Hotel Saint Cecilia

August 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm 1 comment

If there is one thing we enjoy as much as food, it is discovering really great hotels–one-of-a-kind boutique hotels that really transform a vacation into an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. We do not usually travel to exotic locations or spend a fortune on hotels, but we have found some great places over the years from Hotel Rouge and Hotel Helix (both Kimpton Hotels) in Washington DC to the Arbor House, an environmental inn in Madison, WI. However, this interest first started about 8 years ago when we stayed at the Hotel San Jose on South Congress Avenue in Austin, TX. This year we decided to return to Austin to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Scott did some great research and uncovered several hotel options in the South Congress district. We have always wanted to return to Hotel San Jose, but after spending an afternoon browsing different hotel websites, we both (independently) chose Hotel Saint Cecilia. Named after the patron saint of music and poetry, it is described online as a secluded estate with accommodations inspired by the “experimentation of 60’s writers like William Burroughs, the daring and extravagance of groups like the Stones in the early 70’s, and the defiance and convention embodied by artists like Miro and Warhol in the late 50’s and early 60’s.” And, with that description, I was hooked.

We stayed three nights at the Hotel Saint Cecilia and it was just as wonderful as I had anticipated. South Congress Avenue had grown up quite a bit since our last visit, so it was nice that the hotel with tucked away from the busyness and noise, yet still close enough to walk to shops and eateries. The hotel grounds were beautiful–lush green grass, sprawling live oak trees, charming outdoor patio, quirky bar, and great views of the downtown skyline. As we walked around the grounds each day, we noticed an interesting and pleasant aroma. I convinced myself that it had to be coming from one of the plants or trees, but then on our last day we discovered they had strategically placed incense burners near the hotel entrance and pool! The service was the best I had ever experienced–they called us by name and congratulated us as soon as we walked in the door, they offered to carry everything from luggage to a simple tray of chilled Richard’s Rainwater. Each room was equipped with a turntable and sound system, and the hotel library offered a selection of vintage vinyl as well as films and books about poets, musicians, and writers. We stuck to LPs and the soundtrack for our stay included Billy Joel, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel (including their song Cecilia, of course), Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and the James Brown band. We also borrowed the hotel bicycles and rode around the nearby residential neighborhoods and along the paths at Town Lake. We laid by the pool in the afternoons and, between dips in the water, we took turns reading chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to each other. Needless to say, after a couple of days, I decided that I needed to permanently move in to Suite 3 at Hotel Saint Cecilia.

One of the fun things about staying at such a small, quaint hotel was visiting with some of the other guests. We got restaurant recommendations and tips on sneaking our own drinks into the hotel’s public spaces, and then we passed all this great information along to others we met. I think the most interesting encounter happened our first afternoon by the pool. We chatted with a lady visiting from Houston who was about our age and publishes a lifestyle blog for a living. She asked the reason for our visit and we happily replied that we were there to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Scott and I smiled at each other, and I thought about how blessed we were to actually celebrate this milestone. Our new friend seemed impressed with this accomplishment and immediately asked something like, “What is the key to a happy, successful marriage?” Scott and I looked at each other again and chuckled as I was thinking, “You’re asking the wrong couple, lady!” Scott put it more nicely and responded that we were, in fact, learning the hard way as we had recently been through a separation. Then we shared a few of the breakthroughs we have had over the past year. Never let yourself become complacent in your marriage. Recognize that marriage is something you have to continually work on in order to grow, protect, and nurture your relationship. Develop a “we” or “couple” identify while still maintaining your own interests and individuality. And, I don’t think we said this that day at the pool, but Scott recently wrote about how we have both realized we must work hard to keep our marriage as the most important human relationship in our lives–before work, friends, children, pets, parents, hobbies, and so on. When we got back to our room a few hours later, I told Scott how I had been caught off guard by her question and how unprepared we were to share a simple version of our story and the lessons we are learning. I hope the opportunity presents itself again and I hope we have the rights words to share when it does.


Entry filed under: Vacationing. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Emily  |  August 20, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Great post. So glad balmoral bites is back. (and a hotel with vinyl is awesome!)


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