Calle Estanco del Tabaco No 35-81, Cartagena, Colombia
French theater designer Thierry Forte has raised the bar for the standard of boutique hotels in Cartagena with his take on how a hotel should look and feel. This masterfully renovated building is an establishment that stands apart from the rest.
Situated on a busy corner in the city's walled old town, with only an unassuming plaque identifying the business, Forte has created an ideal retreat. It is worthy of the upscale clientele that frequents it looking for some rest and relaxation away from prying eyes, but you are waiting on in a personable and luxurious manner.
Worn yet polished tiles pave the way into the central atrium of the lovingly restored house. An elegant yet somewhat decadent stairwell, fashioned in this way to appear as if lifted from a movie set, leads up to the rooms on the second floor. The owner appears to have brought something from every one of a lifetime of journeys to decorate the rooms, while complimenting the décor with splashes of traditional color. There are Andalusian light fittings, some artwork from Morocco, and items from the South Pacific, but rather than looking cluttered they lend a feel of otherworldliness, knowledge, and calm. Certainly none of the raucous bustle outside of fruit vendors and vociferous Cartageneros makes its way into here.
Rooms-all with traditional high ceilings-are spacious, cool, and planned to the last detail. Each has air conditioning, wireless Internet access, plasma TV, DVD, and MP3 player. In true boutique fashion each room is a unique work of art and unique and proves that style is everything at La Passion. Just a cursory glance about your digs might transport you away to a different destination as you see a vintage steamer trunk at the foot of your bed in the space where ordinarily there might be a bench.
If the rooms do not take your breath away then head up onto the roof terrace with its unrivalled views over the confused tiles and ornate colonial belfries of Cartagena. Up here you can enjoy your breakfast, receive your room service, or enjoy a sunset cocktail beside the enticing pool. It might come as no surprise that many a guest, exasperated with the vendors and the heat of the city, has retreated up here to this oasis of calm.
Given that La Passion has a mere total of eight rooms, you are never going to feel crowded or in a hurry to throw your towel on the sun lounger by the pool to reserve your spot.
For those needing to avoid a tropical squall or the merciless near-equatorial sun there could be no better place than the central atrium on the ground floor. There a canoe has been skillfully designed to serve as a bench and bamboo shoots grow up one wall.
The hotel is walking distance from the sophisticated restaurants and bars of the Barrio San Diego and located very close to the inquisition Museum, the Plaza Santa Domingo, and chic boutiques. If it is ambience, calm and privacy you are after as a couple then look no further than La Passion: children are not permitted.
Web Address: www.lapassionhotel.com
Total Number of Rooms: 8
Published rates: $145 to $375 BB
Review by Richard McColl, photos courtesy of La Passion Hotel