Built in Nola's French Quarter in 1816
I've had my eye on this hotel for a number of years.
For that reason alone, I've been anxious to stay!
A Home, Before A Hotel
I spent much of my youth growing up in Iowa, so I can totally appreciate the cornstalk thing.
I love the black iron fence with yellow husks of corn. I love the corn-yellow paint on the fabulous wood and stone house. Most of all, I love knowing that the decorative fence was installed in the 1850's by a caring husband. Dr. Bianmenti and his wife had lived in the home 20 years, but his dear bride was still homesick for Iowa.
A Home on Royal Street
In past years I've walked along Royal Street, peeking through the black and yellow fence, admiring the grand home with garden patio and trickling fountain.
There has never been anything hotel-like about the scene, besides the sign.
I was delighted when I learned the once private home, was indeed a functioning hotel! I was extra excited when we were able to get reservations for a reasonable price.
Sharon let us pick between available rooms. Don and I chose Room #2, which was directly to the left, when we came in the front door.
I wonder if Elvis had to duck when he walked through the low door, to the bathroom?
Chandeliers and Cherubs
The hall ceiling was quite decadent.
There were crystal chandeliers and colorful cherubs, frolicking on the surrounding trim.
Our Golden Room
Our room was delightfully rich with the gold ceiling and satin drapes.
There was more gold, in the mirror frame and fireplace screen and wallpaper stitching. Maybe the rich gold was making me feel woozy? Actually it was the odd slant in the floor, which made me stagger a bit!
The king bed was quite lovely and comfy, but the phone (and satin wallpaper) was fit for a princess!
Hotels hardly need to provide phones anymore, so this was a fun surprise. I really should have just made a call for fun.
The room felt bright, with floor to ceiling windows. I loved the light shining through the curved, stained glass windows in the turret.
In fact, morning came very early since we couldn't block some of the light. But I was happy to open my eyes and look directly above, to the chandelier... with more cherub figures!
Evening at the Cornstalk
In the evening, our son and his fiance hopped on the streetcar near their home and joined us at the hotel.
We brought some wine and plastic cups onto the front porch for a little toasting.
Moving to the Umbrella
Sharon our enthused host, insisted we use real wine glasses.
She fetched a boxful and we moved closer to the fountain for our toasting.
We toasted to Scott's Tulane Law graduation, before meeting more family for dinner.
Music and Fountain
Being a Thursday at 6 pm, Royal street was fairly calm.
The sound of the fountain and a nearby street guitarist, was pretty lovely.
On our second evening, we had Sharon join us on the porch for a photo.
She was quite the helpful and amusing host during our stay. She was even very skilled at moving and parking guests cars in the small space beside the house.
On Saturday morning, we walked with the "kids" to get coffee and pastries. We sat on the balcony and laughed about the sounds we'd heard the night before.
With a room on the front, Don and I heard more sidewalk traffic, cars and music, than the others. There was even a little calliope music from a riverboat and train sounds, too! But no complaints from any of us. It was all part of the French Quarter experience.
Sleeping in an elegant home built in 1816, made the stay memorable.
...The Cornstalk Fence!
Yes! The fence is most notable!
Wonderful Hotel... Corny Name!
Historic Hotel on Ancient Grounds
The hotel, which opened in 1923 has an impressive history, but it's the location that really lured us.
Steps from Chichen Itza
The hotel was built just steps away from the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. (You could get away with that in 1923.) Tourists weren't flooding the site like they do today. Staying at Mayaland gave us a chance to see the ruins without the crowds. The hotel had its own private park entrance, which opened an hour before the main gates.
Cool Lobby in Late Morning
Although it was heating up outside when we arrived, the open air lobby was cool and breezy. Our room wasn't ready but we were given goblets of chilled fruit juice, which we enjoyed in massive wood and leather chairs.
The lobby was peaceful except for a short while, when a tour bus dropped off about 50 Chinese tourists. Evidently, many foreign tourists come by bus just for the big lunch buffet on the grounds.
Windows and Doors
While we sipped our juice we enjoyed studying the lobby. The leaded glass windows with blue trim, framed the colorful scenery. The arched doorway revealed an even better view. Out beyond the palms and bougainvilleas, we spotted the ancient Observatory Temple, beneath a sky of blue and white. We had a peek at the ruins, without leaving the hotel!
After sitting a while, we wandered the grounds. It was a little early for a stop in the original hotel lounge. But it was open.
I felt like I was stepping back in time as we wandered over the multi-hued tiled floors with fans whirling above. The Moorish arches and columns on the patio, made me feel like I was in Casa Blanca.
The New Part
This new addition to the Main House was added in later years. I was glad to know our room wasn't in this motel-looking section. We did however spend a little time in the courtyard. We took a seat under a shady umbrella, then joined the touristy crowd at the 15-dollar lunch buffet.
There were lots of food options, including a whole section of Mayan dishes. The whole vibe sort of made me feel like I was on a cruise ship. The tourists wandered around with their plates while Mayan dancers performed here and there. I was actually more intrigued by the tortilla makers than the food.
We did discover another outdoor dining option the next day. This pizza garden was quite delicious and the umbrella tables were under a wonderful jungle canopy. It was a much more relaxing atmosphere and the pizza was delicious.
Finding the Room!
How I wish I'd snapped a photo as we followed our dear bellhop, trotting up and down stairs and down hallways. He was about half Don's height and our 4 bags probably added up to Don's weight. He seemed exhausted, yet delighted to show us every detail of our room.
Our door to "Andrew Carnegie 24" opened up to a spacious balcony. It felt like we were in a treehouse.
Besides the garden view, we had a nice view through the mahogany framed doors and windows, into our guest room. When we kept our door to the hall open, we had an added treat. There was a small balcony at the end, with a view to the west. I couldn't wait to see the Observatory at sunset!
I Love Lucy
Our room had the same comfy-retro feel that I get when I watch an old black and white sitcom. In fact I could picture Ricky and Lucy staying here in one of their travel episodes. The tile floors and shiny, carved wood, made the room feel cool and clean.
Even the bedspreads seemed retro, but fresh. We were able to open the window and door slats, to let a breeze blow through later. The dense growth outside, meant we didn't need curtains.
The Mayan Influence
It was impossible to get a good shot of this amazing tree. The branches seemed to weave themselves into the canopy above. At dusk, a noisy peacock wandered the same tree.
Bungalows and Event Spaces
Don and I spent some time in the late afternoon wandering the grounds. There are over 100 acres, with patches of rainforest and gardens, pools and fountains. We found charming bungalows, as well as dining and event spaces, all available for rent.
After walking the grounds, we took books to the pool for a little cooling time.
We enjoyed a cocktail on our balcony in the early evening. We had an amusing time trying to talk over the large table. The 10-ton chairs were too heavy to move, so we shared one. The view of the dining patio below was tempting, but we didn't want to miss sunset.
Our room didn't have a view of the west, so we headed for the front of the hotel round 6:30. Don was content to sit and enjoy, but I was almost goofy with excitement. I insisted on dashing up to the little balcony a few times, for a different view.
I felt just a little guilty that I wasn't sitting next to Don, toasting the sun when it finally dropped out of sight. But I waved and smiled down at him. Then rushed down after my last photo.
Dinner in El Mural
I spotted this dining room earlier while exploring. Again the Spanish-Moorish designs intrigued me. The purple-pink cloths, lured me.
But the terrace looked pretty inviting, knowing that after dark there would be candles and views of the illuminated garden.
In or Out?
Don and I arrived at 8 and were surprised that all diners had chosen to eat outside. We thought for a moment, but decided we didn't want to miss dining below that soaring ceiling and dramatic mural.
We did get a touch of the outside breeze, since we were seated beside the massive glass doors. The servers seemed almost amused by our choice. The service couldn't have been better.
Our feast started with a basket of bread and 4 flavored butters. The Relleno Poblano and salmon dishes were perfecto. I thought the tequila, served in a cone shaped glass, resting in a tiny fishbowl of ice... was pretty adorable.
We rose early to be the first tourists to enter the park. I should have felt grumpy after some sleep issues, caused by music at all hours. The mysteriously, distant rhythms played all through the night. A couple times, I stepped onto the balcony and but couldn't figure out the source. At check out, we learned there had been some festivities in a distant village, beyond the grounds. Maybe I really just heard ancient spirits having a little party at the ruins!
Our April stay in Mayaland was totally enjoyable. The connection to Chichen Itza will be what I remember most. However, if Mayaland had been anywhere else in the Yucatan, I would have enjoyed the stay thoroughly. The generous staff and the gracious hacienda style hotel, made me feel like a ritzy guest. Maybe Pavarotti and Jackie Onassis got better treatment when they visited years ago, but i have no complaints.
Our Oasis in Valladolid
Initially, we took a cab from Valladolid's bus station to our hotel. But a few times we walked 20 or so minutes into town. After being in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, we were suddenly in a world where we were in the midst of locals, instead of tourists.
Even the hotel guests that stayed at Zenti'k, didn't speak English. We heard French and German and maybe a British accent, come to think of it.
It was quiet at 2:30 in the afternoon. We relaxed and I sipped instead of gulped, my tequila. It was quite a peaceful place to wait for a room. A breeze rustled the nearby palms and exotic plants. A hurried bird passed underneath the palapa.
Wood and Colors
More Gathering Spots
After a short wait, our luggage was delivered to our room and Sammy took us on a tour. We passed more sitting areas. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think she said something about the fenced roof area being a good place for nude sunbathing. Hmmm?
Every direction we turned, we found colorful murals and curious bits of art. This was my favorite painting. The artist's name is written on the red book in the right corner. I wish the artist could explain the meaning of the glass bottle holding the man.
The dancing mural didn't need much explanation. This area offered a shady spot beside the pool. On the floor above was an enclosed spa. The gentle music and scents, used by the masseuse made the pool area extra relaxing.
Flowers and Critters
There were 5 cabins, each with a guest room upstairs and downstairs. When we checked in, we were pretty delighted to find out we'd been upgraded to the bridal room... with a rope bed.
As we climbed the stairs to our room, we had to laugh at the close up view of the wall. The wall that enclosed the property had some decorative glass... with a purpose. Eerie? We actually felt totally safe, just amused.
It's always a treat when the real room seems better than the internet photos. Best of all the palapa roof made the room feel so airy and spacious. There were numerous windows we could open and 2 ceiling fans with many settings. The bed with the Mexican embroidered accents, looked like a piece of heaven. This was our first experience with a bed hanging on ropes. At first I was afraid I'd get seasick, but luckily that wasn't an issue.
Robes and Umbrellas
Even though there was a rustic appearance, there were luxurious goodies for borrowing, like very fun Asian style robes and an umbrella... just in case.
This space on the other side of the counter had a built in couch and small table area. There are no kids under 16 allowed at the hotel or I would have guessed it was a kiddie area. Instead, it became our suitcase spot. A treat.
Our sink may have looked like it was made for Wilma Flintstone, but it worked well. (as did the shower) The bath products were all spa quality with lovely scents. There was even a make up mirror, which seemed almost out of place. The wrapped up hammock didn't get used, I'm sad to say. We just ran out of time.
Doors and Windows
The wooden door was pretty charming with the windows that opened above. And all the windows were large, with screens that helped keep our room bug free. It was a pretty incredible night sleeping with all the windows open and the fan helping move the air through the space. We woke to sounds of a rooster first, then a couple distant dogs. Then a symphony of exotic bird sounds grew louder as the sun rose higher.
But, before we ever made it to bed there was lots to do. After an afternoon walk to town, we stretched out by the pool.
This is the pool we were most excited about. Sammy told us that the owners began building the hotel 2 years ago, when they discovered a cave.
The owners thought the idea of an underground pool was a perfect plan. With all the spring fed "cenotes" in the area, they decided to make things a little different. They created a warm, saltwater pool with pathways and underwater benches.
Day and Night
In the day, light shined down through a skylight. At dusk, when we headed down the stairs for our "swim", we could barely see. It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the dark space, lit only by flickering flames in tiny alcoves.
Sammy had suggested we take advantage of the buzzer, near the bottom of the stairs. We did and moments later our waiter appeared to take our order. Poor guy returned later with our drinks on a tray. I could tell that he could barely see as he cautiously descended. We enjoyed having the whole place to ourselves, but thought about how creepy it might be coming at midnight. And we could have, since the pools were open 24/7.
We were excited to enjoy a meal, since the reviews had been very positive. The tables were all set and waiting for diners at 5.
We had a drink first before we moved to the not so comfy folding chairs for dinner. We didn't get a chance to meet the owners, but they were gathering nearby with their children and grand baby, I believe. Interesting life, owning this place.
Once seated, we kept an eye on the kitchen, now and then. I'm not sure if the restaurant is named for the chef, Naino? The high window seemed a little tricky for our waiter who had to stand on a box.
Shrimp and Octopus
I ordered the shrimp with cheese, wrapped in bacon, served on potatoes. Don had fried rice with octopus, which was actually quite delicious. I didn't have my glasses on, but managed to avoid eating any eyeballs. The flavors of both dishes were excellent!
After dinner, I stepped off the front steps to get a look at the large palapa with rope lights and chandelier. I loved the glow and even the sound of the tasteful music that mixed with the night sounds. It was odd how all the quiet couples didn't acknowledge one another, though.
Our room stay included breakfast from the menu. The coffee and juice were enough of a treat, after lame food at our last hotel! Both of our breakfasts were made to order. My omelet and grilled veggies was perfect. I had to laugh at Don's fried egg nachos. Good, but funny.
We slept in a hanging bed and we enjoyed an underground pool! Those were firsts for us. Our hotel stay felt exotic, while extremely relaxing, safe and clean. I wish we'd had more than one night.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!