New Braunfels, TX
Don and I stayed 2 nights in New Braunfels on our west Texas day road trip. We checked out of the Faust Hotel on Saturday, so we could try another historic overnight. This Inn was nearly 30 years older than the hotel and had a completely different feel. The porch swing, below the sign says it all. This place felt homey. Anyplace that has a swing of any kind gets bonus points from me.
I sort of love a place that calls itself an inn. That conjurs up images of stagecoaches and horses. When the Eggling family built the inn in 1898, horses were used to carry the brick and lumber to the property.
Porches and Doors
Unlike our hotel stay the night before, the Inn had porches made for lounging. I haven't lived with a good porch since I was 9, living on Summer Street in Grinnell, Iowa. I have always liked the idea of watching the world go by from a raised porch. So we could opt to enjoy the view from the porch swing below or up above on the veranda, lounging on Adirondack chairs. The doors on both porches intrigued me as well. Both had screened doors, which is a good reminder of days before air conditioning. The main entrance to the hotel is made extra impressive by the 10-foot doors that came from a Galveston Hotel that was destroyed in the Big Flood of 1900. The window panes of etched glass added a little extra elegance!
Going Up and Going Down
When we entered the double doors our eyes went straight to the wide hallway, lit by a rather grand light fixture. The space was jammed with colors and patterns...black and white tiles and an oriental runner on the floor. The patterned wallpaper was covered in framed art and photos and a gigantic gold mirror reflected more of the Victorian décor from its spot above the fireplace. A fireplace in the hall! After meeting the owner Al, we climbed the stairs to the second floor and found the space equally curious. The open hall was lit from a skylight above, (unusual for its time) which made the blue wallpaper and white trim and more Victorian antiques much brighter. However there was something about the area that felt odd or distorted. Was it the ghosts I'd heard about? No. It was the white railing. I hadn't noticed until it was pointed out, that it was curiously short and had spacing wide enough to crawl through. I guess that's why visitors with children are invited to stay in the guest cottages.
Our Own Grand Entrance
Our door at the Faust had surprised us with a slatted feature the night before, but this was extra fun. We had two doors actually, the first being a swinging shuttered door which must have been used in days before air conditioning. But above our door frame we also had a transom window that actually worked!
The Songbird Room
When I had spoken with Al on the phone weeks earlier, he had suggested the Songbird Room. I liked the name of the room, along with the 1940'2 wallpaper and lace curtains. But mostly it was a treat to have a comfy, king bed, since many historic rooms are too small for such luxuries. We slept well despite the fact we couldn't adjust the ceiling fan to a hum from a roar. (We left it off) But the street was amazingly quiet for a Saturday night. Summer could be different. And we woke to songbirds outside the window. That fit!
We also had an extra little sitting area, a good closet and a decent bath. The original rooms had no bathrooms, so the bath was added much later. We were surprised to see a small refrigerator and coffeemaker. Two bottles of water and two small bags of pretzels added to our welcoming... along with packets of earplugs. (So many hotels were built to be near the railroad!)
The breakfast parlor was a cozy surprise with the 14 foot ceilings and tall shuttered windows letting in morning light. It's always interesting to see other guests when you come together in the morning. At first the German speaking table and the group of 6, dressed in church clothes all kept to themselves. But when Al came in to visit with everyone, the tables opened up. I got a kick out of chatting with a little girl who was traveling with parents and grandmother. She was excited to say she was playing the part of Skunk in a traveling production of Peter Pan.
Food and Floors
I had to laugh to see each table had a bottle of mustard. That was for the sausage kolaches that were served with cream cheese eggs and fresh fruit. I've never seen such a big pitcher of orange juice, for a table of two! And the floors. I loved the wellworn wood floor meeting up with the tile in the hall. I love picturing all the shoes and boots that have walked on these floors.
Our Inn Keeper, Al
I had already spoken with Al twice on the phone before our arrival. I knew he was enthused about the inn and would make us feel welcome. I'm glad our visit was in March, not in the hot months when tourists jam the nearby waters of the Guadalupe and fill the guest rooms at the inn. Al had time to pose with me and the portrait of Prince Solms, who was the founder of New Braunfels. He also wandered around the inn pointing out more curious features. We told Al about our travels and he told us a bit about his own love of exploring off the beaten track. He seemed so upbeat about the world he stepped into when he bought the inn 6 or so years ago. But it made me wonder if he'll ever have time to get out and explore again!
I asked Al about the ghost stories I'd heard about. He laughed and said he'd never had an encounter since he'd never stayed at the inn himself. (He pointed out his house a block away) But he showed us a room with some stories... Sophie's Room, a lovely suite on the first floor. The guests had just left, so I couldn't ask them about encounters, but I did see the portrait above the bed. Al teased that we could say that was the ghost of Sophie, the fiancé of the original owner. He also pointed out an amazing hidden "wet bar" behind a cabinet door. And there was a piano in the large sitting room. If I decided to go for a night of ghost hunting, I think I'd opt to stay in a room like this one!
Al made us feel like houseguests, not hotel guests. Ever since Psycho, male innkeepers have been given a bad rap. Al was so far from Norman Bates, he needs an award. Al does have some extra help, unlike Bates...but he seems to have the willingness to do what ever is necessary to make folks comfortable, whether it's giving a history tour or fixing a toilet if needed.
Would I go back? Even with great places I often have a been there, done that attitude. But I'm am curious about seeing this place in the spring and fall, when the leaves are out and the patio is open. Al hopes to get the Piano Bar open again. We didn't get to see the basement club, but he described as something like an old speak easy, that you can't even find anymore, unless maybe in Europe. Hmm? Now that got me curious. We'll have to go back!
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!