By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

Last week saw the culmination of years of hard work: a spectacular party launched Palacio Nazarenas onto the Cuzco scene. The evening was filled with fireworks, fabulous food and fashions, and lots of fun. Our team welcomed over 150 guests to the hotel, including politicians, diplomats, film stars and international media.

The evening kicked off with the official cutting of the ribbon beside Cuzco’s first outdoor swimming pool, and finished with the Afro-Peruvian sounds of one of South America’s top musicians, Micky Gonzales.

The celebrations marked the conclusion of four years dedicated to restoring this beautiful building while taking it forward as a contemporary hotel. Now we turn our attention to our guests, and to ensuring that they discover all that Cuzco has to offer in an exceptional way.

So now that the hotel is fully fledged it’s time to say “goodbye” to this blog. This is the final post, as we focus all our energies on ensuring that our guests have a fantastic stay.

We’ll be leaving the blog in place for a while so that anyone who wants to discover our “back story’ can find out more. Please, come and visit us and let us turn these words and pictures into an experience to remember.

Candles illuminate the area surrounding Cuzco's first outdoor pool

Candles illuminate the area surrounding Cuzco's first outdoor pool

Vanessa Saba

Vanessa Saba

Anna Laevski, Dominika Paleta and Lorena Pérez Moya

Anna Laevski, Dominika Paleta and Lorena Pérez Moya

Eduardo Ferrero and his wife Verónica, María Rosa Arrarte

Eduardo Ferrero and his wife Verónica, María Rosa Arrarte

Mauricio Bustamante and his wife Claudia Abuid.  Pedro Diez Canseco and his wife Jessika Gómez

Mauricio Bustamante and his wife Claudia Abuid. Pedro Diez Canseco and his wife Jessika Gómez

Gina Gabbard and her husband Chris, Kimberly Wilson Wetty

Gina Gabbard and her husband Chris, Kimberly Wilson Wetty

Mr. Manuel Zúñiga

Mr. Manuel Zúñiga

Fátima Arrieta and her husband Alfredo Arosemena

Fátima Arrieta and her husband Alfredo Arosemena

Vania Masías and her husband Erick Hanschke

Vania Masías and her husband Erick Hanschke

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

This is the moment we’ve been building up to: our grand opening party takes place this weekend.

Orient-Express has spent years restoring Palacio Nazarenas and turning it into Cuzco’s finest boutique hotel. Last June we opened our doors to our first guests. Now that we’ve settled into our rhythm we’re excited to be holding our official launch event.

Planning the grand opening...

Planning the grand opening...

We’re busy putting the final touches to the party. On our guest list are leading travel agents and press from around the world. We’ve lined up some amazing local food, drinks and entertainment. We want our guests to experience exactly what makes Palacio Nazarenas so special—we’ll be celebrating its amazing story from pre-Inca times up until today.

So stay in touch, and see you next week when we’ll share the party highlights.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

Last Monday, three representatives from Peru’s Agrarian Investigation Institute came to visit us at the hotel. They then joined our chef, Virgilio Martinez, on a tour of the Sacred Valley, meeting some of the farmers and their communities in what are often remote and inaccessible areas.

Chef Virgilio Martinez toured the Sacred Valley to meet farmers and source new ingredients for his kitchen.

Chef Virgilio Martinez toured the Sacred Valley to meet farmers and source new ingredients for his kitchen.

The trip resulted in a real harvest of ideas. So much so that we’ve invited the farmers to visit us here at Palacio Nazarenas, to demonstrate their products and skills. Starting next week we’ll be welcoming around 12 growers of native plants known for aromatic oils. Four more gatherings based around other crops are planned for the following weeks.

Any guests who are interested in unusual local produce are welcome to drop by. We’re all expecting to make exciting new discoveries that will find their way onto our Senzo restaurant menu and into treatments at Hypnoze spa.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

When we set up Palacio Nazarenas we asked master ceramicist Tater Camilo Vera to create a collection of vases in traditional Cuzco style. These are filled with flowers and placed in our suites. We invite guests to take one home with them when they leave.

Hand-crafted vases by Cuzco ceramicist Tater Camilo Vera are placed in guests' suites.

Hand-crafted vases by Cuzco ceramicist Tater Camilo Vera
are placed in guests' suites.

It turns out that these vases are not the only popular hand-crafted artifacts around the hotel. Guests have been delighted by other locally-made items, too. And so we’ve created Boutique Nazarenas, for anyone who’d like to buy another piece of Cuzco to take home. Selected objects available in the boutique include small ceramic containers, salt from Maras, cookery books and an alpaca-shaped bottle carrier. Plus we offer two special varieties of pisco, the Peruvian liqueur.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

Palacio Nazarenas is an all-suite hotel, with 55 completely individual suites. Each has its own special personality and atmosphere, and many have original features such as an ancient arch or colonial ceiing (we call these our Z Collection). Here’s a selection:

This beautiful arch dates back to the earliest days of Palacio Nazarenas, when it was still a private, colonial-era home.

This carved wooden balcony is in the traditional Cuzco style, and really showcases the skills of local artisans. You can see similar ones around Plaza de Armas.

The Nazarenas suite was once the private quarters of the abbess who lived here when it was a convent. It has its own stone balcony overlooking Nazarenas square, supported by an ancient column.

The coffered wooden ceiling is a special feature of this Z Collection suite.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

It’s now a month since opening and it’s been a real pleasure having our first guests to stay. Among them was Mario Testino who was travelling with a team on a photography shoot. Mario was born and grew up in Lima, and it was great to be able to show him a new side to his home country. He is currently shooting portraits of Peruvian people wearing festive costumes, and couldn’t have picked a better time to visit—during the Inti Raymi celebrations here in Cuzco.

His visit to Cuzco followed the launch of his Asociacion Mario Testino (MATE), based in a beautiful old house in Lima, which supports Peruvian artists and culture. www.mariotestino.com/philanthropy

Travelling with him was Hamish Bowles, International Editor at Large for Vogue, who has blogged about his visit at www.vogue.com

Photographer Mario Testino with General Manager Stephan Post

Photographer Mario Testino with General Manager Stephan Post at Palacio Nazarenas.

By Laurent Carrasset, Managing Director, Peru

We are working with shamans from the Sacred Valley just outside Cuzco to create a range of herbal treatments for Hypnoze Spa. One of these shamans, Miguel, and his young girlfriend, also a shaman, are creating a magic love fragrance especially for guests at Palacio Nazarenas. It will be called Pusanga, which means “love potion” in the local Shipibo language.

The first sample of Pusanga, a magic love fragrance created by a shaman for guests of Palacio Nazarenas.

They produced an initial sample, which is pictured here, while Miguel went into the deep Amazon jungle to spend time meditating in solitude. He has now returned to the Sacred Valley, and he and his girlfriend have been busy developing the scent further. We’re expecting the first bottles next week. Then all we’ll we need is an adventurous guest to be the first try out it!

By Laurent Carrasset, Managing Director, Peru

One of the high points of reopening Palacio Nazarenas has been welcoming in local people to a building that has been closed for seven years. We’ve had so many heartfelt comments from visitors who’ve said how proud and how grateful they are to Orient-Express for bringing ‘their’ convent back to life. It was very important to them that an historic building in such a key location, close by a national museum, should be properly cared for and open to the public.

Mass is held in the nun's cell with the painting of Senor de Huanca.

Many of these visitors headed straight to the former nun’s cell where the miraculous image of Senor de Huanca covers one wall. At last they were able to pay their respects to this depiction of a vision of Christ once again. Seeing them venerate this sacred painting—now beautifully restored—made all our work worthwhile.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

There’s no better way to finish off an exciting day exploring Cuzco than with a cocktail by our Barman, Jhony. We’re delighted that our first guests have been exploring some of his more unusual creations. Jhony is known for mixing the meanest pisco sour east of Lima, and is always eager to share his secrets for success with anyone who wants to follow his lead. But he has also devised a range of individual cocktails especially for Palacio Nazarenas guests.

Jhony serves spectacular drinks beside the pool

Cusquenian Sunset is already proving especially popular. It’s a combination of tangerine juice and aniseed-macerated pisco, laced with cactus-seed syrup—perfect, he says, for those spectacular evenings when the skies over the Andes flare up red. Another winner is Hot Sacred Valley: a blend of cherry- and coffee-macerated piscos, Arequipenian lucuma liquor and espresso coffee. Jhony says it’s best enjoyed outdoors, by the light of the moon.

In the unlikely event that none of Jhonny’s cocktails tempts your fancy, just let him know your favourite flavours and he’ll magic up a cocktail especially for you.

By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas

The last ten days have passed in a whirl, as Palacio Nazarenas has settled into life as a hotel. On our first day we held an opening ceremony, with a blessing by a priest. This was hugely important to us, as we are a religious building—a former convent with a mural of Christ that is revered by the people of Cuzco.

All guests were invited to a welcome cocktail and muña tea in the library, where one of our team gave a short presentation on the story of the hotel.

Near the front desk there is a wooden turntable that the Nazarenas nuns used to sell sweets and embroidery to support themselves. By placing items on this rotating device they could sell their wares without being seen. Marzipan was one of their most popular items, so on the hotel’s opening day, we set out some marzipan treats on it for guests to try.

Since opening, we have continued to train staff and fine tune our service. We’ve also had the enjoyable task of trying out the new menu at Senzo restaurant by chef Virgilio Martinez. We’ve now worked our way through all the dishes—a really exciting experience.

Taste sensations at Senzo restaurant, by chef Virgilio Martinez