A haunting in San Juan

You know how sometimes you go to a place for the first time and a lightning bolt hits you? Many will just dismiss it as a mere “strong impression”, but the minute I walked into the Gallery Inn during a rainy afternoon in Old San Juan I 2006, something intangible and profound overcame me. Having traveled to other places, I have yet to experience something similar.

I visited this hotel before it’s renovation, expansion and the construction of its rustic and surfer-chic Beach House; before the restored 17th century structure had its own Instagram account filled with pictures of book signings, happy couples saying their “I do’s”, and Puerto Rico’s poet laureate Draco Rosa, in awe of this astonishing and lovingly-curated world.

Perched among the many structures of Norzagaray, Old San Juan’s outer artery, the property describes itself in its website as “a stunning twenty-eight room boutique hotel, sits high aloft the Old City’s North Wall, commanding sensuous Atlantic Ocean breezes and gorgeous views to the South over the entire San Juan Bay and mountainous central regions of Puerto Rico.” But no website can convey he achingly melancholy and beautiful haunting that walks alone in its dark and wild courtyards at night. Although vague and inexact, it persistently wanders up and down the spiraled staircases, peeking inside the hotel’s secretive rooms, and glides just above the bricks and tiles, while staring right past the plastered faces and figures that line the walls and nooks and crannies of this imaginative and exquisitely romantic home. The allure of The Gallery Inn goes so far and beyond its meticulously stylized décor, its eccentric rooms and its bohemian guests.

Not only has it become headquarters to the Steinway Society of Puerto Rico, but it’s also a gathering place for intellectuals and a unique venue for concerts, wine tastings and poetry readings. It is, above all, a living-breathing art studio. Each room houses original artwork and unique pieces so that an overnight stay becomes a real journey of discovery and art appreciation. As an artist or writer, you would be hard-pressed to find a better source of inspiration.

Romantic, nostalgic, scholarly and truly haunting, The Gallery Inn is, without question, Old San Juan’s most enchanting address.

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