Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text and Photos ©2011 by J. Pint

Photo Gallery

Hotel VSF by night: The gate, it seems, once belonged to Mexico's celebrated dictator Porfirio Diaz

Susy Pint examines the ultra-comfortable bed in the Jazz Room. “I am amazed Roseann Wilshere was able to find such perfect pillow cases without leaving Jalisco,” she says.

The place settings display the hotel's musical theme.

Pure elegance outside the Hollywood Room.

Even the napkins have a musical theme at this Chapala hotel.

More to come: Tony in the Birdcage, the hotel's bar, dedicated to the most musical of all creatures and soon to open.





Tony Wilshere and his Melodious Hotel

By John Pint

A few days ago my wife and I were invited to spend a night at Hotel Villa San Francisco in Chapala. We had already been forewarned that there was “something different” about Hotel VSF, so we asked our host, Tony Wilshere for a bit of his time, hoping we might get two stories: that of Chapala’s newest hotel and also the story of the man behind it.

The first thing Tony told us was that I should be referring to “the couple behind the hotel,” as his wife Roseann has been hugely involved in every aspect of the project. I hope it won’t be long before we get her story as well. And Tony also expressed gratitude to his partner in the venture, Stephanie Decker.

Hotel Villa San Francisco is located right on the Malecón (Corniche) at 16 Paseo Ramón Corona, just 100 meters east of where the airport road, highway 44, meets the lake shore. It’s only been open for a few weeks, but has already had 400 guests. The great majority of them—judging from the guest book—are extremely enthusiastic about what my wife Susy is calling “a new concept in hotel design.”

“The theme of our hotel is music,” explained Tony Wilshere,“ and every room is designed around a different musical genre.” We didn’t really appreciate what this implied until Tony took us into the Guitarra Española Room. On the wall hung an absolutely stunning painting of a lovely Spanish guitarist and all the decorations and color schemes in the room were designed to harmonize with it. In addition, under the glass surfaces of both nightstands are enlargements of the most artistic album covers from the hotel’s selection of some 75 CDs of the world’s best music, which guests can access through a sophisticated monitor built into the wall of their rooms. “These are some of our favorite musicians, singers and composers,” says Tony. “We are inviting our guests to suggest new albums to add to this body of music, which right now is worth about two thousand dollars.”

After visiting the Guitarra Española Room, we entered the Bella Barroco Room and peeked at the Opera, Jazz, Hollywood and Tango rooms, all with Roseann’s lovely decorating touch. Altogether there are ten suites with musical themes, all of which have a fireplace, the most comfortable mattresses imaginable, deluxe showers, chairs you actually enjoy sitting in and drawers which—contrary to long-standing local custom—don’t fall on your foot when you pull them out. So, we found ourselves surrounded by beauty and practicality as we sampled the Wilsheres’ magnificent collection of great music.

The Safari Room is a two-story suite accessed through the hotel's enchanting patio.Finally, it was time for us to wander into the hotel’s charming garden to have a beer with Tony Wilshere, who, albeit reluctantly, had agreed to let us interview him.

“Where were you born?” I started off, naturally expecting him to name some outpost in the snowy tundra of Canada.

“Beccles in East England,” replied Tony, “but I spent my early childhood in Uganda where my father was a professor of languages.”

Susy and I glanced at each other with smiling eyes. We had suspected Tony Wilshere would have an interesting story to tell and it seemed we were not to be disappointed.

“As a matter of fact,” when I was a boy, I happened to be present on the University lawn when then Princess Elizabeth –who was visiting Uganda—was transformed into Queen Elizabeth because her father George VI had just died.”

At the age of eight, Tony’s family moved to Canada and he eventually studied engineering and math, neither of which appear to have much to do with the curious pursuits he followed after graduating.

“I got into the travel business for teachers and students and eventually we had over 5000 of them leaving Toronto within 72 hours on 26 jets. It was the best job in the world and I was even given honorary Athenian citizenship because, among other things, I had sent a thousand people to Greece.”

From the travel industry, Tony somehow moved into the publishing business where he blazed new trails by starting the still immensely popular “Cottage Life Magazine,” after which we find him acting as chairman of SoftQuad, the very first company in the world to produce internet web-publishing software. In perfect sync with his unconventional career, Tony Wilshere is also a licensed pilot and for many years was professionally involved in airline pilot training. As a result, his son Keith fell in love with flying and is currently a Captain at Sky North Medivac.

With his fingers in so many pies, how then did Tony Wilshere end up moving to Mexico?

“I’ve always been a Mexicophile,” he says, “but around 1998 my mother became somewhat bored with life in Canada and saw an ad for an English-teaching job in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Well, she’s never been to Mexico before and she’s an adventurer, but I talked her out of going to Tuxtla. I said, ‘Why don’t you go to someplace you’ll really like? There are lots of lovely places in Central Mexico.’ Well, we both did research and came down to Guadalajara, where my mother immediately decided she was going to live. But after looking around, we heard of this place called Ajijic and we decided to check it out. I guess we were here two hours when my mother said, ‘This is it!’ I should mention that in the course of our visit, we walked up to a stranger, a gringo, and we asked him, ‘What is your greatest regret about moving here?’ He looked at us for a second and said, ‘My biggest regret is that I didn’t come here sooner.’ And so, we bought a home in Ajijic.”

Hotel Villa San Francisco is about 90 years old and is the most recent of several mansions which Tony and Roseann Wilshere have renovated during the last few years. “I like doing something different,” commented Tony—as if we couldn’t guess. “Of course, decorating a hotel is a huge project,” he continued. “This old mansion had four bathrooms and now it has 14, with all new plumbing and electricity, not to mention the ten fireplaces we installed in all the guest rooms.”

Throughout this conversation, we were enjoying in the background, the magnificent music of Vivaldi, Bach and Telemann, from the Bella Barroco collection on the hotel’s musical menu and, of course, even the coasters and napkins have a musical theme at the VSF. Tony’s love for music goes back to his grandfather, a professional cellist and to his uncle, a professional violinist who encouraged the career of Tony’s son Christopher who is now a violinist as well and one of Mexico’s leading musicians. Chris Wilshere is also the founder and Artistic Director of the highly successful Scotiabank Northern Lights Music Festival which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2012.

Now if you are planning to travel to the lakeside for the next Music Festival (February 16 to March 2, 2012) you can imagine which musically-themed hotel will be all booked up well in advance. So, this may be a good time to check out the hotel’s website, or to call them at (country code 52) 376-765-2128. Be prepared for a treat.

Chapala's picturesque harbor is only a one-minute walk from the Hotel Villa San Francisco.

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