For 20 years we have lived just 1.5 hours away from Galveston.
Since our first visit to the island, I've had my eye on this majestic hotel overlooking the historic seawall. So what gave us an excuse to finally spend the night?
It wasn't a Christmas gift. It was a last minute "nip it in the bud" attempt to avoid any holiday sulking.
Don and I had a great few days celebrating Christmas early with our grown kids. All was good! But once everyone was gone on December 23rd, I surprised myself. "We better plan something, Don." I warned. "I think I might feel some pouting coming on."
Making Things Cheery
Honestly, that is not like me at all. I'm not usually a pouting baby... I don't think.
But I am someone who tries to make the best of things, so I figured I'd at least call and see what kind of rates they had.
They weren't booked and their rates were a cheap $107. for a luxury hotel!
Did that mean we'd arrive to find the lovely hotel deserted and gloomy?
The weather was a muggy 80 degrees, but the spirit of the place was bright and festive. There were cars pulling up with families and wrapped gifts and even leashed pets. The uniformed men swung open the doors with holiday enthusiasm.
The desk clerks bustled around like it was Christmas Eve in a department store... only they seemed happy to be there.
We were an hour early and had to wait for our room. Not a problem. There were wicker chairs by the big Christmas tree, with a view out the big window to the lawn and gulf.
There was also lots of good people watching inside, by the desk and in the open lounge/bar.
But you'd never know because I forgot to capture that. I always avoid people in my photos.
I liked the simple old fashioned greenery and wreaths. No need to over-do when the place is festive on its own.
Of course there was a gingerbread house, probably to amuse the kids. Being a lover of miniatures, I wanted to remove the train... which was totally the wrong scale. How dare they.
Beams & Columns
When I stepped up the stairs to take a photo of the decorated column and beams, I noticed a woman checking in with her dog. I had already seen lots of little dogs with families, but this big fellow made me chuckle.
If I'd heard barking or smelled wet dog hair, maybe I wouldn't have been as delighted. But there was just a welcoming atmosphere about this grand place, that was filling up with couples and groups, who didn't have to leave their pets alone on Christmas!
"Twas the Night Before Brunch"
The whole front of the lobby is usually lined with wicker chairs and cozy gathering areas.
But the north side was set up for the next day's brunch. At $59. per person, two brunches would have been more than our hotel room. We didn't even bother to see if they had openings.
Where would we sit... if we went to brunch?
So maybe we weren't going to join the brunch crowd, but we were still pretty curious. Don and I explored all the options.
While the staff clinked glasses and scooted chairs, we peeked into rooms... like the bright yellow one!
And this wonderful round room that overlooked the pool and gulf in the distance. I kind of liked the circus tent feel of the ceiling!
But where would we dance?
We moved our exploring to the south side of the building to see where one might dance off all those calories after a brunch.
There was something haunting and magical about this huge ballroom. So empty and quiet, with a lone Christmas tree staring at me from across the carpet, like a proper hotel ghost.
I did feel a bit like a misbehaving child, who might suddenly feel a hand on the shoulder... caught playing somewhere that is off limits.
Then when I turned around, I was surprised by the image of this little lady glaring down at me from over the door!
I actually took this picture on Christmas morning, when it looked very spooky, due to the fog! But many do believe the hotel is haunted.
There are many tales about ghosts at The Galvez, but the most popular story is one of a young bride to be. She was staying in a room on the 5th floor, while her fiance was away at sea. When she learned his ship had gone down, she was so distraught she hung herself, up in one of the turrets. However, her fiance had not died, and he returned looking for her. Some say her spirit never left the hotel. I could have asked for more scoop from the staff... but that just didn't seem very Christmassy of me!
Talk About Christmas!
I loved the big cone shaped tree out on the lawn, towering above the tall palms. It was so hazy, so you couldn't really see the gulf across the road. But it was there.
I was delighted when they turned on the tree lights. But the lights on the star didn't go on. Rats.
We were able to check in about 4, so we had time to explore outside. We were afraid it might be our only chance, since the skies threatened rain.
As we strolled along the seawall, the haziness made the whole scene extra surreal. It just seemed odd to see the carnival rides of "Pleasure Pier" and surfers with their boards... on Christmas Eve!
We also took a little wander out by the pool. The swim-up bar was closed, but there were people in the hot tub.
And on Christmas morning there were quite a few swimmers and loungers. This is all a first for us, never having been Christmas travelers.
Our Room on Floor Two
We didn't pay extra for an upper room with ocean view. That's lucky, because the fog didn't allow for much viewing.
The room was updated nicely but was lacking in Christmas colors.
The earth tones actually went very well with my colorful decorating touches. Very silly, I know. But why not bring your own little tree?
A Turret in the Bathroom
The bathroom had a nice etched surprise in the glass.
Luckily I hadn't yet heard the tale of the bride to be. So that image didn't freak me out.
The Galvez Bar and Grill
The bar and restaurant are part of the big open lobby area. We enjoyed a drink in the late evening.
We had a fun chat with our server about the carved bar that was moved from an older building in the downtown Strand area. The nearby grand piano was quiet. Piano Man was resting his hands for a very long brunch the next day.
We posed with our Christmas martinis, quite unaware of our nearby munching guests... wearing their beach clothes. It's hard to impress anyone with my photos when our fellow guests make us look like we were dining at Red Lobster.
Where to Sit?
I took these photos earlier when the dining area was empty. There was such a fun mix of modern tables, booths and lighting fixtures.
The white woodwork around the great arched windows and molding, showed off what I love best... the old parts. This fine old hotel was built in 1911 and I love being reminded of that.
Where to Sit?
It wasn't crowded by our 8:00 reservation, so our hostess actually asked where we'd like to sit. We fully expected a more formal, "We are in charge of your evening" attitude.
So it was nice to have a relaxed approach from those serving us. Our meal was not the usual Christmas feast, but it felt just right. My vegetable pasta was perfectly creamy and fresh. And Don's burger with grilled ham and bacon and other goodies, was decadent.
I do have to include one more photo... of our bread basket.
I am a bread lover and our metal basket with muffin and bread options pleased me!
In the morning, while Don showered, I zipped downstairs with the camera. I laughed as I passed the smiling desk workers, "Look it's a white Christmas!" All we could see out the window was white fog.
I crossed the lawn and Seawall Boulevard and drew a little festive art in the sand.
Then I walked out on the rock jetty where I had a fun view of the hotel and the sun, just breaking through. I was all alone until two couples with foreign accents wandered out and asked me to take their photo. They were just delighted and thanked me so graciously, wishing me a "Merry Christmas!" as I headed back.
The Festive Lobby
It was still early, but the lobby was bustling with brunch prep. Don and I came down to enjoy our own complimentary mini continental buffet, for hotel guests.
We took our coffee into the lobby and amused ourselves, watching the shrimp and crab legs pile up under the watchful eye of Ice Santa. Then the brunch guests began to arrive. At that point we headed down to see the basement, which was flooded 7 years ago, after Hurricane Ike.
Soaking up Some History
In the Hall of History, we studied display cases and write ups about our old hotel, named for Bernardo de Galvez, from Madrid.
It was interesting to learn that the hotel was built where the Beach House Resort once stood, before it burned down in the late 1800's. It's lucky they didn't build The Galvez any sooner, as they had planned. The Great Hurricane and flood of 1900 would have destroyed it. 6,000 were killed and much of Galveston was washed away. I was surprised to learn that The Galvez closed during WWII and housed the Coast Guard. After reopening, the hotel flourished until the fifties, when they finally cracked down on illegal gambling. But to me, it's always the "Notable Guests" that I love to wonder about. Did Jerry Lewis do anything goofy during his stay? Did Frank Sinatra sing in the hotel shower?
So, What's Notable?
The festive, welcoming Galvez, did not disappoint. Don and I really would have had a happy Christmas at home and didn't need to be distracted so grandly. But I'm so glad we went.
I'll always remember our first Christmas as true empty-nesters as a pleasant one.
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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!