From Austin to San Antonio a re-visit
by Lady Di Wanderlust @dibythesea.com
I'm not one for do-agains... but sometimes I make exceptions. It's been 23 years since I've been to this part of Texas... curious to see what's changed, if it's anything like the growth in Southern California, then a LOT ! In 1992 we visited Austin for a week with plans to uproot and live there, while there we explored the Alamo, San Antonio's RiverWalk, Antique Shopped in Butte, tried queso for the first time in Austin, explored caverns, drove around a drive thru wild animal park, and shopped model home sites around Round Rock... this time we are here for part work and part play, we will spend time enjoying the nightlife of Austin and whatever we find of interest on our free days.
Side note: On our first night, we were unable to open the convertible, us and 2 valets couldn't figure it out, so we had to call it in. Enterprise said they would take off the 30.00 upcharge. The weather wasn't all that nice, we had some rain, so I think we made out in the end on that deal.
Well, it certainly didn't disappoint, as cool and boutique, unique as to be expected. This is our 13th W hotel, Worldwide, immediately I am in eye-candy heaven. Lots of interior decor accents to drool over. I loved the succulents in the entry and at the front desk check-in (big time lawn removals and succulent plantings going on in Cali, with our drought situation so I felt very at home) We were given a room on the top floor with views of the rooftop pools below and the Lady Bird Lake / Colorado river, a bit out in the distance. The front desk guy hooked us up with complimentary Hi-band Wifi. We enjoyed our 1 night stay there, comfy bed.
Would have liked to have tried their lounge called Trace : American Farm to table, next time !
You'll find all you can want along this street :: Craft beers, cocktails, BBQ, Mexican, Indian,Thai cuisines and more, food truck haven ... DJ's, live bands, every era of music is found at each place.
We hopped and sipped and chowed down at Lucille Patio lounge, Javalina (veggie burger), Craft Pride (vegetarian and gluten free food truck out back), Bangers Sausage & Links (v&v sausages), Blackhearts, and the Container Bar ... turns out Vegetarian and Vegan options were to be had at most places and all were delicious.
*tip : If you get the Veggie burger at Javalina - cut the patty open and give it a breather ! Turns out I had steamed the roof of my mouth with it ! OUCH days of mouth sores to contend with, no bueno.
We began our walk back to our hotel and on the way over we spotted the State Capital building, so we continued another 15 minutes along the downtown streets over to capture some pics for our collection. We walked back and then decided to grab the car and take a quick drive to check out S. Commerce street or SOCO as they call it ... a Strip of stores, restaurants boutiques... a shoppers paradise. Most stores were closed so we stopped way at the end at a place called Habana House for a snack and coffee. The food was just okay, service great. They have these cute little raised huts outside lit up with colorful lights. *Tip : Bring your mosquito spray ! I woke up with 20 bites on my legs and I had leggings on !
Did I mention Austin is dog friendly ! ? Back up in our room at the end of the night, my husband noted that the in-room dining menu had Dog meal options ! Can't say I've ever seen that before.
Tid-bit : The tallest building in Austin is.... the Austonian.
BREAKING NEWS !!! As I sit here writing about my Austin experiences I am privy to some news ! Starwood Resorts and Marriott properties have converged making them the biggest Hotel Company in the WORLD ! So, that means that I will be able to start sharing more hotels and adventures with you. I will be posting a blog after this one with all the details I find out about the merger.
After taking some time to photograph and climb around we met up with our friend Dete to go see about some BATS !
After about 20 minutes of standing in our spot a man came up to us with a stuffed bat on his hat and a batman silhouette on his shirt, gently yet assertively and quietly moving us toward the center of the bridge... we watched him gathering up other tourists and doing the same until we had a small grouping of perhaps fellow bat watchers awaiting the big reveal !... He took pictures with us and then gave out bat buttons.. for a few bucks ! HA ! I just knew there would be money involved with his hospitality. He was a nice, def man so it made it easier to give up our bucks. We waited for what seemed like an eternity.. the wind picked up... sprinkling came and went and then hints of rodent feceses hit your nose, a sign of their soon to be emergence. We were entertained by our fellow batters and the boaters, kayakers below.. Finally, well past 6:00p, we start to see some fluttering... but with the wind.. they did not fly out... but UNDERNEATH the bridge !... after about 10 minutes or more of this... we head back down to our corner where we started and see more bats coming out from under there... mind you, these bats are babies so they appear more to be swallows, but there were a ton ! Unfortunately, the night sky with the clouds offered poor lighting to capture any good photos or video. But here are a few of my photos. I promise there are bats in those shots !
We landed at a place called the Corner bar... across from the Radisson, enjoyed some queso and corn chips and some Mezcal Mules (a spicy version of a Ginger Mule) and pepper flavored cocktails next to the fireplace in their outdoor patio/bar area. We then walked down to our next reserved restaurant of choice a gasto pub of sorts called... Swifts Attic but when we got there, it was closed due to construction !
Turns out they were closed for a few days now... ! say what, our concierge at the W had just booked it a few hours prior ! How in the world !!! We made our way down about 5 streets to another gastro style eatery called Fixe, Austins Southern House recommended by our concierge... where we dined on unique and savory dishes and drinks. Mezcal mules with jalepeno muddled in... they had a few vegetarian dishes, salads, potatoes, I went with the Herbivore grits and sweet tea pickles, my husband and friends had the beet salad, fish, shrimp and fried chicken ! Sharing went on and we were all in agreement that everything was delicious ! We walked back to our cars and said our goodnights.
So far Im disappointed that I have not heard one texas accent yet !
Our accommodations in San Antonio were at the St. Anthony, coined "the Waldorf of the Prairie", an historic 1900's newly renovated hotel new to the Starwood company, newly opened. Here's a post I found about it. I was immediately in aw of the beauty, the color scheme, the white marble floors and grand staircase. We checked in late, were met by 2 wonderfully friendly ladies, quick check-in, no other guests around, straight up to our room with a spectacular room of Travis park across the street all lit up with it's holiday lights ! Well, it could have been spectacular if the large room windows weren't covered in a layer of soot, so disappointing ! But the hotel was not ! So, lavish yet full of historical bones and beautifully modern decor mixed with both original and reproduction furniture and fixtures. Eye candy, the fragrant smell and the era music that were piped throughout took us back in time and were just layer after layer of goodness. I was in love ! In our room layed out on a desk was a coffee table book about the history of the hotel, called "Dusting off the Legend : the St. Anthony" 2014 ... I perused it and it was so thrilled to know that we were in a hotel with so much American history, it had been a Crowne, Wyndham ... and now a Starwood / Marriott !!
We found ourselves at Rebelle, one of the restaurants ... though closed we wanted a closer look !! It's modern, blue glow cast such a contrast to the white pureness of the historical hotel. Sparkley tiles, acrylic dining chairs, mixed with iron lanterns glowing with vivid colored bulbs, iron staircase, arched windows, a decorative Eiffel tower sat on one table next to the central bar... our rez lady appeared and she let us take a peek and get some photos and video before she offered to have someone from security escort us around the hotel on a private tour of the rooms and pool.
Our tour was briefly and then entirely interupted by an issue in the very bar we were in earlier. Brian our bartender was found passed out, unresponsive... bar money and cash bag on the counter and cash register open. YIKES !
We ended up continuing our own tour around, ended at an outdoor roof with views of the surrounding buildings with all of their mixed and old architectures, stone work and details, iron fire escapes, then back to our room for some in-room dining at 2:00a ... which was a bit slow understandably, due to the bar issue and were relieved to hear that Brian had awoke and made his way home.
The next morning we toured the Gym and rooftop pool, before we headed out to the River Walk...
Water Taxi :: You can purchase tickets at ticket locations or on the taxis themselves. 15.00 will get you an all-day pass (24 hr) on - off, anytime you want ... On their website you can keep track of the next boat coming (approx every 20 minutes) they are really good about calling-in their whereabouts, you just wave them down or stand at any nearby stop. Along the route you get to see ducks, sparrows pigeons, lots of native plant life, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels, and lots of people, other boats who's passengers are friendly, waving as they go by...
We walked from Travis St. /St. Mary's Bridge (the Aztec) and then hopped on about 1/2 way to Pearl, which is just a small section of it's 15 linear miles of water. Along the banks pedestrians and bikers go along, we saw a lot of joggers. There were lots of string lights hanging from the trees as we rode down during the day and I was so excited for the ride back at night, however I found out that those lights are not year round but just for the winter holidays and wouldn't be turned on until late November, drat ! I was so excited to share my pics and video with everyone. I found a shot that someone else took, so here it is.
Pearl District: The neighborhood is home to the the old Pearl Brewery, 15 eateries and cafes, shops, vegetarian, italian, Latin, seafood, a bakery, bike rental, yoga, ice cream, and more all within the old Brewery grounds and buildings... you can read about it in the link above.
As we walked around we ran into the owners of Bakery Lorraine, the one place our concierge said we should be sure not to miss, after asking if they had vegetarian and vegan options and we got a yes, we headed over to sample some of their yummies and boy were they good ! More than just a bakery they have soups, sammy and salads. Their peanut butter cookies (which I normally would never eat) were large and full of peanuts and tasted salty, yet sweet, with chocolate morsels and the best I have ever had and they have their parisian macaroons... I tried the caramel apple... heavenly, we were tempted to purchase more to take back to the hotel... instead we headed over for some lunch at the Green 100% kosher Vegetarian Cuisine. where we feasted on vegetarian/vegan delights... herbed mashed potatoes, burritos, and burgers... hibiscus tea. So good ! With thoughts to get more cookies !
We sipped craft beer samplings at the Southleigh fine food and brewery housed inside the brewery where we learned of the amazing hotel, within... the brewery turned HOTEL ! WOW !! just wow ! ...
As we rode the water taxi back ... Kenny, our driver (these guys are full of info) told us about the San Antonio Museum of Art .... and that it was free tonight, so we hoped off and up we went to view some art ! Art Exhibits and Installations and Collections from Latin America, Spain and Modern were all free. 28 Chinese was a minimal fee. My feet were really hurting me so we just did a quick run through. I love Myan art and we somehow never found the modern art floor. Here are a few pics I took. Back to the St. Anthony to pick up our luggage and make a short walk over to check-into the Sheraton.
Sheraton Gunter San Antonio 205 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX
Another late night check-in and just a few min walk from the St. Anthony ( less than 10 min walk from the Riverwalk)
The Gunter has a typical Sheraton feel on the outside... inside felt more like a W... the hotel in general was well kept, clean and modern. Service and check-in great ! ... we had access to the Executive Club lounge... and enjoyed some snacks, I was also able to eat vegetarian with spinach bites, grapes and corn chips and salsa and beer, wine, coffee and tea options all complimentary.
Note: Sheratons Worldwide are Dog Friendly !
But before we did that we took a walk back over to Travis Park, across the street from the St. Anthony where another wall mural stood by the artist.... this one is temporary. you can visit her website to find to where other temporary pop-up murals will be and where permanents will land. It's a fun thing to add to my adventures around the world... you can find my photos as well as others who have enjoyed these murals on instagram under the hashtag #whatmovesyou