Posts tagged ‘San Antonio River Walk’

Five top reasons to say “Si” to San Antonio’s recently renovated Hotel Valencia

On one hand, you want a quiet getaway. But aren’t vacations meant to be riveting, at least worthy of a Snapchat story or two?  It’s the quintessential hotel booking question. Especially when expectations of experimental dining figure into the equation.

hv2I’m happy to report that, in San Antonio at least, I’ve found the perfect solution. Hotel Valencia is smack dab on the world famous River Walk. You can see the boats, the ducks and the happy wanderers from your beautiful tiled Spanish veranda. But because it’s at the intersection of the River Walk’s later-added 1.3-mile Museum Reach, it feels private, luxurious and oh-so-relaxing.

Most of the rowdiest partiers never get past the cypress-lined walkways and bridges near the Main Plaza which leaves the murals, the outdoor public art, the museums and the CIA cooking school for you.

And as for experimental dining, you don’t even have to leave the boutique hotel’s premises. Dorrego’s, named after the lively Plaza Dorrego in the historic San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, offers such Argentine-influenced dishes as smoked short rib ravioli, quail meatballs, duck confit empanadas and proveleta flamado, a tequila flamed Argentine provolone.

Here are four other reasons Hotel Valencia is the perfect choice:

1. It’s the little things. Chef Anthony Mesa, who designed the innovative menu at Dorrego’s, (Did I mention the charred corn, cilantro and signature red chimichurri sauce in the duck empanadas or that the beef raviolis take four and a half hours to make?), has become a bona fide Argentine evangelist. After a stint in Buenos Aires, he brought back the Argentinean tradition of Un Poco Mas. It means “one more thing” and this something extra is incorporated into the entire guest experience. The morning coffee comes with a fresh-baked cookie or biscotti. Cocktails are accompanied by candied pepitas or house-made potato chips. Tea comes with a choice of flavored syrups.

2. Breakfast is included. Although customary in Europe, most American hotels try to gouge guests with every meal they can. At Hotel Valencia, guests get a full line-up of homemade breads, granola, yogurts, fruits and more. The breakfast “un poco mas” was “un grande mas,” at least in my book, because all-you-can-drink fresh-squeezed orange juice could easily set you back $20 or more.

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3. You get a fast track to two former Texas breweries who have been given hip new lives. Remember that Museum Reach I mentioned earlier? Because of Hotel Valencia’s perfect location, you can easily walk from Hotel Valencia to these two San Antonio icons.

Lone Star Brewery, built in 1884 by beer baron Adolphus Busch, left a big gap along the San Antonio River when it fell victim to an unfortunate corporate merger. But rather than raze it or allow it to crumble into a hazardous eyesore, the city turned the historic brewery into the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Just a few steps further is Pearl Brewery, Lone Star’s competitor that, in 2001, was also shuttered after more than 100 years of beer-making. Thanks to the far-sightedness of Kit Goldsbury, the Pace Salsa billionaire, the 22-acre complex roared back to life as an edgy foodie destination.

The post-industrial riverfront complex hosts several of San Antonio’s best restaurants (La Gloria which riffs on the Mexican street vendor scene and Il Sogno Osteria, an always crowded Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and a wood-burning oven, to name a couple), a twice-weekly farmer’s market (featuring everything from lavender soap, watercress and free range eggs to heritage pork, grass-fed bison and sour cream pecan muffins), a kitchenware store owned by famed cookbook author, Melissa Guerra (look for such hard-to-find items as authentic Mexican molcajetes, hand-embroidered dish towels and mesquite rolling pins) and a 30,000-square foot Culinary Institute of America cooking school.

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4. Hotel Valencia just had a $10 million, top to bottom facelift. I wasn’t privy to its first incarnation, but I certainly dig what acclaimed architect Lauren Rottet did with the place. Plus I have abiding respect for any place that refuses to rest on its laurels and believe me, Hotel Valencia has many from USA Today’s “Most Romantic” to Conde Nast Reader’s Choice to AAA’s four-diamonds.

https://www.hotelvalencia-riverwalk.com/

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Tommy Lee Jones supports his hometown of San Antonio

When KLRN, the PBS station in San Antonio, produced a documentary on the recent expansion of its famous River Walk, Tommy Lee Jones provided the narration.

Why? Because he’s a proud native. Not only does the Oscar-winner live in Terrill Hills, a San Antonio suburb, but he owns a nearby cattle ranch and sits ringside at most San Antonio Spurs games.

And it’s not unusual to spot the famous actor strolling along the Paseo del Rio (or River Walk, as we English speakers call it). Twenty feet below street level, the San Antonio landmark with its outdoor cafes and charming boutiques has surpassed even the Alamo as the city’s most-visited attraction.

The 30-minute PBS documentary that Tommy Lee proudly voiced describes the expansion of the River Walk that provides access to two historic Texas breweries that have been given hip new lives.

The “Museum Reach” section of the River Walk, unlike the busy commercial section, has native landscaping, lots of public artwork and bicycle and dog-friendly paths. While you might, as my river guide shrewdly pointed out, “spot a few tourists in their native habitat,” you’re more likely to see ducks or herons stealthily stalking lunch.

Thanks to an innovative lock and dam system, you can now ride a river boat all the way to San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) that, not too long ago, used to be the Lone Star Brewery. Built in 1884 by beer baron Adolphus Busch, the iconic landmark was turned into the award-winning art museum in 1981. Since then, it has won many architectural awards and been expanded three times including a 30,000-square foot Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art.

The River Walk’s “Museum Reach” also gives access to the repurposed Pearl Brewery that was shuttered in 2001 after more than 100 years of beer-making. Thanks to the far-sightedness of Kit Goldsbury, the Pace Salsa billionaire, the 22-acre complex has roared back to life as an edgy foodie destination.

The post-industrial riverfront complex hosts several of San Antonio’s best restaurants (La Gloria that riffs on the Mexican street vendor scene and Il Sogno Osteria, an always crowded Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and a wood-burning oven, to name a few), a twice-weekly farmer’s market (featuring everything from lavender soap, watercress and free range eggs to heritage pork, grass-fed bison and sour cream pecan muffins), a kitchenware store owned by famed cookbook author, Melissa Guerra, (look for such hard-to-find items as authentic Mexican molcajetes, hand-embroidered dish towels and mesquite rolling pins) and a 30,000-square foot Culinary Institute of America cooking school.

As the third location for the prestigious C.I.A., the San Antonio version specializes in Latin American cuisine and offers a 30-week certification program and a just-opened bakery and cafe where customers can view students working in the test kitchens. Although plans are afoot to eventually offer associate degrees in culinary arts management just like the other campuses in Hyde Park, NY and St. Helena, CA, for now, day-long, two-day and weeklong culinary boot camps attract tall hats and apron-clad wanna-be’s mastering such chile-fueled recipes as Andean harvest pot roast in a clay pot.

Perhaps most commendable is the Pearl Complex solid commitment to sustainability from its 200-kilowatt solar installation, the largest in Texas, to drought-resistant xeriscaping. The Full Goods Building, once the brewery’s distribution center, is LEED-certified and brewery leftovers have been repurposed from chandeliers made from beer filters to flower beds made from old CO2 tanks.

The former Pearl Brewery complex also has a yoga studio, bicycle rental, an Aveda Institute, living space and an eclectic mix of businesses and nonprofit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Texas and the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Architecture.

Don’t miss the hour-long Saturday tours where you’ll learn everything from the enticing history of The Pearl (including an homage to Emma Koehler who successfully helmed the brewery after her husband, Otto, was murdered by his mistress) to an insiders looks at the recycled brewery stable, bottling warehouse and distribution center.

200 East Grayson Street; 210.212.7260; www.atpearl.com