In this case, it's hard for me to decide whether I should write about the fabulous accommodations, or about the 3 hour breakfast conversation we had with the owner, Amber Freier. To be honest, you never quite know when you reach out to a business owner just how thrilled you're going to be with their product or service afterwards, nor do you know if you're going to hit it off with the owner in a way that helps you have an authentic passion for promoting what they are doing in their little corner of the world. It didn't take long after arriving at the hotel and meeting Amber to put both worries to rest.
Within seconds of meeting Amber, it was easy to see we had a lot in common. Perhaps the most surprising thing, though, was that we both went to the same college. Go figure! That's about the last thing you expect to hear when traveling and touring abroad.
It was also clear that she resonates well with the message of this blog. She could easily write a guest post or 5 if she was so inclined, and you'd all love to hear every ounce of it. She's gone through many of the ups and downs that life tends to send everyone's way. Some of her ups have been pretty high with great personal success and living all over the world, and some of the downs have been pretty low, with losing much of what she'd gained, having the hotel room portion of the Hacienda burn down a short time after it was completed and having to start all over again (without insurance). She seems to have done it with a calm and attitude and grace that anyone would admire and seek to embody for themselves.
She's also no stranger to great love! She met her mountain-climbing husband when doing some charity work, and they fell instantly in love.
It is from her husband that she gets her motto for hospitality. As a professional mountain guide, he feels that his job allows him to be "a bridge between people's dreams." She feels the same way about the hotel they run together, and it truly shows.
She isn't just vested in the dreams of her customers either...she and her husband have gathered almost all their staff from the local neighborhood a few minutes down the canyon road and trained them in all the ways 5-star hotel and restaurant service. They believe in empowering all the people around them.
I wish I could recount everything about that conversation....it was one of those you just didn't want to end. This is someone who is truly dedicated to doing some good in the world. She's a great example that you don't need to have a big platform to do it. Nor do you need to have a certain kind of job that you'd normally think goes along with making a difference. To borrow a phrase I heard in church a year or two ago, they make a difference by "standing where they are, and lifting."
Some details about the hotel...
The Rooms -
Rooms at the hotel are more like mini homes. Even though the rooms are stacked all close by each other in a single building, the design is done in such a way that you feel as though you are entering your own isolated cabin with complete privacy. Rooms have beautiful wood burning stoves that will keep you warm all night in addition to the hot water bottles they tuck in your bed. You will be greeted with an array of fresh roses (one of the biggest Ecuadorian exports) and a wide selection of fresh and delicious local fruits.
There are a lot of fun details in the rooms...it just might be one of the most beautiful hand painted toilets you'll ever have the privilege of sitting on. The beautiful artisan toilet (can you believe those words even go together!?!) is complimented by the massive mosaic tiled tub/shower which has some of the best water pressure we've had in Ecuador, or anywhere else for that matter. There are skylights and windows galore, which helps you drink deeply from the natural beauty of your surroundings.
Although it is called Hacienda Rumiloma, I'd say the styling of the hotel is a mix between the rich hacienda heritage you find in South America and what you might find in a Tuscan Villa. The mix in styles was a deliberate choice by the owner because locals often want to stay somewhere that feels more exotic and foreign. Amber used to work at Sotheby's and has used her design background to bring together every last detail.
The Restaurant -
Mara and I arrived pretty late after a bus and taxi ride from Cotacachi. We were worried we might have to just feast off of the fresh fruit basket in our room, but were delighted the restaurant was still open. We had no idea what we were getting in for. The food here is truly delicious. One thing that Ecuador is known for is ceviche, and this was one of the best we've had. I think I may have convinced Amber to share the recipe with us so we can post it on the blog. It comes from her Ecuadorian mother-in-law's recipe, as does much of the other recipes as her mom is one of the head chefs.
But by sharing that, I need to clarify. This isn't just down-home Ecuadorian cooking. My mom is a pretty good cook and I always felt pretty spoiled growing up, but I must say I have a little bit of food envy going on for Amber's husband Oswaldo...because I didn't think anybody's mom could cook like that. No wonder they had the confidence to open both a fine hotel and restaurant with mostly family help in the beginning. We ordered some of the house specialties, and were not disappointed.
Things that make this place special -
The hotel is divided up into two buildings. One building has the guest rooms and the other has the dining facilities on the main floor, a full Irish pub downstairs (did I mention Amber lived in Ireland for some time), and the Library/Lounge on the top floor. I believe the top floor used to be a master suite of sorts, but they converted it into a common area for guests, and boy are we glad they did. We ate both of our breakfasts (which by-the-way were AMAZING!) up there while gazing at the city of Quito far below. They had a daybed/couch up there next to one of the big windows that Mara sat in for half a day working....and if she was like me when I got super comfortable on their accommodations, she might have even taken a nap.
The hotel also has a few resident peacocks and some llamas that can't seem to help themselves from gazing down that beautiful canyon. One friendly llama seemed to be on the pay of the hotel as he was the first to greet us in the entryway of the hotel.
And if you decide to take a walk around the 100 acre property, you might just be as lucky as I was when you find yourself a new best friend. I can't remember if he wandered up to the hotel all on his own, or if someone dropped him off. But the owners took a liking to him and he's now a permanent and friendly fixture at the hotel. His name is Coffee.
Our chief activity consisted in enjoying the views and relaxing. We'd been to Quito before and didn't feel the need to explore the city as much this time. But I did hear Amber speaking with some honeymooners about all sorts of excursions they could do: hot-springs relaxation, volcano tours and mountain climbing, trips to the nearby "middle of the world", food or chocolate tours with Quito's best....pretty much you name it and Amber and her staff know how to make it happen.
Even though the hotel isn't in the heart of the city, it's only a $5 cab ride away. Mara and I made it into the city primarily in search of our two favorite items from our first visit: Empanadas and fresh tropical juice at Frutería Monserrate, and a chocolate delight by the name of "Rocas" (it's like a baseball sized ferrero rocher, but better!) from a Parisian chocolatier/bakery called Cyril. It would be impossible for us to be in Quito and not seek those two things out.
Thanks to Hacienda Rumiloma for an amazing stay & letting us share your place with everyone!!