The Hotel Emporio and Isla Tajín open their doors
By Aran Shetterly September 13, 2010 - 16:17
The "Great Lounge" at the Hotel Emporio Veracruz, perfect for reading, working or meeting friends for a drink.
Image: Courtesy of Hotel Emporio Veracruz
The Hotel Emporio,Veracruz, Veracruz
The Hotel Emporio, built in the 1940s, is only a ten minute cab ride along the shore from the World Trade Center if you are attending a conference or expo there.
The hotel itself is a great choice for events of up to 400 people. There are 223 simple but tastefully decorated sleeping rooms; a 5,170 square foot banquet hall that can be divided into four separate spaces; a stand alone 700-square foot meeting room; three business centers; three restaurants; and a stylish lobby area that is comfortable and practical, perfect for impromptu meetings and break-out sessions. Free wi-fi is available in every room and in the public spaces. In addition, the hotel boasts a spa, three swimming pools, a gym (not yet open at the time of visit) and a rooftop lounge and bar.
The energetic staff members greet you with smiles, eager to show off the hotel, excited to be working in the famous Emporio, once again considered the jewel of Veracruz's colonial center. Employees, from the managers to the maids, worked around the clock prior to launch, doing whatever needed to be done to ready the property for guests.Their teamwork and sense of pride was evident in every interaction with them.
Most hotel employees speak conversational English or better,a pleasant surprise given that Veracruz is not an international tourist destination like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. But Grupo Diestra, the management company that owns and operates the hotel is experienced: three of their nine hotels are Marriott franchises, and they operate in major tourist markets, including Acapulco, Mexico City and Ixtapa.
One of the hotel's opening events was a three-day executive meeting by the pharmaceutical giant Lilly.
Hotel Emporio is located in the historical center of Veracruz, right next door to the the famed café and restaurant Gran Café LaParróquia, a meeting place for local media, politicians and movers and shakers of all types.The lovely central plaza is just a ten minute walk away. In the evenings the plaza is a meeting place for locals and tourists, and most nights you can listen to a band playing traditional music, as couples dance the elegant local danzón.
The city of Veracruz, for more than four hundred years a hub of international commerce, is in the early phases of a much-needed renovation of its historical center. However, if you like the gritty authenticity and historical feel of the old port city, the Hotel Emporio lets you experience it from a comfortable and stylish base.
Hotel Isla Tajín, Tuxpan, Veracruz
The concept of Hotel Islan Tajin -- luxury in a remote natural setting -- feels more akin to what a traveler might expect to find inCosta Rica. With a few exceptions, developers in Mexico tend to build their upscale hotels in clusters. However, if Isla Tajín marks a new tendency in hotel development here, it could be an exciting one; Mexico has innumerable spectacular natural settings that could draw boutique travelers looking to get away from it all, bird watch, or hike jungle trails.
Tuxpan is located (300 km) up the coast from the port of Veracruz. Once in Tuxpan, however, you park your car at an unassuming dock and board the Hotel Tajin launch for a thirty minutes ride through an estuary, separated from the ocean by banks of mangroves and a long tongue of sand. The skipper opens a cooler full of soft drinks, bottled water, and beer, and as the boat pulls out into the channel, leaving the small city behind, you lean back and feel the day-to-day life stresses melt away.
About halfway to the hotel there is a curious moment, when a huge thermoelectric plant juts into view, looming above the mangroves. But it soon recedes and all you see is water, sky, mangroves, and the occasional fisherman tossing and pulling his net through the brackish water. By the time you turn the corner into the tuck of cove that cups the hotel, the electric plant is completely out of site, and your attention turns to the tan buildings set among the intense tropical green of mangroves, coconut palms, and pines.
The maître d'hôtel greets guests at the dock with a cocktail, while the boat driver hustles luggage to a room the size of a New York studio apartment with its own sun bed, a plunge pool and a terrace larger than the room itself. The room successfully integrates indoor and outdoor spaces so that you spend your time in an easy flow between the ocean breeze and privacy of the cozy interior.
Isla Tajín takes its food seriously, and has two chefs on staff: one, an old local fisherman and self-taught cook, expert in bringing out the best from the local seafood.The other is a professionally trained chef who works on the presentation of the plates and translating local dishes to more cosmopolitan palates.
The result is exceptional. The quality and freshness of the shrimp and fish, bought right off the hotel's dock, are evident, and as good as you'll get anywhere. The greens in the salads were crisp and full of flavor. The spicy fish stew, chilpachole, a regional specialty that might be described as a hearty bouillabaisse, tantalized the tongue.
One of Isla Tajin's specialities is the pungent zaragaya,a fish dip accompanied by crispy tortilla chips (totopos). It's an excellent appetizer that goes well with a glass of red wine or a cocktail. The fusillifrutti di mare (seafood pasta) is great choice for dinner.
For lunch on a hot day, the seafood salad - octopus, crab and shrimp in a light mayonnaise and dill sauce-- is a great choice. Each of the trio de ceviches - mango, tamarind and traditional pico de gallo, offers a distinct tangy flavor together with firm and succulent chunks of white fish that go down well with a beer or a glass of white wine.
Even the simple huevos rancheros, a Mexican breakfast staple, with homemade salsa and crispy tortillas deserve a mention. Coffee,fruit, and the breadbasket, with banana bread and sweet corn bread (pan de elote), are a satisfying start to most mornings.
The quality and variety of the menu will keep you from feeling the urge to dine elsewhere, which is a good thing since "elsewhere" is a hike.
Isla Tajín is set up to accommodate couples or groups of up to about forty people. It's a great choice for honeymooners who want to spend lots of time alone together in plush comfort and with delicious food just a room service call away.
It's also well appointed for small weddings, yoga retreats, bird or snorkeling tours and executive off-sites. The enormous central restaurant and lounge space can easily accommodate 200 people. There is also an indoor meeting space with space for up to 80 people, complete with projectors and a business center. FreeWi-fi is available in rooms and in the common rooms.
The hotel offers a full service spa with an extensive menu of massages, beauty services and other local and international therapies and healing techniques.
For travelers who like to get away from it all, but aren't interested in roughing it, Isla Tajín is worth a visit.