2012 Mexican Roadtrip: Our Accommodations in Zacatecas, Zac., Mexico

Both Lonely Planet Mexico and Karen Brown Mexico guide books said we had to stay at Quinta Real Zacatecas and experience it. Lonely Planet said “it’s worth seeing red (in terms of your bank balance) to experience this luxury treat.” We know, after 17 years of our peregrinations, to be skeptical of claims like that. We wouldn’t say that we were looking to find fault but we were on the lookout.

Our first impression of the Quinta Real in Zacatecas was with Alberto at the reception desk (Hoteles Quinta Real, Av. Ignciao Rayon 434, Col. Centro, Zacatecas, Zac., CP 98000, Mexico, tel. 492-922-4104, 800-500-4000, web: www.quintareal.com). Neither Dimitri nor I liked him. Dimitri had pre-paid for our Master Suite (M$1612.50 for 3 nights plus IVA M$774, plus ISH M$96.75 = M$5708.25 total or US$137 per day)  The first room Alberto showed us was small, had no view (and not much light either) and using the excuse that, because it was a smoking room,  we told him we wanted to see another room. Even though it wasn’t clean we were shown room 303 off of the lobby. It was bigger, had a desk for one of our computers, a balcony overlooking a small courtyard off of the bullring, a fireplace, a king bed, a flat screen TV over the fireplace with good channels (but no music channels like we had in another hotel), two chairs that looked like they might be comfortable in front of the TV (they weren’t),a big armoir that had a mini fridge in it, 2 shelves, 2 drawers (and 2 drawer-looking things that were fake).

We said that we would wait in the lobby for room 303 to be cleaned. We were told that Internet was wi-fi in the lobby area and free. In the rooms it was Internet with a cable and we were told it was US$8 per day extra. For the wi-fi in the lobby we had to get a password each day—what a pain in the ass. We think that the charge for the Internet was outrageous (and the cable would have served only one of our computers anyway) and ridiculous. While we waited the 40 minutes in the lobby we used the free wi-fi. When Dimitri got bored, he went to the room and found that it was clean. No one at reception told us, and no one offered us anything to drink, or anything, while we waited. We were getting a very bad first impression of this hotel.

In order to put all of our stuff away, we asked for the mini-frig and the shelves around it to be cleaned out of the alcohol, glasses, sodas and candy. That is the first thing Audre likes to do in a hotel that uses our limited space for crap. The second thing that Audre does is make sure we have hangers because clothes have to be hung if drawer space is limited. The third thing Audre does is to get two bathrobes (why do hotels leave only one when it is clearly a double room?). We didn’t bring all of our suitcases in, just our overnight bags, our Igloo (everything in it fit in the mini fridg) and our frugality chic food bags with our dried fruit, mixed nuts and crackers.

After we unpacked we went for a walk around the hotel (with no lights on during the day, the halls were dark). This is what Lonely Planet says about it: “Spectacularly situated around the country’s oldest-now retired- bullring [that dates from 1866] and near El Cubo aqueduct, the 49-room hotel is one of Mexico’s most contemporary and fetching. The least expensive rooms are spacious, comfortable master suites.” That’s what we had a “master suite” for which the rack rate is around M$5200 without ISH and without IVA. The rate that Dimitri got off of the Internet (and pre-paid) was M$5708 for 3 days or about US$137 per day (without breakfast). Dimitri set up his computer on the desk, and voilá, we had wi-fi Internet from the lobby for free. Our room was off the lobby and the signal was (just) strong enough for us to “get it”. Maybe we would get to like this hotel.
Dimitri at the desk in our Master Suite at the Hoteles Quinta Real Zacatecas
We went down to the bullring level and found a modern, air-conditioned gym with sauna and a silly hydro-massage shower. The LifeFitness equipment and the universal machine looked so good (and we had been sitting in the car driving all day) that we used the gym. Then we used the sauna and the silly hydro-massage shower. The hotel was growing on us. We like a hotel that exudes charm and also is functional. We were making our room functional and we found the charm of the hotel.

After the gym and sauna and shower experience, we went to dinner at La Plaza Restaurant in the hotel. We had reserved a table in front of the window overlooking the bullring.
Our view from the Plaza Restaurant at the Quinta Real Zacatecas
The restaurant is elegant and the view is spectacular. Lonely Planet said the food is “superb”. We were totally underwhelmed by the food and the service. We were at one the three tables that had guests on a Saturday night. Even so Dimitri had to ask twice for the wine list. There were 3 different people serving us different things. Yet, our water glasses went un-filled and we only got more water when we asked for it. No one asked if we were happy with the food—inexplicably we were really almost left alone. The menu didn’t appeal to us—too much meat and we were overly full from our prior Mexican meals (and we had only been in Mexico a week). 

We decided to get 4 appetizers instead of any main course. First we were brought amuse bouches. It didn’t bode well for the rest of the meal that they were tuna salad (from a can) on saltine crackers. We were brought bread and butter too. The bread was sweet-ish (and not so good). We ordered a half bottle of Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile (M$270) once we got the wine list and it was good (although all we wanted was a glass of wine not a bottle and they didn’t offer any glasses).

For our first starters we ordered 2 soups. One was “Pozole de mariscos (con grano de elote tierno, pulpo, camarón, calamar and pescado)” for M$100. It was a little picante and tasty although the shellfish was predictably frozen and Dimitri thought that the granos of corn were weird in a fish soup. The other soup was “Sopa de flor de calabasa (con juilana de tortilla y queso Oaxaca)” for M$75. It was tasty and it was served with chips, known as totopos, that were good. Then, for our next course (of appetizers), we ordered “Ensalada de nopal (con queso cotija, cebolla, jitomate y chile de árbol” for M$85. It was okay; the cheese was a little dry and the flat cactus paddle a little tasteless. The other dish was “Pescadillas de escabeche de marlin (preparadas con Masa de maís, fritas acompañadas de lechugas)” for M$95. This dish was downright bad. The empanada case was too thick and overpowered everything inside. It wasn’t marlin anyway. It was canned salmon. We decided to have a dessert and a decaf coffee too. The dessert was “Tarta de camote con guayaba” for M$85. The sweet potato pie was too sweet and the guavas were sweetened too. (We had bought fresh guava at the central market in Torreón and they were so good that these paled in comparison.) The dinner cost us M$750 plus tip (about US$63) and we wouldn’t recommend the place for food or service—just the ambiance and view. When we got back to our room after dinner, we saw that we had had the old-fashioned “night service” or turn down service. The bed was ready for us, the curtains closed, all of the used towels changed, the trash removed, etc. Nice. Okay, maybe this hotel was a good one.

Before we went out the next morning for our tourist-ing, we told the front desk that we needed to have the duvet (couverture) replaced with a light blanket, we needed more hangers (ganchos), the drain (drenage) in the sink in the bathroom needed cleaning and we needed pillows (almohadas) that were denser. The next day after our touristing and lunch, we found that everything we asked to be done in the room had been done) and we found free champagne and flutes available in the lobby. 
Audre and Dimitri having the (included) champagne in the lobby of the Quinta Real Zacatecas
 This hotel was definitely growing on us.

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