A waterfall along one wall of the lobby at Ilum Experience Hotel lets you know you’re entering an oasis of calm.
Keep your eye on it as you glide up to your room in the glass elevator. There you’re greeted by more calming, cool whiteness, accompanied by a pop of bright colour on your king size bed. Rooms are nicely lit for both mood and tasks, an increasing rarity in hotels.
Outside our window we had a view of the hotel’s sunny deck and green pool, bordered by a four-story tall green living wall full of plants including bright yellow lilies. Across the way is the hotel’s new wing, which was just about to open.
My head felt right at home as it rested upon the “100% Canadian Duvet” pillow, which was filled, I assume, with the down of Canadian geese. Other pillow menu choices include viscoelastic memory foam and a latex pillow with “low support and high bouncing power”. The velcro on the blackout shades on the window — a thoughtful touch — ensure the ability to sleep in the next day.
Breakfast is served in another bright white room with views of the pool. Made-to-order eggs, grilled sandwiches, lots of fresh cut fruit, cereals, pastries, and yogurt prime you for a day of exploring Palermo’s hip shops and eateries.
During our stay, we had a minor problem with the wifi — the hotel had just changed providers and, anticipating the potential for hiccups, asked us to notify them if we had any problems. When we did, they offered two great solutions. On top of that, upon returning from dinner, we found a sweet note of apology for the inconvenience accompanied by a pitcher of fresh grapefruit juice and a plate of delicious macarons. Impressive!
With just two big rooms on every floor, you’re assured of a calm stay at CasaCalma.
The rooms have big windows which look out on a green vertical garden; it lets in the light but masks Buenos Aires’ less than picturesque rooftops. Rooms are a calm white, with earth tone highlights. You’ll relax in a king size bed and a pillow set of feather, memory foam and cervical pillows will ensure a great sleep.
The room has a large compartmentalized closet, a DVD micro theater with flat screen TV, iPod dock, and safe. Casa Calma subscribes to PressReader so you can access newspapers and magazines from all over the world. Each room has a Nespresso machine with pods and a large snack selection for purchase.
The bathroom area is near the entrance — a big area off to the side which holds a jacuzzi tub for two, a long double-sinked counter, and a glassed in shower. The toilet and bidet are separated from the rest of the room by a smoked glass swinging door. “Wellness Boutique” items such as organic bath foam and salts, essential oil and body lotion are available for purchase.
A breakfast of several choices and made-to-order eggs is served off the lobby. The area serves as an honour bar for drinks and snacks available 24-hours.
Casa Calma’s location makes you close to everything. You’re a 15 minute walk to the famous Recoleta Cemetery, and about the same to Casa Rosada, the “pink house” which is the office of Argentina’s president. The Plaza de Mayo is here too, the site of Evita’s famous speech and daily protests by politically-aware Porteños.
“This is actually a B&B&B,” smiles John Fernandes, owner and host of Secret Garden Iguazu. I look at him, puzzled, my brain whirring in the heat and halfway through my delicious caipirinha. He gestures toward my drink. “Bed, breakfast and booze!”
Ever the charming host, John serves Brazil’s national cocktail to guests every evening. One or two, plus hors’ d’oeuvres, are included in the rates, but John says he will not serve you a third at any price. I walk a little wobbly to dinner — and I shared the last half of my second cocktail — so I completely understand.
Iguazu Falls should be on any traveller’s must-see list. There is so much water going over so many different falls, it is almost unbelievable. Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment upon seeing them, “Poor Niagara!”, is an understatement.
However, it is not easy to get to Iguazu, and once here, not the nicest of tourist destinations. You’ll need bug spray, as there are dengue-carrying mosquitos. Except in the winter months of May to August, it is hot and humid and the South American sun extremely strong. The two towns built around the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the Falls are not so charming, full of soulless hotels and restaurants, most of which don’t care about your return business or even your referrals.
Not so Secret Garden.
The B&B has just three rooms, and they each have the feeling of a cottage. They are almost hidden behind the multiple hues of green in the garden, shaded under the tree canopy, and near a feeder very popular with the hummingbird crowd. Rooms are decorated simply, but you’ll have the basics (including strong AC) for a short stay. On the porch of the main house, you’ll enjoy breakfast and the chance to exchange stories with John and fellow guests over cocktails and beautiful glowing lights.
John likes to show visitors around town upon arrival, to situate them before they go off to the Falls for the day. He’ll even take your photo along the Parana and Iguazu rivers — one of the few places in the world where you can get three countries in one photo. John provides excellent advice on seeing both sides of the Falls, dependent upon the weather and how much time you have. He’ll arrange the best driver for your day (ideal for crossing the border to the Brazil side), or give you advice on taking the bus (easy for the Argentine side, unless you’re very pressed for time). He has great recommendations for lunch and dinner too.
The B&B is simple, and the luxury aspect focuses on your experiences. If your interests are in enrichment, Secret Garden is an ideal base for your Iguazu explorations.