As a lover of the eccentric, fashionable, bizarre and kitsch, I am thrilled to be dining at Helga’s Folly tonight.
The owner, the wonderfully eccentric Helga de Silva Blow Perera, has decorated every surface of her family’s hotel with bright painted figures, tapestries, murals, mirrors, dripping candelabra, stags’ heads, disco glitter balls, holiday ornaments and newspaper clippings about her illustrious family.
I have read every article and review on the Helga’s Folly website, but the reality of the place has already exceeded my imagination, and I have not yet stepped a foot across the threshold into the funhouse.
The entrance is cut into large, concrete blocks painted with boughs, bells and birds; a larger-than-life warrior god and goddess guard either side and fluorescent blue light seeps out from the lobby.
The lobby — just as I had hoped — is crammed from floor to ceiling. I am welcomed, then free to wander through several of the 40-something rooms until they are ready for me. Each is more outlandish than the next: this one bright green, that one ruby red, another hot pink. I love it!
I’m escorted into a large, gothic dining room lit only by towering candelabras. I am seated alone at a wooden table built for eight. A couple sits at their oversized table across the room, and a woman approximately my age is seated at a table to my left.
The four of us attempt conversation but we have to shout over KC and the Sunshine Band’s That’s the Way I Like It blasting from the speakers. The song switches abruptly to ABBA’s Waterloo. The mood is suspenseful: really, anything could happen next.
I ask the other woman dining alone in the dark (they have either forgotten to light her candelabra or decided against it — who knows here) if she’d like to join me at my lit table. My new tablemate is one year younger than I, went to high school in a smallish city in Minnesota less than two hours away from where I grew up and -- like me -- travels extensively by herself. Odd. But then isn't that the theme of the evening?
A tall, regal figure slowly approaches our table. It’s Helga! How do I know? Because she’s wearing a turban, large sunglasses, a neck brace and red kimono. She's not going to be dressed in jeans and comfortable shoes. She stops to speak with us and ask how we're enjoying our meal.
I'm honored: I admire free spirits.
After dinner I wander the guestroom floor and poke my head into the unlocked suites, which are as batshit crazy as the rest of the place: neon-colored walls are painted with flocks of bats and ornate furniture is covered in dust.
I spy something hanging from the ceiling at the end of the hallway and slowly approach it, my curiosity piqued.
It's a bat, dangling upside down. Perfect.
Travel diary shared by Esme