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Destination La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
By
Jennifer 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 - Click to Enlarge
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, privacy, comfort."

 Stairway To Paradise - Click to Enlarge
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 ambience. 

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
Authentic thatched roofs and adobe walls

The House that Sings
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 - Click to Enlarge
View of salt water pool

Our favorite reading spot
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
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.

View of lower deck, a symphony of sun & surf - Click to Enlarge
View of lower deck, a symphony of sun & surf

Paradise at Twilight
Paradise at Twilight

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

Phone: 011-52-755-570-30
Fax: 011-52-755-470-40
Reservations: 888-523-5050 (toll free) or 011-52-755-465-29
Email: casaquecanta@podernet.com.mx
Website: http://www.lacasaquecanta.com

#  #  #

Jennifer 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: jbfrommer@hotmail.com

This Article is Copyright © 2003 by Jennifer Frommer & Jeff Schock.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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