PUBLISHED WORK - Hotel and Resort Reviews > Maison Couturier - San Rafael, Mexico
iTraveliShop.com June 2010
Maison Couturier - San Rafael, Mexico :: Hotel Review
Just inland from the Costa Esmeralda in the state of Veracruz lies one of the most unusual towns in Mexico. Back in the early 1800s, French men and women began settling in Jicaltepec, near San Rafael, after fleeing Dijon and the wine region of Champlitte in search of work after a parasite ravaged the grape growing industry in France.
Over the ensuing decades, the food, architecture, clothing and traditions the French brought with them melded with the indigenous Mexican culture and the resulting unexpected (but thoroughly pleasing) mix is at the heart of the new Maison Couturier.
Maison Couturier, which opened in late 2009, is built in and around a farmhouse which has been in the family of Carlos Couturier for generations. Once a working banana plantation, the property has been seamlessly and artfully expanded and transitioned into an almost painfully stylish nine room boutique hotel.
This should come as no surprise since Mr. Courturier is a partner in Grupo Habita which owns and operates more than a dozen of the most forward-thinking, unconventional and consistently on-the-money boutique properties in Mexico including Habita MTY, Condessa DF and Hotel Boca Chica (look forward to Habita hotels opening in Manhattan and Austin in 2011).
Rooms at Maison Couturier are named after Mr. Courturier’s aunts and uncles and boast brick floors, linen sheets, cool blue towels and glossy black bathroom tiles. Appropriately, the easy French chic is polished off with pieces made by local Mexican craftsmen who faithfully and flawlessly crafted lamp shades, ceiling fans even pressed tin roofs copied from French originals. Many rooms also have working fireplaces.
Ample common spaces (a reading room, a breakfast room, a gorgeous intimate bar, an inviting broad columned front porch, lovely indoor and outdoor dining areas) successfully channel the French farmhouse look and feel with a mix of antiques from France, the US and Canada mixed with modern art. Dining is also in keeping with the ethos and French classics are expertly executed by Mexican kitchen staff including real bread and butter (a rare find in Mexico).
The hotel’s polished concrete pool was inspired by a watering trough—though it’s leaps and bounds more elegant than anything I’ve ever seen a cow drinking out of—and spa treatments from a wide-ranging (massage to reflexology to acupressure) and nicely-priced menu are currently available in your room—though an on-site spa may be added in the future.
Another convergence of French and Mexican culture is responsible for the lynchpin in all of this: general manager Marie Ann Zaluda. Marie had managed luxury hotels in the past but was living in Mexico and working in the French embassy when Carlos came in to renew his passport. The Frenchwoman recognized Carlos’ name from Grupo Habita and seized the opportunity to introduce herself. With Maison Couturier in mind, Carlos snapped her up to helm the new project, which the fast-talking, wild-haired, stylishly-slouchy powerhouse does with a European’s eye for detail and a palpable passion for the property and the unique heritage of the area.
It helps that Marie has a pair of secret weapons, her irresistible Jack Russell Terriers Pierre and Philipe who romp around the grounds spreading smiles and more than a little bit of French attitude.
With rates starting at $100 a night double occupancy I say book now before they realize what a gem they’ve created and triple the prices!
In April, 2006 peripatetic journalist Karen Catchpole left her job as deputy editor of SHOP Etc. magazine in New York City and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey, a five year, 200,000 mile working road trip through North, Central and South America. When she's not reviewing luxury hotels, resorts, ranches and B&Bs, she can be found enjoying the nearest campground.
Resort, Lodge & Hotel Review keywords: Maison Couturier San Rafael, Mexico Veracruz Costa Esmeralda Jicaltepec Carlos Couturie Grupo Habita Marie Ann Zaluda French country house