We spent just three days at Casa San Angel and were sad to say goodbye ... it's one those rare, special little hotels with real heart and soul, the kind of place that you remember forever for all the right reasons.
We had hoped to find that most elusive of things - a great little boutique hotel, something a little traditional in style and with lots of its own charm (but without being run down or poky) a place that felt authentic, atmospheric and peaceful, within walking distance of the Zocalo, not too expensive but that still felt like good value. It's always a bit touch and go in this sort of category - it's like a cosmic Lucky Dip, standards vary widely and so you never really know whether something is going to be as good as you're hoping it will be.
But from the moment we arrived - late at night, exhausted after a very long journey all the way from Australia - and then stepped inside, we both looked at each other and just exhaled, sort of laughing at our trepidation and feeling relieved that it was just what we had envisaged.
The lobby is beautiful - hand painted walls inspired by the French artist Henri Matisse's work, all deep green jungle leaves, flowers, trees and foliage, set around a Spanish-style central courtyard with the rooms upstairs.
Our room was lovely too - earthy tones, natural woven fabric bedcovers, mosaic tile details, good quality furnishings, all tastefully and subtley done. We opened the windows and let lots of air in - having that cool breeze and lots of air flow was great.
The bath products were good quality - natural Neem based blends, something which we were familiar with from our travels in India, so we were really happy with them.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the breakfast (which was included in our rate) was lovely - we mostly had eggs, fruit, pastries and coffee - all simply prepared but tasty.
The kitchen staff's English wasn't the best so sometimes it was a bit difficult explaining what we'd like (but being honest, Merida was our first stop in Mexico so at that point our Spanish was far worse than their English!) - but they were so eager to please, enthusiastic and friendly that it really didn't matter, we just focused on smiling a lot, as did they!
Like many small family-run places, quite a few of the staff do several jobs (we discovered that one multi-talented staff member took care of cleaning the guest rooms, did some of the cooking in the kitchen and was also an amazingly creative artist), so as always, taking the time to get to know the people behind the place is going to be what really makes it something memorable, a unique experience which goes beyond just travel into something else, more personal and treasured.
We went out of our way to meet the owner, Oma (I'm sure I've spelt her name wrong here so forgive me!), and are so glad we did because we proceeded to just fall in love with her spirit and zest for life. At 80 years (young), she has more energy and enthusiasm than lots of people half her age ... we found her inspirational. I mean, how many people do you know who decide to pack up their whole lives, sell up their assets and move to a new city (in this case, from Mexico City to Merida) to build and manage their own brand new boutique hotel ... at 77. Quite impressive, to say the least!
Still on the subject of staff and the heartfelt service ... I have to confess something so that you'll know what gems they are. One afternoon I accidentally threw the wrong pair of my partner's jeans into the laundry bag (evidently they weren't the dirty ones, though this was something I only discovered later!) and it turned out that in the pockets was all the cash we had on us at the time (close to $700), all his credit cards, driver's licence and his new iphone too. When we realised (momentarily hyperventilating and imagining worse-case scenarios, as you tend to do when this sort of thing happens in a foreign country) and went down to explain the situation to the staff, they called the laundry service company who'd picked everything up earlier, explained the situation and kept following up on it for us over the next couple of hours until the bag had been brought back to us that same evening - with everything intact.
While of course the end result was such a relief to us, it was really the way they handled it which was the most brilliant thing, calmly and with complete love and concern for our worry.
But decor details and great staff anecdotes aside, the most brilliant thing about Casa San Angel is the heart and love at the centre of it. It doesn't try to be anything it's not - it's not a big Starwood-owned luxury hacienda property with maids in starched uniforms, antique silver on the dining table or super formal service ... it's a small family-run hotel with quirks, stories and character (think resident squawky and much-loved pet parrot, a tempting inhouse bakery with humble marble-cake beginnings, a tiny little jewel of a plunge pool in the back to cool off on a hot day).
Would we come back to stay again? In a heartbeat.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel Casa San Angel is an intimate, independent, family-owned small boutique hotel. With an excellent location in the heart of Merida at the beginning of the Paseo de Montejo, it is the perfect base for your travels in the Yucatan. With a personalized service, modern comforts in a beautiful setting and direct attention from the owners, you will always feel at home in our house of angels. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Casa San Angel Merida
- Casa San Angel Hotel