The romantic pastel-coloured UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, is the location for La Passion Hotel.
An original Cartagenan property in this historic Caribbean port, it was purchased in 2004 and lovingly converted into a shabby-chic boutique hotel by owners, Thierry from Paris and Lilliana from Bogota.
Many of the decorative artefacts of this eight-roomed hotel were procured in Morocco and shipped all the way across the Atlantic, eventually arriving on this stunning coastline. I´m not just talking lamps and rugs; the hand-carved Arabesque style doors are three metres tall. The huge, high ceilings in the rooms give that magical sense of space; the walls are so thick you wonder if your arms could stretch as wide as them. The humidity in Cartagena provides a natural peeling-paint effect, with inevitable colourful shades in nature´s earth tones, all of which form part of the decor.
This is no ordinary hotel – in fact, there is absolutely nothing normal about it. Staff appear and disappear at will, there is no welcome pack, no instructions; it’s more like a home, with semi-invisible staff. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace looking out over a sea of terracotta tiles and majestic towers, with carefully placed Caribbean touches of old boats and coconut husks.
Liliana has that decorative Midas touch, never too much or too little; she has created the perfect balance – an ambiance which gives the impression that she achieved her desired effect without even trying.
In terms of photography, there is an image on every corner – the original spiral stone staircase, the ice-blue pool, the wrought iron lamps with flickering candles, the exotic flowers, and the staff, who are totally at one in the hotel. Elements of eccentricity, such as huge fruit bowls and a cat that has a fascination for photographers’ tripods, are part and parcel of the scene.
Actors, playwrights, models and discerning travellers all frequent this venue. The hotel has history – it’s an 18th-century palace – and looking down from its balconies into the street below, you can invent your own stories about the vendors, locals and travellers passing by.
The internal patio, redolent of the Spanish Colonial era, brings the outside inside, and if you are lucky enough to experience tropical rains here, then you can watch and listen to the fat rain drops caressing the lush green foliage within the courtyard. A place to linger in the land of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What more need I say?
Photos of La Passion Hotel can be viewed here