Roosevelt Cabins, built by CCC in the 1930's
Chisos Mountain Lodge is the only non-camping option in the 800,000 acres of Big Bend National Park.
There is a "newer" lodging, but we were pretty thrilled to reserve one of the 5 Roosevelt Stone Cottages, which were constructed by the Civil Conservation Corps in the late 1930's.
Very little has changed since the cottages were built.
The fireplaces are no longer used for heating, but open windows are still the only means of cooling! The cars that bring the guests look a little different now, but the scenery remains the same!
Our cottage duplex had cozy covered porches with bouncy metal chairs.
I do love a screened door, especially a blue one that matches the window trim and chairs!
The main room in the cottage had 2 full-size beds and a sitting area. There's obviously been some updating over time, with western style furniture and decor, fridge and microwave.
I kept searching for hints of the original cottage. The white painted stone wall was trying to hide the old fireplace and side door. I so wish I could have seen what it looked like in the thirties.
I'm pretty sure this old floor must be original. This floor and the thick walls keep the cottage a little cooler in the warm months.
The bathroom was quite amusing. The old wooden door was covered with important messages (?) and there was a big old water heater taking up a bit of space.
The shower and soap dispenser were pretty much what you'd expect for a State or National Park. Very functional.
Music in the Cottage
There was a hallway with shiny wood paneling, leading to another room. Probably a lot of families make good use of this 2-room set up.
But I can just hear the kids now, "But where's the TV?" Luckily we brought our own entertainment. Nothing like a few tunes on the ukulele when your hanging out in your cottage!
There's nothing luxurious about staying in a CCC cottage, but who cares. You're sleeping in history and you're surrounded by one of the most unusual landscapes in the world.
You can step out your door and walk a couple minutes to see "The Window", which is the formation on the left side of the bottom photo. OR, if you have the kind of clout that only President Roosevelt might have had, you can attempt to reserve Cottage #103! It's the one pictured with the fog lifting! It has a porch that gives you a sunset view of The Window, which means everyone wants to stay there!
This was our first overnight at an Organic Bed and Breakfast and Ecology Resource Center.
Luckily most people just call it "Eve's Garden", which is more inviting than intimidating.
A Little Bit Dr. Seuss!
The only thing intimidating, was the ice that was starting to layer the plants and sidewalk.
The blue, arched wall surrounding the property, reminded me of Dr. Seuss illustrations. I was eager to go explore!
Entering Our Little Oasis
All the colors, made it easy to ignore the drab January weather. We headed towards the porch of the original house, built by a rancher over 100 years ago.
Kate and Bubbles
Inside, we were met by Kate and her sweet Chihuahua=Poodle Pup, Bubbles. She had just finished clearing the ice off the pathway for us. She said the other guests had canceled and we would have the run of the place.
I took this photo of Eve with a beautiful carved piece made by her brother. The house was full of treasures, colorful art and warmth.
As we passed through the entryway, we paused to see the 2 front rooms of the house. Both were set up for dining.
We had already learned from reviews that breakfast was worth the 565 mile drive from Houston!
We walked through the kitchen and down a step to a cozy addition where a fire and music made me want to linger.
Then a set of French doors took us into an indoor pool retreat.
Too bad the heating system wasn't quite finished. Don is known for making use of a pool anywhere and anytime. He would have put that one lane to good use!
We exited the pool building and into the courtyard with a good view of all the rounded buildings, constructed of hay bales and paper/fiber cement and painted in bright colors.
Too Cold to Linger
In warmer weather the patio area is where guests can gather for live music or a little food and drink.
There was a fire pit and wood, so we could have hung out a bit. But we headed for the greenhouse instead.
One step inside and we were surrounded with warmth and color and the smell of flowers and earth.
It was January and there were bougainvillea and roses blooming! There were even a couple kitties who wandered and kept an eye on things.
Maze of Walkways
Kate wandered with us, pointing out some of her favorite spots to sit. Now and then she'd stop to snap off a dry leaf or lift a watering can.
Coffee and Beer
There were a number of ponds and sitting areas, but Kate pointed out an enclosed space that we were welcome to use.
She pointed out the coffee maker and beer on tap and dishes and cups if needed.
Kate upgraded us to the Sapphire Room, since we were the only guests that night. Our door was right beside a little sitting area
Our Domed Hideaway
It's hard to describe or capture in pictures, but the thick Papercrete walls with all their colors and curves, felt like we were in some kind of a fairytale cottage!
I've seen attempts at creating whimsical structures that come off hokey and flimsy. But this was amazingly solid with plenty of non-kiddie comforts... wine glasses king bed, stained glass and sconces, fresh flowers and a glowing "fire" within an actual antique stove.
Not a Cave
But I mostly loved the whimsical design.
There were little walls and shelves and built-ins, that were all fun as well as useful!
If only it hadn't been so cloudy, we could have seen moonlight through our tiny skylights in the domed ceiling.
Or the sunset! We had our own backdoor and sitting area, looking directly west. What fun it would have been to have seen the sun setting within the frame of our decorated doorway!
Up For a View
I braved a set of icy steps and headed up to a little viewing tower. There were a few colorful and oddly shaped seating options, but it was too cold and there was no sunset to view.
But I did have to smile at the sweet Catholic Church across the street. It was right out of a storybook.
Weather was no better in the morning, but it just made breakfast cozier.
We headed to the house where Bubbles barked "hello" and Kate greeted from the kitchen.
Old and New
I loved the purple painted cabinets and the bright yellow window of the "old kitchen". Kate invited us to step into the new kitchen, with hanging copper pans and a wonderful yellow arch over the big stove!
Our breakfast feast was all local and organic. Our pancakes were made with whole wheat flour, ricotta cheese, buttermilk and served with a lemon sauce.
The homemade Greek yogurt came from a friend's nearby ranch and topped with berries and a flower that Kate insisted we eat. "I don't put anything on your plate that's not to be eaten!" She laughed.
Warm and Cozy! That's how I'll remember our stay. The colors and flowers of course, helped us ignore the cold.
But Kate's warmth (along with Bubbles & Kitties) made the difference. Kate gave us our space. She never intruded, but when we begged
her to sit with us at breakfast, we were delighted at how easy it was to chat half the morning away. We couldn't have felt more welcome!
Antler's Hotel in Kingsland, TX
I've seen hotel options that allow for an overnight in a retired railroad sleeper car.
But, Antler's Hotel offered 3 little Caboose options! We picked the red one!
This wonderful old inn, is not far from our Lake LBJ cabin, where we've spent many a night in the past 5 years. The inn has a grand history and lovely ground and renovated rooms, but we've never had a good enough reason to stay.
But when we recently noticed a FOR SALE sign, we were reminded that this hotel with cabooses might be gone someday.
One Night in the Caboose
Silly as it seemed, we spent $160. to stay one night in our caboose hotel. Kind of silly when our cabin was not that far away.
Let the Adventure Begin
We packed our retro suitcases... as seen at the top of this blog page.
We climbed the stairs to our entrance, carrying every goofy kind of entertainment we could need, books about trains, cards, snacks and cocktail fixings. We even had a few movies like Hitchcock's, "Strangers on a Train", that we never even had time for.
There was more space than I expected in our little playhouse of a hotel!
We had a queen bed and "kitchen" with microwave, fridge, toaster oven and coffee maker. The bathroom was tiny, but what would you expect. There was even a shower.
Our Red Cupola
Between the sitting and sleep areas was the most fun feature. The red-painted observation cupola!
Back in 1969, when this caboose was in use, the crewman could climb up to get a good view. If he saw a problem, he could signal the engineer. By the 1980's, modern train technology made the caboose obsolete. I'm glad this one didn't end up in a junk yard.
Sleeping and Relaxing Space
I'm not sure how the interior looked originally. Now, the caboose is clearly set up for happy little tourists who want to "Play Train" like Don and me.
The bunk beds made the caboose a good option fro families. I would have gone nuts if my family had stayed in a caboose, when I was a kid. Then again, I pretty much went nuts when my family stayed an Howard Johnson's or Holiday Inn.
Actually we look sort of drab and serious in this little pose. But we had a ball looking through some old books of train history, with photos of luxury travel back in the day, when ladies wore little white gloves to carry their cosmetic cases!
The Best Fun
This was my favorite part, hangin out in the cupola. We had to modify the space to accommodate martinis, though.
The soft benches were fine, but we had to hoist up a stood to be our table. What a hoot to enjoy the view out all the little windows!
We spent a little time wandering the grounds. There were a couple fishing docks and even a rowboat we could have borrowed.
Caboose guests were welcome to enjoy the inn as well. I especially liked Baby Doll, the cat. She followed us everywhere.
I got a tour of some of the guest rooms and the wonderful old kitchen. It was fun to picture the resort guests and train travelers, who arrived the year the inn opened in 1901. But I was more curious about the Borrow Family, who bought the resort and used it as a family retreat for 70 years!
Screens and Swings!
This is just a portion of the rear of the inn. I tried to picture this place swarming with cousins and grandparents... screened doors slamming and porch swings swaying.
What a wonderful family hang-out, for a really big family!
Grand Central Cafe
We did have our own mini kitchen, for making dinner. But it's important to note, there is a cafe on the property. The Grand Central Cafe, is a mighty good option.
Not only do they serve decent food in a fun little house, but there some intriguing history! This very house, (which was moved from a different location) was the ramshackle house, used in the filming of the cult movie, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Doesn't get much more appetizing than that!
We've dined at the cafe a few times, so we decided to stay put in our caboose.
Here we are in the morning, having coffee and breakfast. We didn't actually make use, but we could have scrambled up some eggs on the nearby grill.
We got to Play Train! What more can I say! There were no other caboose guests, so we felt even more like kids who had discovered an abandoned train.
You don't have to be a kid to enjoy the whimsical fun of a 54,000 pound red caboose! So far no word on The Antler's being sold. So glad we enjoyed while we could!
A Klooster in Curacao!
Klooster means monastery in Dutch. This wonderful yellow hotel, was once a monastery, so that adds an intriguing addition to my list of unusual accommodations!
Last July, Don and I had our first trip to Curacao. We arrived after dark and were given refreshing tea drinks to enjoy in the courtyard.
The monks who lived in this place for only about 50 years would have spent a lot of peaceful time in the cloisters, as they would have been called. In fact at least one monk or priest is spending an eternity in the cloisters... his grave seemed to be very near where we were sitting.
This is the lobby in morning light. Our desk clerk was a young intern who had just arrived from The Netherlands a week before. That means he knew nothing about the interesting hotel history.
He also had no clue about finding us soap, since our bathroom had none. (Some arrived next day) Our room happened the one with the blue doors, right next to the desk. I had a feeling that didn't mean we would be getting any extra special service.
A Red and White Room
Our room was nice, with lots red trim, which was a fun way to combine modern decor with the old style windows and shutters and tall ceilings. The bathroom had shiny white tile with a line of red and boldly painted red floors.
The room had good air conditioning, which was a plus with the island's steamy air. But it was a cold, clammy shock every time we entered, since the body adjusts to the heat in most open air settings.
Rise and Shine on Sunday Morning!
At 5:30 am, I heard the bells of Cathedral Pietermaii, clanging next door. The Fraters van Zwijsen, who built the monastery in 1932, enjoyed the convenience of strolling just a few steps to the Cathedral from the monastery.
It was a little too close for my (sleeping) comfort! You can see our room window, beneath the words, t' Klooster.
As the bells clanged, cars filled the street and happy worshipers began to congregate before mass, right outside our window!
The Colorful Chapel
We missed 6 am mass, but the hotel, had its very own little chapel!Curacao is known for color! The brightly painted Dutch Colonial buildings are what make this Caribbean Island my favorite of the ABC Islands!
The architecture of the monastery is different than most of the island buildings, but it's just as bright!
The chapel interior is actually white, but the stained glass and sunshine played a trick during the day. Beside changing color, the chapel was also transformed to another use. The only kind of service you find in the chapel today, is dining service. It's a restaurant, now.
Going to Chapel
We actually made better use of our chapel in the evening when it became a lounge. The priests and monks left the Klooster in the 1980's. I wonder how sad they would be to see their chapel filled with purple lighting and bottles of liquor?
Then again, I think these Fraters, who arrived in 1886 to set up a school... knew pretty well how to balance their work and relaxation!
Karaoke Near the Chapel
The Fraters might even have joined in on some karaoke at the cafe beside the chapel. We managed to talk our very sweet bartender, Mary into giving it a try.
I'm glad I didn't have to wear long robes as I wandered our courtyard area. It was hot in August and there was little breeze. We did have a small plunge pool, which helped. And I enjoyed my book in the hammock for a while!
Our stay at t' Klooster was fairly quiet, without much social interaction. But there was something bright and welcoming about the very building and courtyard!
It was a convenient and safe walk to the colorful waterfront with the "Swinging Lady" bridge and the floating market. A great way to be introduced to Colorful Curacao!
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!