While driving through the hectic Santo Domingo city traffic in order to reach the Colonial zone, I remember the proximity of the old city center to the Malecon (seawall) of Santo Domingo. This really comes in handy while trying to keep my bearings. Before I know it, I arrive at hotel Europa where I am told that it is safe to park my car at the side of the building. Hotel Europa has recently been turned into a so-called boutique or design hotel. The use of draped curtains -often with a knot- blue and green lighting, steel and glass, modern abstract art, open spaces and a calculated, over stylized decoration are some of the characteristics that intend to heighten the sense of luxury. It is Saturday and I am relieved to find out that the hotel with 50 rooms has at least one room available. I pay for a room on the second floor. The important floor / evacuation plan indicates that I have been given an interior room with a “window” that opens to a narrow glass covered shaft. Not my idea of luxury, so I hurry back to the reception to see if I can upgrade to a brighter, less claustrophobic room. The friendly hotel manager understands my concern. The porter accompanies me this time and tries to get the television to work. After observing a ten minutes struggle, I suggest that it might be a better idea when he fixes the TV while I am out sitting on a terrace somewhere. I am near desperate to take a shower and get out of here. The bathroom looks less modern. There are all kinds of toiletries for me to choose from but the showerhead is plugged up and the hot water situation is sub-optimal. The little shoe polish device surely comes in handy! I take some pictures of the room and realize that all windows are placed really high up, almost out of ones reach. I can live with the fact that the room does not have a balcony. There are two queen size beds in the room with really comfortable mattresses. This is honestly the first sign of relevant luxury I come across. I also like the fact that there is a phone in the room and that the reception proves to be dependable in both the personal wake up call (no machine!) and transferring an important incoming call to my room. In the elevator I learn that the hotel offers spa like treatments in the “Metamorphosis Relax Space”. The hotel has Wi-Fi and I am told the access code. On various occasions I see people using the connection in the lobby but at the time I want to check my mail, I am told the server is down.
The hotel bar is always empty but who needs one when just a few blocks away you find plenty of restaurants and nightly entertainment. This brings me to the thought that perhaps the grand feature of the hotel is the Zona Colonial itself.
While walking around in the first and oldest city of the new world, I notice that a various hotels, bars and restaurants embrace modern (interior) design trends. Outstanding examples are Diam’s Café Lounge, Grillo Bravo and the brand new Patio Lounge el Canario. Personally I prefer the outdoor terraces of Plaza España and the more intimate Parque Colon where locals and tourist effortless intermingle. The food, drinks, service, people and ambiance I encounter during my afternoon and night out on “the old town” are without exception positive. Once back at my hotel room it would have been nice to watch the tube for a while though apparently the porter did forget to come back. I try to open the window only to find out that it can’t.
The standard breakfast buffet is served on the partly covered terrace of the hotel. I am greeted by the friendly staff and see that I am not the only person who is travelling solo. I look through the balustrade in search for some views over the old city and some ruins. While enjoying my breakfast I come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the designer hotels as long as the basic necessities of the client are met. In order to be truly a luxury hotel some improvements to the bathrooms and the sometimes rather cheap and ugly decorations should be made. Making sure that the television works seems like a no-brainer to me. Though nothing disturbed me enough to urge you to stay away, I do recommend that you secure a room with a balcony.
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