Hotel Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz One of the dangers of travel writing is that things change. That pretty much makes it impossible, or at least dangerous to coast on your reputation or rest on your laurels. Oh Lord, have I learned that over the 30 years I have been publishing travel articles. In fact, sometimes things change as soon as I am heading out of town.
So, it was with great trepidation that I approached the Hotel Fortin de las Flores in the town of Fortin de la Flores in the state of Veracruz. My memory was never the best, and as I have left sixty years of age in the rear view mirror, it seems to be eroding rapidly. Hotel Fortin de las Flores is one of those hotels Graham Greene would say had "faded grandeur." The faded part has nothing to do with being run-down. In fact, the opposite is true. Hotel Fortin is kept up and is still first-class. However, its glory days are behind it, simply because the days of travel glory are behind us all. In its heyday, people came to this hotel from all over the world. It sports a stunning view of Mt. Orizaba, a snow-capped volcano. The mountain can best be seen from the pool, which is famous in itself.
In the season (spring), the pool is entirely covered with gardenias every morning. This romantic touch is still maintained. I was so glad. Since my traveling companion (Bill Kaliher) was hardly conducive to a romantic evening, it was fortunate that we met a couple from San Miguel de Allende who checked in about the same time. I asked the lady if she thought the hotel was romantic. She wasn't sure. Her husband, however, quipped that he would let us know how things went later that evening. His wife hit him, but not very hard. I believe it would have been called a love tap. She was smiling when she did it.
The next morning, they were both smiling and giggling, so I think I got my answer. I have it on good authority that many a lovey-dovey, turtle dove cuddly night has been inaugurated there. So my dilemma was that I had been recommending the hotel with a caveat to couples, based on feedback others had given me, and to be honest, my own experiences of decades past. I was always upfront, telling them that other clients had told me it was still a grand place, but it hurt me to do that. Finances and time kept me from checking it out in the past few years.
The hotel has heavy wooden beams and hand-crafted archways all around. The polished tile floors are so perfect that is seems a sacrilege to walk on them. The gardens combine palm trees and tropical foliage that seems incongruous in the shadow of a snow-capped volcano. The rooms are ample (and, yes, they have TV, though I did not turn it on to see if it worked) and blessedly quiet. The staff is friendly and happy to be there. That is the biggest recommendation a hotel can give itself. The Internet is actually decent, with multiple routers.
When you stay there, you think of the days when men wore tuxedos (or at least suits) and women wore long gowns to come down for dinner. Elegance is gone, for the most part, in today's Mexico and USA. We are so casual now. But, if you go to the Hotel Fortin de las Flores and want to dress up, you will fit right in. Alas, part of the old days that will never be recaptured is that Pico de Orizaba blew its top several years ago and is not quite as impressive as it was. Perhaps that was Nature's way of commenting on the decline in tourism standards.
Finding the Hotel Fortin de las Flores was a challenge, due to construction, but everyone in town knows where it is. We were guided there by a wonderful lady who drove up on our right in a traffic jam and asked politely if she could cut in. She was so nice (oh heck, she was pretty, too), that we said, Sure. Then we asked her if the next exit was for Fortin de las Flores. She said it was. We asked her if she knew how to get to the hotel. Of course! she exclaimed.
Then she lead us around the construction right to the front door. We gave her our cards and she wrote us back. As it turns out, she works for the United Nations here in Mexico. The whole incident was soooo Mexico. Mexico is the land of serendipity. Chance encounters lead down a cascading path of pleasant discoveries. A leads to B, but then to E, and on to R and so on.
We were in a traffic jam for maybe 50 miles and several hours. Nobody knew exactly why. Rather than curse the jam, people got out, stretched and joked with each other. I got some great pictures. Then, because of the jam, we did not make our destination. That was how we ended up in Fortin.
Because we went to Fortin, we met the nice lady, Lucy, who shared part of her country with us. So those of you who are sitting home, imagining Mexico to be an armed camp could not be more wrong. We are here and people like Lucy are still here too. Oh, and we should not forget the nice people who took time out of their day to explain and draw maps for a shortcut to get back to the freeway.
The nice people included a shop owner and a policewoman. So don't miss an opportunity to come to Fortin because of the negative media propaganda. Just come on down. The weather and the views are fine. Hotel Fortin de las Flores Web site: http://hotelfortindelasflores.com.mx/ Rates: About $800 pesos double