Dreams Can Come True

by Liz Caskey on December 9, 2015

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What if you could make your dream a reality? Would you sell everything you own, move to another continent, and dedicate all your passion and energy to making that happen? That’s what Michael Paravicini did. The Swiss-born owner of Vira Vira Hacienda Hotel, in Southern Chile, decided on his 50th birthday that the time was now. And he acted on it.

Paravicini always had a dream to build and run a small boutique hotel since he was a boy. He first visited Chile in his youth in 1976 with his family and was awe stuck by the beauty of Pucon, Villarrica, and the Chilean Lake District, an hour’s flight south of Santiago. That smitten feeling lingered, even while pursuing a career in IT in Switzerland. A few decades later, he searched, and found, his perfect corner to build the boutique hotel he’d envisioned just outside Pucón. It was the right place to grow his seed. He cited Chile’s safety, unmatched beauty, hardly-touched national parks, and a variety of activities ready to be developed as the right conditions to bring it to fruition. He then gathered a top-notch team of architects, designers, and the support of his wife, Claudia, with her incredible taste for interior design.

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We visited Vira Vira when it was just a “newborn” last spring. At that time, not all the grass was planted, some details were still being sorted out in the villas and suites, and the service team was just coming together. However, Michael cared. And it showed. His belief and commitment to his dream had an infectious trickle down effect in everyone at Vira Vira. They wanted to do their best. In the months to come, not only would Vira Vira flap its wings and fly, but would go on to surpass any initial expectation. Imagine, at the tender age of one year, it has become Chile’s newest Relais & Chateaux property.

Given it was our infant daughter’s first trip on an airplane (three months old at that time), we couldn’t help but notice the parallels between a dream and a small child. Both needed nurturing and love to grow. Vira Vira was so accommodating to us as a young (new) family as we set up “home” from their a handsome split-level villa facing the babbling Liucura River. Clad in local lenga and alerce wood, the villa was tastefully decorated with colorful, hand-crafted woolens. Micaela fell in love with Vira Vira’s iconic wooden sheep that grace every room and many corners of the hotel. Michael kindly sent them for her nursery in Santiago so we remember Vira Vira every day.

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Most of the time, though, Vira Vira felt more like visiting a friend than being in a high-end hotel. Sure it was all-inclusive, high design, and activities galore, but it had a different scale. It was human and personalized (it only has 21 rooms total). A highlight of Vira Vira was the food. They truly employ the farm-to-table concept. In this day of industrialized food and production chains, it is a rare, connective experience to wake up each day knowing where your meal comes from. Vira Vira grows its own organic grains like rye, wheat, and oats (which are milled for their own flours in a special imported machine); organic seasonal vegetables (some even foraged); has all types of dairy like eggs, milk, yogurt, and different kinds of cheeses (including their exquisite mature Parmesan); raises and slaughters (ethically) free range fresh meat like poultry, turkey, goose, duck, goat, sheep and wild boar. This coming year, Michael proudly mentioned they would be starting their own in-house production of smoked fish and artisan sausages.

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Guests at Vira Vira accompany him on a tour of the (working) Hacienda to get a sense of his vision, the wholeness of the project, and where their meals come from. It’s a link to humanity and nature not seen in most hotel projects—anywhere. We walked along the edge of the property near the river, past Paravicini’s home (who lives there much of the time), moved by the beauty, care, and effort going into this place and every single detail. It was done the way it should be…but most importantly, with love. Michael confesses that, from a purely commercial point of view, many of his hotel decisions may not be considered the best return on investment (at least in the short term). However, his larger commitment to his dream is clear. His belief that his guests deserve the best, regardless of the cost.

Every night, the tasting menu was an adventure and foray into seasonal vegetables, perfectly prepared meats and local foods. Anything nature was bearing at that time of year was game. Dihuenes (sweet golden funghi growing on lenga trees) were made into a limey-pineapple ceviche. The succulent sautéed morels came with toasted cashews and a honey-merken dressing. I could have lived on their handpicked green salads alone, present at every meal. The flavors were pure, clean, healthy, and delicious. The well-curated wine list showed a similar level of care in selecting wines representative of Chile’s diverse terroir.

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Besides eating, during our short visit at Vira Vira, we hiked in ancient forests with towering Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle trees) and walked past gushing crystalline rivers. We had high tea one sun-drenched afternoon on the shores of Lake Caburga. We visited an authentic Mapuche village where we met a traditional weaver. We explored the cutesy, albeit touristy, town of Pucon on a mission to find rhubarb jam (success!). On a future trip, we hope to do Michael’s favorite excursion, which is simply floating (on a raft) down the Liucura River. As he puts it, “It’s simply spectacular”.

In Michael’s eyes, Vira Vira is really about three things: “Enjoying a cozy, luxury hotel embedded in a beautiful and hardly touched landscape; savoring every day healthy, home-grown gourmet food; and, finally, experiencing unique excursions with some of the best guides in the region. The only thing we care about is that the client feels at home, enjoys every moment and truly feels that a personal dream has come true”.

What could be more delicious than sharing your life dream with the world? Well, for guests who come to Vira Vira, partaking and savoring his.

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