#72 La Casa del Almirante
Home of a Chilean Admiral
In 2013, Don and I kept our fingers crossed as our taxi wound up the narrow road in Vina Del Mar.
We had booked our stay after reading positive reviews, but the price had seemed almost too good to be true. We hoped our inn wouldn't end up being in a ghetto.
Gated Community... Chilean Style
From the taxi, we could see lots of large homes behind a wall.
Could this possibly be where our B&B was located?
The taxi let us off beside the stone wall and was gone before we even found the buzzer beside the thick blue door.
We hoped we had the address right, because the home behind and above the door/wall, looked very intriguing!
Our First Greeting
Our host Jose, answered our buzz quickly and with a click, the blue door unlocked. We fumbled our baggage up the cement stairs and found ourselves face to face with a bold white house, trimmed in blue.
The wonderful old home, which had been an admiral's house, felt like a welcoming little fortress high on the hill. We were greeted by a sweet kitty in the garden...
And once inside we were greeted by Jose! What a treat to have a host who spoke English.
We had been in Chile a week and had learned to expect no help with communication! Jose, (along with the fresh colors and decor of the inn) couldn't have been more welcoming!
The living area was spotless, with strong beams of wood and walls covered in bright paint and bold patterns.
I peeked in the kitchen and could see a few reminders that this was not just a hotel, this was a home. Jose's wife and daughter weren't home, but there were crayon drawings and a few kiddie dishes. I hoped we would meet his family.
Up the Blue Staircase
The fresh paint, polished wood and modern light fixtures, made it hard to imagine this building, 100 years ago.
I would love to have seen photos of the admiral who once lived here. What kind of furniture? What kind of curtains? I should have asked Jose more questions.
Our Green Room
Our room was clean and spacious. I would have loved a comfy chair or sofa, but we hardly spent time in the room anyway.
And I was impressed that we could open windows and let in the sea air! Over the rooftops, we could spot the Pacific, with a few ships.
The neighborhood location was a treat for open windows, far from honking cars. But we did have some sounds to keep things from getting dull.
Occasionally a dog would break the silence, with a bark. Then a scattered chain of barks and howls would follow. I felt sure these dogs were sharing important messages, like in "101 Dalmatians".
On Monday morning we woke to the giggles and chatter of school children, traveling nearby in groups. Sure, we could have closed the windows, but I felt like we were getting a secret glimpse into another world!
There were a few other guest rooms with attached baths, but our bathroom was just across the hall.
The slight inconvenience of having to cross the hall, was outweighed by having the best bath and shower. I loved the blue tub, the large windows and clean wood and tile. I can't say enough how clean everything was!
This is the table where breakfast was served in the morning. I so wish I'd been brave enough to snap a photo with our fellow guests. At first, we were a quiet group around the table, nibbling homemade pastries, hardboiled eggs, meats and cheese.
But when the coffee finally kicked in, the 6 of us were all talking at once. Something about the accents and the sophistication (of the others!) reminded me of a scene from "Room With a View". I loved hearing about our fellow travelers from Quebec and Brazil, while tiny Laura, who spoke no English, served us. After a long breakfast we all hugged good-bye. Funny to hug people you just met.
So What is Most Notable?
The big house was like a hilltop retreat! Clean, safe and welcoming.
We loved being able to walk down and explore the charming streets and waterfront area. But Vina is like most cities. There's graffiti and there are dark alleys and you have to be aware at night. But we felt safer and more at home in our little fortress on the hill, than we would have at the nearby Sheridan, with the doorman and security guards!
#71 Cap Ducal in Vina Del Mar
A Chilean Ship-Shaped Hotel!
In March of 2013, Don and I had one of our most memorable overnights at this odd hotel beside the Pacific, in Central Chile.
This art deco structure has been entertaining travelers and locals, for a long time. Don and I heard about the hotel from a few people we met in Santiago, before coming to Vina.
One said she remembered coming as a child to the hotel, for grand puppet shows. Another said the the hotel's restaurant was the best in Vina Del Mar.
We Came For A Drink
We had heard the hotel was booked, but stopped in one evening for a drink. Max the bartender treated us well. (Maybe because we were the only ones there) He served our drinks and supplied us with tasty spread of olives, cheese and bits of beef on toothpicks.
While chatting, we determined there had been some miscommunication about the "booked" hotel. We ended up making reservations for the next night.
Our Non-Floating Hotel
I was pretty delighted when we checked in the next day. The whole place just made me laugh with the retro, nautical feel! Rounded woodwork and brass railings everywhere!
Even though the building is not a boat, everything felt a bit tilted, as if you might need to grab the railing at any moment, to keep from sliding across the floor!
Both options for reaching the second floor, were tricky. Don and I couldn't fit ourselves and all our bags into the cage-like elevator, so Raul said he would bring up the rest.
By the time we reached the second floor, Raul had already dashed up the spiral staircase with our gigantic load and was standing at our elevator door!
Our Junior Suite Awaits
I've always been amused by the term junior suite. Does that mean it's a "little bit" luxurious. Or does it mean it's a glam suite, for tots. Who knows, but our junior suite was amusing.
And we loved it! Yes it was oddly worn with faded spreads and drapes with many patterns. But it was grandly spacious and the open windows let in the sea breeze and sounds of waves and seagulls!
It sort of reminded me of a Greenwich Village apartment in the 1960's, with book shelves and cafe tables. I could have enjoyed lounging with a book or just staring out the window at the waves crashing up against the hotel, built out over the water.
This room with the blue tile, held the Jacuzzi tub and pedestal sink. There was another door off the bedroom that lead to a tiny closet that held the toilet.
That sort of cracked me up. But no complaints. We weren't sharing a bath with other hotel guests!
Cheers to Cap Ducal!
The restaurant didn't open until 8pm. So we made reservations and arrived early so we could enjoy some Pisco Sours and a little of the bar's ambiance, in the daylight.
Reviews for the restaurant all raved about the food, but some picky people suggested coming after dark, to avoid seeing the worn appearance. I don't agree. I was happily amused by the faded patchwork fabric that covered our bar table. (Do I recognize that material from my grandmother's apron?) I just don't like to miss a thing!
We were able to reserve the best dinner table at the very bow of the boat, overlooking the water... and the curious Wulff Castle.
The food, the service and the view, could not have been better! The candles in their iron stands, seemed to be the only light in the dining room. That meant we were able see out over the water, long after sunset.
We enjoyed razor clams with cream sauce, then sea bass and conger eel. There was a zippy-flavored, chocolate cake with surprising slivers of orange peel. All was perfect!
A Surprise from Raul and Max
Our team of servers brought us very curious complimentary shots, of some kind of Chilean drink. Raul did his best to translate for Max. Evidently, there were some herbs involved, that would help with gastronomical problems!
Hmm? Did we look like we had issues? My grin is ridiculously large, so the photo must have been taken before I took a sip. It was nearly impossible to swallow, as I recall!
Morning at The Cap
We fell asleep quickly with the open windows and waves pounding. And the Chilean drink must have worked, since we woke feeling fine!
A spread of complimentary breakfast foods awaited in the dining room. Don posed nicely between the buffet and the sea maiden, hovering above his shoulder!
We loved our stay at our quirky ship-hotel! It felt a little odd that we only saw a few others.
So what, if the floors and linens were dated and sun faded? The staff and food was all fresh and pleasing! Great stay and fun memory!
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!