Luckily the March weather was perfect when we arrived at Star of Texas Bed & Breakfast, outside of Brownwood.
A few spring thundershowers would have been fun if we'd been staying in one of the cottages, but there was a big old opening in the top of our tipi!
Our Host, Don
The tipi was just a short hike from where we parked our car under a tree.
Our host Don, showed us to the tipi, then he told us the ins and outs of working the outdoor shower and camp potty. I didn't pay attention since I wasn't planning on using either. There was guest bathroom up near the office, for wimps like me.
We were pretty amazed at how large and roomy our space was for the night. (22-foot diameter) Of course there wasn't a large bed taking up room, like in a hotel. Instead of a bed there was a cowhide laying on the rock floor, where we could spread our sleeping bags.
There was a fire pit to keep us warm and even a socket or 2, so I guess we could have brought TVs and computers! But there was plenty of stuff for our entertainment. Host-Don encouraged us to try on the Native American clothing. "Dress up in these clothes! Play the drum. Have the whole experience!" He showed us a smudge stick that we could light for a ceremony later. This was like "playing cowboys and Indians" for grownups!
This was no kiddie teepee, though. It had been made by "Nomadic Tipi Makers" who provided the tipis for the film, Dances With Wolves.
He encouraged us to have a fire. "It only gets smoky in here when the fire's dying down." He reminded. "When it's dark out and the fire's blazing, go out and take a look." He said the flickering fire would make the buffalo images on the canvas appear to dance.
Enjoying the Daylight
From the campfire we had a good view of the buffalo painted canvas. It was a perfect setting beside a creek, resting on land where Native Americans roamed years ago. Host-Don said he found arrowheads and even a carved knife when he wandered this land as a kid.
As the sun began to set I tried to focus more on the Indian history rather than the coyotes our host had mentioned. "Let's not talk about the "R" word..." He started. "...don't worry, it's been been years since we found that den of rattlers on the property."
Drums and Rattles
Once inside, I scared all the snakes away with the deer leg rattle. Don and I drummed and lit the smudge stick, but I could only handle the aroma of smoky herbs for so long. We ended up playing a spontaneous "Name that Tune by Its Rhythm" game with the drum.
Being campers, it was hard not to believe we had done the unthinkable and had just started up a fire in our tent. I had to remind myself that tipis were designed this way long ago. We stepped out to watch the buffalo dance, but the moon was a little too bright and our fire, a little too tame.
I'm not sure I've ever gone to bed, looking at a half moon through the top of a tipi opening, while a fire crackled nearby. Yep, I'm sure that's the only time.
I expected to toss and turn all night, but it got into the thirties and I slept inside my down bag and did not wake with the sun. We rose after 8 and headed off on a hike.
Our host had mentioned the nearby hiking loop. He said there would be surprises, but I sort of imagined surprises of nature, like a fallen tree or a creek. I found myself chuckling with each discovery and pushing ahead to see what silly thing was next! A display of old bowling balls... a cement walk with embedded treasures!
There was a display of Scrabble letters spelling, ENJOY! And numerous goodies hanging from trees!
We slept in a real tipi, on the ground, with a fire burning nearby! That is plenty memorable! I've seen other tipi "hotels" that provide beds and more luxury, but I'm glad we had the more authentic experience!
I love everything about this tiny town, north of San Antonio.
I love the peaceful feel and the knowledge of the German Freethinkers who lived here in the mid 1800's. And now, I love this B & B that has been open less than 2 years!
A Bowling Alley?
Don and I heard about this bowling alley turned B & B, a few months ago. The website photos made the place look intriguing, but I was confused.
It wasn't until we walked into the courtyard and saw the long narrow structure with the bright orange doors, that I could halfway imagine a building that might have once housed bowling lanes.
Peace and Comfort?
Camp Comfort is located beside peaceful Cypress Creek, just a short walk from Comfort's historic downtown.
The name might make you think Church Camp or Rehab Resort, but it's just a comfy Bed & Breakfast in a town with a sweet name. There was a camp feel when we walked past the sign at the entrance. Our hosts, Phil and Lisa were starting up a fire in a pit, surrounded by bright orange chairs. They greeted us with enthusiasm and a little history.
The Social Hall Came First
The brown building near the sign in front, had been built in 1870 as Comfort's Turn Verein.
These Social Halls were built in a few German communities in Texas. The Fourty-Eighters who had fled Germany, used the space for fitness, recreation and social activities.
Pondering on the Porch
The two, 9-pin bowling lanes were added behind the Social Hall in 1910. I sat on the porch of the Alley Building, thinking about that.
All was quiet as I sat, except for a few birds and rustling leaves. It wouldn't have been so peaceful 100 years ago when balls would have been clacking into pins, right behind me! Then it was time to check out our Alley Room!
Luxurious Alley Room #
My pictures just don't do their job. Our 400 square foot room really was a piece of rustic, modern heaven. Actually there was a lot more modern than rustic. The rustic charm came from the various woods of the wall, floor and sliding bathroom door. The built in desk, was made from the actual bowling lane floor!
I love rustic and vintage, but I must say it was a treat to have the history without the splinters and dust. The "morning kitchen" as they call it was sparkling clean. The chushie blue chairs and 42" flat screen were a treat. And the cute white "tulip chair" brought back memories of the sixties!
The appliances, from Kuerig coffee maker to the Krups toaster were inviting. The desk set up was handy with a Tivoli radio and stool.
But the complimentary bottle of Acqua Panna water, Goo Goo Cluster and hand written note made my day!
Just One Thing
The bathroom was spacious and spotless! The vanity and tub showed off more polished wood and there was even a large built in piece with storage and space for piling your stuff!
What I DID NOT care for was the very cool looking window from the bathroom to the bedroom. (reflected in the mirror) It did make me laugh though, knowing I could close that hefty sliding door and then wave to Don through the window! I'm always grumbling about all the clever ways bathrooms and guest rooms are united in modern hotels. Togetherness at all times!
The two large windows brought in lots of light and reminded us there was plenty to see out there. Off we went to make use!
Just past the little cabin office we found these steps to the creek.
Early Spring at Cypress Creek
It's obvious where the creek gets its name.
It was a treat to wander along the bank in the early evening, spotting all the new growth... tiny buds and greening grass.
An Even Better Treat
I don't remember the last time I spent time on a tire swing! I liked the swinging as much as I used to... but not the spinning!
Fire Pit Time
Phil and Lisa had welcomed us to join them earlier, but that had moved on. We had the fire and those crazy chairs to ourselves! The chairs were surprisingly comfy and the flat armrest was handy for holding a glass of wine!
Behind us, we pondered the Camp Comfort stage, with it's spotlights and doors. Dressing rooms? No, we didn't get out our ukuleles and perform. Of course if there was any time I might have been convinced to play the uke on stage, that would have been the place... with no audience.
We woke rested from our luxurious bed and walked a few steps to the Social Hall. Even though we were the only guests, there was a spread of goodies on the counter that could have fed 50.
We dug through a container holding about 100 Keurig coffee options and chose our favorites to enjoy with our scones and granola, yogurt and muffins.
Sit a Spell
We could have cozied up with the morning news on the sofa, but chose one of the big dining hall tables.
I sat and stared at every detail, from the worn wood floors to the curious lighting fixtures.
I loved the upside-down-bottle-chandelier.
Even more, I loved the high mounted roll of butcher paper, where I could read the notes and leave one myself.
Wagon and Window
I was impressed with the funny wagon holding the iced down bottles of milk and juice and yogurt.
I was in a trance staring out the wavy old window glass at the new leaves.
Our stay was a blend of my favorite things! We had the luxury of a polished city hotel with the homeyness of a small town. Better yet, there seemed to be a lot of surprises... good things we didn't expect. Yay!
Chic Boutique in San Antonio
I love playing tourist in San Antonio, even in humid July when the River Walk pathways are jammed with tourists and name-tagged corporate conferencers.
I enjoy a chuckle when watching first timers gasp at how small the Alamo actually is. And I'm amused at the crowds that will spend major bucks for Ripley's and the Wax Museum.
That's what makes this secluded hotel getaway at the north end of the river, an oasis!
The Mediterranean Revival style structure was built in 1914 by E. F. Melcher, as a residential hotel to house wholesalers for his grocery business. The hotel changed hands and became a luxury hotel in the 1930's and now the 27 room hotel caters to a unique blend of guests.
In our one night stay it was hard to draw too many conclusions, but I'd say the younger (much hipper than me) guests all seemed to be "in the know". They had not just stumbled across this place... as my brother did 14 years ago when wandering away from our family reunion crowd. "I found the coolest hotel." He announced later.
Chic, But Welcoming
There was just the right balance of antique and contemporary. Bright colored furniture and artwork, dim lighting, dark stained woodwork and creaky floors! The desk staff and even the parking attendant were all friendly and chatty. Sometimes you don't get that with Urban Chic!
Love a Grand Staircase!
Don and I did enjoy a ride in the retro elevator once, but we preferred the red carpeted stairs to our third story room. Those little glowing statues at the base just begged us to come their way!
Our room #37, had a pink spotlight from the tinted door glass at the end of the hall. I saw that as a good sign!
Not only did we have great access to a lovely little balcony that no one else used, but our room faced front and jutted out so we had windows on 3 sides!
Clean and Comfy
Our room felt larger than it was, with all the surrounding windows.
There was a comfy queen bed and a vase of fresh flowers. Striped robes hung on a wall hook and a modern ice bucket sat on a 1930's vintage dresser.
Vintage Bath and Fridge
I had to remind myself to step down, into the walkway to the bathroom. In the day, the wonderful skylight, glowing on the crazy green walls drew you right in.
I loved the slanted ceiling, black toilet lid and sleek modern fixtures. And the fridge! Rarely are we tempted by costly goodies in hotel room bars, but this was one packed with local goodies like Mexican sodas and all the fixings for Mojitos! Pretty fun stuff!
We could have practically crawled through our window to the terrace.
It was a nice, usable space with a view of the river across the street and lots of comfy seating! We were glad to have it to ourselves.
Dining and Lounging at Havana
Even though there were hints of the real Havana throughout the hotel, with Cuban furniture and decor, it was in the restaurant and lounge where we could really pretend. The drink and food menus reflected the flavors of Cuba and the airy atrium style, seemed to fit perfectly.
Of course I've never been to Cuba, but there was an old classy atmosphere, that I wanted to believe was Cuba in the 1950's. In the evening, the glass-door windows (think Ice House) were open to the river below. We had drinks and enjoyed people watching on the walk below.
In the morning, the glass doors were down and a few enjoyed breakfast under the flower covered chandeliers, since a wedding was happening that night.
A Step to the River
We skipped dinner at Ocho, so we could make use of the balmy night and stroll the River Walk to dinner. What a treat to return and see the hotel, glowing purple for us. We thank the wedding couple, for all their early decorating!
If only we hadn't been so tired, we could have braved it and enjoyed a drink in the basement bar. I think the bar is frequented by the locals, who are really... I mean truly in the know! I took a peek earlier and felt my age as I nearly stumbled down the stairs into the cave like space, lit only by candles. I'm sure it gets brighter as the crowds fill and add more cell phone light. But I think we would have been too old for that place. Then again, how could we have felt out of place? No one could have seen us!
I love historic hotels, that mix the old and new well. Havana did just that.
There was nothing cutesy or overdone. I appreciate that. But best of all it didn't feel Too Cool for School... which can happen with Chic Boutique. We felt welcome and comfortable!
Homestead Cottages of Canyon Lake, TX
Last week Don and I spent one night in this 12'x20' gingerbread cottage. We've stayed in cottages and cabins before, but this was an actual Tiny Texas House. Check the link!
These houses are designed as homes, for people who want to simplify their lives with less space and fewer possessions. We got a feel for that... but mostly we just had fun.
The house was created with reclaimed material, pieced together like a fabulous puzzle. It felt like a tiny ship with the rounded sleeping loft. The space was filled with clever design features, like the ladder/storage shelf and kitchen table that folded into the wall.
Old and New
The bathroom and kitchen areas had just the right balance. The new porcelain tub was surrounded by a wall of antique metal roof material. The smooth wood of the walls, floor and ceiling made the kitchen cozy, but the new hammered metal sink and shiny refrigerator made everything feel fresh and new.
The trip up to the loft was entertaining, since I had to stop and examine curious items along the way... like Dutch shoes and an English riding helmet. The king sized bed was heavenly with comfy linens, good reading lamps and a great window!
The loft gave us a view of the sitting area, below a set of stained glass windows. Being in a tiny house with so many windows (7 were stained glass) made the whole experience feel open and airy. We never felt cramped.
And the fact that we could open the antique counterweight windows to let in a glorious breeze, made it feel like we'd stepped back in time. (Not many open windows in Texas) There was a ceiling fan and a.c. and heat, but we didn't need a thing!
What to Do?
We arrived at 3 and made ourselves at home. I thought about reading in the hammock, but it was too sunny.
We ignored the TV, which had DVDs and satellite, because we can do that at home. What I don't have at home is an antique typewriter! I pulled the 10-ton thing off the shelf and stuck in some paper, but the poor thing was a little too feeble.
Then it was time to search every inside nook and cranny. Don was first to notice an eyeball staring out from a knothole. Then we found a couple more. A bit odd, but I liked the humor behind the idea.
We later read that they were the "eyes of Texas"! Then we enjoyed the exterior. I loved the colors, that made me hungry for mint/chocolate chip ice cream. There was such fun Victorian trim, from the teardrops around the windows to the swirly carvings under the porch roof. I would love to know the history of the porch railing. Each spindle was hand turned... no 2 exactly alike!
Then it was time to take advantage of the fact we had no neighbors in hearing distance. We got out the ukes and did a little porch playing.
The timing just couldn't have been better. The temps only dropped a bit with the sun.
It got just cool enough to allow us to make use of the fire pit, which was ready to go with cypress wood. We opened some wine, played some Yahtzee and started the grill for salmon burgers.
While we waited on the grill, we chuckled over some of the comments in the guest book. No one seemed to mention Yahtzee or ukuleles. Evidently this little cottage has entertained a lot of honeymooners who are very interested in the hot tub and "getting to know each other!" We were tempted to add a "TMI" here and there in the little book!
Don and I didn't "get to know each other in the hot tub", but I did open the lid half way to dangle my feet. That was actually a bigger treat than I expected. I sat with my wine, while Don cooked. Then out came the moon... and the crickets!
Two Tiny House Fans
I've always been a fan of tiny houses. As a child, I talked my parents into buying a neighbor's shed for $15, so I could make a playhouse.
At 14, I started making dollhouses out of plywood and balsa. Don has been up on the recent Tiny House Trends for a while and now we both are fans!
We had an adorable stay! That's a hideous description, but I use that word sincerely.
I'm such a huge fan of little things and an even bigger fan of old things, so this was perfect for me. The fact that Don loved every adorable detail along with me, made it just too much fun!
I want one now!
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!