La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Frommer & Jeff Schock
Each night of a seemingly endless week of
back-to-back meetings in Los Angeles, we would hit the high-speed
connection at our hotel in pursuit of a romantic getaway that would
recharge our batteries before our return to New York. Our needs were
simple: a hassle-free direct flight from LAX
-- 2-3 hours max, guaranteed sun, a nearby body of water, and a
quaint locale far from the madding crowds. Hawaii was out -- it would make
our trip back home to New Yorka deadly 10 hour haul, but Mexico offered
interesting and intriguing possibilities. Clicking through Cabo San Lucas
on the Baha, Puerto Vallarta,Acapulco, and Ixtapa, we suddenly happened
upon the url: www.lacasaquecanta.com.
The Infinity Pool
|Another click, and there was the home page of La Casa Que Canta
-- "The House that Sings."
With all the allure of a mirage, a photo of a fresh water pool
spilling off into an azure Mexican sky splashed across our laptop screen
announcing La Casa Que Canta, a 24-room first class hotel in the tiny
fishing village of Zihuatanejo about 140 miles northwest of Acapulco
down Mexico's west coast. Our online search for the ideal romantic
getaway was over. We called room service, ordered up a nightcap of
margaritas, and set about booking the trip.
All things having to do with
work (computers, presentation materials, winter coats) were summarily shipped
back to New York, and we stripped down to the holiday essentials: a few books,
swimming suits, CD's, sandals, and enough 45gauge sun block to last a week, we
caught a 9:45AM direct flight on AlaskanAir, and arrived on schedule at the
surprisingly modern and efficient Zihuatanejo/Ixatapa airport.
A taxi sped us into Zihuatanejo in 15 minutes at a cost of 20 pesos or
about 3 dollars. It rode down a palm lined boulevard and a host of small
shops, turned into an unremarkable cobblestone drive, and deposited us before
a set of wooden doors. The inauspicious entry seemed nothing like we had seen
on the website, but then the doors swung open and we stepped into a paradise
perched high on a cliff, with nothing but miles and miles of surf as backdrop,
and thatched roofs over our heads.
We entered the hotel and
smiling young women in white flowing dresses accented with blue Aztec patterns
greeted us with violet-scented cold towels and equally cold beverages. A
delightful breeze drifted off the ocean and spun through the rafters of the
shaded common area. Beyond, a desert garden with cacti, flamboyant indigenous
flowers and a carpet of sand raked into artful patterns beckoned. Already we
were starting to unwind from the intense and often frustrating week that had
just passed, to become infused with the hotel's motto: "Tranquility,
Stairway To Paradise
|Check-in was swift, painless. We
were advised not to tip at all during our stay, but to take care of it
all at the time of departure. The
bothersome chores of handling tips, computing them, dealing with them
were not to interfere with the bliss of being pampered, and being
pampered is the way of life, we were to learn, at La Casa Que Canta.
|The hotel contains 24 magnificent suites located in one of three
towers, Luna, Sol, and Mar. Though each is unique, they share the same
white walls, terra cotta floors, and traditional Mexican accessories and
Rosita Alvirez, the one of the hotel’s staff members told us about
the thinking behind the suites décor. “The suites all share
traditional Michoacan art and were decorated by the owner’s wife who
picked out all the furniture and chose the decorative items.” Each
room is named for a song. Our favorite happened to be named for one of
our favorite songs: "Besame Mucho."
“Many of our guests are repeat visitors – when they check
out, they make a special request for the room they want next year,”
Ms. Alvirez said.
Authentic thatched roofs and adobe walls
The House that Sings
|“The rooms are varied, no room is like another. They are all special
in different ways to different people,” she explained. Reserving a
year ahead of time is not a bad idea, we discovered. Here it was April,
and January and February 2002 were already sold-out.
|Our suite, Cinnamon Skin located in the middle tower Sol, was an
expansive space divided into areas for bathroom and dressing, sleeping,
writing, and a private large terrace.
The bathroom contained an open-air shower, bidet and large
dressing room. We didn't turn the air conditioning on once during our
stay but delighted in the lilting breezes that wafted in from the
terrace, making us reach for an extra blanket at night.
The stocked mini-bar held complimentary water, soda and beer. Two
cushy white chaise lounges on the terrace overlooked the sea and fishing
village. As the room is built into a cliff, we alternately imagined we
were high up in a tree or atop the mast of a schooner. And each night,
we would return from dinner to find a tapestry of flower petals on the
center of the bed. Spelling out a welcome to La Casa Que Canta, they are
the exquisite trademarks of this exquisite resort.
View of salt water pool
Our favorite reading spot
|Our days began with the last breakfast round.
As the hotel caters to honeymooners, there is a laxness (and a
welcome one at that) about sit-down serving times for breakfast, which
is also available 24 hours a day via room service. With a
satisfying meal under our bathing suits, the hardest decision was
choosing where to set up for the day. There was the freshwater infinity
pool, which seemed to flow over the cliff right into the ocean. There
were the terraces which seemed to be set mid-air with their comfortable
lounge chairs and plush white towels surrounding the pool and providing
shelter from the sun.
Then there were the many
hidden paths and staircases built into the cliff leading in different
directions to different spaces, rocky perches, look-out points and winding
trails. Each exploration led to new areas to investigate.
One staircase from the
infinity pool wound down to a free-form saltwater pool with private sunning
decks. Around this pool were many secret crannies where one could recline,
read, contemplate, or just stare into the ocean. Each little nook provided
breathtaking ocean views and a delicate spray of surf as the waves hit the
rocks below. One particular
deck jutted way out over the ocean with a straw hut behind it for a break from
the hot Mexican sun. The friendly staff saw to our every need - food, drink,
books, magazines. There was no reason to move. The thought of going down to
the beach crossed our mind for a moment, but we couldn't manage to work up the
will to stray even that far.
Breakfast is served by the pool-bar
|Dining is al fresco, changing in shape and dynamic as the day
progresses. Breakfast is served in the bar area at the edge of the pool.
We watched the fishermen and birds while we had our morning
coffee along with fresh papaya, mango and pineapple as well as
traditional Mexican dishes. The Rancheros "La Casa Que Canta"
was unbelievably delicious with 3 different types of beans and queso –
a new cheese we never tried before. Feeling no guilt, on our last day,
we indulged in the hotel's specialty: lime pancakes. For lunch, one
could either sit by the pool or return to the bar area. We particularly
enjoyed the fish tacos, fish ceviche and guacamole.
As the sun sets, the staff
rearranges the lounge chairs in order to set up for dinner. Tables set with
white linens and flickering candles surround the pool. The ocean crashing on
the rocks below serves as soundtrack. As Marco Ramirez from the Management
Committee told us over a full-bodied delicious Mexican Cabernet Chateau Domecq
'93, “Only enough fish is bought that can be served in one day's worth of
meals. Every day we receive fish, but we don’t buy a lot – we make every
dish at the moment.” And the results of this policy are incredibly fresh and
delicious langoustine, red snapper, and tuna. “For us, there has to be the
balance between the hotel and the restaurant. We know our kitchen very well.
We are not trying to make Italian or French food. We know how to make Mexican
food with Mexican ingredients. It matches the hotel’s Mexican décor and
tradition,” Mr. Ramirez explained. Each night we would sit at our table,
alternately gazing out to the ocean or up at the stars and enjoy such dishes
as grilled red snapper with pico de gallo and green mole or pollito de leche a
la mantequilla de limon (baby chicken with lemon butter). We were told that
people came back over and over again just to taste the red snapper. For
desert, we agonized over whether to go for the cheese and banana cake with
mango sauce - an airy, melt-in-the-mouth concoction or the flan de carmelo.
How did this magical place
come to be we wondered? All magical places have their stories, and the story
of La Casa Que Canta involves one Jacques Baldassari. He was an executive for
L’Oreal covering Latin America who happened one day to drive by the site
where the hotel now stands. “He drove past a little house that he loved and
decided to build his dream. People doubted he could do it, there was nothing
here, only a little house,” according to Ms. Alvirez. But he looked out from
the cliff to the sea beyond, and had a vision. Here is the place he would
build a special kind of hotel, a getaway with no distractions, no television,
no radio, no man-made materials. He left L’Oreal after 25 years of
employment and began building La Casa Que Canta. It took some time and the
defying of some skeptics who thought it couldn't be done, but in December
1992, Jacques Baldassari realized his dream. At the time of our stay, the
hotel had just won the first place prize for the Small Hotel’s of the World.
Many members of the staff have
been at the hotel since it’s beginning. They share a pride in the place, a
feeling that is revealed in every aspect of the service they provide.
We felt fortunate to have come upon this extraordinary resort
"surfing the net" and to experience the reality of Jacques
Baldassari's vision. "Privacy, comfort, and tranquility" remained
with us as we boarded the plane and began the journey back to New York.
Hopefully we can recall the motto and call on the memory of the time spent at
La Casa Que Canta whenever the rat race gets too intense.
La Casa Que Canta
Camino Escenico la Playa la Ropa
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero 40880 Mexico
Reservations: 888-523-5050 (toll free) or 011-52-755-465-29
# # #
Frommer & Jeff Schock
are a wife and husband team specializing in Caribbean and
Mexican travel and cuisine from a multimedia perspective.
Frommer is a Marketing Executive for one of America’s leading
teen magazines and former Vice President of Entertainment for Sony Music.
Schock is writer and television producer who creates entertainment
programming for networks such as MTV, HBO,
and the Disney Channel.
Frommer and Schock are currently at work
on an in-depth feature on the influences of music on Cuban culture.
You can reach the authors at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This Article is Copyright © 2003 by
Frommer & Jeff Schock.
All rights reserved worldwide.