Calle 9A # 37–16 Medellín, Colombia
Medellín was recently named the Most Innovative City in the World by the Wall Street Journal and the Charlee Hotel is definitely the most innovative place to stay in town. Located at the top of the Zona Rosa, the entertainment area that features blocks of restaurants, lively bars and clubs, the five–star Charlee is a welcome oasis of calm chic and cool, trendy design.
Several English–speaking bellmen greet Charlee Hotel visitors at the door and usher them into a large open space that flows through reception, bar, and restaurant areas. One blends into the other, gracefully separated by contemporary art and photo panels. Travel is one of the design themes: behind the reception desk is a wall of faux steamer trunks and suitcases.
Lucia, the Italian restaurant, offers both indoor and outdoor dining; the latter includes a ringside view of Zona Rosa action. The night my wife and I ate at Lucia, the bar scene was young professionals and fashionistas in impossibly high heels. The restaurant was elegantly furnished with white tablecloths, dark wood wine racks, candles on the walls, and a mirrored ceiling. The food was exceptional and included perfectly grilled octopus with tomato, pepper, black-eyed peas and tender red onion; an assortment of cheeses with gourmet salami and ham; grilled, moist salmon with Portobello; and thick pork chops served with fire–grilled zucchini, tomato, Portobello mushrooms and asparagus. The last entr?e was the only dish that was mildly disappointing because the pork, though tasty, was a bit tough. The food was served on lovely, oversized, custom–designed, white plates.
The elevators next to the reception desk continue the travel theme, and are adorned with passports under glass. Edgy, sophisticated photography graces the doors on all the floors; ours sported a modelesque woman reading on the toilet, her lace panties draped around her ankles. Inside, the furnishing was sparse and soothing: a king bed with a white leather headboard, light wooden furniture, and beige tile floor. In the bathroom, frosted glass delineates and separates the toilet, stone rainshower, and sink areas. The amenities are Damana, from France, and writing on the products includes Braille for sight–impaired guests.
The room's star feature is the view through expansive glass windows of Medellín, bustling by day and glittering at night. The best place to experience it is on the huge balcony which sports oversized banana leaf armchairs, a bamboo sofa, an oval wooden table, and a kitchen with a Teppanyaki grill just waiting for a private chef to cook for you, in case you want to enjoy an intimate dinner.
No matter where you eat, you?ll want to burn off calories at the Charlee's gym. It sprawls over three floors and offers state–of–the–art machines, equipment, and classes in spinning, abs, and boot–camp–style cross training with a hunky instructor barking bilingual orders. The elliptical trainer and treadmills are lined up in front of vast picture windows which offer a spectacular view of the city. The young woman on the treadmill next to mine told me that the Charlee's gym is THE place to go for locals to meet, greet, schmooze, and work out.
The social life continues at the rooftop bar and swimming pool. The bar was buzzing, but the pool was empty. Probably others felt like I did; swimming in the brightly–illuminated pool was like being on display in an aquarium.
There was only one experience in the Charlee that I found unacceptable for a five–star hotel. Spun sugar from a welcome amenity in our room melted after a while when we were out and dripped onto my wife's clothes. The friendly and helpful hotel staff apologized profusely, said they would inform the restaurant about perhaps changing the treat, and arranged to clean the sugar–drizzled clothes. On checkout day, we were leaving for the airport at 4:30 a.m., so I cleared the bill the night before. When our car arrived to take us to the airport, the man at reception came running after us, and refused to let us leave unless we paid for the cleaning of the stained clothes.
We politely explained that the hotel was covering it, but the man threatened us, called security, and refused to let us go. The summoned security guard was embarrassed and did nothing. We got in the car and left, feeling that it was a shame to have a stain not only on our clothes, but on our experience. Apparently, the Charlee management called the tour company to apologize, but no one ever contacted us directly.
Luckily, The Charlee lifestyle hotel was so appealing, comfortable, artsy and well–located in Medellín that I would not hesitate to return.
Web Address: Charlee Hotel
Total Number of Rooms: 42
Published rates: $170 to $450
Review and photos by Paul Ross