a massage in an historic kitchen…
Or playing a song on a vintage Steinway in the Venetian-style music room. (Chamber music concerts are performed throughout the year by local musicians.)
Even better, hop on a golf cart with Jan, the artist in residence, the server and possibly a parrot or two and be whisked away to the beach house for Happy Hour! It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set and to chat with Jan (who is fascinating) or the artists and other guests. A parrot might even pluck out a song for you on the guitar!
When you return from the beach, head straight to the patio overlooking the pool (if weather permits) or into the ornate dining room where a delicious meal will be prepared and served to you. You’ll likely be intoxicated by the breezes of jasmine while an unexpected classical guitarist serenades you as you dine.
As night falls, you may lie in bed replaying the magical day while listening to the calls of the Coqui Coqui frogs outside the open windows.
Perhaps it was all a surreal dream.
If you find yourself wide awake, unable to sleep, climb up to the rooftop deck to catch the sunrise.
If you’re lucky, the artists will already be there studying the first light of day and how it hits the clouds. The curvature of the horizon may form the backdrop for this old city and maybe you’ll be graced by an early morning shower. Instead of washing away the mystique, it somehow only adds to it.
This place will be forever embedded in your soul.
The Gallery Inn
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico