The seventh annual Hays Literary Festival takes place this January 26 to 29 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. This year’s event draws such guests as Jonathan Franzen, Carlos Fuentes, Michael Nyman, Ben Okri, David Safier and Marcus du Sautoy, most of which will stay at Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara.
The building opened in 1621 as a convent for the Clarisa nuns. Now a 122-room hotel, its open courtyard, filled with Rousseau-style greenery, and surrounding cloister, offer day-long cool oases from the hubbub of the Old Town of Cartegena outside.
The convent was meticulously converted by its owners, led by architect José Alvaro Arias of Arias, Serna & Saravia. The best views are from rooms on the top floor facing across the Old Town’s limestone walls and Avenida Santander to the Caribbean.
Suite 501 is being transformed into a 2,500 square foot luxury pad, along with a private terrace of the same size, which includes a hot tub and that aforementioned view. Also soon to be offered for guests is The Botero Suite, themed for Colombia’s most famous living artist, the Medellin-born sculptor Fernando Botero. His daughter Lina Botero is doing the interiors.
Hotel GM Richard Launay has recently tweaked the hotel’s finer dining room into 1621, an eclectic French-Colombian dining venue with a working wine cellar that holds a temperature-controlled humidor for French cheeses, whole Spanish hams and over 250 different types of wine.
Aside from LeSpa, which is an absolute must while staying here, the 25-foot swimming pool is also on the agenda, as is walking in the narrow 200-year old streets, admiring the sensational heritage buildings and statues.