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Secrets of the Concierge: Inger Boudouris, Hotel St. Francis, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Concierge Secrets - Inger Boudouris, Hotel St. Francis, Santa Fe, New MexicoAsk a concierge of a historic property if he or she knows “Inger,” and they’ll likely say, “Of course I know Inger,” with a big smile on their face.

That’s why Jamie Stringfellow made it her mission to meet Inger Boudouris, iconic concierge of the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in her continuing series of the secrets of the concierges.

Twenty-four years ago, on May 22, 1987, Inger Boudouris began her concierge career as Santa Fe’s very first concierge.

She went on to become New Mexico’s first member of Les Clefs d’Or, the prestigious international society for hotel concierges. She served as president of Les Clefs d’Or for five years and remains active in the organization.

What’s the one thing a visitor to Santa Fe should see?

The Capitol building! Go up to the fourth floor to the Governor’s Gallery. It’s part of the New Mexico Museum of Art and full of free art and sculpture exhibits.

Also visit East DeVargas street, which dates back to 1610 and is the oldest established street in the U.S. On that street is the Supreme Court, which is in one of the oldest buildings in the country and the oldest building in Santa Fe.

Canyon Road, at the end of East DeVargas Street, was an old supply route and is now home to [more than 100] art galleries.

Beyond the historic sites, Santa Fe has great food. Some of my favorites include:

  • La Casa Cena was an old hacienda. It has a great sense of history. Sit on a bench with a glass of wine. Close your eyes, think about where you are in the world, picture how people lived long ago.
  • Pranzo Italian Grill is an Italian restaurant with a cabaret upstairs. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, former Broadway accompanist David Geist plays everything from “Rhapsody in Blue” to Chopin. Sometimes he has some fabulous singers with him.
  • And of course, our Tabla de los Santos here in the Hotel St. Francis, is an award-winning restaurant. I have to recommend “Inger’s Swedish Pancakes” for breakfast! Yes, that’s my recipe, which has now become famous with guests, locals, even governors and mayors.

Don’t miss more on Santa Fe’s unique culture with Barcelona, Mexico City & Santa Fe: Museums, Restaurants & Art in Latin Cultural Capitals

Any historical trivia or secrets guests might not know about the St. Francis?

Canyon Road Gallery Signs, Santa Fe, New MexicoThe hotel is very historic. Part of the building dates back to 1880. We have three log books from the 1920s on display in glass cases. And, I think there’s a ghost here.

What’s your favorite room or view?

Room #236 is my favorite room. It faces the patio courtyard. I love the fountain there … how special is the sound of water in the desert!

Room #307 is also great with a double window facing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the East and the Supreme Court, the Santa Fe River and the Capital Complex to the South.

How did you get here?

I’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1983. I first came here in 1960 on a sales trip for Air France. I was 23 and I stepped out of the plane and I saw little cottontails scooting across the tarmac. I remember thinking, “Oh my God. That’s a sign I’m going to live here one day.”

I was recruited to work for the hotel when I was on a committee with Michael Cerletti, who was renovating the hotel. He found out about my airline background and asked me if I would be interested in a position as “Guest services,” which I changed to “Concierge.” I pioneered the word “concierge” in Santa Fe and it was a perfect fit for me.

What is your favorite thing to do on your day off?

Sleep in! Then, I take my dog and walk Canyon Road. We have breakfast at Clafoutis or Ze French Bistro.

If I want to disappear, I go to the NM Museum of Art and sit and listen to the fountain.

Learn more secrets & get travel advice with Concierge Secrets: Dan Sotelo of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, San Francisco

Tell me about some unusual requests from guests.

I once tried to get a helicopter to pick up a groom’s suit in Albuquerque. He’d sent his brother to pick up the rental but the brother never came back. I called Channel 7 to use their helicopter but I couldn’t get them to agree. The groom was sitting at my desk in his tux shirt and boxers.

“Got jeans?” I asked. “Get cowboy boots, and have a Santa Fe style wedding!”
“My wife’ll kill me,” he said.
“Show up,” I told him. “You’ll see.”
Hotel St. Francis WeddingsHe showed up in his jeans and boots and tuxedo jacket. They’ve been happily married ever since.

Does anything ever surprise you anymore?

I am surprised every time a guest asks: “Can we drink the water? Why didn’t they stamp my passport at the Albuquerque Airport?” A lot of Europeans think they are in Mexico. So do Americans!

One guest asked me what was the exchange rate. Without batting an eyelash, I said “one dollar to one dollar.”  He replied, “Muchas gracias, Miss Inger!”

Beyond the exchange rate, and the ability to drink the water, is there anything about Santa Fe that guests are continually surprised by?

Santa Fe’s altitude of 7,000 feet puzzles some. Your body needs to adjust. You can’t just arrive from sea level and down two or three margaritas! That’s disaster and will end up in a “lost weekend.”

Avoid a lost weekend: Travel Tip: Preventing Altitude Sickness

Are you ever starstruck?

Hotel St. Francis, Santa Fe, New MexicoWell, I can’t mention names. One big star used to borrow my phone.

I’d say, “Each time you use my phone, please give me $10 for World Vision charity for kids.” He’d write a check right there.

What inborn talents, or cultivated skills, make you good at your job?

To be a good concierge you have to be the ultimate diplomat. You need to know what secrets to keep, but also how to work together with the front desk. You’re not an island, but a team. If you promise something, you deliver. I’m Swedish and I speak several languages. I also understand the importance of staying calm, cool and collected. If you get stressed, leave your desk, walk around the block.

My personality also helps.

I strike up conversations with people. Always ask people about their hometown. It’s a great way to build rapport. If I see sour grapes, I think “I’m going to make that person laugh.” As to life, I believe in four hugs. If you only get three hugs in a day, go hug a stranger and see their expression. It’s been a wonderful life for me.

By Jamie Stringfellow for PeterGreenberg.com. Jamie Stringfellow writes from Hermosa Beach, California, and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She is the co-founder and editor of WeekendWalk.com.

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