It’s inconceivable to be in Puerto Vallarta and not head over to Casa Kimberley on Zaragoza Street. I was disappointed that a portion of it was turned into a bed-and-breakfast, and I didn’t know about it until we got there. Of course, I would have stayed, even if it were only for a night!
Who hasn’t heard of one of the most tempestuous love affairs of the 20th century? Both Burton and Taylor had other partners, but they managed to marry twice. I have been hopelessly in love with both of them for different reasons, obviously: Liz, for her surreal eyes; her portrayal of Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof;" and her amazing beauty and presence on the stage and off. Burton, well, my kind of fantasy with Burton would be to have him read to me. (No, I’m not insane). This man had the most amazing voice and diction of anyone I have ever known. I could even manage to forget about his heavy drinking. On with the tour.
Casa Kimberley is on a very private street and was a villa that Burton had purchased for Liz during the filming of Night of the Iguana , another one of Tennessee Williams’ pennings. At the time, Puerto Vallarta was really underdeveloped and not well accessed as it is today. The population also rose from a mere 10,000 villagers to more than a quarter of a million people since then. The villa is part museum, part B&B, and the rates are quite reasonable. From the street, you can view the "reconciliation bridge," which was built to connect to another part of the house: this was where Liz used to dispose of Richard when he had had too much to drink, and it would be on the bridge, as legend has it, that they would meet again to make amends.
Our tour director was Maurice Mintzer, who seemed to know so much about the couple and the house that he might have been a fly on the wall. There is no right time to arrive for the tours; we joined one that was in progress, and when the rest of the group left, we were taken to the parts we had missed. From the sitting room, dining room, and pool table/Ping-Pong table area, you can soak up magnificent views of Banderas Bay and the city. There are pictures of Liz in her famous Cleopatra attire and other movies for which she was famous. All eight rooms, which are rented out, are named after the movies in which she starred. The color purple is predominant, since it was her favorite. On one of the display tables against the wall were tons of photos, native pottery, and, to my surprise, a menorah ! Though Liz kept the house after they parted, she sold it 4 years later and left most of its contents behind. There is much speculation as to why and why not. For the visitor, it’s a bonus, as the memorabilia is substantial.
The kitchen sports my favorite green color tile! I’m pleased to see that Liz and I share a love for Talavera and shawls. I spotted some of her clothes on hangers, and I was a bit surprised as their blandness. One of the two also shared our love for masks, as we saw quite a collection of them hung over the arch in the sitting room; too bad that I don’t have a banana tree underscoring mine. As we visited the upstairs quarters and the bedroom, I made a turn and inadvertently stumbled into the "bathroom." Wow, what a bathtub! My understanding is that Richard had it made for Liz in the shape of a heart in this lovely coral color. The tub faces the street, but is surrounded by glass tiles that filter in the light and provides the necessary privacy. No double sinks here, but again, there are four or five bathrooms in the whole place. A couple of very lovely Chinese cherry chairs lean against one of the walls in the reading room; all the books are not really Richard’s famous collection, but what I call "junk." I did pose the question, as I knew he was an avid reader and could not imagine him reading any of the titles I had espied.
Outside the bedroom, which was dubbed the Cleopatra Room, is Liz’s veranda, which is absolutely gorgeous; our guide told us that when Liz and Burton needed to go out and wanted to avoid the paparazzi, they would sneak over the terrace to the neighbor’s veranda and go out the back way. Oh, if only the cactus could talk! Potted plants and trees coexist with the natural flora of the region; I would have imagined a chaise lounge for Liz, but what we saw rather were two armchair-style outdoor seats with a glass top table. I also imagined that the night sky must appear as glorious from this place.
On the B&B side of the house, we were able to go inside the rooms that were not occupied, including the one where Liz and Richard spent their honeymoon. In each of them are posters that relate to the movie in question; the tubs in the baths are all quite colorful, in shades of turquoise and pink. There is a huge pool in the center so that each room entrance faces it. Lounges are positioned all around for sunbathing, though I can’t see why anyone would subject himself or herself willfully to the heat of the city. On one side, a very lovely fountain, like the ones found normally in small town plazas, sits amid the chairs. The communal kitchen is very large and staffed with folks who run the B&B.
My favorite part of the tour was reading through the photo and publicity albums that were left behind. It’s a fabulous collection, and even if you are not a fan, it’s hard to resist looking through such an important part of two people’s lives. You are permitted to take photos of anything you wish; I took photos of the photos!
445 Calle Zaragoza
Puerto Vallarta CP 48300