Grand Hotel

A long time ago, I wrote about Tania Negrete, who was the author of several articles about hoteles de paso. These are lodgings that rent their rooms on a short-time basis -- to people who are cheating on their spouses, people who live with their families (and as such have no place else to go), and couples who are looking to spice up their sex lives in one way or another. They are also mainstays for prostitutes who consider it unsafe to visit clients in their homes.

Hoteles de paso are all over Mexico City, and after you have lived here a while, they tend to go unnoticed, blending into the urban landscape. The anonymous character feeds into their general air of discretion -- they are not the sort of places whose clients want to be recognized walking in or out the front door (indeed, most have garage entrances so you can avoid the front steps).

Discretion above all was at least what I thought these places wanted to offer. Until a few months ago, when a friend invited me to the opening night party of N.Y.T. Roma, which may be the first boutique hotel de paso in Mexico City. Its name stands for New York - Tokyo - Roma -- not the city of Rome, but Calle Roma #40 in the Colonia Juárez, where it is located. How do you like this for an understated entryway?

Far from discreet, the owners of the hotel went out of their way to promote extravagance. At the opening, drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served on the terrace and the facilities were open for all to observe.

There are all sorts of hoteles de paso out there -- from the bargain basement, with saggy mattresses and cracked mirrors, where you don't want to look too closely at the sheets, to the deluxe, with round beds, mirrored ceilings and Jacuzzis in each room. Most tend to be clean, but generic in decoration. N.Y.T. Roma tries very hard to be extravagant, if not precisely stylish.

I liked the detail of the exposed showers next to the beds. The least expensive room at the N.Y.T. Roma runs at about $100 U.S. As most hoteles de paso are considerably more economical, I thought that if I stayed there I wouldn't want to vacate the premises after a couple of hours -- I'd want to stay overnight and get my money's worth. Still, I wondered if, um, noisy neighbors might make sleeping there a problem.