Since it was our last day in Puerto Rico and my gal pal Scarlett's birthday, we decided to splurge and go out in island style at The Gallery Inn. Funds were almost nil from a week's worth of adventures, but in this case, we were singing "Que Sera, Sera" as it was time to celebrate.
And if The Gallery Inn was good enough for President Obama and the First Lady to stay at in 2008, it had to be something special.
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With roasted pork delights still lingering on our tastebuds from eating our way though the dozens of lechoneras (pork-centric restaurants) lining Guavate's Pig Highway, we entered the 300-year-old colonial mansion, anxious to see where we would have our final Puerto Rican hurrah.
The ancient, wrought iron gate opened to rainbow-colored, free-flying parrots, lush tropical gardens, and a bevy of ornate statues that would have made the Ancient Greeks feel right at home.
We rushed upstairs to survey our room, unlocking the heavy wooden door with the medieval-looking key. The rich bedding and high ceilings were framed by sparkling views of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was as if Frida Kahlo and Tonks from Harry Potter collaborated to create a whimsical haven.
Scarlett fell backwards on the bed with gleeful abandon. From a woman who rarely mentions the 'M' word, she said unexpectedly, "Now this is a place I could get married in."
As a travel writer who gets to stay in some of the best hotels in the world, I had to agree.
The Gallery Inn, with 22 unique rooms and four honeymoon suites, appointed with owner Jan D'Esopo's artwork of sculptures, paintings, silk screens and watercolors, can accommodate up to 50 overnight guests. According to Jan, the hotspots to get married at The Gallery Inn are the Wine Deck with 360-degree views of ocean and cityscape, the candlelit Sunken Wedding Garden with two-waterfall swimming pools and the Beach House.
Another plus for a wedding or party at The Gallery Inn, especially for the indie-bride on a budget, are the affordable rental rates starting at $400 for two hours. For the bride and groom who dance to a different tune or want an intimate venue with heart and soul in Old San Juan, Gallery Inn fits the bill.
Heart and soul, we came to find out at cocktail hour, is what owners' Manuco Gandia and Jan D'Esopo live for. The Gallery Inn, run by the couple since 1961, sings amoroso with its old world mystique.
Manuco topped our glasses with his favorite champagne while Jan filled us in on their red-hot love story of how they met over 40 years ago.
Probably as feisty as the day she met him, Manuco peppered her narrative with little jokes and playful teasing. Jan just looked at him with a sly grin and said, "Oh, I don't know what you're talking about."
Within a half-hour of chatting with them, their dedication was evident -- both to stoking their own romance and to creating an atmosphere of romance and/or relaxation for their guests.
Standing on the newly-minted porch of the Beach House built by Manuco out of found driftwood, Jan said, "I rarely go anywhere on vacation, because I've created my own paradise right here. My life's love affair is creating that for every one of my guests."
To celebrate our time in Puerto Rico of conquering the world's longest zip line, standing up on our first surf lesson and discovering a nearly deserted Caribbean slice of paradise called Coffin Island, we went all out at The Gallery Inn's chandelier-christened restaurant overlooking the salt-water pool. Chef Neño Moscoso recommended the grilled lobster and filet of Queen Snapper served with plantain tostones (twice-fried, thinly sliced plantains). "Bring it on, with a bottle of your favorite rosé Champagne," I said to the Chef with gusto. It was an idyllic last supper on the Isle of Enchantment -- delicate, decadent and delicious.
After being serenaded by the resident classical guitarist Felix Rodriguez, playing the gamut from Mozart to Metallica, we explored the labyrinth of rooms, each uniquely decorated, with a nightcap from the honor system bar. Yes, you heard me right. The Gallery Inn's bar tab is as antiquated as its architecture -- Scarlett and I were in some kind of utopia indeed.
Now, if Tonks could magically manifest my friend's dream guy, that would be a nice day for a white wedding at The Gallery Inn...
The Gallery Inn 204-206 Norzagaray, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rooms $105 - $175, includes continental breakfast.
Puerto Rico Wedding Resources
WedAffair specializes in planning destination weddings throughout Puerto Rico and are endorsed by the Puerto Rico tourism board. In 2011, Destination Weddings Magazine ranked them as one of their A-list Destination Wedding planners.