By Laurent Carrasset, Managing Director, Peru.
Opening a new hotel is always a challenge, and nowhere more so than a heritage property like Palacio Nazarenas which we have spent many years restoring. But our exceptional team has risen to to the occasion and now it is now a week since we actually opened our doors. Over last weekend we tested the system with friends and people we know in the hotel industry. Then, on Monday our first fully-fledged guests arrived. They knew they were in for an adventure, with everything starting up around them, but I’m happy to report that we got the key elements working. For instance the water in the swimming pool heated up to the right temperature and kitchen of Senzo restaurant swung in action, with the menu by chef Virgilio Martinez getting good comments.
Cuzco's only outdoor swimming pool, heated to just the right temperature.
So, as we enter our second week, I’m delighted to confirm that we’re up and running and on course to make our mark as Cuzco’s newest luxury urban retreat.
By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager, Palacio Nazarenas
Years of work have all come together. Today we open our doors to welcome our first guests. All our staff have completed their initial training and are putting on their uniforms. They’ve spent weeks practicing: now it’s for real. I can’t tell you the sense of excitement that everyone is feeling. We are all set to thoroughly spoil the first visitors to our beautiful new hotel.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been working hard to bring the spirit of Cuzco to life within the hotel. Gently-heated water awaits bathers in Cuzco’s first outdoor infinity pool. Menus have been printed with the amazing dishes that await diners at Senzo, the destination restaurant. We even have our own bespoke fragrance, based on local flowers, that guests can take home to remind themselves of their stay.
Our 55 luxurious suites have many touches to surprise and delight. Among these are the bath pillows filled with dried herbs from the hotel gardens that release an exotic aroma when in a tub. Many rooms have spectacular views over the rooftops of Cuzco and some even look out towards the Ausangate mountain beyond.
To celebrate the launch, Orient-Express has put together a special opening package that will allow guests to discover the gastronomy of Cuzco. The “Taste of Cuzco” programme includes a market tour and cooking class with Chef Director Virgilio Martinez, not to mention a special dinner based on each guest’s choice of ingredients.
But now it’s time to say our first “hellos”. Watch this space for our next report—as a fully fledged hotel.
By Virgilio Martinez, Chef Director of Palacio Nazarenas
I’m excited to tell you that that Palacio Nazarenas is working with an exceptional farm at Urubamba in the Sacred Valley to feature its produce in Senzo restaurant. Its name is La Salle and it is run by Americo Herrera Pezo, a friend who has been passionate about growing quality, organic produce ever since he was a child.
Americo told me how he grew up in the Sacred Valley before cars and trains arrived, and how his father taught him that growing everything naturally was the only way to farm. The connection he has with the earth and his work goes beyond gastronomy.
Americo Herrera Pezo at his farm in Peru's Sacred Valley.
Not only that—Americo is keen to discover new and unusual produce, which means that even guests from Cuzco will discover tastes they’ve never had before. He will supply us with some amazing local vegetables together with cheeses and dairy specialities.
His uniqueness relies on the fact that no trends affect him; he has no interest in recognition or labels. Every day my friend reminds me of the connection between cooking and the earth. He is an example of working without expecting anything in exchange. Just passion to do what he knows.
Look out for Americo’s produce on our new menu, which I’ll tell you about soon.
By Stephan Post, Launch General Manager Palacio Nazarenas
Only a few days to go now! Things are gathering pace, and yes, the hotel really is happening. This was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when a team came over from our Orient-Express head office in London to do our pre-launch photo shoot. You can see a selection of their images on our new website.
Two Adrians (Adrian Houston, Photographer, and Adrian Hulf, Creative Director) led the charge. They were joined by our Peru team. Carlos Gonzalez, who runs our Orient-Express Peru tours, deserves a special mention. He soon proved that escorting our guests requires similar skills to organising a shoot—an absolute determination to overcome hurdles and pull everything together.
Photographer Adrian Houston (far left) and his team.
The hotel was a hard hat site, so our first challenge was to arrange permission for our models to lounge by the pool without blue helmets on their heads. The builders were still tiling the pool while the team were setting up tracks for the movie camera. But they finished just in time, the water went in—and just visit the website to see the result. This was the moment that I realised that everything is falling into place—and how wonderful the pool area will be when guests arrive and bring it to life.
All photo shoots seem to take forever, but this one took even longer! Whenever someone asked for a couple of glasses to go on a table, we couldn’t just go to the restaurant and fetch them. We had to find them in the store, dig them out of packing cases and polish them up. I can hardly believe it is only a few days now before they are all actually in use.
But do visit our website and as you’ll see from our photographs, we’re nearly there. And come 15 June, we will be. Perhaps you’ll be with us too?
By Michael Simonato, Launch Spa Creator
When you visit our Hypnôze spa I can promise you an experience that will take you to another world. All our products and treatments have been devised together with shamans (or curanderos, as Andean medicine men and women are known). We’ve drawn on their vast knowledge of the curative properties of plants to create herbal oils, wraps and balms with active ingredients that produce very specific results. Some of the special plants included are muña, coca, maca, white sage from Lake Titicaca, Maras salt and quinoa, few of which you’re likely to have encountered before.
The formulas were created by local communities of direct descendants of the Incas, drawing on ancient lore. They were then fine-tuned in the laboratories of Aïny, a Paris-based company that specialises in harnessing the properties of sacred Andean plants.
Some of our treatments are truly unique, such as a massage that uses a candle as a massage tool, and another that uses the shells that shamans blow to address Pacha Mama or Mother Earth. We’ve also created a selection of magic fragrances, designed to attract love and positive energy and to protect you from negative thoughts.
By Janna Rapaport, Interior Designer
Our fabulous mirror has just been shouldered into place in the reception area, ready to greet guests when they step inside the hotel. It took nine strong men to raise it up and fix it, but all agree that it was well worth the effort.
The mirror was created by the internationally-renowned artist and craftsman Jaime Liebana, whose studio can be visited in Lima. It’s designed in traditional Cuzquenian style, using classic colours, and is a companion to the reception desk, which will be arriving shortly.
The second photo shows the mirror viewed through the original stone walls that line a doorway in one of the oldest parts of the building.
By Enrique Palacio, Principal Architect
We’ve now completed the major building works at Palacio Nazarenas, and have begun cleaning the façade, using fresh water and soft materials to avoid any damage to the original stone. We have also cleaned the ancient fountain in the main cloister.
Enrique Palacio and Jorge Zavaleta in front of the main entrance of Palacio Nazarenas.
Helping us with this project is a professional team, led by Jorge Zavaleta (pictured with me at the main entrance). The original name of Palacio Nazarenas is La Casa de las Sierpes and you can see why: there are a lot of snakes carved into the stones, including two big ones—one with a moustache!—above the main door.
The image of a snake carved into the facade of Palacio Nazarenas.
During the cleaning process we have discovered that former owners of this building painted it in a variety of different colours, although we don’t know exactly when each layer was added. Amazingly, it looks as if they also used gold leaf in certain areas. We may even apply this finish again in some places—watch this space!
By Janna Rapaport, Interior Designer
Please meet Benji, who works for our main furniture supplier MaderArt. She’s hand-painting a side table for the hotel patio in a traditional Cuzquenian motif.
MaderArt, a company based near Lima, works with artisans throughout Peru and even has a branch dedicated to providing work for people in the northern jungle, enabling them to continue their traditional way of life.
At Palacio Nazarenas, we are employing a variety of skilled local artisans to decorate pieces that will feature in our guest suites—as well as intricately painted furniture, we have hand-painted glass and mirrors and, of course, wall paintings. The rich artistic talents of the Cuzco region are there to be admired in every room.
By Julio Ninantay, master restorer
The murals and friezes on the walls of Palacio Nazarenas are real treasures: they are rare survivors among the artworks from Cuzco’s Spanish colonial heyday. It has taken my team and me around six months to restore these precious treasures, although we’ll be going back to do some finishing touches before the launch of the hotel on 15 June. We’ve had many challenges but the biggest has been to rescue the important religious image, Señor de Huanca. Painted on the wall of a nun’s cell, it shows Christ, after a beating, bending down to retrieve his robe. Much of the painting was grimy and damaged by humidity and mould, so I had to use delicate techniques, such as gently massaging it with flour dough, to remove the surface dirt.
Julio Ninantay, master restorer, at work on the frescos in the small church just outside Cuzco known as Peru's "Sistine Chapel".
Another major project was the mural in the second cloister, which dates back to the 16th century and was crafted in grisaille—shades of grey, white and black. Because the murals are now exposed, we’ve had to use materials that will withstand humidity and the traffic of guests. Guests at Palacio Nazarenas may catch me and my team checking up on the murals every couple of weeks or so, to ensure that they remain in the condition to which they have been returned.
By Stephan Post, General Manager – Palacio Nazarenas
There’s an air of increasing excitement at Palacio Nazarenas as we enter the final stages of construction and preparation.
Our interior designer Janna Rapaport is busy putting the finishing touches to the décor in all the rooms, which includes murals being painted by master restorer Julio Nintantay. Restorers are also busy working on all the doors and frames in the building.
We’re embarking on the landscaping and planting of the gardens and have finished the Business Centre and the Library—both look amazing.
My own office is now being created and we are about to set up a Human Resources office. Heads of departments and supervisors are already undergoing their corporate induction and the rest of the staff arrive to start their training on 2 May. We’ve even got the food and beverages ordered for the first week of May. It’s an exhilarating time!