What will I wake up to next? I'm talking about the world news and the fear and fear-mongering that seems to be bubbling up and over everywhere. Part of the reason we are taking a family gap year is to embrace the joys of what this earth, our earth, has to offer. Another reason could well be the spiralling chaos that is the modern world today and trying to retreat into some peace and faith in humanity. I do admit that I felt a little guilty when I started planning our latest hacienda sojourn, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. However, whilst they do say 'misery loves company', I really don't think anyone would feel the tiniest bit lighter, even if they did know that I was sitting at home feeling dreadful at the latest news of lives lost and torments of terror. So, yes, I stared at my calendar and started circling dates.
Taking the 'Ruta de Tequila', west from the city of Guadalajara and an easy and pleasant one hour drive, we were impressed by the clear and frequent signage that lead us to the Hacienda El Carmen. The hacienda itself was striking and it was soon understood, and agreed by each and every family member, that we were not going to be leaving the property to check out any local sights until it was required that we check-out of the hotel itself. We were going to hideout at this hacienda.
The beauty of its history was not only admired in the strong colonial architecture but also in the coolness felt when stepping in from the summer heat into the thick shade of rooms that cradled story upon story. Its restoration, coupled with evolution into a luxury hotel & spa, has been meticulously carried out. Textures, shapes and light create an elegant and authentic environment in which visitors can relax in hammocks, comfy chairs or a sun-lounger by the pool from which to take in the view of the huge expanses of lawn and the swallows gliding, swerving just a few inches from the tips of the grass blades.
Hacienda El Carmen became both a haven and a heaven for this family of five. Whilst remaining a graceful space to retreat into, the hacienda was obviously very family-friendly. We met several other families who chose to bask in its beauty. My young trio delighted in peddle boating upon the grand duck pond with a dreamy vista of the Tequila Volcano. They wove in-and-out of the aqueduct set against the stretching scene of the Sierra towards Ameca. They plunged into the pool to be greeted by Peppa, the solitary pool side duck. They were led on horseback over the extensive and tranquil grounds, and invited to feed the free gobbling turkeys and a handsome horse. Peace and serenity reigned over the hacienda and washed over us.
Talking of being fed... Guava Water, Hibiscus Flower Ceviche, Chicken Breast in Peanut Sauce, and the best Vanilla Ice-cream I have ever tasted! Meal after meal, the food, presentation and service was outstanding. The children devoured each meal with mucho gusto, much to the surprise of the smiling wait staff, since the dishes were not only sophisticated but the portions were designed to satiate adult appetites.
The bubble of peace we had entered was soothing, the 'faith in humanity' stepped in in the form of the director of the hacienda. Monica Baeza introduced herself to us, but mostly to the children. She wanted to make sure that the kids had met Peppa, who until that point was known to us as the very sociable poolside duck. The young trio followed Monica from the dinner table, but I had no objections, I love watching them make connections with people, I can see their hearts open and the love radiating. From that point on, any encounter with Monica saw my three-year-old thrown herself into Monica's arms and forget about all others. She shared with us just a little about herself, about her daughters, but it was through those little snippets and listening to the kindness in her tone that a connection was made, to the person and to the land that we stood upon.
When it came to leaving, the converted stable room quarters had begun the feel like home. Hacienda El Carmen had given me what I was looking for, an escape from the ugliness that the world can hold, and an embrace with a magnificence that is far more than a weekend escape.
It had also given us time and balance. Time away, time together, time to eat an apple in the shade of a tree. Balance of perspective, balance in priorities, balance of work and of fun. To the pride of 6-year-old twin boys, time also gave them the opportunity to practice their balance and to learn to ride a bicycle. Hacienda El Carmen will always have a special place in our hearts.
For more information on Hacienda El Carmen, please go to haciendaelcarmen.com.mx