Venezuelans seek pleasure, privacy in love hotels

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Lovers in Venezuela are engaging in adventure tourism. Some explore the glass bathtubs at Hotel Aladdin, whose fluorescent minarets add a Disney-like quality to the Caracas skyline. Others opt for a safari at Hotel Montana Suites, where themes include African, Zen and Hindu.

And still others head down the “Route of Love” — the Panamericana highway, where signs such as Hotel Las Vegas and Hotel Bosque Dorado (“Golden Forest”) beckon passersby with sultry pleasures.

Married adults often frequent these getaways to celebrate an anniversary, or engage in an illicit affair.

But for students and young professionals, who traditionally live with their parents until marriage, these hotels provide an especially attractive escape. Due to soaring housing costs and 31 percent annual inflation, some are now extending their stays at home even until after marriage.

“When I married one could buy an apartment for a reasonable price,” said economist Pedro Palma, who moved in with his wife some 40 years ago. “Living with a partner today is very difficult, very costly.”

University students such as Daniel Ramirez, 24, often turn to mid-range hotels in central Caracas to be with their significant others. On his first visit to Hotel Roda, Ramirez had the opportunity to be intimate with a month-long girlfriend for the first time.

“There was no place I could go to see her,” said Ramirez, who lives with his family because he can't afford an apartment. He was reasonably satisfied with his experience — including clean rooms, wall and ceiling mirrors, and a television with pornography — and later returned with another girlfriend. The awkward part, he said, was a lack of privacy in the hallways.

“Couples pass each other like this,” Ramirez said, ducking his head and cupping one hand over his eyes.

More expensive hotels, such as the Hotel Bosque Dorado, cater to a wealthier clientele and guarantee privacy. Guests drive up to a blacked-out window, and choose their room of preference from a television screen. They then enter a red-lit, private parking space with a stairway leading directly to the room. Room service is served through a slot, without any face-to-face contact.

Bosque Dorado’s 122 rooms have a handful of themes, including “Monica Lewinsky,” “Liza Minelli” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Public relations manager Victor Jimenez said the names were chosen to give each room a certain feeling.

“Monica Lewinsky — this suggests forbidden love,” Jimenez said. “Romeo and Juliet means passion.”

Jimenez said the hotel offers mirrors, condoms, sex toys, oils and other items to enhance pleasure, including the “potro” — a curved recliner “that people can use to make love in a risque way.”

Venezuelans joke that hotels such as Bosque Dorado, most of which have a six-hour minimum, are overflowing on Sept. 30 — Secretary’s Day. But Jimenez said this and other occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, are hard to differentiate from a regular weekend, when there are often cars waiting in line to enter. Jimenez added that the hotel attracts all types — from married men with a lover to couples simply looking for a break from their routine.

Michael Angel Garcia Alvarez, a 30-year-old personal trainer, said that while he can bring girlfriends to his parents’ house, he’s visited three love hotels in Caracas at least once to explore a new venue with his former girlfriend.

“I have total privacy in my room,” Garcia said. “But it was more like, let’s do something different … jacuzzi, mirrors.” On other occasions, Garcia said, he chose a hotel for new experiences, such as one involving multiple sex partners.

Venezuela’s love hotels — known as “mataderos,” or slaughterhouses — appear to cater to every taste. One chain of “medieval motels” includes the castle-like Motel Camelot — which boasts one room with restraints and a stripper pole.

Solo guests, however, may find themselves in a tough spot. Carlos Vilkerman, a 48-year-old freelance cameraman, said he’d been driving for hours when he pulled into Camelot, just outside Caracas, to get some rest. After he’d paid, the receptionist was handing Vilkerman his key when she realized that he was alone, and called the manager. Vilkerman said they searched his car and interviewed him extensively about his plans for the evening — including whether he’d brought toys — before the manager finally said he could stay.

“He gave up and said all right, well, you’ve already paid,” Vilkerman said. “So just go there and make sure nothing happens.”

“They were so appalled by the fact that someone was going to spend a night at their hotel by himself," Vilkerman said. "There was no protocol."