If you enjoy the finest things in life, like to be surrounded by luxury, good food and admire the wonders of antique structures, I highly recommend a stop at the Xanadu Mansion during your stay in Varadero: the island's main beach resort and its most beautiful beach.
The mansion was built by Mr. Irenee Dupont (Irenee du Pont I) himself, a French American millionaire who descended from the United States' most successful and wealthiest business dynasties of the 19th and 20th century. He resided in the U.S.A. with his family but upon arrival to the then virginal beach resort in 1926 quickly became the owner of a fair share of the Hicacos peninsula, which comprises what today we know as Varadero. At the time, he paid a mere 4 cents per square metre of land, and the area was a true natural paradise with no other construction obstructing the magnificent view of a virginal and spectacular landscape. Only twenty years later, the price per square metre of its urbanised terrains ranged from $20 to $100 Cuban pesos.
|Address:||1st. Ave. between 61st. and 62nd. streets, Autopista Sur, Km. 8, Reparto La Torre, Varadero, Cuba|
|Opening Hours:||As a hotel it's always open to the public but visits to the mansion are recommended during the daytime.|
|Entry price:||The tour of La Mansion Xanadu is free, but in order to stay longer, you must be either a paying hotel guest, or drink and eat in its restaurants and bars.|
|Recommended for:||Ideal hideaway for honeymooners.|
|Not to be missed:||The impressive organ, the largest organ found inside a private residency in all of Latin America.|
Who was this millionaire?
Mr. Dupont was born in the U.S.A on 21st December, 1876 and became a millionaire manufacturing and selling dynamite. Since his early youth, he showed a keen interest in politics, along with his brothers Pierre and Henry. In 1925, together with his two brothers, he opposed a disarmament conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland. He went on to give financial backing (along with his brothers) to the employers' associations in their fight against the labour movement, also collaborating with the emergence of fascism and becoming Adolf Hitler's friend. According to the Nye Committee - Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, Mr. Dupont was one of the industrialists who contributed to Nazi Germany's rearmament. He also made the largest contribution to the Republican Party campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt.
One afternoon in the summer of 1957, after one of those torrential rains so common in the Caribbean, Mr. Dupont; at 81 years of age, fell and broke a leg while walking down one of La Mansion Xanadu's set of stairs. He was taken back to his native U.S.A and never again returned to Varadero. He died in his country on 12th December, 1963.
A palace built in an idyllic coastal paradise
The majestic structure which I now encourage you to visit was designed in July, 1929 by the outstanding Cuban architects; Govantes and Cabarrocas, who also designed the building for the Cuban National Library Jose Marti in Havana (another impressive building worth checking out) and other residencies in the Hicacos peninsula.
Mr. Dupont named the impressive dwelling "Xanadu" to pay tribute to English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose literary works he admired. He named the mansion after one of Taylor's poems, which was at the same time inspired by the legendary warrior Kublai Khan.
While searching through archives and visiting libraries, I learnt that the construction of La Mansion Xanadu came up to a total cost of 400,000 Cuban pesos and was carried out by the Frederick Snare Corporation. The precious woods used in its construction, were brought specifically for this purpose from the city of Santiago de Cuba in the eastern side of the island. Marble was used for the floors and the main bathroom; Cuban marble for the floors and Italian marble for the bathroom. The construction was finished by April, 1930 and its interior furniture cost 200,000 Cuban pesos. The gardens and golf course; when the construction was finished, occupied an area of 21 hectares.
The property is a four story structure with a lift, a bar, wine cellar, several rooms offering magnificent sea views, various terraces and a basement. A colossal organ was installed in the basement in 1932; the largest organ within a private residence in all of Latin America. Its original cost was 110,000 U.S. dollars.
If you take your time to tour the mansion you'll be pleasantly surprised by its interior and exterior decoration, with marine motifs surrounding the whole structure. You'll spot fish, sea horses, compass roses, and sail boats. And, if you look at the mansion from the coast, you'll find a close resemblance to a ship, with red and green lamps located in the most extreme points of its rear faÃ§ade, which in ship language means larboard and starboard.
Varadero's first National Monument
The Xanadu mansion was expropriated from its sole owner upon the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and transformed on the same day of his death, into the Las Americas.
Restaurant. It was later declared a National Monument on 7th May, 2013, by the Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio de Cuba (Cuban Council for National Patrimony) because of its historic and architectonic values. Thus, it became the first and only site in Varadero, to achieve such a high status, in a category in which the Cuban State recognises and protects the most important constructions and historic sites in the island.
The mansion which currently belongs to the government-owned Gran Caribe (Grand Caribbean) hotel chain group, is one of my favourites in Varadero. It now serves as country house for the 18-hole Varadero Golf Club, which was built in the mansion's surrounding grounds in 1999. The championship golf course is already famous among golf lovers worldwide and for many years has been Cuba's only golf course, although there are now plans to build new ones across the country.
The property features every comfort needed to fulfill every visitor's need, as well as offering the unique opportunity to sleep in the original owner's sumptuous bedroom. Thus, if you visit Varadero and you love glamorous antique structures, golf, excellent food and exquisite wines; come and visit, or better yet, stay. I can assure you that you'll feel the essence of Mr. Dupont himself, and you'll see why the millionaire chose this site to enjoy what probably were the best years of his life.
Staying in, wining and dining in Xanadu
The restaurant is located on the ground floor, where the main reception area that also functions as the hotel lobby is located. The six guest rooms are spread out along the second floor and they all have different themes and names: Marco Polo, Irenee, Kublai Khan, Califa, Samarkanda and Oasis. Three of the rooms offer twin beds (Marco Polo, Oasis and Samarkanda) while two offer king-size beds (Irenee and Califa) and the Kublai Khan room features two double beds. They're all exquisitely furnished with original antique furnishings and decorated in an authentic 1930s style. Each room has a private bathroom and dressing room while most also offer balconies with sweeping sea views.
Xanadu's restaurant serves succulent meals with an a la carte service operating daily from noon until 10.30 p.m. The atmosphere of the restaurant is decidedly elegant and classic, with checkered floors and dark wooden panels covering half the walls. The menu is extensive and the food delicious. You can opt to sit indoors and there's also an al fresco dining area where you take in the jaw-droppingly beautiful sea views. The restaurant is located on the ground floor, where the main reception area that also functions as the hotel lobby is located.
No one on a visit to Dupont's Xanadu mansion should miss out on the experience of having a drink or two on the Casa Blanca Panoramic Bar or Bar Mirador Casa Blanca on the third floor; offering sweeping 360 views of the verdant grounds and the crystalline turquoise waters.