If internationally known art community San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is on your vacation bucket list and you love hitting the hotspots when traveling, lock in a stay at Hotel Matilda. A dreamy destination matched with a lifetime come true goal of local entrepreneur: Harold Stream (aka Spook).

A red eye flight from SFO and a two hour shuttle drive from the nearest airport (LEON) delivers us at dawn, bleary-eyed, at the well worth the journey sleek revealing entryway of Hotel Matilda – a sophisticated and polished gem nestled in the cradle of cobbled colonial streets.
Checking in at the front desk is a breeze, the staff is graceful, thoughtful, prepared. It’s the electronic evolving kaleidoscopic (echoing traditional Mexican tiles by Nacho Rodriguez Bach) suspended behind the staff that questions the steadiness of our feet. This is the first indication of what artful promise lies ahead. On our right is an exquisitely designed library and gallery of Latin art, books and collectibles – to be enjoyed after we freshen up.

On to our abode. We breeze past a monumentous bust by Javier Marín, a celebrated Mexican sculptor from Uruapan, Michoacan. My friend and I exchange glances. Hint number two. This is gonna be special. We stroll on past a misty sculptural waterfall feeding into an infinity – the pools surface is at our eye (popping) level. This is the pulsing heart of the property.

Our guest room is sparkling clean, artfully decorated with original photography by Eduardo Dayan, and the floor to ceiling patio windows look out upon the rolling hilltops of San Miguel de Allende.

First things first, a visit to Spa Matilda – the only spa in all of Mexico to make the Conde Nast 2011 HOT LIST. And sexy and sultry it is. The waiting room has the typical tea and cookies selections but what is not so typical is the original museum quality art, the lavish interior touches, a simmering fireplace and a cultivated art library. Allow yourselves plenty time to linger here before and after scheduled appointments.

The Hammam experience. Step into a steam so dense you cannot decipher your surroundings. The heat and fragrance will take your breath away – breathe in, breathe out. Sidestep your way to the plush towel draped divan and absorb the heat and moisture for a few minutes. Arranged in front of the divan is a bench table with a small pot of freshly custom blended ginger, sage and lavender. Scrub yourself from head to toe and then lie down to completely relax and absorb the salt, the fragrance and feel your cares melt away. Thirty minutes of complete surrender. If the heat gets to be too much plunge your fingers into the ice bucket for the cold wash cloth. Eventually the steam subsides and you will discover you are ensconced in a large white marble room with alcoves and artisan touches. The soft plush divan and the rainwater rinse take this steam room experience to another physical level.

Each signature massage treatment begins with hovering lavender oil infused cupped palms suspended over your eyes and mouth until your breathing slows. A satin eye pillow stuffed with sage, lavender, rosemary and clover drapes across your brow and allows you to truly release. Gently wrapped in the softest sheets and blankets, your shoulders and feet supported with absorbent cushy rolls, soft music in the background, aromatherapy infused, you are ready. Inhale and let go as much as you can while you are firmly and carefully worked from head to toe.

Hate to miss a minute of a clear blue sky? Opt for Spa En Vivo – just minutes from the Hotel – for an outdoor massage or dip into thermal springs.

The spa shop is very tempting, carrying Natura Bisse and Primavera® products, all used in treatments and a few more select stylish items. Notice the lavender – grown all round the property – an essential element in every service at the Spa.

Around the corner is a new fitness facility with cardio and strength-training equipment furnished in the Fall 2011 and literally just above is the stunning infinity pool presented center stage in the heart of the hotel. (Locals and long term vacationers have full access to the gym and pool for $150 U.S a month)

We head back to the room to dress for the day. It is late October and the city is humming with preparations for Dia de Los Muertos.

The central plaza is decorated with fluttering colored flags and surrounded by an assortment of colorful alters to the dead. The cathedral soars above us ripping the blue sky. It is warm and small children are shouting and darting in every direction.

After a stirring and thought provoking two hour walking tour of the town with Patronato Pro Ninos (highly recommended) we were inspired to watch the film Frida (2002) again, with a fresh awareness of the historical events that took place here and throughout Mexico.

Choosing to pass on the outdoor screening of an ancient horror flick we scrambled to catch up with a smartly uniformed singing and marching troupe headed seemingly towards the parque beyond our hotel. Much to our delight the troupe was destined for Hotel Matilda! What a unique musical experience for the guests! And an insight into the support of the arts of this community and of hotel management.

As the music died down we queried the front desk for the film Frida. To our complete delight and their surprise they had the DVD in stock and proceeded to set up the player in our room. Truly custom service. After learning so much during the morning tour we wanted to continue the experience of reliving history. Watching Frida and the art and politics of the day was perfecto.

We slept soundly, blissfully. Breakfast was fresh fruit and eggs, all beautifully presented. Off we went to explore the the arts in town. On our evening return we met for drinks and appetizers in the Bar Matilda with the hotel representative for insights on the property.

Clearly the arts are the passion of this property. It houses an eclectic collection of works, including several pieces commissioned specifically for Hotel Matilda by popular and rising stars of the Mexican art world.

Underscoring Hotel Matilda’s commitment to the arts is that it is named for the subject of a famous painting in the hotel’s collection. In the 1940s, internationally acclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted a larger-than-life portrait of Matilda Stream, the mother of Hotel Matilda owner/developer Harold Stream. Rivera was unhappy with his first effort, believing it represented what others wanted her to be rather than what he saw in her, so he painted a new portrait his way. In “The Archer,” Matilda stands straight and strong, clutching a bow and arrow, and embodies – in Rivera’s artistic vision the inner Matilda – the goddess of the hunt, Diana. As a tribute to artistic vision, a reproduction (the original remains in the Stream family private collection) hangs in the hotel.

Much like an art gallery experience ones physical passage throughout the property is supported masterfully. Thoughtfully designed sliding doors are a signature nuance. From the superb street entrance to the lobby and dining sliding doors, right on thru to the suites solid bathroom door that upon closure reveals a full length mirror. Windows frame beauty in every direction. Our bathroom window reveals a deep blue wall absorbing the natural light of the day, providing a fresh sense of calm with each entry.

There are 32 rooms and suites in five categories: Deluxe Rooms, Grand Deluxe Rooms, Junior Suites, Luxury Suites and Owner’s Suites. All accommodations are luxuriously appointed with artistic touches, from fine 400-thread count linens and Mexican calcuta marble floors to art works by acclaimed Mexico City photographer Eduardo Zaylan. Most feature a balcony or terrace, while many boast panoramic views.

Plan for dining events with acclaimed artists, Supper Clubs with famous chefs, and recent installation of a rising culinary star in the kitchen series. Follow Hotel Matilda on Facebook – as events are constantly listed with hot bands, dancing parties and acclaimed art events.

Travelers seeking old world charm have a plethora of options but for those who seek a state of the art experience – a vibrant home away from home pulsing with a Latin beat – this is your dream come true.

More deets:

Wifi: Wireless internet at no charge is available in all common areas. Every room and suite has an internet connection.

Canine Club Pet Program: Pets up to 20 pounds welcome with special beds, treats, toys, daily walks and more.

Mexican Materials & Décor:
Most of the materials and components of the construction and décor are Mexican, from marble from Hidalgo and Puebla states and quarried rock from the state of Queretaro to upholstery and furniture hand-crafted by Mexican artisans.

Green Profile: Photo-voltaic panels producing up to 30% of the electricity needs; solar panels heating water for guest rooms, the pool, and other uses; a lighting system that automatically dims and shuts off lights to reduce energy use; composting of organic waste and recycling of glass, plastic, paper and other inorganic waste; and sustainable bath amenities presented in large 32 oz. pump bottles that are refilled rather than small individual throwaway bottles (very nice touch).

Hotel Matilda
Aldama 53
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
37700 Mexico