One of my favorite features of El Convento is its interior courtyard. During my recent stay, it served as a constant reminder that I was in Puerto Rico–or at least a much warmer climate than Vermont. Every time I walked to the balcony railing to gaze upon the courtyard, my glasses steamed up. At times humid, at times cooled by a slight breeze, you could find sun in the courtyard or sit in the shade and enjoy the soothing, piped-in music playing in the background. It was an oasis in the busy city.
The centerpiece of the courtyard is a very old and large nispero tree, which bears a small, round, fruit. There is something appealing about an old large tree growing in the center of a hotel courtyard. It adds character. (As if El Convento needed any more character than it already has.)
One night, I sat in one of the cozy seating areas in the open hallway, enjoying the night air, and heard a persistent squeaking sound and felt a whoosh of air as something flew by my head. Then a second missile flew past. I could hear the whirring of wings. They were bats, drawn by the tree–or, more specifically, the tree’s small, round, golden-colored fruit. There might have been a day when this would freak me out (I mean, EEK! BATS!), but after seeing countless news items on TV about this white-nose fungus that’s been killing off bats by the millions in the northeast US, I have come to appreciate the role of the bat in our fragile ecosystem. I was more than happy to share the nispero tree with them, so long as they ate bugs as well as fruit.
My friend Osvaldo Soler, Reservations Manager at the hotel, told me that years ago, when the new gardener arrived at the hotel, the tree was dying. She lovingly revived it and now it thrives, almost as tall as the hotel itself. In fact, if you stand on the fifth floor, you could reach out and pick some fruit from it. I’m not sure how edible it is, though, or what it tastes like, so do so at your own risk. Me, I’d prefer to sit in its shade with a cool drink, a good book, and some soothing music playing in the background.
Note: I was a guest at El Convento at a discount media rate in January 2010.