Casas Del XVI
It means…The Houses of 16.
It feels like paradise in the middle of what is known to be the first permanent settlement established in the “New World”. Since this story is steeped in history, let’s drop a line about what the term means. After Columbus discovered the American continents the “world” of Europe, Africa, and Asia were often referred to as the “Old World ” while the Americas were referred to as the “New World”. Moving right along into the lap of luxury…
What was once that settlement, that evolved into a walled Colonial City, today is a collection of restored homes in the historic district, where we made our own discovery of a unique hotel where old world romance combines with modern luxury and comfort while providing privacy, seclusion and the highest standards of quality service without intrusion. After a VIP arrival at Santo Domingo’s international airport, my driver made his way through the crowded streets of the city. If you have ever been to a bustling Caribbean city, then you know it can feel far from a relaxing vacation. In fact when I was leaving home, a few friends asked me why on earth I was headed to Santo Domingo! They were more used to the other parts of the Dominican Republic where palm trees line sandy shores of massive resorts. They could not understand what I was about to do, especially knowing my standards for travel being extremely high. With their question tucked somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to pack for what I believed would either be a daring adventure (never to be repeated) or an unbelievable experience few have had the opportunity to know.
The hustle and bustle of the city traffic tapered off as we crossed a bridge and the tall patinated wall of the Zona Colonial came into view. I knew my sanctuary lay behind those walls. As we drove around the curvature of this massive wall, I stared out my window marveling at the protection the construction and design of this wall provided centuries ago, and how it still stands today. Moments after rounding the encircling wall, there was an opening that led us down streets lined with pavers that I know were used as ballast to improve stability of ships bringing people, goods, and cargo back and forth from the old world to the new. There’s something that is simultaneously beautiful and heart wrenching about the history of the Caribbean and when you are standing in said history, it is hard to ignore. As I stepped out of the car and through the door that my awaiting butler was holding open for me at CASA DEL POZO, I was enchanted.
Stepping through the door was like stepping back in time. Greeted by arches made of brick, original to the home, and then out into the courtyard where the same brick formed a herringbone pattern under my feet, I believe I spun around like a Disney princess twirling and smiling at my surroundings. My room was one of the six luxury rooms that formed the courtyard overlooking an intimate swimming pool with a cascading water feature. The sounds of the city melted away within the confines of this impressive colonial structure dating to the 16th century, nestled within the former grounds of the Convent of the Dominican order. All was well with the world and, thankfully, this was an unbelievable experience and any cares I had were quickly dissolved. Although all I wanted to do was sip on the Cava my butler Joshua brought poolside, I knew there were another six casas that made up Casas del XVI and curiosity got the better of me, so I went to explore them all.
The service here is amazing and anything I wanted to do was within reach. So, as discreetly tucked away as the butlers and servers are, they were also exceptionally attentive and saw me pop out of the pool and reach for my towel. My request wasn’t for snacks or which of the casas I would like to take my lunch, but to explore. As anticipated, my wish was granted. Each casa (house) was magnificent in its own right. Artwork made by the interior designer, once discovered, stands out to you. There are stories behind each piece and a common thread in each. I won’t give away the secret as it is yours to discover one day when you visit this exquisite collection of connected accommodations. As we strolled between houses, sometimes taking the front street, the air was warm and the breeze was steady. I imagined living in the 16th century and exploring the city, so my next obvious request was to take a stroll to see what was happening beyond my fabulous accommodations.
Want to talk about service…Joshua escorted me around the city to Museo de las Casas Reales where I had a private tour and walked myself back to the hotel. I felt safe as I made my way back to what I had now started to call home, for lunch. Those were magnificent and I could dine in any of the casas or in any of their courtyards. After days like this, I craved more and at my next request to experience some local flavor (no more food, I was stuffed). Joshua took me to La Alpargateria. A hipper experience was not to be had. The energy in this old city is being injected with youthful innovation and creation. This spot, another historic building, is home to an espadrille “factory”. I put the word in quotes because the shoes are all handmade, custom-made to fit, by a small group of artisans. I loved this spot. Original Spanish tile that leads from their storefront to a coffee spot and eventually out to a brick-walled courtyard where guests imbibe rums, local beer, and tapas. I hear that many shoes are sold at 11 pm, post happy hour. What great energy. The old city is coming back to life in a really good way. I think I chewed my butler’s ear off with excitement as we strolled back home. He humored me and smiled the entire time. This is only new to me, he’s been to that establishment a hundred times.
On my last night at this amazing collection of casas, they hosted a seven-course dinner for me. The chef, a 23-year-old young lady, poured her heart into this meal. The unique experience was entitled Ancestral Flavors Dinner. This was a walk through history with new twists on old Dominican classics and deconstructed curations of the eclectic island’s culinary delights. What a grand finale. This was the perfect melding of a daring adventure and an unbelievable experience.