Texas Hill Country Inn
That was long before we were searching for "Notable Night Hotels". But we were intrigued by the inn and the small town... pronounced like Bernie.
The Kendall Hill Country Inn
In January, Don and I returned to Boerne and spent a night at the hotel. The canopy was no longer green and a sheep had been added to the logo. The "Ye" was gone.
There was also a new set of critters. A sweet mama and baby buffalo, greeted us out front!
Then and Now
The town has nearly tripled in size, since we first stopped through, in 2003. I knew the town had grown, but I was eager see what had changed at the inn.
We arrived on a sunny January afternoon. The town of over 17,000 was buzzing with activity. The exterior of the 160+ year old hotel, had changed little... except for the entrance.
Home & Hotel
The hotel history goes further back than this aged image. The old photo was taken after Mr. & Mrs. Reed's Southern Colonial style home (from 1859) became the Boerne Hotel. The original Reed House is in the center.
Early on, the Reeds ended up renting out rooms in their home, to travelers. The Reed Hotel became the Boerne Hotel in 1878. Wings were added to both sides of the old house.
The black and white photo shows lots of land. It's nice that some of that open land has been preserved in a city park.
If we'd had an upstairs room, we could have looked out over the park.
But near the main doors, we found lots of open rockers... and a pair of dogs. We could have rocked away and pondered history for hours! We could have thought about all the activity that occurred on that open property. Instead we wandered and pondered.
Cowboys, Cattle, Horses... Camels!
The grounds around the hotel were used as a key stopping point for cattle drivers and military men. Cowboys and horses camped out on the land.
Before the Civil War, camels also spent some time on this land. Jefferson Davis stayed as a guest in the hotel, while 33 camels from Tunisia were tied up outside. It was part of Jefferson's experimental "Texas Camel Drive"!
Into the Inn
It was about 3:00, when Don and I headed inside to check in.
Clearly, the hotel had spiffed up since our last visit. There was a great blend of old and new.
Then and Now
It felt brighter! When I pulled up some of my old photos, I could see changes. Lots of light paint and fewer rugs.
Don headed for the desk and I checked out both sides of the lobby.
Nicole checked us in. She was wonderful, showing us around and sharing a little history. All the staff seemed enthused about our interest in the hotel's past.
I wanted so badly to stay in one of the original Reed House rooms, at the top of the stairs. But out of 34 guest rooms, only a few are available in the old section.
Out We Go
We weren't sure what we had booked... except that we usually go for the lower priced rooms. We followed Nicole out back.
The hotel doors opened to the back porch. There was no view of the park, but there were nice sitting areas, overlooking the courtyard.
There were tables and trees and strings of lights, to make things festive at night.
And there was a long, one-story addition that made me think... motel?
I was a little bummed when I realized our room was in this new addition. I had hoped for a 160 year old room. But once I learned the addition was from the early 1900's, I was fine.
Our sweet-suite at the end of the porch, was a pretty nice deal!
It was January, but nice enough that I sat on the cushioned chair with a little ivy for privacy.
The suite was small, but we could sort of spread out in two rooms for a bit.
I used the little sofa for some reading. The horse kept me company.
Comical Heating System
The room with queen bed, was cozy and quiet... except when the heat went on.
The sound came on with a distant clanking. The sound made me think of kids, racing up a metal fire escape. Then a rumbling roar, like a jet liner taking off... followed by a simmering, humming vibration in the wall. The sound was more amusing than annoying. Don and I had a hard time falling asleep, because we were giddy with anticipation. Honestly, I've never fallen asleep on the verge of laughter. But somehow we both slept!
The bed was comfy and the bathroom had nice marble and tile. The robes were just the right weight for Texas weather. I can't handle heavy robes.
The cozy, clean space gave no hints of the past. Most guests probably appreciate that, but I kind of missed having creaky doors and floors.
Luckily there was lots more to experience around the hotel.
Right outside our door, we spotted a fireplace. We wondered if some of the fireplace could have been part of the original kitchen.
We found some additional guest house buildings, past the courtyard.
The carriage house was original, but the church and school had been moved to the property, in recent years. All can be rented. We didn't get a chance to use the little soaking pool.
Food and Drink
The hotel's restaurant changed hands and had a new name, since our lunch years ago.
It was Friday, so we peeked in early to see about dining.
This photo shows just one end of the dining room. On a warmer day, there would have been extra dining options on the wraparound porch.
I remembered the cozy bar from our last visit. The colors and decor had brightened, just like the hotel.
There were a few people getting the weekend started before 4.
Past the bar, there was a classy little lounge space, with a scary critter. Without guests, I could get a good look at the puzzle of limestone, covering the walls.
Restaurant or Bar?
We returned at 6 and the restaurant was filling up. We were able to get a table in the bar, where we watched lots of regulars, greeting and gathering together.
We shared a dish of Mac-n-Cheese and devoured Chef Bohanan's, Chicken Fried Quail. An amazing dish, with cornmeal Johnny-cakes and Maple Cayenne syrup!
Night at the Inn
After eating, we stepped out in front to see the building lit at night.
Then we grabbed some coffee from the lobby and headed for the courtyard.
The winter chill, meant we got to enjoy the fireplace! The winter season also meant, we didn't have to share the courtyard with family reunions or wedding parties. I'm sure it's not always so quiet.
We scooted the chairs closer and enjoyed a real wood fire. My camera flash made things way too bright!
Nice Stay and Town
In the morning, we walked a block to town and had breakfast. We strolled through shops and studied old buildings. What a curious history with the town and hotel.
I wish we'd had more time to learn about the community's past. It was first inhabited by German "Free Thinkers". That's an interesting tangent right there! Around the turn of the century, Bourne was attracting visitors with health concerns. The hotel became sort of a health resort for guests suffering lung ailments. So much to think about!
So what will I remember most? Our one night stay was a good combination. Our welcoming inn, plus a quaint town, along with some intriguing history. Having our hotel a block from town, meant we got sort of a package deal. Hotel, Town & History! Perfect!
Fresh Look for The Fredonia!
Our night at The Fredonia, was a perfect ending to a weeklong road trip.
But the historic town of Nacagdoches was right on our route. And one peek at the hotel website, showed me that the place had made some recent changes. We booked.
November in Nacogdoches
The drive into town was a breeze. The lack of SFA State University students, could have played into that. It was the Sunday, before Thanksgiving.
We arrived to find the sun shining, on the sprawling brick building. I could just imagine the excitement in 1955, when The Fredonia opened. The community got the first-class, modern hotel that they'd craved.
The People's Hotel
As we approached the entrance, I admired the "Creole Modern" wrought iron. I didn't know the term at the time, but I recognized the style. I'm pretty sure my Great Aunt Marguerite had some of that white-painted iron work, with acorns and leaves. I had no interest in it that look, as a kid in the sixties. It totally amuses me now.
The plaque near the door, reminded us that the hotel was built by the town! In 1952, residents saw the need for a modern hotel and the residents came together and raised funds. Could that even happen today?
I altered my photo to look like an old postcard. I love motel and hotel postcards from the fiftie & sixties. Actually the stylish white lettering is new. The hotel changed names from the 1970's until it closed in 1985.
It regained its Fredonia name when it reopened in 1989. That was back when mid-century modern was not so hip. The 1950's decor disappeared.
We checked in at about 3. The staff was welcoming and pretty cute, in their purple checked shirts.
I was thrilled to see the photo mural, spotlighting the swimming pool (with bathing caps!) in the fifties.
I noticed the glowing, pink terrazzo floors, later that evening. I'm glad they were saved, during recent renovations. I was also glad to see the mid-century furnishings were back... at least the style.
I liked the retro look of the stairs. I'm not sure where the stairs went and I'm not sure why I failed to find out. I'm usually a better explorer.
And then there was the purple guy on the wall, near the bar entrance! The angry Lumberjack, was a reminder that we were in a college town.
First City Cafe
The hotel's spacious, main dining area was recently given a new look. A new name was given, to put a spotlight on Nacagdoches, which claims to be the oldest city in Texas.
I loved the bright, space age feel. It looked like it could have been a dining room, at the NYC World's Fair in 1964.
The curved shape of the room was extra mod. The view of the kidney-shaped pool and patio, was pleasant on a sunny afternoon.
It was close to perfect weather, for dining outside near the pool.
I liked the critter, watching over the pool and garden. I asked the desk staff if that was a bunny and if so, did it have a name? They laughed and said no one had ever asked about a name. I will name him Astrobunny, after my one and only bunny pet.
The pool/patio was totally enclosed by the restaurant, hotel and the one-story motel addition.
We wanted to stay in the tower section, because it was the part of the original building in 1955. But, the motel came soon after. I would pick the motel experience, next time. There are 10 "Cabana Suites" overlooking the pool.
Staying in November, wasn't the best time for enjoying the pool area. But there were a number of standing heaters and a fire pit.
And the trees still had some leaves. There were about 3 amazing trees, on that patio! They obviously built around them, in 1955. Beautiful.
We always ask for higher floors when we book. We hoped our room on the 6th floor might have a view.
We stepped out of the elevator on the 6th floor and found a nice little sitting area. There was hot coffee available in the morning.
Our room was small but luxurious. (We usually book the cheapest) The bed linens were lovely, with simple, green stripes.
Don graciously gave me the side, with the desk. There wasn't room for two bedside tables. small room, meant the TV felt huge. There was a nice soundproofing feature.
The bathroom was also small, but very sleek. I wore a comfy robe and enjoyed coffee in the cute mug. The serious owl watched from above.
My favorite renovations, don't remove all reminders of the past. The room felt fresh and new, but that funny window, happily took me right back in time. Why did they place it so high?
The height and the condensation, made it hard for me to get a perfect view. But it was a fun one, when I stood on my toes. I spotted a few fall colors and church steeple.
Autumn in Nacagdoches
One of the nicest things about our stay, was being able to step outside the building and explore the historic old town.
We had the most glorious afternoon walk, as the sun lowered. Next time, we'll take in more of the town's history.
9 Flags Bar and Grill
In the late afternoon, we peeked into the hotel's bar. The sun was illuminating the glass bottles in the window. There was some very intriguing decor, that was very 21st century. Copper stools and lights, dripping from the ceiling like Spanish moss...
We weren't able to peek in the hotel's other restaurant, Republic Steakhouse. It was closed on Sunday. For dinner, we had to decide between the Cafe and 9 Flags Bar.
We decided on 9 Flags, since it seemed cozier and had an interesting crowd at about 7. The menu looked intriguing. We ordered a chicken Caesar salad and "Gruene Chicken Enchiladas". The cornbread croutons on the salad were good enough to be an appetizer. The Mexican dish was an amazing mix of sophisticated flavors! I can't begin to explain! Yum!
After dinner, we headed out to the patio and enjoyed the view across the pool and building, bathed in pastel lights.
The temps had dropped quite a bit, so we asked at the desk about the fire pit. It took a little while, but before long the fire was lit. What a treat! We sat outside on that chilly night, talking about our past week traveling through OK, MO and AR. A nice way to wind down.
We were pleasantly surprised with our stay! We got to enjoy a retro modern hotel, in the oldest city in Texas!
I'm glad the the DeWitt family stepped in, to bring this hotel back to the community in 2017! What a great job.
We love the small town gems, with easy access and lots of history. This past June, we chose an historic, high rise hotel, in the midsize city of Lubbock. Easy and interesting!
We arrived on a warm and windy, Saturday afternoon. The bricks on the street and the hotel, seemed to be absorbing the sunshine.
The 11-story, Renaissance revival structure, is no longer the tallest building in the old downtown. But it was the most impressive. Impressive and quiet, for a Saturday.
The hotel didn't look much different back then... except it was 5 stories shorter and there were Model Ts parked nearby, instead of SUVs.
We arrived and parked in the lot, next door. Yay! You don't get free parking with big city hotels. Then we headed towards the side door and Don pulled up the code from his phone. The Pioneer Pocket Hotel was a fully automated hotel! We weren't exactly sure what that meant, but we were eager to give it a try.
This is how the lobby would have looked, 50 or more years ago. There were 142 guest rooms and lots of people to take care of those guests.
This is how the lobby looked, when we walked in on Saturday afternoon. There was no desk and no bellman. We knew that ahead of time, but it was still odd.
There was nice seating, in the modern space. But there were no people using the tables or velvety chairs. That's because most of the people who walk through this lobby, are coming to dine or drink. Others are heading up to their homes, since the building reopened with condos in 2012.
Up We Go
It felt strange to breeze through the lobby and head straight for the elevator. There were two. One was for the condo residents and the one with the vintage hotel image, was for hotel guests. We headed up.
307 - The Pioneer Room
The 10 hotel rooms were on the 3rd floor. It was oddly quiet when we walked down the hall. No cleaning carts or hints of hotel life. We punched in the code to our room.
Each room had a name and theme. Vineyard, Windmill, Cotton... Our Pioneer Room, had no covered wagon or bonnet decor. Instead it was filled with wonderful vintage photos of the Lubbock area. From the days it was called Pioneer Hotel?
We chose the cheapest of the rooms. There were 8 suites and 2 rooms, to choose from. Ours was cozy, with only 310 square feet. But it felt fresh and clean and was less than $100.
I would suggest getting 2 slim tables and moving the queen bed into the center.
All the Extras
Luckily, our room was well equipped. There was a Keurig coffeemaker and a fridge and room sink. There were nice Poggesi bath products and even a toothbrush kit. There were extra pillows and linens. If we'd decided we were needing something, it would have been a little trickier, since there was no front desk to call.
By 4:30 the lobby was brighter. The sliding doors to the West Table Restaurant were open. The restaurant looked classy and comfortable.
I had read about all the events that had been held in the glamorous space, over the years. But there was no access. I peered down from a railing and enjoy the lobby view, instead.
Curious About History
I love exploring old hotels and usually the desk staff can point me in a good direction. It was a little frustrating, having no one there. But, I let the wall art, with old downtown images, give me some hints about the past history.
It was fun imagining the downtown, before the businesses moved out towards shopping centers and malls. I wondered what the area looked like in 1975, when the old hotel building became a low income retirement center. Or in 1994, when the 11-story building was in disrepair and closed down for good.
Hungry and Thirsty
By 5:00, Don and I were ready to make use of some of the food & drink options, in the building. The Coffee Shop was closed, but it looked like a pretty fun space.
The Brewery LBK
Don loves a local brewery and this one was right off the lobby. The atmosphere was inviting, with some fun table games and dartboards. I helped Don sample a flight, but mostly I loved the complimentary popcorn.
We had a view out the door, of the patio area, with a pair of loose chihuahuas that had arrived on their own. The tiny dogs were cute, but not nearly as cute as the entire worried staff, that kept appearing from the kitchen in their aprons, fretting over the poor lost pups. The dogs' stressed owner, eventually arrived in her car and everyone quietly cheered.
We read some stellar reviews about the hotel's restaurant. But the menu was a little pricey and we weren't hungry enough to indulge. We decided to head on down the street, to get something lighter.
One Quick Pic
Just before crossing over to our hotel, I had to pause to admire the old brick in the alley. There was something a little unsettling about our wandering, but it's nice to know, this area is being rejuvenated. I'm so glad they have held onto the brick.
The West Table Bar
It was fun to see how lively the restaurant, bar and brewery had become. Hungry now, Don and I took 2, of 4 stools at the bar, where "Cousin" and his amazing mustache, served us well!
Best of all, we enjoyed the good humored service of Cousin and his sidekick, Jameson, while they worked behind the bar. What a great team they were. I loved hearing stories about Cousin and his youth... the land he grew up on, changing from cotton to peanuts to vineyards. From Jameson we learned about Lubbock's dramatic weather. Specifically, a recent wall of dust, (known as haboob) that struck the town! What entertaining talk!
We slept well in our cozy Pioneer Room. I rose early and headed out with my camera to take one more photo of the hotel. Besides the wind, which was still blowing, all was quiet, that Sunday morning... until I heard a voice yelling. I looked up to see a man staggering down the sidewalk. He was waving some kind of sign, as if it were a flag.
I gulped and aimed myself towards the entrance. "Don't panic. Don't panic." I reminded myself that I needed to remain calm, or I would fumble with the code and not get the door open. (I know myself) I got safely inside and pulled the door behind me, before the creepy man got to the corner. Whew.
Off We Go
Don and I packed up and headed out by 8:30. It was quiet in the lobby, as expected. There was no one to ask about our stay. No key to hand over. We drove out of town, through the Depot District, down Buddy Holly Avenue. All was quiet and empty. I wish we'd found this area, the night before.
Yikes! I guess I'm glad I didn't have that notable bit of information, before we stayed.
Newly Renovated, in Hico
The afternoon sun was shining brightly on the corner entrance when we arrived. The wood column was impressive.
Across the Street
The hotel faced Pecan Street and its welcoming red sign. We had to help out, to create the missing letter.
Later, we wandered the street and enjoyed some wine at Silver Spur Winery and some popcorn at Hico Popcorn Works. I love a hotel with walkable stuff!
Rebuilt in 1896
Hico was a cotton and cattle town in its earlier years. The original corner hotel opened in 1893, but was destroyed by fire.
The new brick and stone hotel reopened in 1896. By 1907, the town was bustling with cotton sales and 95 businesses. This corner would have been jammed with wagons and horses. But by 1909 a boll weevil infestation ended cotton farming. The Midland Hotel was vacant for nearly 70 years.
Renovation and Restoration
I'd seen many photos and I'd read about the recent restoration. But I was even more impressed when we headed into the lobby.
The beautiful wood floors and limestone walls, were accented by fun art and antiques. I love curious chairs and I spotted 2 right away.
Reclaimed and Repurposed
Evidently the building had been empty since the 1970's. The interior had to be totally gutted, but much was saved. The walls now reveal stone and brick. Reclaimed wood has created a beautiful ceiling.
Fixer Upper Style
The open staircase offered a closer look at the ceiling. The lovely lobby below, looked like a setting for a movie... or a TV show.
Actually, the hotel had a TV connection. Chip and Joanna Gaines (from the Fixer Upper show) were involved with this property. Their Waco home is just an hour away and their real estate company, Magnolia Realty, handled this hotel.
Playful Old West
Don and I have stayed in numerous, historic Texas hotels. There's usually a lot of cowboy and cattle decor... which means lots of taxidermy. I loved seeing a little taste of Old West, in non-aged, art for a change.
Even the saloon had a fun-modern nod towards the Wild West. The rounded bar was shiny and bright, with a beautiful brown and blue horse painting, above. The Texas longhorn on the wall, had no fur.
The Chop House
The Chop House restaurant was fairly quiet at 4. I took a peek from below and above.
Thick, velvety curtains were pulled at night, so the sound stayed below.
Hotels get extra bonus points from me, when they have useable porches! The Midland's second story porch, had lots of sunshine at 4:30. There was also a lounging porch in back. Later there was a pleasant evening glow, but there was too much wind for enjoying.
After checking in, we lugged our bags to the second floor. The stairway was wide and so were the halls. They seemed to go in all directions.
I was glad they were able to salvage the original doors. Some had clever coverage, for the old glass transoms. The room across from ours, used a woven rug piece, to block out the light. It also had a mailbox! I was jealous.
We found numerous little sitting areas, while roaming upstairs. This one was at the top of the stairs.
At the end of hallways, we found more cozy lounging nooks.
Modern West Benches
I'm not sure if these seats and benches get much use, but they all looked pretty fun.
Room 201 - Lynch Brothers Room
All 14 rooms are unique and named for historic figures or places in Hico. Our room was named for the Lynch Brothers. The screen door that decorated the wall, framed an image of the hardware store that the Lynch Brothers owned.
Across the Street
When I opened the blinds, I saw the very building across the street. "C.L.Lynch Hardware" was painted on the brick. The painted ad for Bright and Early Coffee and Tea, had faded over the years. I love old ads on buildings.
We were pleased with both of our rooms. Pat & Susan had a suite over looking the balcony and Pecan street. Exposed brick was framed like art.
Our room was smaller, but the high ceilings and large mirror made it feel spacious. The shape of the room was odd, but I like a room with more than 4 walls.
Near the door, there was a table holding a Keurig coffee maker. The orange-painted, metal table pleased me and I wasn't sure why. Don recognized the once common typewriter table. I suddenly had memories of the gray metal table that held my family's typewriter. I could picture my mom typing away... sometimes late into the night! Extra points for a hotel that gives me a fun, deja vu moment!
Entertainment at 6!
We made sure to head down to the Saloon around 6, for live entertainment. In a town of less than 1,400, you have to be thrilled if there's anything going on. By 6:15, this cozy bar space was hopping. The middle table was taken over by an extended family. Evidently the family reserves every Thursday, for music and burger special.
Music, Drinks and Food!
We grabbed a table not far from where John Young (from Stephenville, TX) was performing on guitar... and ukulele! He was a talented young man, with a smooth voice and a nice repertoire, that leaned mostly towards country.
We sipped wine and beer and downed some incredible tenderloin sliders, among other yummy appetizers. It was fun to see many locals enjoying the evening. A number of kids came through from the Chop House area, to add to the tip jar. It was a nice evening, that ended at a reasonable hour... for tired travelers.
The next morning, we had to hit the road at 8:30. There wasn't time for lounging on the porch, but we did snap a photo. We headed downstairs with our bags and left the keys on the desk. The hotel has no attendants in the morning. But as we loaded the car, a young man walking down the street, introduced himself. He had been our chef last night and he hoped we'd had a nice stay. That was a good way to end our visit!
A Sweet Stay, with a Sad History
A Damp Day
The rain had just stopped that morning in '63, when the Kennedys stepped out from the hotel, before heading to Dallas. Spirits were high when the President spoke to the crowds.
It was also a rainy day, when Don and I arrived at the same entrance. We were meeting good friends and going to a very special wedding that night. Spirits were also high. But I couldn't ignore the history and the gloomy weather didn't help.
Open Since 1921
Once we stepped inside, it was easy to forget that our hotel was where President Kennedy spent his last night. The modern 2-story lobby, with escalator and horse statues didn't look at all like a hotel from 1963 or 1921 for that matter.
Room on the 12th Floor
But when the elevator doors opened to the 12th floor, we were faced with another reminder of that day. Our room was right beside the framed photograph. But I was very much okay with that. I'm always interested in hotel history, even if the history is bittersweet.
Windows and Art
Our room was spacious and comfortable with large windows, which I always love.
A framed print in the bathroom, showed "Hotel Texas" as it might have looked in 1963. The artwork in the guest room was just good old, Hilton Art. However, in '63, the Kennedy's suite was specially decorated for their visit, with 16 original masterpieces from Picasso to Monet.
I read in the link below, that the Kennedy's suite had a view of a Trailways bus station. When looked out our window, I didn't spot buses, but I saw pigeons on the sill and a statue of Kennedy, below in Memorial Plaza.
I was so busy remembering the hotel's mid-century history, that I forgot Hotel Texas went back to 1921. Seeing a cowboy hat at the atrium bar, reminded me of how different Fort Worth was at the grand opening in 1921. The once rowdy cowtown, suddenly had a need for nicer hotels, with all the new oil wealth.
Don and I don't usually get to enjoy the bonus perks at hotels, so we were happy to join our good friends in the Executive Lounge for a little relaxing. We sat near some western belt buckle decor and enjoyed some yummy afternoon nibbles.
We even dressed for the Executive Lounge occasion... well at least Don did. (Always pack a 2-dollar bowtie, just in case!)
In the evening, we 4 spiffed up a bit and headed off for our special evening. If only the weather hadn't been so lousy, we would have made use of one of the hotel's best perks...the location. Our hotel was in walking distance to the church and wedding venue, as well as numerous restaurants and hot spots.
After joining our friends for breakfast, we said our good-byes and packed up. But before Don and I headed off, we took some time to do a little more exploring.
The Eighth Floor
We rode the elevator to the 8th floor, just to remember. The Kennedy's Suite in 850, not longer exists. Renovations broke up the original 3-room suite, long ago. We could have booked Room 808, which is now a standard room in that area. Or we could have gone all out and booked the 2,200 sq ft Presidential Suite, which looks nothing like the "Oriental Modern" decor in the Kennedy's suite.
The Crystal Ballroom
Then Don and I peeked in the Crystal Ballroom, that had been a new addition in 1963. The President gave his last address at a breakfast in the ballroom, on that November morning. Over 2,000 attended. Today's ballroom has the same name, but looks nothing the same.
We exited the ballroom on the second floor and headed to the Promenade, along the front of the building. At both ends, we found a display of photos and articles about the Kennedy's brief stay at the hotel.
As we studied the photos, I wondered how many hotel visitors have stopped to look. How many guests find it too painful to be reminded of the tragic event, that happened after these photos were taken?
The mood was obviously different than that cold day in D.C., when I stood with my family at age 6, watching the flag draped casket pass.
I was glad to remind myself that I was standing beside a hotel, where crowds once cheered and waved as the Kennedys climbed into their car. Nothing sad occurred here.
We stepped into the same ballroom and maybe even used the same elevator. We even shared the same kind of weather and I'd like to say, we shared the same kind of hope. Elections are coming up, after all.
Fort Worth, Texas
Even though Don and I live in Texas, we decided to have a Texas-style Notable Night. Staying at the Stockyards Hotel was a good way to soak up some of the cowboy history of Fort Worth... and a good excuse to wear our cowboy boots.
Built in 1907
I can only imagine the characters who ate, drank and slept in this hotel when it opened in 1907. By the time the hotel was completed, the Fort Worth Stockyards had already been bustling with cowboys and cattle for a couple of decades.
I was pretty delighted to step inside the lobby and see a few cowboy hats and boots. These were not employee costumes. There just happen to be a lot of boot & hat wearing people in Fort Worth.
Quiet in the Lobby
Elevator or Stairs?
The elevator was actually pretty spacious for an old hotel. It even had an awesome crank, that was used by an elevator attendant, back in the day.
Since we were on the second floor, we took the stairs most of the time. I was amused by the longhorn images on the carpet. I made sure to say hello to the large portrait of Will Rogers, on the landing.
We didn't get a chance to sit-a-spell on these rockers on the second floor. They were near a curious atrium, with a skylight. I know there was a "new" addition in 1913. I'm guessing we were looking at the exposed walls, where the original and newer buildings connected.
Our Western Room #203
We may not have had the Bonnie and Clyde Room, but we did ask for a Western Style Room, (there was a choice) facing Exchange Avenue. The light shining through the shutters looked a little like bullet holes...
It's always fun to find something in your hotel room that you've never had in any other hotel. I am pretty sure I've never had a boot removing tool in my hotel room! I'm also sure there's a better name for that tool.
I've seen a lot of western style lamps in my time, but I did appreciate the nice wall and table lamps in our room. A sturdy, horseshoe & spur combo, with rawhide shades! Also, the thick, diner style mugs were nice. We filled them at the coffee bar in the lobby.
The luxury pillows kind of hid the cowhide headboard. A furry headboard might be a first for us.
Lots of Wood
The wooden tank with pull chain, was not original and that's probably a good thing. The large wardrobe that held the TV was a nice touch. (I appreciate being able to hide the TV) The wooden rocker was kind of sweet... with a nice hanging lamp, or lace filtered window light, for reading.
I didn't get a photo of our exact view, but our 2 windows looked down on the White Elephant Saloon, across the brick street. There was always a little activity to amuse me, especially the saloon guests on horseback.
Our Own Saloon
Just off the lobby was the hotel's saloon, Booger Red's. I'm not sure who he was, but he had a strange name. The Buffalo Butt Beer, advertised on the mirror, also had an odd name. I'm guessing that happens to be a buffalo's behind, sticking out from the mirror.
From Floor to Ceiling
Beasts and Saddles
The Stockyards attract a lot of tourists, but locals come too. You can tell the locals because they don't snap pictures of the mounted longhorn or the saddle barstools. Don and I have eaten lunch in this bar before, but I still stared at everything like a first time tourist.
If you're going to stay in the Stockyards, it's ridiculous not to take advantage of the perks. Don and I enjoyed the afternoon Cattle Drive, coming down Exchange street at 4:30. Fort Worth's stockyards are the last standing stockyards in the U.S., after all!
Later in the evening, we made it over to Billy Bob's, which claims to be the "World's Largest Honky Tonk," at 100,00 square feet. We enjoyed some beer and joined a free line dance class. If it had been Saturday, we could have watched some live bull riding, in their indoor arena.
Back at the Hotel
We ended the evening with a late dinner at the hotel's H3 Ranch Restaurant. I was pretty thrilled when the hostess steered us towards the booth, below 3 buffalo heads.
It's kind of sad that we didn't have bigger appetites, since the restaurant gets such good reviews for their steak. But the meal of tacos, salad and soup was perfect. We had to wait a while for a fresh loaf of bread, but it was piping hot and worth it.
Luckily we slept well in our cowboy room. If it had been a weekend, I'm sure the street below would have been louder.
I rose early and snuck out to walk on the brick streets before the area got lively. I didn't get out early enough to avoid the delivery trucks, though. It was Friday, of Labor Day Weekend and the shops and saloons were getting geared up.
I'm so glad we finally had a night at the Stockyards Hotel. I've always been curious. But my memories will actually be more about the wandering, than the hotel itself. From the man who does boot shines on the corner... to the young guy who will let you sit on his longhorn for $5... to the man in the White Elephant Saloon, who claims to be Wild Bill Hickcock... we met some curious souls! Staying at the comfy, hotel gave us the time to explore. I'm good with that!
More Than a Steakhouse
It was the Big Texan Steak Ranch (and it's very fine sign) that lured us.
The "Steak Ranch"
Of course the big yellow building is usually surrounded by cars. But when you're a motel guest, you can lay eyes on this peaceful image... if you rise at dawn.
"Charm of the Old West"
Don and I grinned when we spotted the motel a year ago. "We'll just have to stay here someday." Last June we had a chance to book a night, when we planned our drive to Oregon.
We weren't fooled by the Disney-bright facade, or the website's words about old west charm. For less than $80. we geared ourselves up for a motel-kind-of-overnight.
Evidently the limos do quite a bit of airport shuttling. Big Texan attracts a lot of visitors from other countries. Tour groups of Australians arrive on Wednesdays and a
few guests were speaking German, when we checked in.
Our room was just steps from the office. And of course parking was right in front of the door. Gotta love that about motels!
If guests forget their room numbers like I often do, they can help spot their room by the surrounding door decor! I would have preferred the pink teardrop motif!
Plywood Walls and Saloon Doors!
Our room definitely had the musty smell, that most older motels have. But I was willing to ignore that, to enjoy the fine features of our room.
I had to chuckle at the walls. We've had motels with knotty pine, but this plywood-look was unique. The saloon doors were a hoot. They actually led to a good-sized dressing area and a nicely updated bathroom. The clunky swingers would have driven me crazy if we'd stayed longer. But they were pretty fun and inspired me to dress the part for dinner.
Texas Beds and Horse Lamp
The lone star headboards looked pretty Texan. The spreads and shams had a lot going on, with faux suede and pillow tassels.
Mural and TV
The flatscreen-tv-world never works with themed decor. This TV looked pretty silly, next to the windmill and cattle drive. If only we'd had a chance to search for an old western movie channel, we might have made the TV fit the scene!
Room With a View
We did have a nice little western table set, beneath the window. And our view of the Big Moo Statue, was framed by our plywood shutters. We've never had a motel view like that.
We knew there was a Texas shaped pool and we expected it to be full of families. Don made drinks and we were determined to enjoy our first TX-Pool, no matter the crowds. But we had it to ourselves.
Towards the rear of the complex was a whole different style of motel building. The bell and balcony and pink stucco, looked like an old building in Mexico. The murals were pretty festive, as well.
Taking in the Scene
As we lounged, we took in the oddity of it all. The parking lot began to fill and then I grew giddy, with the arrival of some important guests! I eyed the truck and trailer, parked in front of the office!
In the Way Back
Before hitting the pool, I had already checked the stables, back behind the pink building. I was disappointed to find the stalls empty. However, I did see plenty of semitrailers and buses in the massive lot, nearby.
As soon as I saw the truck and trailer pull away from the office, I grabbed my camera and waited near the horse hotel, for the show.
Girls and Horses
A mom and 2 teens had been traveling 24 hours from Big Sky, Montana. They were exhausted but worked efficiently, moving the horses out and into their stalls. The fact that the one of the horses had won third place in a 3-day horse show, kept their spirits up. They were a tired, but happy bunch.
Over at the Steak Ranch
Our Big Texan dining experience in 2017 was just a quick lunch on the road. Don and I were determined to make use of our motel stay and take in all that was offered at the Ranch House, next door. We headed over, giving Big Moo a big wave.
Beer and Tunes
Don and I skipped the arcade and gift shop and headed for leather bar stools. We hardly fit the bar scene in our shorts, but the cowboy hat crowd accepted us, just fine. The strolling musicians were fun. We requested a Hank Williams song. We didn't sing along, but smiled, applauded and tipped.
At the bar we chatted with a couple who had been RV-ing for 2 years. Frank, who sported a foot long beard, shared stories of fighting fires at Mount St. Helen's... which was interesting to think about, when we visited the famous volcano a week later.
More New Friends
Before thinking about dinner, we gave ourselves a little time to explore the enclosed patio area. I did my proper posing in a giant rocker and Don checked out the red stage coach. Then we figured we'd put on our western clothes and head to dinner.
The Dining Room
There was no western dress code requirement, but Don and I are firm believers that costumes and props raise all dining and hotel adventures. We dressed (a bit) for dinner.
Beer & Bolo
The 72-Ounce Steak Challenge
I claimed that Don and I were eager for the whole Big Texan experience... but actually we weren't. We aren't huge eaters, so eating a 72-ounce steak, plus potato, sides, bread and drink in an hour, was not a challenge were excited about.
We did get to watch a dapper young guy in a cowboy hat complete the task in 36 minutes. He stood on the raised platform while a bell rang and the dining room applauded. Another guy in a ball cap remained at the table, while the glowing timer counted seconds, beside him. He gave up with 5 minutes to go.
Good Night Big Tex
It was a treat to stroll back to our funny little room. It was actually a pretty quiet night, despite being close to the freeway.
An Added Adventure
We totally took advantage of our motel location, to get up before sunrise and drive 10 minutes to enjoy a crazy "Cadillac Ranch" photo op! This crazy thing is worth Googling or visiting. And in July, a sunrise visit is your best bet if you don't want to inhale the fumes from spray paint artists.
This scene looks pretty lame when you think of African safari excursions... sleeping in lamp-lit tents, pitched in the expansive grasslands of Kenya or Zambia. (And yes, my sister has experienced that as well and I'm just a little jealous) But this place was a hoot and Don and I made a spontaneous decision to just go for a night.
This funny little 2-bedroom cabin with a tree growing out of the deck, was our home for the night. It totally cracked me up that our cabin was surrounded by 137 acres of critter inhabited land. Evidently 700 animals, (over 50 species) could mosey up to the fence and have a look at us, sitting on our porch!
These are our buddies who followed our tram. The guided tram tour price was $16. per adult. Since our $130. cabin included the tour, we really paid less than 100 bucks for our cabin. The whole experience was totally worth it, at least for this happy birthday gal!
Living in Harmony
It was so fun seeing the zebras and deer and camels and ostriches, all hanging out. Nothing like a good feast (or thrown feed) to bring a gang together!
I can't claim that Gomar is just my favorite. Don and I had to share the love of this charmer, who delighted a couple other families who joined us on the tram. He is known as the kissing camel and I'm afraid Don wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch my big kiss.
Don and His Buddy
We were glad we purchased a bucket of feed before boarding the tram. We did make a few extra friends with our offerings. Don especially loved this sweet buffalo!
It was a cloudy Monday morning when we made the quick decision to rent a cabin and take a tour. I have no idea how busy the "zoo" is on weekends and summer, but our tram was the only vehicle traveling the land. It was nice to see animals with interest! They happily followed our small group, since we had no competition.
The sweet beasts didn't seem frantic to rush towards us for handouts. If they had, I'd have worried over them getting fed enough. They just seemed pleased to see us as they followed along.
The pleasant temps made our 45 minute tram ride enjoyable. Our guide gave us lots of info, but mostly we all just enjoyed the numerous stops, when we got to lean over the railing and do some patting and feeding. What a treat, that the predicted rains held off until our tour was done!
More Space Than Needed
Our little cabin had some dated furniture, but it was clean and the cedar and antler decor was fitting. (Gotta love an antler towel rack) There were 2 rooms to choose from and we picked the one with the a.c. unit, that hummed us to sleep. There was a fridge and coffee maker and windows looking out over the pool and porch.
Had it been summer, we might not have enjoyed having a pool so close. This is a "resort" that attracts families, of course. But the pool was quiet and Don and I found a couple of lounge chairs on the pool deck to relax with some wine, while we watched the sun peek out of the clouds... and set, just over the kangaroos.
Don and I have had many memorable happy hours, at our unusual accommodations over the years. This one will go down as one of the oddest. I mean odd in a good way. We've never had a chance to sip wine on a porch or veranda, while being entertained by kangaroos!
Other Beasts at the Cabins
The cabin guests had their own petting zoo area and I fell in love with the donkey. Don was fond of the kangaroo that seemed to communicate through the fence.
While we were visiting the kangaroo, we were lucky enough to meet Marilyn who started this zoo with her husband nearly 30 years ago. She chatted with between a few chores and told us how the friendly little kangaroo had been raised in their home. She said she was very tempted to get some adult diapers and bring her back in the home. We spent a lot of time hearing how the couple from Louisiana started this Texas Hill Country zoo, years ago.
Don and I slept well with rain pouring down on the metal roof. It stopped enough in the morning for me to have a quick visit with a few animals. Then I sat on the porch, drinking coffee, while the rain gushed some more. In the distance, I could see some buffalo pushing through the sheets of rain.
Mostly, I'm going to remember, I got kissed by a camel!
The entrance to the classic skyscraper from 1926, was on Fannin Street. Kind of eerie, since my last 90-Nights post was about sleeping in a fort... where Colonel James Fannin, leader of the Texas Revolution, was killed.
Orignal Grand Entrance
Tallest in Houston
The hotel building is now almost 100 years old. The classic skyscraper was built to house the Houston Post Dispatch and KPRC radio station. The impressive limestone creation was the tallest in Houston, when it was built in 1926. That was 3 years before Toronto's Daily Star was built. That macho Canadian building with the same number of stories, was what Joe Schuster, the creator of Superman, used as a model for Clark's Kent's news office building... Daily Planet. Newspapers were big back then!
Once inside, it was hard to believe we were in an old building. The boutique hotel is only about 10 years old and has a totally modern feel.
By late afternoon, The Lounge Restaurant & Bar was covered in purple, green and gold decor, for a private Mardi Gras/Birthday party. I guess we could have crashed.
Heading to the Elevators
We headed for our room and I took this shot from the elevator, looking through the hall to the lobby. More curves and colors.
Our suite was one of 314 rooms at Magnolia.
I failed to capture a good shot of the room. It was much more spacious and attractive than the photos show. I might add, the room was peaceful at night. No sounds from the big party below.
Coming in from the suburbs, we hardly needed the spacious 2-part bath and the fridge/cooking area. But no complaints.
The modern suite gave no hints of the building's past. But the window-hook gave a tiny clue that this building was in use, back before air-conditioning. I could picture open windows and newsmen, pacing back and forth with ties loosened, while typewriters clicked nearby...
Even though it was February, Don and I packed swimwear and spent time on the roof reading around the pool. The pool was small, but the view was big.
Better at Night
We returned to the roof in the evening to see the view and it was even better. The lit up buildings and distant ferris wheel were festive on a balmy winter evening.
Off to Dinner
Since the hotel restaurant was being used for the private party, we walked down to another historic hotel for dinner. We were the only ones dining at Hotel Lancaster when our waiter snapped this photo. The packed cafe had emptied just before 8 pm, when the entire lot headed across the street to Alley Theatre. Later, we took our time heading back to Magnolia, stopping at the historic Rice Hotel for jazz and dancing. So much, within walking distance!
Cookies and Milk?
When we returned to Magnolia, the complimentary Cookie and Milk Bar had just been put away. But a lovely staff person, trotted back to the fetch us some chocolate chip cookies and we made coffee in the room.
In the morning we took a walk around downtown, studying other old buildings. When we returned, I looked up and noticed the ornate top of our hotel's structure. I had to zoom in with my camera to see that those were indeed lion head gargoyles, above the rows of pilasters. Why did they put all the good stuff up so high?
But when the bells at Christ Church Cathedral began to ring right across the street, we saw another parade. The choir was entering the church from the cloisters. Nice!
I later learned the church had some concerns when the building was being converted 15 years ago. There were issues about the hotel bar serving liquor, within 300 feet of the church school. They must have resolved that one. I love old and recent history tidbits!
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.
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.
Special 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!
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!