On Friday night, Santiago was overtaken by a thick, cold low-hanging fog that shrouded the city. It rolled in, unnoticed, like a sly fox. As I walked to the corner to buy a few staples for Saturday’s breakfast, I shivered in my light wool sweater. The afternoon had been nearly 65F and now the damp, cold air, which had plunged over 25 degrees, penetrated every pore and bone of my body.
The next morning we arose to zero visibility. At 10am, it still felt like sunrise was coming. By sundown at 5:30pm, it had been the darkest day of the year. A good part of our apartment faces north with a lovely view of Parque Forestal towards Cerro San Cristobal, the Fine Arts museum, and the high rises across the other side of the Mapocho River and we could not see beyond the first line of trees. It made getting out of bed a chore and leaving the house unthinkable. Fittingly, when I glanced at the calendar I noticed it was officially our first day of winter, June 21, in the southern hemisphere.
There’s something eerie and mysterious about fog. It quiets and masks a city. It casts a spell of temporary invisibility. The dense fog reminded me of Lima’s misty garúa, that gray, invisible “rain” that often blankets the Peruvian capital for days on end during the winter and the city’s only source of humidity as a desert. My husband and I reminisced about such a foggy long weekend we spent in Lima at Hotel B, the city’s smartest boutique hotel. It is very odd that such a creative, cosmopolitan city as Lima had lacked this type of hotel for so long. However, Hotel B arrived less than a year ago and has reinvented the hotel, and artistic scape.
Located in the artsy, colorful neighborhood of Barranco, home to the city’s famous Puente de Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs), the hotel sprawls across a scenic corner in a coverted early 20th Belle Epoque century mansion. Once a private summer home for the Bedoya García, it was a private residence prior to becoming a Relais & Chateaux hotel. Even if today it looks impeccable, the story of its rebirth is one of persistence and passion by the team who brought this dream to fruition. Just negotiating and acquiring the house took over three years and then another two years of tedious red tape to approve the reconstruction of this historic monument. The remodeling took a little over a year, as it converted the older part of the palace with a newer construction. In fact, the team brought on an Italian artisan specialized in the ornate wooden floors, ceilings, and walls to seamlessly integrate the old and new styles.
Beyond the refinement of a stay at Hotel B, the hotel’s vision lies in unifying the neighborhood, design, gastronomy, and history. Situated only two blocks from the Pacific coastline (with a dynamite view from their rooftop terrace, I may add), it’s within walking distance of the city’s top galleries and museums like fashion photographer’s Mario Testino, MATE, or the MAC (Modern Art Museum) along with all the dining hot spots in nearby Miraflores.
As you enter the sweeping marble staircase, large vases full of fresh-cut red roses adorn the reception with plush velvet couches. The ceilings are over 15-feet tall and there’s a subtle hint of fresh figs and jasmine flowers, the house “scent”. The décor fuses the elegance of early 20th century in the mansion’s attractive “bones” but here, contemporary art is the true protagonist. Hotel B is, in fact, the first hotel in Lima to have its own extensive collection of modern art with works from renowned Peruvian artists like Cherman, Elliot Tupac y Fernando de Szyszlo. There are other pieces by international artists like Andy Warhol, Marta Minujín, Aldo Chaparro, José Tola, Miki Aguirre, Jorge Cabieses and Clo de la Puente. The hotel shares its collection with the well-known art gallery (conveniently next door) of Lucia de la Puente, one of the partners.
During our stay at Hotel B, we found recluse in the library every afternoon. Surrounded with shelves with photographic books, watercolors of characters from Lima’s city life, cushy leather couches, and a proper tea time every afternoon (for guests only) with homemade macarons, cakes and teas, it was a delightful way to read, write, and listen to music and leave the misty garúa outside.
Hotel B is now quite a “hub” in Barranco and has become a hit with chic locals. In the evenings, the restaurant is the real drawl. With sultry candlelight, it sets the perfect mood for a relaxed evening of tasty food and people watching over Pisco Sours. Prestigious Lima-chef Óscar Velarde, designed the menu to integrate Peruvian ingredients with a touch of Mediterranean in a well-executed bistro style. All the products are local with seafood hailing from the fishing dinghies of the nearby Chorrillos wharf on the Pacific. I was enamored with the fresh tomato soup that had a little nest of dried figs and swirl of creamy chevre dissolving into the aromatic broth. We savored quite possibly the most tender octopus in Lima–which I cut with a spoon (the true test). We sipped Spanish cava, then some Argentine Malbec and conversed by candlelight while nibbling on minty lamb meatballs or homemade pizza. It was a hopping place.
The next morning, after a night of blissful slumber, we’d have a relaxed breakfast in the library. Waiters brought up plates of homemade tamales; a breakfast tradition in Peru, in crisp, white jackets and poured steaming local coffee from a silver pot. So local, so refined, so laid back. Love at first stay.