I had no idea at the beginning of the week that I’d end it by sharing a bedroom with Tenerife’s President, Ricardo Melchior. But life on Tenerife often has a way of throwing up unexpected situations.
At this point it’s worth pointing out that there were about five other people in the room with the President and myself as we were all having a nosey at the new look Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey in Santa Cruz during its official re-opening ceremony on 11/11/11.
The Mencey has long been an emblem of Santa Cruz and a throwback to the days of glamour and glitz when staying in a 5 star hotel was mainly for the rich and famous. But times have changed and these days 5 star accommodation is more accessible. Although still an indication of a certain level of quality and service, they can sometimes seem to be more about size and the amount of facilities on offer.
The re-opening of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Mencey, after two long years and 25 million euros worth of a nip and tuck, represented an opportunity to see how the hotel had changed and whether it was a 5 star hotel that had managed to retain its elegant, colonial olde-worlde charm.
The first thing that strikes on approach is the Grand Hotel Mencey’s facade. The colour of its exterior walls has changed from sandstone hues to blinding white, although sandy grey stonework still frames windows and doors. It is eyecatching for sure but I suspect it might take a bit of time for some Santa Cruceros to come to terms with the bright new look.
However, any fears about the Grand Hotel Mencey losing any of its former grandeur evaporates the second I walk past the smart, smiling doorperson and into the foyer.
Soft lighting; tall elegant pillars; ornate iron railings on the staircase with the hotel’s polished golden insignia standing out proudly; twinkling chandeliers and dark wooden recption desks exhude nostalgic exclusivity. On the other hand, cool marble surfaces; sleekly soft furnishings with minimalist clean lines; contemporary ornamental touches and artwork bring the grand old dame of a hotel sashaying into the 21st century with confident panache.
The outdoor swimming pool is ultra cool whilst the new spa is sleek and chic. Bedrooms are modern, bright, minimalist and comfortable looking. The dining room looks exactly as you would hope a hotel with the word ‘grand’ in its title would look ““ sophisticated and refined; I couldn’t imagine dining there without wearing a jacket.
There is a theme of fusing the tradional with the modernistic throughout the hotel. A conference room is tastefully elegant…yet parts of its ceiling are decorated by paintings of banana leaves; an old stone fountain and an ornate colonial wooden balcony can be seen in the courtyard behind the retro sofas in the porticoed terrace; another conference room has a wonderful mural depicting chicharros at work whilst yet another shows the exuberant sea lashing Tenerife’s north coast. Tenerife’s past and present is subtly on show everywhere you look ““ it’s a touch that reveals the care and depth of thought that has gone into bringing the Grand Hotel Mencey back to life.
Further evidence of this respectful acknowledgement of the hotel and Tenerife’s past comes in news that Iberostar and the island’s Cabildo are working on a project called The Legacy of Mencey ““ a book which will include old photos of the hotel and the celebrities who have stayed there, postcards, interesting documents and anecdotes from former guests.
As well as being an exquisite base from which to explore Tenerife’s capital, Iberostar and Tenerife’s Government want the Grand Hotel Mencey to play an important part in the social life of the city. When the dust from the freshly sanded wooden surfaces has settled and all aspects of the hotel are fully operational it will play an additional role as a venue for events aimed as much at the city’s residents as the hotel’s guests.
As I wander through the Grand Hotel Mencey’s quiet corriders (the first guests are due to arrive later in the day), I absorb and consider the fusion of tradional with the modern on display around me. It’s an approach that has seduced me. The hotel may be revamped and smell shiny and new, but its elegant soul and grandiose character remain thankfully intact.
The Grand Hotel Mencey has an unseen but very much defineable quality that other modern luxury hotels simply don’t posess. It has a sense of heritage ““ it feels much more than a hotel, it feels part of the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
All that’s left to say is – welcome back, you’ve been missed.