April 6, 2015 by Susan Murray
This year James took me to Mexico City for my birthday! Hard to believe but in 27 years of living and traveling overseas I had never been to Mexico so I was excited to go. It was a short trip, just two nights, but a wonderful birthday present. And it presented us with a number of opportunities to assess the effect of service on a guest’s experience.
We stayed at a little B&B called The Red Tree House. It was magical, very much like the way we hope the Carolina Bed & Breakfast is for our guests. It is located in Condesa, a quiet residential neighborhood, quite safe for walking around with a number of good restaurants nearby. This quote from their website is so similar to our philosophy that I kind of want to steal it for our website!
We want all of our guests to feel at home; to enjoy the friendly, informal service and the interactions with the many amazing fellow guests. We strive to be the alternative to the formal, predictable, impersonal, luxury hotel.–The Red Tree House
The staff was friendly and available without being intrusive and the guests were an extremely interesting group. Food was fresh and local, ample without being ridiculous!
Since we were only going to be there for two days, James hired a guide from Journey Beyond The Surface to take us around Mexico City. We traveled on foot and by public transportation. It was an eye-opening day. We covered an unbelievable amount of the city and did so much that I had to write it all down at the end of the day so I would remember it all.
From my Journal: (N.B. You don’t have to read all of the entry. It’s long! So skip down to the end after you get the idea if you wish.)
March 8, 2015
8:30 AM. Met our guide at the hotel and walked over to a grand avenue which runs for 30KM straight through the city–got on an ingeniously routed bus with a dedicated lane which it is literally impossible for traffic to block. We got off in the center of the historic district at another grand avenue which is closed to traffic on Sundays and was filled with joggers, bike riders and roller bladers. Learned some history and walked over to see a museum with a mural which was saved from a collapsed hotel (1985 earthquake) but it was too early so we stopped for coffee at Sanborn’s then back to the museum which opened at ten. It was a fascinating piece and our guide, who teaches art, went over it in
depth–since it depicts Mexican History from the beginning to 1946 it was a great way to learn the history of the people and their culture. Back to the streets, we walked past the Opera House and on to the market where I was struck by how the smell of the fruits and spices was so clean and different from the sour smell present in markets in hotter climates. On to the best Churro spot in Mexico City and from there to the Ideal Bakery which has to be seen to be believed–table after table of pastries, bread and cakes; display shelf upon display shelf of jellies and flans; and upstairs, the most over-the-top display of wedding cakes, birthday cakes and specialty cakes that you can imagine. From here we went inside the Opera House as well as taking a quick tour of a tiny museum specializing in the Military History of Mexico. Then on to visit the Post Office–an enormous and beautiful building (because Post Offices and Train Stations were some of the
most important buildings in a city in the late 1800′s). We walked down a market street to the original Sanborn Restaurant housed in an historic building made of blue tile. James stopped to have his picture taken with a falcon. Lunch at 1 pm in a local restaurant (not the sort of place we might have thought of entering by ourselves.) Ate a selection of tacos, a consomme of beef and veg and a meat dish made with cactus and avocado. After this, on to the subway to the main plaza (the largest plaza in the world after Red Square and Tienanmen Square according to our guide). Saw the Aztec ruins which were dug up in the ’70s and learned the legend of Mexico. Entered the Church where our guide talked about “Mexican Catholicism” which has embraced many of the festivals and features of the Aztec gods. Then back on the subway, rode to end of the line, crammed into a tiny bus to ride to another square in a lovely suburb which has been gobbled up by the sprawling city. A young Mexican girl “interviewed” us for her English homework, another church, another statue, another fountain. Then back to our hotel where it was only 4:30!! I’m not even sure I haven’t left something out! But our hosts at the Red Tree House made sure we had some tea and cookies so we swiftly recovered.
Is this how our guests feel after a day touring the Biltmore and Asheville?
The next day was similarly packed and I am not going to bore you with that but I did want to share with you our dinner experience.
James managed to secure dinner reservations for my birthday at Pujol, #17 on Elite Traveler’s list of the 100 best restaurants in the world. It’s a tiny place with not more than 20 tables. The food was excellent with a couple of bites that were truly sublime but the experience was lessened by the pretensions of the servers. Our reservation was at 6:30. We arrived promptly to be greeted in front of the door by a waiter who announced that the restaurant opened at 6:30 and it was (according to his watch) 6:28. So we waited on the sidewalk with two other couples until we were allowed in. The set-course meal menu was beautifully presented and placed to the left of each diner. We soon learned not
to move it as a waiter would immediately put it back in its proper place on the table if we happened to look at it and place it somewhere else. But the most interesting performance of the evening came when the tables on both sides of us had the misfortune to spill something on the pristine white table cloth. This necessitated the immediate removal of all dishes so that a new tablecloth could be put down with a grand flourish! The discomfort and embarrassment this caused to the couples was clear.
The contrast between the informal and friendly service of the Red Tree House and the uncomfortable and superior service at Pujol provided a stark reminder of how it’s not just what one offers but how it is presented that makes a guest’s experience stand out! We returned home more than ever convinced that it is possible to provide the highest level of service to our guests in a calm, friendly manner designed to make them feel at home and at ease.
Posted in Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Innkeeping, Uncategorized, Wine and Food | Tagged Hospitality, Mexico City, Pujol, The Red Tree House | Leave a comment