Presidio La Bahia
In January, I got to add a totally different kind of overnight to the list, when Don and I spent the night in a museum! But more incredible than that, our museum overnight was part of a Spanish Colonial Mission/Fortress, dating back to 1749.
A Door in the Wall
After getting our key from a museum employee, we found the thick wooden door that lead to our "apartment" for the night. The door opened to a space that had once been officer's quarters.
There were no couches or lamps back when officers slept here, but after the fort went through a major reconstruction in the 1960's, these rooms were wired for electricity. The space then became living quarters for priests. Today, La Presidio is operated by Catholic Diocese of Victoria, TX and they rent out The Quarters for about $200. a night. We try not to spend that much for a hotel, but we had the whole fort to ourselves!
The furniture looked a little old... as in Grandma's house. But the decor looked pretty new, considering what we would have found here 268 years ago. There were no creaky floors like some historic hotels. I loved the solid feel of the little apartment, with brick floors, thick stone walls and wood beamed ceiling.
Cooking & Dining
There was a decent little kitchen and a table in the living room. Some might find it a bit unappetizing to dine under the framed flag image. But after a while I stopped noticing the Goliad flag, featuring the severed arm and bloody sword. There were so many images of that arm in the museum and courtyard, I stopped being jolted by it.
The stone walls were too thick to holler through, but we did have a couple of handy wall openings between rooms. I'm guessing the interior windows helped with ventilation back when the priests lived here. They also made the place feel a little less cave-like.
From the kitchen, we just walked through a set of saloon doors to reach the room with the double bed. The "kids room" with twin beds, was on the other side of the living room. We found a fan that we turned on for noise, before bed. We both agreed we'd rather hear the hum and not be awakened to debate over every ghostly sound in the night.
The door (near lamp) at the rear of The Quarters, opened into the church courtyard. Our door and walls weren't thick enough to keep out the sound of the church bells every 15 minutes. But, that's okay. The bells made a wonderful sound, then took a rest at 9 pm, after playing a lovely song. I wish I'd made a recording.
Our Lady of Loreto Chapel
This lovely church built in 1779, was what we saw when we opened our back door. Unlike the fort, the church suffered little damage during the Texas Revolution. It was hard to believe this peaceful church played such a sad role.
The path from the church lead up to a raised corner turret, with a cannon aimed outward. It was a reminder of the fort's gory past.
Don and I don't know nearly as much Texas history as our kids, who went to Texas public schools. It took a visit to the museum to catch us up on the details of the Texas Revolution and the Goliad massacre of 1836. Suddenly it was impossible not to think about Colonel James Fannin and 300+ "Texian" soldiers who were executed right outside the walls of the fort.
The little church still opens for mass each Sunday. It wasn't a Sunday, but the church was open and I lit a candle for ALL those who suffered here, nearly 200 years ago. It's sad to imagine the Texian soldiers being held captive inside this very chapel.
Time to Enjoy
After the museum closed at 5, we had the fort grounds to ourselves. There was a lot of heavy stuff to ponder when all was quiet, but we chose to take our chairs out to the east wall and focus on the sunset.
Inside the Fort Walls
The large courtyard was peaceful. I chose to think about the time when la Presidio was a Spanish mission and the courtyard was actually filled with tents. It was too eerie thinking about Colonel Fannin, the last to be killed. It was in this very courtyard where he was shot.
The fort is on the hilltop, so the sun disappeared quickly behind the wall. The wind began to blow and a nearly full moon began to rise behind us.
A Cozier Courtyard
We moved our chairs to the smaller (and brighter) courtyard. A spotlight shined on the church, but it was still creepy. The wind rattled the dry palm fronds, while crickets chirped. It felt odd and isolated, inside the fort... and we loved it.
We moved inside to continue our dinner snacking of cheese, crackers and fruit.
Then I started worrying over the fact that we had no fire screen and that the "escape window" near our bed, was covered with iron bars. So we fell asleep to the sound of the fan, trying to ignore worries of ghosts, mice and fires.
I woke early and felt a little disappointed that we'd had no excitement in the night. I put on my running shoes and headed out to the fort courtyard and did a few laps while we still had the fort to ourselves. The church bells started their chiming at 8 and the museum opened at 9. We lingered a while after breakfast, but checked out before the magical spell was broken by school buses or tourist jabber.
We spent the night in a fort with an incredible history. I still can't believe we were able to do that.
With all the rules and regulations these days, I'm surprised they didn't do a background check! Thanks to friend, Lori for sharing a link with a write up about La Presidio. This little gem of an overnight was just 2 hours from my home and I never knew about it!
Hotel Near the Border
Don and I stayed at La Posada in January.
We were curious about staying at this hotel, with lots of history AND a view of Mexico.
I love a hotel that has a past. This boutique hotel was built in 1961, around four historical buildings. The 2-story main building sits where the city jail once sat. In 1886 the original building was converted into the old Laredo High School.
The New School
In 1916 the building was torn down and a new school was built. Now, the "new school" houses the main entrance, the lobby, restaurant, bar, ballroom and offices.
Finding the Hotel
We heard it would be tricky getting to the hotel... and it was. Being a border town, we were warned to make the correct exit or we'd end up heading over the bridge to Mexico. It was indeed nerve-wracking.
We worried and exited too soon, then eventually GPS lead us directly to the hotel's garage entrance. It looked a little sketchy down there. A garage guard checked our name on a list and moved the cones. After parking, I peered through the decorative wall and saw the bridge to Mexico, that we almost crossed.
Leaving... No Easier
This is the scene we met after exiting the hotel the next morning. After turning onto the wrong street, we became trapped. It was too narrow to turn around, so I had to hop out and move the orange blocks.
Surrounding the Hotel
Behind the hotel was the Rio Grande and border. The historic San Augustine Plaza was just outside the front entrance. The lively square, with band stand and statues and traditional Mexican music, made us feel like we'd actually taken that bridge right over to Mexico. The sound of the cathedral bells chiming and voices speaking Spanish, made me forget we were still in the U.S.
The Tack Room
Also right across the brick road from the plaza, was The Tack Room Steak House. This elegant home from the 1800's was one of the four historic buildings that made up the hotel. We were disappointed to learn the well known restaurant was closed that evening.
From the front doors of La Posada, the lobby was down a few steps. Between the 2 sets of stairs I noticed an interesting image in the Italian marble floors. The Spanish Doubloon coin is evidently the symbol used for the hotel. The black and white ballgown was just one of many costumes on display.
It was January, but the hotel was already gearing up for the month long celebration of George Washington's birthday. Laredo has been celebrating the President's birthday with parades and balls and costumes, since the late 19th century. I especially loved the child's gown with the image of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
Ghosts in the Garden
Supposedly there are ghosts that roam the hotel. One part of the hotel had once been a convent and supposedly there is at least one nun ghost on the grounds. We didn't see ghosts in black and white habits, but we saw lots of white, ghostly figures in the gardens and near the pool. There had been a recent freeze and the bushes were still wrapped in sheets.
The Main Pool
This pool view shows the 2-story hotel that was built in 1961. Architect, Tom Herring incorporated the old school and a few other buildings. Mr. Herring has used historic buildings in a number of hotel constructions in Texas.
Don and I explored the "compound" trying to figure out what was historic and what was added in the '60's. We passed the patio, outside the hotel's Zaragoza Grill restaurant.
We found another area of the hotel, with a pool and overgrown trees and bushes. The wind was blowing eerily and I could picture a nun scurrying by. It didn't look like this part of the hotel was in use.
Finding Our Room
The hotel had a maze-like feel, but we finally got it figured out. Our hall was fairly quiet, but maybe that's because the area we requested was not the top choice for other guests.
This photo shows just part of the spacious entry with bar area.
The sitting area had room to spread out. The brick wall kept things very quiet. Don was drawn right away to the balcony... with the view.
Bedroom and Baths
The bedroom also had a brick wall and beamed ceilings. The decor was a little worn, but all was clean and the price was so reasonable, I again thought I was in Mexico. Two bathrooms, bedroom, living room and bar area, for around $100.
And here is the view we had requested. We could have faced the pool and palms, but how often do you have a balcony looking across the Rio to Mexico.
It was pretty odd, I must admit. We watched the pedestrian bridge at 5:00. The line-up of people returning to the U.S at 5:00, nearly covered the length of the bridge. Many seemed to be sent down a caged-in walkway that lead to the building right beneath our room. Yep, we sat on our balcony and had drinks, watching the canine dogs and border patrol and the unhappy folks being detained below.
This is a close up of the bridge in the morning, with lighter traffic. It was odd to look at the river and see the U.S. side with no obvious wall. Our stay was on January 8, 2017, before the inauguration. There was a lot to ponder as we studied the pedestrian bridge, as well as the bridge that we almost drove over earlier. There seemed to be a traffic jam coming into the U.S., that never eased up.
After watching the sunset over our odd view, we headed to the hotel's bar and restaurant within the "old school". The restaurant was quiet at first.
Our bartender was a little frazzled with a large crowd at the bar, watching whatever big game was playing on January 8. Don and I wore our western jewelry and toasted to the history. Sadly there was no one at the bar to share this interesting experience with. They were all focused on the TV. We moved to the dining room and had a decent, but not memorable dinner.
The most memorable part of our stay was sitting on our balcony, trying to figure out what the connection was between the cities on both sides of the Rio Grande.
I so wish we could have stepped back in time to 1961, when American tourists flocked to the new hotel and enjoyed festive excursions across the border to buy sombreros and vanilla and maracas! What a different time. No one back then was anticipating the building of a big wall!
I wish we'd had better communication with staff or locals or even travelers. There were some locals in the bar and some business travelers who didn't seem to care about where they were. Some good people encounters would have helped complete our overnight adventure!
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!