Whatever you need at our boutique hotel in Quito – cigarettes, honey, a helicopter – Alfonso Díaz is the best in the business and is here to sort it out. Find out the secrets of Casa Gangotena’s expert concierge here…
What was your first experience of Quito’s Old Town?
I grew up in Quito. My grandparents would take me to the Centro to go shopping. My grandma would always visit the San Roque neighborhood. Once when I was little, they brought me right here to this house, to buy spices. It’s unbelievable to imagine now, of course, but this used to be a spice and herb shop, just like the ones across the road on Calle Cuenca. Every time I behaved badly my grandparents took me to La Compañía a church, and told me that if I carried on behaving badly I would be sent to hell. They showed me the paintings as they wagged their fingers at me.
What is your aim as a concierge?
I want the few hours guests to spend in our Quito Old Town hotel to be among the best experiences they have in the city. So when they go home, they don’t just talk about how amazing the churches and squares were, but how they selected the best downtown hotel in Quito. I want them to talk about how they were met with sincere smiles and how happy the staff at Casa Gangotena was.
What do you need to be a good concierge?
To know my city, to know my place of work, to have a vocation, and to passionate about interacting and sharing with people. A concierge should turn every problem into an opportunity. I’ve had to cater to certain guests who simply aren’t interested in churches or museums. They’ve said: “I want to live how you live. Where do we go?”
So I sent them to eat hornado (roast pork) at the Iñaquito market, corvinas (sea bass) in Santa Clara, and tripas (intestines) in La Floresta. And you know what? They came back ecstatic, saying, “This is exactly what we wanted!” Not all the best hotels in Quito can organize an everyday Quito experience at the drop of a hat like that. That’s why we take pride in being able to help our guests experience the city the way they want to.
When our guests arrive at our Quito hotel, I take them up to the roof and point out all the best iconic buildings. Casa Gangotena is surrounded by 10 churches! I personally love La Compañía and tell guests they have to go and visit it. I always have a map ready. And if they arrive at night, the panorama changes entirely, with the Old Town completely illuminated and glowing. If it’s daytime and the weather is on our side, we can even see Cayambe Volcano situated far away to the northeast – the only snow-capped peak in the world that sits right on the equator!
What is the strangest request you’ve had from a guest?
In another job, a guest wanted to go to Cuenca, but they didn’t want to travel by land. So I found them a helicopter – at the price of US$18,000 and they agreed! After adding the tax and sending the luggage by land the price came out to around US$30,000.
What are your best tips for enjoying this Quito hotel?
First of all, in the afternoon, when guests have their Café Quiteño, I always suggest that instead of sitting at the tables in the patio, that they come and enjoy the sofas where they can be more comfortable. I always watch them afterward: they start all formal, and then little by little, they relax and truly enjoy the moment.
And I always say, “Anything you want, just ask!” Whether it’s me or any of the people working here: we’re here to help. If you want chewing gum, some cigarettes, a pill – anything! Sometimes guests are embarrassed to ask for a glass of water or to take the little jar of honey from the Café Quiteño up to their rooms.
That’s the secret to making the most of your time here: to rest assured that we are always here to help you.
What are your best tips for enjoying the Historic Centre?
You have to like walking! An adventurous spirit helps, too. And to always keep your mind and senses open. If you go downhill on Calle Rocafuerte a couple of blocks, you’ll get to breathe in the amazing, sweet aromas, for example. If you head over to the pretty street of La Ronda, you’re going to experience all kinds of different sights, aromas, and sounds: from canelazos to pizzas and empanadas, they will all open your senses.
Why is it important for Casa Gangotena to offer its special experiences?
We’re not a typical hotel, not merely a place to lay your head and nothing else. The whole concept here is to act as a home for our guests. When you’re “back at home,” people care about you and look after you. They give you advice, they are there for you. When you’re looking to where to stay in Quito, I’d say that you’re not just going to Casa Gangotena, you’re going to your casa. It’s a welcoming home, in the broadest sense possible.