Inside essentially the most historic luxurious lodge in Cartagena, Colombia


Journey to Colombia from the U.S. has boomed lately, facilitated by quite a few direct routes from a number of main U.S. airports to each Bogota and Cartagena. And plenty of lodge teams are increasing their footprint within the area consequently. Sofitel lately each renovated one in every of its present properties, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, and opened the doorways to a brand new one, Sofitel Barú Calablanca Seashore Resort.

The Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is taken into account by many to be one of the iconic and historic properties in Cartagena. And plenty of occasions that befell on the constructing the place the Sofitel Santa Clara resides now had a direct impact over town within the final 400 years. Additionally a well-liked frequent keep amongst royals and celebrities, the historic lodge has developed to satisfy the trendy wants of vacationers, most clearly by means of the current renovation of 25 visitor rooms.

The Legend suite on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara

Courtesy of Sofitel

When the constructing was first constructed and based as a convent in 1621, Cartagena was a a lot totally different metropolis than the one vacationers go to as we speak—even the outdated metropolis in style with vacationers. The stone partitions that encompass the outdated metropolis didn’t exist in these instances, and weren’t constructed for not less than one other 90 years. So within the earliest days of town, being proper on the coast, the convent was solely protected by the partitions surrounding the property, and sometimes confronted the brunt of attacking pirates looking for gold and the treasures that the Spanish already looted from different communities and have been subsequently put into storage in Cartagena earlier than being shipped again to Spain.

When architects visited the location the restore the constructing and switch it right into a lodge within the Nineteen Nineties, they discovered dozens of cannonballs within the former yard (which is the place the swimming pool is now). The lodge nonetheless makes use of these cannonballs, and visitors would possibly spot them at varied factors across the property, usually holding open doorways and home windows.

The flooring have been restored very equally to the unique within the convent as nicely the partitions, columns, and a lot of the ceilings. (Picket ceilings, particularly, are normally the primary architectural particulars to grow to be broken when deserted). However the ceiling above the foyer when visitors first enter is the one one with the unique wooden, which may be noticed with an inscription dated to 1788.

Practically all the ornamental furnishings and art work (i.e. desks, chairs, Catholic art work) across the lodge, outdoors of the 125 whole visitor rooms, have been found on the property through the constructing’s restoration. One instance is a picket statue, regarded by many historians as uncommon given its inventive model and lack of clothes, constructed within the picture of Santa Clara de Asís (St. Clare of Assisi), the founding father of the Catholic order to which the nuns belonged. (There are some items of furnishings that have been taken from different properties across the metropolis, however have been nonetheless from the colonial interval.)

However the principle problem for the architects was to revive the unique sense of the convent. They discovered a development over one other (and one other over one other) as a result of this place was not solely a convent, but it surely was additionally a jail, a army fortress, and most lately, a hospital, which was deserted for a number of years earlier than the lodge restoration.

And since images clearly didn’t exist through the time the constructing was a convent (for roughly 240 years), there is no such thing as a visible for comparability—solely research of the nuns’ way of life. That’s the one foundation present researchers have in regards to the each day lives of the nuns, particularly on condition that they have been cloistered, so there is no such thing as a option to be 100% certain every little thing that occurred inside these partitions between the mid-Seventeenth to mid-Nineteenth century.

On the terrace with the Amaral suite on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.

Courtesy of Sofitel

The nuns who lived within the convent have been cloistered, which means they couldn’t be seen by others. Thus, there have been quite a few architectural methods, so to talk, to make sure anonymity. For instance, the home windows have been constructed greater than the common top of a girl at the moment, permitting daylight to enter however stopping the ladies from with the ability to look outdoors. Moreover, the lodge doesn’t have any unique balconies dealing with outdoors—solely internally.

One ground down from the foyer, there’s a basement with a collection of tunnels, which now hosts places of work for the lodge gross sales division and the car parking zone. However when it was a convent, that’s the place the nuns would go to cover within the case of pirate invasions, which throughout these instances was frequent to the purpose of normality.

El Coro, the lounge bar—the place many visitors can come for a cocktail within the early night, take pleasure in stay music on weekends, and even watch a soccer match through the center of the day—had a beforehand life because the convent chapel. Visitors may even get a glimpse of the crypt proper under the bar by means of an illuminated, although blocked off, stairwell. (One other native enjoyable reality: The crypt additionally has a major position within the novel Of Love and Different Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who has used many websites inside Cartagena’s outdated metropolis for settings in his books.)

The door within the bar that opens to the road, by means of the place patrons who aren’t lodge visitors can enter, has seen a number of motion—together with an escape of a number of nuns throughout a neighborhood army invasion as nicely the arrival of French pirates, which prompted most spiritual teams (together with the nuns) in addition to educational and political figures to take refuge in one other city a number of hours away for not less than a yr. Upon their return, the nuns discovered the convent looted in addition to largely destroyed. A number of years later, Cartagena was rebuilt and extra ready for international assaults, together with the thwarting of an tried English invasion.

Proper subsequent to the lodge bar is the 1621 Restaurant, named for the constructing’s origin, which affords elevated high quality eating with wine pairings within the night. Visitors must also get a have a look at the wine room, the place they will e book tastings with the lodge’s sommelier for each tastings of wines from South America in addition to rums made in Colombia. However within the convent period, it’s secure to say that this space wasn’t as glamorous. Sure, it was additionally a eating room again then for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—however all meals have been consumed in whole silence. And as we speak’s wine cellar was then the personal eating room for the mom superior. (And the kitchen simply throughout the courtyard remains to be a kitchen as we speak, however now for the restaurant the place visitors can actually take pleasure in breakfast, lunch, and both alfresco or contained in the consolation of the cool air-con—all whereas speaking as a lot as they like.

The El Claustro restaurant on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.

Courtesy of Sofitel

Right this moment, sleeping requirements on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara are as luxurious because it will get, with plush bedding and comforters (and really sturdy air-con) throughout its TK guestrooms and TK suites. Not so, sadly, for the nuns who lived right here tons of of years in the past. They slept in a single large dormitory with a number of entrances, and every nun had her personal mattress. However the mom superior, the nun accountable for all of the others throughout the convent, had a mattress one foot greater than the opposite beds within the dormitory in order that she might have a large view of your complete room. Numbers assorted over time, however the convent had anyplace between 100 and 200 nuns at any given time within the convent’s historical past. The spot the place the mom superior had her sleeping preparations is now a duplex suite, which is commonly in style with bridal events for 2 causes. One is the historic significance to the room. The opposite is that it’s proper subsequent to the church—normally the location of the marriage—so solely that visitor suite is aware about the loud noises coming from the venue.

Inside a junior suite on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.

Courtesy of Sofitel

The nuns resided on the convent in Cartagena’s outdated metropolis from 1621 to 1841. Then got here a brand new political energy in Colombia, and the brand new administration at the moment didn’t favor the Catholic Church, utilizing a legislation already in use in Mexico to expropriate the properties of the Catholic Church. Mainly, if the Catholic Church couldn’t show that they purchased the property, the federal government took it again. And because the convent was not purchased by the Catholic Church (as a substitute funded by a rich native noblewoman named Catalina de Cabrera), the nuns have been compelled out. Most of them moved to Havana, Cuba, the place they began a brand new convent. However a few of them moved to Turbaco, roughly seven miles away from Cartagena, the place the order nonetheless resides as we speak.

From that time on, the constructing had a tumultuous historical past, beginning off as a army fortress that hosted a jail and in addition served as an artillery to retailer weapons. Over 20 years later, the federal government constructed a hospital within the yard the place the pool space is now, with the surgical procedure proper within the center, roughly the place the poolside bar serving pisco sours and mojitos is now. (And the location the place the So Effectively wellness spa, showcasing in style luxurious French skincare model Sisley merchandise, is as we speak was the morgue, actually giving new which means to feeling revived after a facial or therapeutic massage.)

The construction the place a lot of the visitor rooms are as we speak are a part of the constructing constructed for the hospital, which solely had three ground. However wanting on the constructing now, it’s clear there are 5 flooring. That’s as a result of the lodge architects took benefit of the extraordinarily excessive ceilings through the hospital period, redesigning the constructing so as to add two extra flooring.

The Botero presidential suite on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.

Courtesy of Sofitel

One luxurious suite that does retain very excessive ceilings is one within the unique constructing that overlooks the pool: the Botero Suite. Basically the lodge’s presidential suite, the suite features a main bedroom, a residing space, a kitchenette, a full rest room, and a hallway rest room. The room is very important because it was designed by the lauded Colombian artist Francisco Botero himself alongside along with his daughter Lina Botero. (Though a lot of the work within the room are permitted replicas of his work.)

The Sofitel Barú Calablanca Seashore Resort is positioned on the japanese a part of the island of Barú, a 20-45 minute journey from Cartagena by boat.

Courtesy of Sofitel

Following the lodge’s restoration from 1990 to 1994, the lodge opened because the Sofitel Santa Clara. It has since been rebranded because the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara given the constructing’s historic significance. There are solely 5 different Sofitel Legend properties—all housed in historic buildings—world wide: the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in Vietnam; the Sofitel Legend Previous Cataract in Aswan, Egypt; the Sofitel Legend Folks’s Grand Xian in China; the Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam; and the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo in Panama Metropolis, which is able to open subsequent yr.

Inside a superior visitor room on the Sofitel Barú Calablanca seashore resort.

Courtesy of Sofitel

Sofitel’s latest property within the Cartagena space, the Calablanca seashore resort on the island of Barú, is a stark distinction to the Santa Clara, providing a a lot totally different however equally luxurious expertise.

To begin, the brand new beachfront property on the Isla de Barú is just a yr outdated. And whereas it’s potential to get there by land (a 90-minute drive from town), one of the best ways to get there may be by sea: both a 45-minute catamaran trip or a 20-minute speedboat trip, the latter of which is just obtainable on weekends. However Sofitel can prepare transport between the 2 properties, together with rides to and from the marina, streamlining the voyage for visitors.

A glimpse at La Pergola, the rooftop bar on the Sofitel Barú Calablanca seashore resort.

Courtesy of Sofitel

One essential uniformity throughout all the 187 rooms and suites is that every affords a panoramic view of the Caribbean sea. And all lodging include a deluxe rest room (some with customized bathtubs and a jacuzzi), HDTVs, Bose SoundDocks, Nespresso espresso machines, L’Occitane toiletries, Sofitel’s signature mattresses and bedding, air-con, and high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the property. Seashore chairs and umbrellas are setup not solely all throughout the seashore but in addition at a number of swimming pools on a number of ranges, together with each swimming pools designated for households and adults-only.

There are three eating places onsite, together with two indoors with air-con. Bahia, an open air restaurant with loads of shade and followers, serves native favourite dishes and cocktails. Humo is a Peruvian-Japanese idea open for dinner, serving twists on Japanese dishes with Peruvian (but in addition Colombian) twists and flavors. And the lodge’s eponymous restaurant, Calablanca, is an all-day affair, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Extra facilities embody the wellness spa, a leading edge health middle, and a boutique with clothes by native designers.

The Sofitel Barú Calablanca seashore resort at dawn.

Courtesy of Sofitel

Beginning charges on the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara vary from $340 per night time for a basic visitor room to $2,380 per night time for the Botero presidential suite. Charges for the Sofitel Barú Calablanca vary from $285 per night time for a superior visitor room to $2,000 per night time for the presidential suite.



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