King for a day…
To celebrate my birthday I was decided to stay in a hotel close to nature, perhaps in the mountains. After some searching on the internet, we found the Urikana Hotel, a secluded property located at the Imbuí Park in Teresópolis which consists of 27 individual chalets-rooms. This hotel had great reviews and we were eagerly anticipating our trip. After an uneventful one hour’s drive from Rio de Janeiro we arrived at the hotel at night. It was raining a lot. After leaving the highway, we entered a narrow cobbled road lit only by my car’s lights. Due to the road conditions this final part of our trip seemed endless... And although there were signs pointing to the hotel’s direction, the road is full of turns and can be very dangerous to a less experienced driver. So, it is not a bad idea to arrive in this hotel in daylight. Once at the hotel, we were greeted by a clean, country style reception area decorated with rustic furnishings and natural materials. We were given a chalet room located a few steps from the restaurant. It was Easter Sunday and the hotel was almost empty. The room included breakfast (served between 7 and 10 a.m.) and afternoon tea (served between 5 to 6 p.m.). Although we arrived late, the waiter on duty kindly served us tea with homemade cakes. We chose the Superior Room (R$ 385, approximately USD 130, plus 10% surcharge) which is equipped with a fireplace, air conditioning, indoor Jacuzzi whirlpool bath with a glass ceiling (bathing pillows allow you to look at the sky while lying on the bathtub…), radio and CD player and a nice balcony facing the forest.
Next morning, after a restful night, we went to the restaurant for a hearty breakfast, served at the table and consisting of a variety of breads, cakes, jams, cheese, cold cuts as well as orange juice, coffee or tea. I was informed that a self-service buffet is prepared only when the hotel is fully occupied. However, we were the only guests in the restaurant and the waitress prepared, at our request, scrambled eggs and a fruit smoothie. Nice.
It was my birthday and I wanted very much to have lunch (or dinner) at one of the local restaurants. However, to my frustration, almost every restaurant in Teresópolis is closed on Mondays. I shared my disappointment with the waitress who served us in the morning and she immediately suggested a walk around the city during the day and dining at the hotel. “Don’t worry, I will ask our chef to fix something nice for you”, she said. Although the cook would finish his shift at 2 p.m, a fondue bourguignonne could be prepared in advance for us. I agreed with the idea and for R$ 70.00 (approx. 30 USD) we had a great dinner of fondue bourguignonne, served with röschti potatoes. As a starter we were offered a dish that resembled a raclette de pain au fromage, included in the price. After consulting the expensive list of wines, I finally chose to open an excellent Sicilian red wine I had brought along with me, a gift from a friend. However, I had to pay R$ 25.00 (approx. $ 10.00) as "corkage fee" (“taxa de rolha”, in Portuguese), an amount far less expensive than I would pay if drinking any of the restaurant’s wines.
During the day, I walked along the hotel’s trails and enjoyed the in-house amenities such as the steam bath, the whirlpool bath and a cold shower with really strong water pressure. However, I didn’t venture into the swimming pool as the outside temperature was not really inviting. But I was alone, and it was an extremely nice feeling to have all the facilities just for me.
At this point, nevertheless, I must draw readers' attention to some dangers while walking along the trails. It had rained a lot during the night, and in these circumstances the cobblestones become extremely slippery due to mud that accumulates. During my walk I slipped on those stones and landed on my back in the mud. I got some bruises on the legs and arm but, fortunately, I had nothing serious. I’m not blaming the hotel for this incident, however I strongly believe that the management should have installed some simple warning signs along the way, such as “Slippery when wet…” According to one staff member who was passing by and witnessed my fall, “I was not the first one…”. The in-room wi-fi was not working during our stay and at the reception I was informed that the problem was at the internet provider, not at the hotel. We also had a bad experience upon checkout as we were wrongly charged for a very expensive restaurant bill when we had only tea and cakes on our arrival day. At first, the front desk receptionist did not believe me and brought a bill bearing someone else’s signature. I said it was not my name on the paper and on that day we had only tea and cakes, which were complimentary. The situation was eventually resolved when the restaurant waiter was called. Apparently, a couple left behind an unsettled bill… So, watch out for that. This incident slightly marred an otherwise enjoyable hotel experience. However, the hotel is very nice, with clean and quiet chalets. The staff is remarkably friendly and helpful. The prices are not cheap, but not very expensive either. Recommended only if you are looking for absolute tranquillity and seclusion.