It was in the news this week: hotel rooms are converted into hospital wards to house convalescent Covid-19 patients. One of these hotels is the historic Hotel Trias in Palamós (Costa Brava). Few people know that this establishment has been built up by a girl of 17 who, despite repeated setbacks, turned a small inn into a prestigious business.
We are talking about Maria Trias Joan who was an only child born to Francisco and Matilde on 29 July 1892 in Sant Joan de Palamós. At the age of fourteen she becomes an orphan and just two years later she decides to take over the family business: the inn founded in 1900.
Maria, and educated woman who speaks French and plays the piano, marries the veterinary Lluís Colomer Moret. He sadly dies when she is expecting their second child, already having lost another one. But she perseveres educating the two children and building up the enterprise all by herself. And not without success, for in 1924 she already is awarded an important touristic prize largely due to her great working capacity, genial character and humanity that attracts many faithful customers. So Fonda Trias becomes a hotel that is a meeting place of international importance.
Then fate strikes again when in 1936 the Spanish Civil War breaks out. The hotel is bombed and Maria and two chambermaids are trapped in its ruins, fortunately they are rescued and emerge safely from the rubble. Although she is confronted with her life’s work completely destroyed, Maria remains strong and does not give up. She leaves Catalonia and installs herself and her family in Le Perthus (France), from where she helps people to cross the border.
These gestures of charity get her into trouble after the war when she returns to Palamós in 1939. Maria is hauled before the Court of Girona, as they accuse her of having assisted ‘red fugitives’. Her defense is that she just helped inhabitants of Palamós, so that they could escape the inferno without taking into consideration their ideology nor their condition, she just saw persons in need. The local priest gives a testimony in her favour and the Court acquits her of the charge.
At the beginning of the 40’s Maria starts to build up her hotel all over again. She buys two houses on the sea front and with the support of her former clients as well as friends she creates a splendid hotel with quality rooms and a fine kitchen as its most attractive features.
It is no wonder that its fame quickly reaches other countries and make clients from all over the world travel to Palamós seduced by reviews of her lobster and chicken as well as the bouillabaisse. Over the years many celebrities have loved to spend their holidays at this accommodation. But, as Maria values each person for their own merits and not for their fame, everyone feels welcome at her hotel.
Many Catalan find their way to the seafront as the hotel once again becomes the meeting place for Catalan intellectuals: visuals artists like Josep Maria Sert (the muralist who painted the interior of the Vic cathedral) or the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí; authors such as Josep Pla and Carmen Laforet; politicians, for example president Josep Tarradellas. They all appreciate Maria’s sympathetic and cheerful disposition and her readiness to lend a helping hand wherever it was needed.
Visitors from abroad include the authors Truman Capote and Robert Ruark and actors, like David Niven and Ava Gardner, whose presence is recorded in names of some suites. The hotel manageress also strikes up a close friendship with the British actress Madeleine Caroll and even assists at her funeral that leaves her very affected.
In the spring of 1960 Truman Capote arrived at the hotel Trias with 26 suitcases, 60.000 folios full of notes, two dogs, a cat and his partner Jack Dunphy. In room 705 he will write part of his book In Cold Blood. Afterwards he hires a house in the village, but frequently returns to the hotel to take some martinis with Joan Colomer and his wife, or his usual orange juice, more often than not changed into a not so innocent screwdriver.
Maria Trias dies on 24 August 1960, her son Joan who together with his wife has been her close collaborators since 1954, succeed her as managers. After their retirement the hotel is refurbished and reopened in 2005. However, the hotel Trias has maintained that special charm that emanates the essence of hospitality treasured by Maria Trias.