2007 Roadtrip Puerto Varas, Chile

In this post, I'll write about the hotel where we stayed. It is one of the best hotel stays we've ever had. In another post, we'll write more about what we did during the lovely six weeks we had in the Puerto Varas, Chile. The places where we ate are described on another posting too; click here to check that out.

After we spent the ski season in S. C. de Bariloche, Argentina, we drove to Puerto Montt, Chile in September 2007. We were looking for an apartment (or cabaña) or a hotel to stay in when we returned to South America after our quick computer buying trip to the States. We couldn't find a good 5-star hotel until a person working at a reception desk at one of the hotels we stopped to see told us that there was a new five star hotel in Puerto Varas (about one half hour away).

Puerto Varas is beautifully situated on Lago Llanquihue, and a better place for us to spend time. The newly renovated (I think that it had just opened in February 2007) Sol Melia Patagonia (Klenner 349, Puerto Varas, Chile, fono: (56-65)201-000, e-mail: reservas.melia.patagonia@solmelia.com, web: http://www.solmelia.com/) has a very good view of Osorno Volcano.
Osorno Volcano from Lake Llanquihue, which is more or less the same view as from the Sol Melia Patagonia


The reception staff was friendly and helpful when we stopped by for a tour. We saw many rooms because each is different. We wanted (as usual) a large room with good storage (so we could unpack the appropriate season of clothes from our 11 suitcases), Internet wi-fi, a sitting area with a sofa and low table to watch television (and to have apéritif), two desks (for our two computers) and a good view. We found a standard room that we liked and fit all of our requirements (although we loved the lake view suite). Then we started negotiating for our six-week stay.

The gym, sauna, steam bath and Jacuzzis were fine and when we were offered US$125 per day, including breakfast and everything else (there were no hidden charges), we agreed. The reception staff called the chief of maintenance to make sure we could have an extra chest of drawers put in the room (there was plenty of space) and we could. The reception staff said we could leave our car and our two bikes in the hotel garage during our sojourn to the States.

When we returned to the Sol Melia two months later, at the end of October, our room was ready and we "fit" in it with all of our stuff. (Our empty suitcases and the suitcases full of our "other season's clothes" were brought to a storage room so that our room looked like home, not like a hotel room.) Of course we asked to be upgraded to the lake view suite that we loved but were told that the hotel had bookings for it during our six-week stay (and that spring in Puerto Varas would mean the hotel would be full frequently). Oh well, it never hurts to ask.

We are not famous people or even unusual (although typically longer-staying and more demanding) guests for a hotel. When we had only been at the hotel a day or two, one of the waitresses told Dimitri that she recognized him from the Internet. Evidently, a trainee had done a Google search on Dimitri's name and found the Peruvian newspaper article about us online (click here to have a look at it) and then everyone on the staff knew about us! That tickled us.

The next day it was back to typical Patagonian weather: windy, rainy and chilly (in Chile). So, we used the gym, sauna, steam and Jacuzzi in our hotel. The staff there was very good too and soon we had the Jacuzzi temperature hot enough for us. In fact, we appreciate it when the technical staff is good and can help us setting up our electronics too. We had bought an Archos 605 personal video recorder in the States and hooked it up to the flat screen TV in our hotel room, with a bit of help from the staff (and they brought us the manual for the TV as well).

We really liked that each morning at the breakfast buffet, the Food and Beverage Manager, or the Supervisor, was in the dining room greeting guests. So often hotel managers are invisible and it makes a place more institutional and less of a home for us. You see, wherever we happen to be staying is our home (since we have sold all of our real estate and don't maintain a home base anywhere).

After returning from a trip, we started seeing William Vanderput, the General Manager having breakfast in the dining room at the same time we were there. At first we thought that he was shy, but it turns out that he is merely solicitous. As time when by we started chatting and we were able to repeatedly compliment him on his hotel and the fabulous training he gave his staff.

Each morning that we wanted cereal, I would bring our favorites in a shopping bag down to the dining room. Over the weeks that we stayed at the Sol Melia Patagonia, we started seeing our favorite brands of cereals showing up on the buffet table. Boy were we impressed (or maybe they didn't like me schlepping the shopping bag into the lovely room)!

November is a big month for us. We have the anniversary of the day we got married on one day, two days later is Dimitri's birthday and the next day is my birthday. The Sol Melia Patagonia knew of Dimitri's birthday because he is a member of their Mas frequent stayer program. I don't remember how the staff found out about our anniversary and my birthday, but on our anniversary a bottle of Chilean champagne and an appetizer plate appeared in our room.

We're having the celebratory champagne and appetizers in our room at the Sol Melia Patagonia

On Dimitri's birthday, at breakfast, the staff brought a cake and sang happy birthday to him, as well as giving us another bottle of (good) Chilean wine! On my birthday, I had the same treatment at breakfast. This was amazing attention!


I am being serenaded by Cristian, Ana Maria, Claudia, Francesca and the other staff at breakfast for my 61st birthday

The hotel building had been many things before, including a casino. The architect and designers who created the hotel out of the structure did a great job. In the public areas, the views of the lake were terrific and with high ceilings and light, airy furniture and design, the effect is modern and up-lifting. We were amused by the use of bedframes with Patagonian lamb fur throwcovers.

It was still spring and the nights got cold when we first arrived. In the library and the bar (which we didn't go to often because it was a smoking area), fires were lit in the evenings. We loved sitting by the fire. 

The corridors were wide and pleasant, with the lights clicking on just before you arrived. The building is large and so we walked back to our room with a number of turns. We remarked at the time that we liked that better than one long corridor.

The location of the hotel suited us too. Up on a hill above the lake, we could get on our bikes and ride on a trail with lovely lake views for 30 km/18 miles round trip. Later in the spring, the weather improved and the flowering trees were beautiful.

What was truly amazing was that after six weeks, we still were impressed with the hotel. We knew we had found a gem and that it would be difficult to replicate the experience. We also know that we shouldn't try. It was perfect but we had bought our tickets for the December 3 Navimag ferry to Puerto Natales that would take us, our car and bikes to the southern tip of Chile (so we wouldn't have to drive the unpaved Carretera Austral). 

So what is it that makes a perfect hotel experience for us? Once we have selected our room and it is comfortable as a home (with all of the fundamentals: quiet, with good lighting, a good mattress, pillows, linen, towels and housekeeping service), then the hotel amenities are important, the value for the money is important, the public space and design are important, and the location is important. But the thing that will change a humdrum experience to a memorable one is the personal treatment and warmth of the professional staff. So often we feel as if no one cares and when we find a place where people act as if they do, it is huge and memorable!