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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hospedaria Sweet Hospedaria

During our 5 weeks in Colombia, we stayed at various hostels throughout the country, this being the cheapest option with dorm beds going for about US$7.50 per night on the average.

The housing situation was a bit different in Villa de Leyva. Being primarily a vacation destination for the locals, there were no hostels available, the only form of accommodation being hotels and hospedarias (guesthouses).

Well, no hostels except for Lonely Planet's recommendation - the Colombian Highlands Guesthouse, which goes by the name Hostal Renacer on ground. Anticipating the popularity of this place, we made a booking almost 2 weeks in advance for 2 dorm beds in Hostal Renacer.

Judging from the hostel grounds, this place lived up to it's good reputation in terms of clean, sprawling grounds with great views of the surrounding hills, good hot showers, satisfactory beds and a reliable hi-speed Internet connection.

Quaint courtyards and gardens

Pretty stained glass in Colombian colours line huge bay windows that maximise access to the surrounding views

A large front yard opens up to expansive views of gorgeous blue skies

Looking out from the breakfast room to the communal kitchen and outdoor dining area - there's space for everyone!

A swaying fringe of terracotta wind chimes - presumably from nearby Raquira

Wonderful place, isn't it? It's located on a slight slope, 1km from the main plaza - not the most convenient place to stay if you don't drive. But we thought that given the nice ambiance at Hostal Renacer, we could survive the twice-daily walk into town to look for food - plus some walking would do us good.

Well we checked out after our first (and last!) night there.

In all our 5 months of traveling in the Americas, and on previous short vacations from Singapore, we have never ever checked out of any accommodation before the end of our intended stay. I consider ourselves easily satisfied when it comes to the quality of food (we know little about fine dining and even less about fine wines) and accommodation. As proof of the latter, we survived 3 months living in cheap motels throughout the United States, many of which cannot match the Latin American hostels and guesthouses in terms of cleanliness, style and hospitality.

Born of mild temperaments, we're both not easily riled and don't throw hissy fits at the drop of the wand - our friends can vouch for that (okay, maybe not my siblings, but I treat them waaaaaay better now - more like blood relations and less like personal slaves.) But we simply could not stomach the poor service rendered at Hostal Renacer. For the full story, click on the link to my TripAdvisor reviews in our blog's sidebar. I also sat myself down (3 days later, when I was in a calmer mood) and wrote a long email to the owner, explaining our decision to cut short our stay at his hostel.

To his credit, he replied (in an equally long email!), acknowledging the shortcomings of the staff and with a heartfelt apology for the poor service rendered. We were offered a complimentary stay at Hostal Renacer during our next visit to Villa de Leyva. We left Colombia, appeased.

So... where did we stay during our remaining 2 nights at Villa de Leyva?

We had indignantly marched off to town in search for alternative accommodation - but not before leveraging on the WiFi at Hostal Renacer to surf for recommendations on poorbuthappy.com. We zoomed in on a couple of options located at the main plaza and after a few room-checks, decided on a private room with en-suite bathroom at Hospedaria Colonial - for COP 30,000 (US$15) per night. Practically the same price as what we paid for 2 dorm beds at Hostal Renacer.

It was a lovely little place. Sunny, tranquil and pretty. The petite Colombian lady who showed us around the guesthouse summed it up in the only 2 English words that she used during her tour - "very beautiful".

Fresh ferns and resting places along the corridor outside our room

Rooms are bathed in sunshine - the warmth is very much appreciated in the chilly hillsides.

Locally-made handicrafts adorn the clean white walls

Dannie being amused by the hardworking house elf

Candy-coloured sugar glass is a favourite here too

A big grassy yard and plenty of space on the clothesline for our laundry, which dried in one day under the warm sun and gentle breeze

Look who I found poking around between the clean sheets!

Oh, I forgot to mention - Hospedaria Colonial spoiled us with the BEST showers that we had ever experienced in Colombia. Hot, strong and (in Singaporean speak) damn power lah.

So, looking on the bright side of moving out of Hostal Renacer, we got to experience 2 very nice but totally different guesthouses in Villa de Leyva - a big sprawling hostel with pretty vistas, and a small intimate hospedaria on the side of the plaza.

Different strokes for different folks. Take your pick!


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