Vallarta Living | March 2006
|Movie Legend's Valentine's Day Gift Proves a Huge Draw|
A tropical villa in Mexico which Welsh film star Richard Burton bought for his wife Suzy Hunt has been turned into a boutique hotel.
|Janice, from California, was not sure if Puerto Vallarta would draw enough upmarket visitors for the level of luxury she found herself offering. But she has found the lure of spending time in place where film legends like Richard Burton and Liz Taylor used to relax over a few glasses of whisky has made it a big hit.|
And Hacienda San Angel in the seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta has proved a huge success with film fans from all over the world who are queuing up to stay there.
Just a few blocks away is the house which Burton and one of his other wives, tempestuous movie legend Liz Taylor, also used to occupy in the Mexican town.
Burton, the 12th of 13 children born to a mining family in Pontrhydyfen in Port Talbot's Afan Valley, bought Hacienda San Angel for Suzy Hunt in 1977 as a St Valentine's Day gift.
At the time, press and media interest in Richard Burton and his new wife was huge because the glamorous ex-model, in her 30s, had left good-looking former Grand Prix champion racing driver James Hunt for Burton, who was by then in his 50s.
Suzy sold the hacienda to hotelier Janice Chatterton.
In the hotel's brochure, she said, "Susan Hunt received it as a 1977 St Valentine's Day gift from her husband, the late actor Richard Burton."
"And to make it even more desirable for film fans, just around the corner is another Burton gift house, the one he gave to Elizabeth Taylor."
"With the ghosts of such dangerous liaisons swirling around it, a small luxury hotel would have a hard time missing out as a destination for lovebirds - and Hacienda San Angel doesn't miss."
The hotel looks innocent enough on the outside, tucked into a neighbourhood of white stucco and red tile roofs on a cobbled street in central Puerto Vallarta.
It is nothing like the glossy high-rise hotel resorts springing up along the beaches north and south of the city.
The brochure continues, "Guests are admitted to a lush, tiled courtyard straight out of colonial Mexico, a place where it's easy to picture a duel for your honour on the balustrade or a senorita beckoning from beyond the burbling fountain."
"Bougainvillea blossoms drop from overhead. Inside the hotel, romantic and secluded spaces abound. It is a warren of stairways, alcoves, winding passages, terraces, pools and gardens that lead from courtyard to guest rooms with names such as Angel's Dome, Milagro and the Celestial Suite."
Two adjacent homes have been added to the original villa to create the hacienda's 10 guest rooms.
Janice, from California, was not sure if Puerto Vallarta would draw enough upmarket visitors for the level of luxury she found herself offering. But she has found the lure of spending time in place where film legends like Richard Burton and Liz Taylor used to relax over a few glasses of whisky has made it a big hit.
She said, "It has more than met my expectations."
The hotel's brochure adds, "There are cocktails each afternoon in the main courtyard and shops, markets, galleries, cafes and beaches are all within easy walking distance."
"The town itself has the look and charm of a colonial Mexican village with its picturesque buildings and cobblestone streets."
Puerto Vallarta has a semi-tropical climate with an average daily temperature of 75F in the winter and 85F in the summer. It has about 340 sunny days annually.
The town did not start life as a resort and it owes its huge growth over the past few decades to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor.
In the 1960s, Puerto Vallarta was a small fishing village of about 10,000 residents.
The town became world famous in 1964 when "Liz and Dick" stayed there during the filming of Tennessee Williams's Night of the Iguana. The world's press followed the couple, and reporters began writing about the beauty and charm of the region.
Shortly after, the town experienced a huge surge in visitors and investment in tourist facilities. Today, Puerto Vallarta has about 300,000 residents and is one of the world's top resort towns, attracting two million visitors a year.