Unexpected Stay in Kingsland, Texas
Don and I haven't been been seeking out hotel adventures during this pandemic year. But in late March, we ended up with a little getaway by accident.
We had stopped at our cabin in Sunrise Beach and discovered issues with frozen pipes. We could have managed a night with no water, but we were tired. We headed for the nearest hotel, which happened to be the historic Antlers Hotel in Kingsland.
It was a little before 5, when I put on my mask and headed into the lobby. The woman at the desk looked up with an somewhat worried expression. I could see it, because she wore no mask... which is a lot more common in smaller towns of Texas.
I don't think the woman thought I was going to rob her. Surely she's seen other masked guests. She was mostly a little anxious because I had arrived, just as she was closing up for the evening. 5:00? Wow. That's early.
March 24, I Think?
I studied the little date thingy, while the host typed into the computer. They did have one of those. I wondered if that metal calendar had been there since the Victorian hotel opened, in 1901.
Probably not. The resort hotel only had a brief heyday. It closed after 22 years. Then after about 7 decades of sitting empty, a couple from Austin purchased. They renovated and opened, in the 1990's.
The hotel offered some cabins, as well guest rooms in the main hotel. I knew our poor host wanted to go home, but I asked if I could take a peek first.
She graciously put on a mask and took me through to the back of the hotel, so I could see a room. The one story room on the far right, held the Antlers Suite. I took one peek and said it would be fine.
After grabbing Don and our bags, we rolled our suitcases over the brick, to our cute little entrance with screened door AND screened transom, plus our own porch table.
There was only one other couple staying in the hotel. They were upstairs and the opposite end. Yay for isolation!
After dropping off the bags, I just had to peek at the other side of our building. What a treat to have windows on 3 sides of our suite.
Our suite had about 8 windows and 2 doors. I wondered what was with that below ground room. ?
We had tons of space for our one night stay. High ceilings, woodwork and wood floors, made it feel like a 120-year-old hotel.
The furniture was an odd mix. Antiques here and 1980's decor there.
There was an equally spacious bedroom, that felt open and airy. Best of all there was no one above or under us! No one within hearing distance! Don and I were ready for isolation.
We I had come to our cabin, at the end of a road trip home from Oregon. In Portland, we spent 3 months lowering our voices, in an Airbnb basement unit. (Owners above us, liked quiet) I was a loud and giddy guest, at Antlers! TV sound up! Voices at full (even loud) volume, after 9! I could even wear shoes inside if I wanted. Woohoo!
We'd expected to be in our cabin on the last night of our journey. Instead we were in an historic hotel. Suddenly I was okay with being in a hotel.
It was a lot more fun peeking around at the woodwork and curious pieces of furniture, when I realized what we could be doing.
We were killing time at an old hotel, instead of calling plumbers and trying to figure out where our broken pipes were. What fun, to turn off the cabin water and retreat to this old place.
By 6, we were ready for Happy Hour. We decided the little iron table & chair set near our door, was not comfy enough.
Since the hotel was closed for the evening, we took over the front porch. I put the camera timer on, while we sat in rockers and sipped our wine.
We rocked away and watched the skies brewing above the Grand Central Cafe, across the road. There was a tornado watch, but the people sitting on the dining patio didn't seem bothered a bit.
The crowds also did not seem bothered by the pandemic. I did spot some wait staff in masks, but there were no covered faces, coming or going from the parking lot. This was an odd welcoming, back in the state of Texas after months in Oregon. Finally, the dining crowd thinned out and I picked up carryouts for dinner. We dined at our own table in the Antlers Suite.
The sky was blue in the morning. We'd woken a few times to storm drama. Oh how I've missed Texas storms. Luckily no tornado!
I headed out the door early with my running shoes and cell phone. So many beautiful things to see on my quiet morning run.
Sunrise in Kingsland
What fun to be back in Texas, just in time for Bluebonnet season! And the pathway down to Lake LBJ, was pretty in morning light. The hotel even had kayaks available for guests. If only we'd had time to linger.
I spotted the red caboose, as well as the others. Don and I actually spent a night in that caboose 6 years ago!
I ended my run, looking at the front of this beautiful hotel, with porches and rockers. I spotted the double doors on the left. The Kingsland Coffee Company now serves coffee and baked goods, in a space that once held a sitting area and kitchen.
I headed back to the room and showered. Don and I made numerous attempts to make appointments for vaccines back in Sugar Land. We would deal with the cabin later and head home with fingers crossed. There was a good chance we'd likely be dealing with pipe issues back home as well. Darn that Big Texas Freeze of Feb 2021! But mostly our fingers were crossed that we'd get the Covid vaccine soon!
We loaded the car and I put on my mask to check out. A different woman at the desk greeted me and made no attempt to find a mask. I chose to not fret. Instead, I asked about the history of that underground room near our suite. Something about bootlegging! And some kind of elevator or contraption that carried the liquor to upper unit, near ours. I love a fun tidbit of hotel history.
Then, I headed to the coffee shop and found myself once again the only one in a mask. Staff and guests looked at me like I was some kind of paranoid old granny... or a bandit. Coffee was complimentary to guests, so I happily took 2 coffees for the road.
Minutes later, I got through to my doctor's office and I got two appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for the next day!
I love this sweet Texas hotel. I don't love that they paid no attention to the fact that our country is still in the midst of a pandemic. I will always remember that I was annoyed by that, but my glee outweighed my annoyance! I will always feel like this hotel adventure marked the beginning of getting back to exploring and traveling! At least I hope so!
First Covid Hotel Adventure
After months of hunkering down at home, Don and I decided to plan a trip to see our kids in August.
Adding to the Notable Night list was not the goal. We cared more about safety than adventure, on our drive from Texas to Oregon. Our stop at La Fonda gave us both.
A Quiet Friday
We arrived on a Friday afternoon and found the lovely, tourist town eerily quiet.
We were able to easily to park on the street across from the Pueblo style building.
Two years ago when we toured the hotel, we saw no signs about masks and there were no containers of hand sanitizer. But I was happy to see both, on this visit.
We had chosen to stay at La Fonda, because we'd read positive reviews about how the hotel was handling the pandemic.
How Much Risk?
This was the final hotel stop on our drive back home. All our other hotel stays had been with clean, safe and boring Marriotts. Was it risky to stay at a charming, historic hotel?
Lack of guests made it feel very safe... and sad. This beautiful lobby should have been bustling on a Friday.
Harvey House History
Without guests, it was easier to picture the hotel in 1925, when the famous hotelier, Fred Harvey began operating one of his Harvey House Hotels.
I loved picturing this cozy space, in the Roaring Twenties, when La Fonda first opened. If any flappers (in skimpy short dresses) visited, they might have needed the warmth of a cozy fireplace.
Our hotel adventures have always involved lots of exploring. But these are different times. Don and I are incredibly cautious. It suddenly felt strange to be wandering in my mask...
But, there was no one in sight, so I felt safe. I took in all the details in the stairwell... the tiles and stained glass.
The stairs at the east entrance had intriguing murals.
I don't know the history, but I loved the simple figures and pueblo buildings.
Stairs & Windows
I traveled up the stairs from the lobby and found some colorful, hand-painted windows.
The mezzanine floor had a great view of "La Plazuela", which has been cleverly turned into a temporary art gallery.
This is the same view, 2 years ago.
I took the photo early, before the restaurant opened. It was an indoor space, but felt like a courtyard. I so hoped that we could eat here on our next visit. Not this time.
Art in the Halls
We were given a first floor room, which meant no elevators. Yay! One more way to avoid contact with others.
I loved studying the curious art in the hallway. The porthole didn't open. I tried. I wisely, did not try to open the painted door. I left the fire extinguisher alone.
I loved the hefty door to our room. Look at the curious, angular accents surrounding the door.
The room was cozy and quiet, just like the whole hotel.
The colorful headboard and heavenly bedding was a perfect combo.
The bathroom had a sleek, sliding door and a colorful bit of art in the shower.
The furniture had a classic southwest lodge feel. I'm not sure if any was original, but it fit the theme. The cabinet stored the modern fridge and coffeemaker.
This sweet space, gave us a little extra room to spread out.
Our first floor room was raised just enough, to give us a nice view. There was a market across the street and some interesting clouds. Beyond the market we could see Loretto Chapel and a wedding party, all dressed in masks. Interesting and sort of sad to watch.
A couple years ago, Don and I visited the Tower Bar and had drinks at sunset. We had good memories of sitting in that row of chairs, looking out over Santa Fe.
I'm not even sure if the bar was still operating, but we decided to avoid it. Instead we checked out La Terraza, for dinner.
We peeked in and met Alysia, who was waiting tables. She greeted us in her mask and gloves and put us right at ease.
She invited us to look around, before making reservations for later.
In all our months of caution, Don and I had not dined anywhere, inside or out. We hadn't even been tempted.
But, the staff and atmosphere at La Terraza had made us excited for the first time.
Everyone on duty wore masks and gloves. We were handed disposable menus. We kept masks on to order, then waited for our sparkling wine.
Our table couldn't have been any more isolated! We had a perfect view of St. Francis and the bells chimed at 7:15, right after we sat down.
Cheers to First Pandemic Restaurant Dining
We decided we needed to offer a toast to our first meal out in nearly a half year.
It felt odd. We kept looking around to see how other diners were handling the experience. Were people placing their masks on the table? Were they putting masks on when they stood up? No one looked like it was their first "dine out" experience.
When I stood to take the photo of Don, a man at a nearby (well actually not all the near) noticed and stood up. "Oh allow me!" He reached out for my photo and offered to take our photo.
It was all so fast. I reached out to hand over my phone. He suddenly apologized for not putting on his mask. He took the photo and we all laughed awkwardly. I sat down and reached for my travel hand sanitizer. I guess we broke some rules there, but oh well. We got a photo of our big night.
Rain & Food
Just before our food arrived the wind began to gust and the clouds let loose. Our umbrella didn't quite do the trick. But we were able to sit under the roof of the open air room.
My Huitlacoche Tamal was quite amazing. Don's Enchiladas del Norte was spicy hot! The food was delicious and I was extra impressed with the gracious staff... from the woman who cleaned our table to the manager who seated us!
After dinner, Don and I spent some time wandering bit. We knew we would need to leave before daylight the next day.
We've stayed in Santa Fe before, but never this close to the town center. What a wonderful treat to visit St. Francis on a quiet, balmy night. We had it all to ourselves.
A lot of people come to Santa Fe, just for the shopping. That wasn't something we were up for, but before turning in we enjoyed a little window shopping.
This shop window was at our hotel. Don was the first to notice it. We both burst out laughing. Don pointed to her and told me, "Girl, this is how you do Santa Fe!"
We have wanted to stay at La Fonda for many years. The pandemic prices made it possible for us. It wasn't the experience we dreamed of long ago, but I would say it was better. I will always remember that our stay at this wonderful and safe hotel, gave me a little bit of hope. If Covid is with us for 10 more months or 10 more years, at least I know there is a way to escape a bit, even if it requires wearing a mask.
Our short stay was a piece of pandemic heaven.
Creole Plantation B&B
The day after Mardi Gras, Don and I continued our Louisiana celebration!
After a few days of parades in New Orleans, we found ourselves relaxing in a totally different Louisiana setting. Our B&B in Lafayette, was a peaceful oasis, in the heart of Cajun Country.
Home from 1820
We arrived late afternoon and found the 200 year old home, tucked into the Sterling Grove Historic District. The peaceful house and grounds, sat just one half mile from downtown.
I crossed fingers, as we pulled into a gravel lot. It looked awfully empty and quiet and I hoped there hadn't been a glitch with reservations.
200 Years of Stories
Don and I have never spent a night in a 200-year-old plantation. I was happy about having another first for the Notable Night list. But I felt a tiny bit anxious, as I allowed myself to wonder about some of the history and stories.
I knew the Moutons built the home in the early 1800's, but who were the people who labored to create this home? Who were the women who cleaned and cooked... the men who worked in the sugar plantations? As we approached the side of the house, I realized we probably would never know those stories.
Finding the Door
We parked and headed towards the walkway. I spotted moss growing on the roof of the carriage house. The grand oaks seemed to dwarf the house and other buildings.
We headed past the carriage house and followed the covered walkway.
The weather was a little chilly, but the brick patio with fireplace, looked inviting. There was a chiminea, loaded with wood and ready to be lit.
We headed towards the red-brown door in the rear of the old house. There was a sign saying "Check-in at 4". My watch said 4:01. Yay!
Our host Eric, met us at the door. He didn't have an Acadian accent like Charles Mouton, who built the house. But Eric had a wonderful French Canadian accent. He was from Quebec.
We entered the bright breakfast room, which was actually an addition. But it could have been added 100 years ago. I'm not sure.
I loved the feel of the area between the breakfast room and kitchen. There was a mysterious curving stairway, beside the white brick wall. I really loved the old pie safe, standing nearby. The gigantic bottle of Tabasco on top, reminded me that we were in Louisiana.
Erik checked us in and gave us a key. The key wasn't for our guest room, since there was no lock on that door. The key was for the exterior kitchen door, if we came in late.
Through the House
Eric led us through the downstairs, towards the front of the house.
The breakfast room opened into another eating area. Then we passed through an interesting, wide door.
That door led us into the parlor. Another set of blue doors took us to the front porch and garden.
We headed up a narrow set of stairs, to the second floor. The wooden steps were comically warped and worn. They didn't look a bit like the grand staircases from movies like Gone With the Wind, and I liked that.
The second floor had a set of doors leading to the balcony and another set of stairs heading to the third floor.
The second staircase looked like it had been added in later years. We took a peek upstairs at the cozy rooms, with slanted ceilings. Who once slept there?
The Voorhies Suite
Our room was one of two second floor guest rooms, on the front of the house. I believe our suite was named for the previous owners, a few years back. Mr. Voorhies was a descendant of the Mouton family.
I loved our tall skinny doors, even if there was no lock and we had to trust our fellow guests. The blue paint was soothing.
Chandelier and Fireplace
I haven't a clue who slept in our cozy rooms, 2 centuries ago. I loved imagining it.
Our front room had the fireplace, chandelier and balcony door. The middle room had a sweet four poster and closet, with coffee maker and fridge. The bathroom in the back had plumbing. Yay for that! Who knows when that was added.
Mr. & Mrs. Mouton
I liked imagining Charles Mouton and his new bride, enjoying this fireplace during the cold winter months.
For most of the year, I'm sure all the windows were open and the balcony got lots of use.
There was lots of sunshine coming through our 5 windows.
But the balcony was a little chilly, with wind and temps in the low 50s.
We had the whole balcony to ourselves, since no one had booked the other room. We should have taken a quilt from the rack in our room and enjoyed the view.
But we did take in the garden view for a bit. The trees were just beginning to flower and I spotted daffodils and some blooming azaleas in the yard.
We took a walk around the property and tried to imagine what it was like when Charles first built the house. It was a nice, reasonable size. I like to think that the Moutons weren't pretentious.
Trees and Land
The home was built on property, that had been part a 300-acre plantation, owned by Charles' father.
I wondered about the age of the grand live oaks. Were they there, 200 years ago?
When Eric checked us in, he let us know there was a social hour around 4:30
We of course went for Mint Juleps. We sat at the table near a festive display of flowers and Mardi Gras beads.
When Eric went off to prepare our drinks, we introduced ourselves to Bobby, who sat at the end of the table.
Bobby apologized for his raspy voice. It was of course the day after Mardi Gras and he had spent the last few days performing and celebrating. He sang some Cajun tunes while he stomped and fiddled. And he shared stories with about growing up in Lafayette.
Before long, the table was full of guests. Some were staying in the other buildings. A family of 6 from Switzerland, was staying in rooms above us.
Eric greeted most of the guests in French. Bobby spoke Creole French, that he'd learned from his grandparents. As it turns out, Lafayette has become a travel destination for many French speaking tourists. We shared conversations with guests from Montreal, French Basque Country, Leon, Switzerland... and Atlanta. My photo fails to capture the warmth and fun of this group, all trying our best to communicate with one another!
Don and I headed to dinner and found downtown Lafayette a little quiet, on the night of Ash Wednesday.
And when the Swiss family returned a while later, we were again glad we had met our "neighbors". The old floors were squeaky. They seemed to be moving chairs around or unpacking and laughing and talking softly. Funny. It just felt homey and quaint. I went to sleep feeling like a mom, "Oh good the kids are home."
The whole gang (and a few more) showed up at the breakfast table at 8:30. We had been asked the night before if we wanted the American breakfast or a Creole.
Don and I chose both. He claimed his crawfish eggs with spicy Cajun sauce was excellent. Normally we would share, but Eric had encouraged us to spread out and our socializing distracted us from plate swapping. All in all, a great breakfast experience!
We were totally surprised with our stay! The website was a bit vague, so we weren't sure what we were in for.
The house and grounds were charming and the people (host and guests) made the stay memorable. What a treat to experience a culture so different than our own (in Texas) just a few hours away!
Texas Hill Country Inn
That was long before we were searching for "Notable Night Hotels". But we were intrigued by the inn and the small town... pronounced like Bernie.
The Kendall Hill Country Inn
In January, Don and I returned to Boerne and spent a night at the hotel. The canopy was no longer green and a sheep had been added to the logo. The "Ye" was gone.
There was also a new set of critters. A sweet mama and baby buffalo, greeted us out front!
Then and Now
The town has nearly tripled in size, since we first stopped through, in 2003. I knew the town had grown, but I was eager see what had changed at the inn.
We arrived on a sunny January afternoon. The town of over 17,000 was buzzing with activity. The exterior of the 160+ year old hotel, had changed little... except for the entrance.
Home & Hotel
The hotel history goes further back than this aged image. The old photo was taken after Mr. & Mrs. Reed's Southern Colonial style home (from 1859) became the Boerne Hotel. The original Reed House is in the center.
Early on, the Reeds ended up renting out rooms in their home, to travelers. The Reed Hotel became the Boerne Hotel in 1878. Wings were added to both sides of the old house.
The black and white photo shows lots of land. It's nice that some of that open land has been preserved in a city park.
If we'd had an upstairs room, we could have looked out over the park.
But near the main doors, we found lots of open rockers... and a pair of dogs. We could have rocked away and pondered history for hours! We could have thought about all the activity that occurred on that open property. Instead we wandered and pondered.
Cowboys, Cattle, Horses... Camels!
The grounds around the hotel were used as a key stopping point for cattle drivers and military men. Cowboys and horses camped out on the land.
Before the Civil War, camels also spent some time on this land. Jefferson Davis stayed as a guest in the hotel, while 33 camels from Tunisia were tied up outside. It was part of Jefferson's experimental "Texas Camel Drive"!
Into the Inn
It was about 3:00, when Don and I headed inside to check in.
Clearly, the hotel had spiffed up since our last visit. There was a great blend of old and new.
Then and Now
It felt brighter! When I pulled up some of my old photos, I could see changes. Lots of light paint and fewer rugs.
Don headed for the desk and I checked out both sides of the lobby.
Nicole checked us in. She was wonderful, showing us around and sharing a little history. All the staff seemed enthused about our interest in the hotel's past.
I wanted so badly to stay in one of the original Reed House rooms, at the top of the stairs. But out of 34 guest rooms, only a few are available in the old section.
Out We Go
We weren't sure what we had booked... except that we usually go for the lower priced rooms. We followed Nicole out back.
The hotel doors opened to the back porch. There was no view of the park, but there were nice sitting areas, overlooking the courtyard.
There were tables and trees and strings of lights, to make things festive at night.
And there was a long, one-story addition that made me think... motel?
I was a little bummed when I realized our room was in this new addition. I had hoped for a 160 year old room. But once I learned the addition was from the early 1900's, I was fine.
Our sweet-suite at the end of the porch, was a pretty nice deal!
It was January, but nice enough that I sat on the cushioned chair with a little ivy for privacy.
The suite was small, but we could sort of spread out in two rooms for a bit.
I used the little sofa for some reading. The horse kept me company.
Comical Heating System
The room with queen bed, was cozy and quiet... except when the heat went on.
The sound came on with a distant clanking. The sound made me think of kids, racing up a metal fire escape. Then a rumbling roar, like a jet liner taking off... followed by a simmering, humming vibration in the wall. The sound was more amusing than annoying. Don and I had a hard time falling asleep, because we were giddy with anticipation. Honestly, I've never fallen asleep on the verge of laughter. But somehow we both slept!
The bed was comfy and the bathroom had nice marble and tile. The robes were just the right weight for Texas weather. I can't handle heavy robes.
The cozy, clean space gave no hints of the past. Most guests probably appreciate that, but I kind of missed having creaky doors and floors.
Luckily there was lots more to experience around the hotel.
Right outside our door, we spotted a fireplace. We wondered if some of the fireplace could have been part of the original kitchen.
We found some additional guest house buildings, past the courtyard.
The carriage house was original, but the church and school had been moved to the property, in recent years. All can be rented. We didn't get a chance to use the little soaking pool.
Food and Drink
The hotel's restaurant changed hands and had a new name, since our lunch years ago.
It was Friday, so we peeked in early to see about dining.
This photo shows just one end of the dining room. On a warmer day, there would have been extra dining options on the wraparound porch.
I remembered the cozy bar from our last visit. The colors and decor had brightened, just like the hotel.
There were a few people getting the weekend started before 4.
Past the bar, there was a classy little lounge space, with a scary critter. Without guests, I could get a good look at the puzzle of limestone, covering the walls.
Restaurant or Bar?
We returned at 6 and the restaurant was filling up. We were able to get a table in the bar, where we watched lots of regulars, greeting and gathering together.
We shared a dish of Mac-n-Cheese and devoured Chef Bohanan's, Chicken Fried Quail. An amazing dish, with cornmeal Johnny-cakes and Maple Cayenne syrup!
Night at the Inn
After eating, we stepped out in front to see the building lit at night.
Then we grabbed some coffee from the lobby and headed for the courtyard.
The winter chill, meant we got to enjoy the fireplace! The winter season also meant, we didn't have to share the courtyard with family reunions or wedding parties. I'm sure it's not always so quiet.
We scooted the chairs closer and enjoyed a real wood fire. My camera flash made things way too bright!
Nice Stay and Town
In the morning, we walked a block to town and had breakfast. We strolled through shops and studied old buildings. What a curious history with the town and hotel.
I wish we'd had more time to learn about the community's past. It was first inhabited by German "Free Thinkers". That's an interesting tangent right there! Around the turn of the century, Bourne was attracting visitors with health concerns. The hotel became sort of a health resort for guests suffering lung ailments. So much to think about!
So what will I remember most? Our one night stay was a good combination. Our welcoming inn, plus a quaint town, along with some intriguing history. Having our hotel a block from town, meant we got sort of a package deal. Hotel, Town & History! Perfect!
Don and I spent a few days over Christmas, in New Orleans!
It was not actually dark (like photo) when we arrived. But this is the tall Roosevelt sign we headed towards, when we turned down Baronne Street.
The entrance beneath the glowing tree, didn't match my memory.
I remembered flags and a bold marquee, from 9 years ago. I was a little confused, until I realized there were entrances, at opposite ends of the building.
Years ago we stopped in with our kids, to see the spectacular Christmas decor. Of course, I had to snap a couple photos.
This photo makes me smile and miss the kids. This photo also made me wonder. Where were the crowds that evening, in late November?
Golden Revolving Door
This is the ornate entrance, that took us into the crowded lobby on Christmas Day.
We fumbled and rumbled our bags through the crowds. I didn't pull out a camera until much later!
We must have looked lost. One kind man pointed us in the direction of the desk. It was hidden behind decorations and crowds.
Across from the desk, I spotted a brass mailbox.
In 1950, my grandmother stayed at the Roosevelt with her mother. My mom was in college when she received this letter, written on hotel stationary. It's funny to read my grandmother's description of New Orleans, "America's Most Interesting City! Those are actually the hotel's words on the envelope, not my grandmother's.
We lucked out. Our room (one of 504) was ready early! We headed up to the 9th floor.
The room wasn't huge, but it was a clean and comfy, corner room! I love extra windows!
Just like 1950, there was no fridge or coffee maker in the room. However, recent renovations meant there were plenty of outlets for technology. And there were comfy robes and good lighting in the bathroom. Simple pleasures. When did they start providing robes in nice hotels?
I liked the framed photographs, that took me back in time.
The photo on the left shows the hotel in its earlier days. The Grunewald opened in 1893, then expanded to 14 stories in 1908. It became The Roosevelt in the 1920's.
The view from the 9th floor, was entertaining!
And far to the right, we could spot the roof sign, for Hotel Monteleone. We could also see a sign for, "Oriental Sauna Spa Body Rubs". Hmmm. Interesting area!
I've never gone to a bar on Christmas... except when the car broke down in 1981.
It was 2 p.m. when we entered the crowded Art Deco bar. My eyes were drawn right away to the WPA murals, painted on the curved walls. When Paul Nina created them in 1939, they were meant to focus on the working people of the area.
No one in the crowded bar seemed to be paying any attention to the art, or the plaque that addressed concerns about the stereotyped images.
Celebrating at the Bar
Someday, I would like to come back and study the murals longer and learn more. But on Christmas afternoon, the Sazerac Bar vibe was not about contemplating anything.
We were lucky we got a standing spot, near the rounded, bar. Oddly there seemed to be more locals than tourists enjoying the iconic lounge. We had a fun time getting to know a few... while we nursed a Sazerac and a frothy,
Ramos Gin Fizz.
Eventually, Don and I each got a foot on the foot railing. We were able to admire the impressive 1878 Ascot Cup!
But that was not nearly as awesome as watching the skilled bartenders, juggling, shaking, stirring... and remembering orders! These guys were sharp!
Don and I suddenly realized we needed food. The hotel's Fountain Lounge Restaurant, was packed at 3:00, unlike my 6 am photos.
We didn't attempt to dine there. Instead we searched the internet for nearby restaurants.
We only found a few places open on Christmas day and they looked pretty sketchy.
The wait for a table was long, but we were able to grab 2 stools at the bar. The young staff, in festive floral shirts, was friendly and attentive.
We were served the most delicious pizza, with "Happy Hour" prices! Our check for $13. came with a complimentary, mini chocolate dessert!
Dinner and Back
Later in the evening, Don and I headed back to the French Quarter for dinner.
We could have Ubered, if the streets had looked deserted or eerie. But, there were plenty of people out and about. Walking to dinner added to the fun. We dined at the iconic 162 year old restaurant and meandered back around 10.
The lobby was still lively and loud! A tipsy couple asked if we would use their phone and snap a photo. That meant we got our posed pic, out of the deal. We headed up the elevator after that and our room was a quiet oasis.
We only had one night at the hotel and I was determined to experience the lobby without crowds. On December 26th, I came down the elevator before 6 a.m.
I felt like a kid, sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning. The elevator doors opened and I stepped out and grinned. The tree lights glowed and Christmas music played softly.
Just like a hotel ghost, I floated towards one end of the lobby to the next. I could finally take it all in, without distraction!
From Floor to Ceiling
I stared down at the mosaic tile, which I hadn't noticed, when it was covered with feet. Evidently it had been covered by carpet, until renovations that took place after Hurricane Katrina.
The coffered ceiling above my head, was equally impressive.
Doors and Windows
Without throngs of people, I found doors and windows I had missed earlier. Sadly the doors to the Blue Room were locked. What was room like in the 30's and 40's when Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller played?
I took time to study the display window, of the hotel's gift shop. Did any of the famous guests ever get a chance to browse through the lovely store. I doubt Elvis or JFK ever got to shop anywhere.
Chairs and Stairs
Down one hall, I found a most theatrical looking throne. I later chatted with the gentleman who would have shined my shoes, if I'd worn something worth shining. He was delightful and shared such a genuine enthusiasm for the hotel's history.
I also found a lovely, but modest staircase. I wondered why a grand hotel wouldn't have something larger. Maybe I missed some others stairs. Even though I explored, I missed plenty of things, like 23 ballrooms and the rooftop pool!
Most of all, I just couldn't stop studying the amazing display of lights and trees!
There was a day when I rolled my eyes at flocked trees. But the tradition of decorating the block-long lobby, goes back to 1925. I now love the Royal-Retro look! Looking from one end to the next was like staring into an infinity mirror.
I read that the decorations include, 46 decorated trees, 135,572 lights, 2,200 glass ornaments and 698 hand tied bows.
The trees and branches were dazzling, but I was sort of curious how the lobby looked when the decor was gone. Maybe Mardi Gras colors invade the lobby in February? I'm guessing, the statue on the pedestal, (which is actually a pendulum clock) gets a lot more attention when the decorations are taken down.
Before heading back upstairs, I stepped outside, into a foggy, eerie morning.
This time I felt like the teenager, sneaking out the house. Was it wise to be out, where I'd seen some questionable characters, the night before? But it didn't seem at all daring. Everyone in all of New Orleans seemed to be off sleeping, somewhere far away.
Coffee with Don
By the time Don and I had showered, we could smell coffee from Teddy's Cafe, just off the lobby.
We grabbed two cups and wandered the lobby, in search of the perfect sitting area.
We sat along the wall, sipping and chatting... and peeking out through the lit trees as the lobby came to life.
We couldn't linger long, with a drive ahead. We grabbed our bags and checked out before 10.
Don took a picture of me with the holiday decor. I took a picture of him, just before we headed back to Texas.
What will I remember most? The giddy crowds, the entertaining Sazerac Bar... and my quiet morning with the Christmas lobby!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!