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The Gallery Inn
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Reviewed May 13, 2013

I am still shaking my head at my recent experience at The Gallery Inn. I doubt I can improve upon some of the other guests' narratives, but I feel compelled to add my own. I booked four nights' stay toward the end of March, 2013, a first-ever mother-daughter vacation with my eldest. As we arrived late, we spent our first night in Old San Juan at a hostel, sharing a triple bunk bed room with another traveler. The hostel was minimalist, but clean and quiet.
The next day, we took a short cab ride over to the Gallery Inn, and were told our room was not ready. We spent the time pleasantly enough in the garden reception area of the hotel, where we could see several exotic birds and an autographed photo of the Obama family from their recent stay. I was planning to spend more than $200 per night for our room but figured it would be well worth it.
Two hours past normal check in time, a young man told us our room was ready. No apology for the wait, but cordial-- and he carried our suitcase. We climbed a narrow circular staircase to a landing onto which opened, three (I think) rooms. Our room contained a double and a twin bed. My first impression was that the place was interestingly "shabby chic". The furniture looked as if it had seen a great deal of service and little care. I sat on one of the beds while my daughter went in to shower. I looked around in the dim light of the one lamp and noticed the walls were mildew-stained and shedding their plaster. Strangely, where pieces of plaster had fallen to the floor, they were just left there. It looked like months' or even years' accumulation along the edges of the tile floor. There was a strange closet-like space with the door torn off the hinges and a dangling, burned out light bulb. On the closet floor was a blanket, matted with pet hair and next to it, a dirty water dish.
I heard my daughter laughing in the bathroom and went to see. Really, it was strangely amusing. The bath was undeniably the dirtiest I have seen in 40 years of travel, rural China not excepted.The tub was grey with soap scum and body dirt, the floor covered in hair and I'm not sure what else. I threw a clean towel on the floor and pushed it around with my foot. When I turned it over, it was black with filth and matted hair.
I called down to the desk to say I needed to see someone about our room. The young man who had shown us up, returned promptly and asked what was wrong. I said, "the room is dirty." "Oh?" I held out the towel I had used on the bathroom floor. He showed no surprise, but assured us he wanted us to be satisfied with our stay.
About 10 minutes later, a teenage boy knocked at our door, carrying a rag and a bottle of Clorox. He asked me where he needed to clean. I indicated the bathroom. He looked around and asked if I could be more specific. I waved my hand over the entire, untouchable landscape and said, "all of it, please." He spent a good ten minutes wiping the place down and asked if there was anything else. I let him go.
I am still struggling to reconcile my impressions of this place. It is a weirdly, delightful collection of nooks and crannies and art and fountains and orchids, with an odd and eclectic clientele. We had a good, if pricey, dinner in the dining room. The young man who waited on us was friendly and professional. We talked at dinner with a couple who was traveling with their son, who seemed generally happy with the accommodations.
My daughter and I woke the next morning and considered the >$200 / night price-tag and the quality of the room and decided to go elsewhere. We used the Inn's wifi to re-jigger our vacation, When we showed up at the reception to check out, shortening our stay by three nights, the same young man who had checked us in asked why we were leaving. "The room was not what I expected" I replied. "We could have given you another, if you had asked." And maybe I should have.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with family
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4  Thank Terry P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
JanDEsopo, Owner at The Gallery Inn, responded to this reviewResponded May 20, 2013

Dear Guest,

First of all, I would like to THANK YOU, for giving us the opportunity to host you and your family while you visited San Juan. We don't receive many families at the Gallery, and your sincere and objective comments have shed light on things we could do to improve the general ambiance and feeling of a suite we normally like to host families in.

In regards to the issues you experienced with the bathroom, as well as the lighting issues, we truly apologize. I have discussed this issue with my maintenance team, and we are going to thoroughly inspect the plumbing and get to the bottom of any problems that may be causing an odor. In regards to the lighting and room itself, we will certainly work on any areas that may need a touchup, as well as see where we can add lighting without disturbing the general mood that the Gallery conveys in all of its spaces.

Thank you once again for the opportunity to serve you, and hope that in the future you may provide us another chance to host you while visiting San Juan.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 11, 2013

We recently traveled to Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, which for the record is a wonderful town to visit, and stayed at the Gallery Inn, right off Calle Norzagaray. I have mixed feelings about our experience, because the Gallery Inn is just the sort of place we like to stay at because it is totally unique and dare I say, quirky. They promote and encourage this idea, and it is difficult to describe how interesting and unusual the place really is without experiencing it yourself.

However, the one issue that we had, and it was a fairly big one, was our room, which struck me as a bit dirty, and it smelled bad. Now normally I wouldn’t make a huge stink about this (no pun intended), but it just seemed odd in light of the rave reviews that other people gave about the place. Don’t get me wrong, I can see where they are coming from, because the place is really cool, but sleeping in a room that you don’t feel comfortable in can ruin a wonderful experience, or at the very least, diminish it significantly.

We travel as a family, with two young children, ages 12 and 9, and have been to a fair number of places, with trips all over Europe, the Caribbean, and road trips throughout the U.S. and Canada. My point is, we’ve experienced the entire gamut of lodging experiences, so we are no strangers to both opulence and grunge. However, because we have the kids, safety, comfort, and cleanliness are very important to us.

In all fairness, the Galley Inn gives full disclosure as to what they are offering. They say that if you are not comfortable in what they have to offer, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. I can appreciate that, and for the record, the place is really cool. It was an old colonial mansion, and the place is huge, especially when you consider that you’re in the middle of Old San Juan, where space is at a premium. The Gallery is also in a great location, right across the street from the beach on the outskirts of town.

It’s just that our room was not so pleasant. It was musty, damp, and smelled not only of mold, but of urine, as well. I can’t quite put my finger on why, though the bathroom does not have any sort of ventilation, so all business done there comes out into the room. Not a great design, and I think at times the sink may not have a proper trap, because I could smell sewer gas. That might be where the urine smell came from.

The room itself also seemed a little rundown, with dirty walls and chipped paint all over the place. It appeared as if it were a work in progress, and they just stopped what they were doing and rented the room out. The bathroom did not seem completely clean, as well, and again, that smell. One problem we run into is that we are four people, and getting enough beds four all of us complicates things.

In defense of the inn, they have this wonderful open air environment, with numerous courtyards and countless nooks and crannies that they encourage you to explore. We had a great time just walking around, and found the place to be incredibly charming. Totally unique, unlike any place I’ve been to, though a little mysterious at times. It didn’t help that we arrived in a torrential downpour, so the entire inn was damp.

The people who work there are friendly, and the owner lives there and is a very fun and inviting person. I would have liked to have talked to her more. The place is like a castle, her castle, and she’s inviting you to take part in it. As I mentioned, you can’t put into words how interesting this place was, and as the host said, enjoy getting lost, because it’s easy to do. There seems to always be another new hallway or stairwell that you can discover.

On that note, the place was a bit dark, which added to an eerie atmosphere that left an impression on our son, who is the youngest. Also, our room was dark, and the lighting unusual, not my sort of gestalt. Kind of dark, brooding, and artsy, if not a little Goth. Our kids said the atmosphere “creeped” them out a bit, and I can see why.

All in all, I have to say that I can appreciate what the inn has to offer, but maybe it just wasn’t our cup of tea. We enjoyed walking around the place, and the staff was very friendly. Plus, as I mentioned, it is in a great location. I have to confess, however, that I couldn’t bring myself to giving it anywhere near 5 stars, even though I wanted to like it more.

Room Tip: Try to avoid the "Balcon" room.
  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled with family
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Thank Fred L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 7, 2013

We LOVE to stay here. It is not your typical hotel. There are parrots in the courtyard and art work everywhere. We met the owners and you don't feel like a "number" here. Easy to walk anywhere in Old San Juan from here and we rented a car and drove to the rainforest one day!

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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Thank Borbie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 7, 2013

First off, I find the standards of a nice accommodation to be low in Puerto Rico, and would generally recommend other Caribbean destinations. The Gallery Inn is truly unique and a photographer's delight. However, the rooms are grungy, unclean, and some are just moldy. After complaining, we were given a suite which was much more spacious and no doubt nicer. Still, it didn't feel like the cleanest place. Also, breakfasts are something of a small "free-for-all" here. I can't see any stay here being described as romantic to say the least.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank i_got_travel_fever
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 5, 2013

This is place is over the top cool. Staying here is a very, unique experience that highlights the beauty of Old San Juan. The Galeria is in the heart of all the fun stuff, and there's lots of fun stuff, in Old San Juan. We stayed here in February and the weather was brilliant. The owners are the inn keepers and you will meet them, and probably enjoy a glass of wine with them, in the evening, overlooking the ocean, El Moro and an ancient and beautiful graveyard . It is indeed , very exotic.

Chris Hill

Room Tip: Bring good walking shoes.
  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Chris H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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