Hello again and welcome to the newest installation of the Down in the Hollow Travel Guides!
Adam and I actually just recently got back from a long trip to Europe (Denmark and the Netherlands) and so for our third wedding anniversary trip, we decided to stay closer to home and do something a lot simpler. We decided to do a miniature tour of Texas. The title of this post is a tad misleading, because we only made three stops on the trip and so, in that way, it isn’t totally a whole tour of the state. If we had the time to do an actual tour, I would have added a lot more stops (Austin, Marfa, Dripping Springs, etc.) But I digress. On to the tour! I’ll line it out exactly how we did it so you can map your trip the same way if you wish!
Stop #1 – Fort Worth
I’m counting this as a stop even though we only spent the night there. Since we live in Oklahoma City and wanted to start our trip in the Hill Country wine region of Texas, we went as far as Fort Worth on Friday night just to get a head start on our drive and break it up a bit. We left after work on Friday and in three hours we arrived in Fort Worth. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott downtown (they allow dogs) and then went immediately to our favorite little spot in downtown Fort Worth, Thompson’s Bookstore. No, no, we weren’t shopping for books. Thompson’s used to be a bookstore back in the day but has now been turned into a cocktail lounge with a trick bookcase door that leads downstairs to a speakeasy. Check it out.
To get to the speakeasy, you must first have a cocktail, or however many you want, upstairs. When you tab out, the bartender will write a password on the back of your receipt. This is what you tell the employee guarding the bookcase door in order to have it opened to you so that you can go down to the speakeasy. The bar itself is incredibly designed and provides a great environment, but what I love even more than that is the cocktails themselves. The entire menu is extremely unique with recipes you can’t find anywhere else. Every drink in their booklet of options was specifically crafted by a bartender that works there and it changes seasonally, so you always have something new to try. My favorite cocktail I’ve ever had there included a blueberry infused rooibos tea syrup. YUM!
I’m sure there’s a lot more to do in Fort Worth, but we’ll leave that to explore another time for another blog post. For this trip, though, I’ll only discuss Thompson’s as that was our only stop for our first night of the trip.
Stop #2 – Fredericksburg
After enjoying our night in Fort Worth, we hit the road the next day for wine country. The drive took us through a ton of tiny Texas towns and one gets honorable mention in this blog post and that is Hamilton, TX. And that is for one reason and one reason only. In Hamilton, there’s a coffee shop called Central Perk and, you guessed it, it’s a Friends themed coffee shop complete with the exact logo sign, Friends posters lining the wall and menu items named after the characters.
We got some coffee and breakfast burritos and then got back on the road.
When we got to Fredericksburg, the first order of business was to check in to our bed and breakfast. On Main Street in town, there are plenty of lodging options to choose from, but I have got to say that we chose the absolute best one. We stayed at the Hoffman Haus and it could not have been more quaint, comfortable, chic and thoughtful. We had our own little “cabin” complete with a huge bathroom with walk-in shower and clawfoot tub (and lavender bath products from Hill Country), the bedroom had a huge plush bed and we also had a massive living room with a kitchenette stocked with waters and freshly roasted coffee. Hoffman Haus also has several other signature touches that we loved. The main house has fresh coffee, tea, water and cookies always available as well as a library where you can grab books, games or movies to take to your room. There’s also a spa on site! But my favorite touch? Every morning, breakfast is delivered directly to your door in a gingham-lined picnic basket. And the two breakfasts that we enjoyed were deeeelicious!
After getting all checked-in and freshened up, we did what we do best: drank wine. Now, a word about Texas wine country..I’ve gone wine tasting in a lot of different wine regions around the world and I honestly had no idea what to expect from Texas wines. I know that the Hill Country is becoming quite the destination for wine lovers and is being highlighted in more and more wine magazines, travel magazines, food magazines, etc. Despite its popularity, though, I have never seen a Texas wine in a liquor store, wine store, grocery store wine aisle or on any menu. This confuses me. If it’s so good…where is it? Why isn’t it distributed? Why isn’t the demand higher? As it turns out, the wine is INCREDIBLY good! And it isn’t widely distributed outside of the state because, get this, Texans drink all of it. I asked the above questions to the staff at every winery we went to and basically got a variation of this exact answer. Demand for wines has increased productions, on average, from 11,000 cases to over 65,000 cases of wine and yet still the consumers of all of this wine are inside the state of Texas. The only exception would be people who happen to be wine club members and get cases shipped directly to them in another state. I asked what it would take for a winery to increase the production to a level of distributing nationwide like wineries in California, Washington and Oregon do and the answer is A LOT. So, the bad news is that isn’t happening yet. The good news is that Texas wine country is still relatively new with many wineries only having produced a harvest for eleven years or so. As they grow and mature, I assume we will see more production and perhaps distribution in the next few decades.
As I do with most trips, I researched the crap out of wineries in Fredericksburg in order to pick the very best ones. With only two days planned in this town, I wanted to get the best experience and taste the best wines. Lucky for you, I do all of the hard work for you. So you can know every time you read a travel guide or possibly even use it to build your own itinerary, there is always a looot of research, thought and planning that went on behind the scenes.
Day one in Fredericksburg consisted of two wineries: Messina Hof and Kuhlman Cellars. We went to Messina Hof first. Their property in Fredericksburg is actually not home to their actual vineyard. They have over a thousand acres up in Lubbock where they grow their grapes, but they do some of their production down in Fredericksburg and they’ve set up a great property and tasting room.
Then it was off to our second winery of the day, Kuhlman Cellars. I had made a reservation beforehand (strongly suggest if you want to do anything other than a walk-in tasting) for a Signature Pairing. Holy cow. I wanted to publicly pat myself on my own back. We were sat at a table with two other couples and had a sommelier guided tasting paired with chef’s prepared small bites. Honestly, it was so hard determining which we liked better, the wines or the food. I guess in the end we decided the wine since we became wine club members! Being a wine club member at wineries in Texas is a lot different than, say, California wineries. You can choose different levels of shipments, for example 3, 6, or 9 bottles at most places. You can cancel at anytime and you only pay for the bottles you want, you don’t pay a membership fee. At least this was the case with the wine club memberships we checked out so don’t quote me on that if you go to another winery we didn’t get to and find out that theirs are different. We chose the 3 wine bottle level at Kuhlman and were able to take our 3 bottles for the quarter home with us that day.
If we thought we were impressed with the culinary level of the small bites provided with the Signature Pairing, we had another thing coming at dinner that night. We wound up not getting one single picture of us or the restaurant or absolutely anything else, but man were we impressed. We chose Vaudeville for dinner and it was a knockout. Vaudeville is right on Main Street and has several things going on inside. There’s a huge luxury boutique of home goods and a few personal pieces such as jewelry and bespoke fascinators. There’s also a Bistro where you can enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner. And a few weekends a month, they conduct a Supper Club. We weren’t there on the right weekend for that, but if you get the chance you should definitely plan a trip to coincide with the Supper Club and make reservations in advance.
On our second day in Fredericksburg, we had plans to go to three other wineries but we wound up staying on Main Street all day. We started off on Main Street for the shopping, but realized that all of the wineries we wanted to visit had tasting rooms on Main and so we decided to visit the tasting rooms instead. Part of me wishes that we would have gone to the wineries, but we wound up meeting some incredible individuals at the tasting rooms that it was hard to be too upset at it. After shopping in the morning and getting some to-go mimosas (drinking on the streets in Fredericksburg is legal), we turned up to our first tasting room: Becker Vineyards. I could probably drone on about our experience at Becker, but I’ll keep it brief. We had the most precious tasting room steward. His name was Bob, he was in his sixties and he is an ex-Navy Seal. We spent probably way too much time at Becker because Bob and I couldn’t stop chatting. But, on the other hand, the wine was delicious so I would not consider it a waste of time. We left with five bottles to bring home and I’m looking so forward to popping those corks out! After Becker we moved on to the Grape Creek Vineyards tasting room where I met another friend, Jim. We got all kinds of lucky with elderly gentleman as our stewards who were interesting, funny, kind and easy to talk to! Plus, put some wine in me and honestly I’d talk to a brick wall. But I just love meeting new people that have interesting insight and I always take something valuable away from my conversations with them. So, yes, Grape Creek wines were delicious and the company made the experience even better. And here’s a tip: if you make a good relationship with the person pouring your wine, they’ll pour you a lot MORE wine. For instance, our tasting at Grape Creek was supposed to come with only 5 wines. Jim let us taste every single wine on the entire menu! Our last tasting room was a bit of a mulligan. By the time we had all the wine pumped in us at Grape Creek, we couldn’t actually remember which one we were meant to go to so as we passed by the Cross Mountain tasting room, we just decided to pop in spontaneously. Cross Mountain is different from other wineries in Texas since they don’t grow their grapes in Texas. Their vineyards are in Italy and they ship the mature grapes to their production site in Texas and then make the wines. And although they were tasty enough, I would have preferred to keep our tastings to locally grown and produced wines.
Now, let’s talk dinner. Fredericksburg is known for being a German community and because of that, there’s a lot of German food options. A lot of people rave about a little spot called Otto’s and I’m sure it’s really good. However, we chose to check out a place called Alstadt Brewery. It took 3 years to build by a family that recently relocated from Germany in Texas. And it – was – GOOD! But again, we didn’t get any pictures all evening. I guess we were too busy laughing and chatting over our chicken schnitzels.
Stop #3 – San Antonio
I’m going to be honest. There’s one reason and one reason alone that I wanted to go to San Antonio. And it was a hotel. If y’all know me at all, you know I’m obsseeessssed with hotels/resorts/bed and breakfasts. I follow an embarrassing amount on Instagram. I’m constantly searching the web for new ones to discover. I love them. I’ve been following The Hotel Emma on Instagram for years and so when we started trying to plan our anniversary trip and knew that we wanted to keep it close and simple, I immediately thought of Hotel Emma in San Antonio. Imagine this: a beautifully designed hotel set in a building that used to be a brewery that has still kept many of the industrial fixtures from it’s previous era, where you are welcomed with a craft margarita in a beautiful two-story library, that has its own curated boutique, two restaurants, a gorgeous bar, a coffee shop with a small market of goods to take home (we grabbed two bags of Hotel Emma coffee beans), pinstripe robes in your room along with house slippers, lavender sleep mist, eyemasks, and a fully stocked fridge with red and white wine, champagne, Pearl beer, waters, Topo Chico, chips and salsa, candies, the ingredients and tools to make margaritas and more, and a turn-down service that includes French macarons. They have seriously thought of everything to make your stay wonderful, comfortable and luxurious.
After checking in and exploring the hotel, we set out to go check out one of San Antonio’s claims to fame, the River Walk. Now…I’m sure at one point in its hayday it might have been a big attraction. That had to have been a long, long time ago. I don’t know what I expected but what I got was seeing maybe two restaurants that didn’t look very nice, one tourist trap margarita shop with the kind of margaritas that are just bagged flavor mixed with ice and a whole lot of dilapidated buildings and a Drury Inn. Seriously, y’all. It was a huge upset. The actual canal was pretty with lots of greenery. But as far as anything on the River Walk…nah. Almost every single building was vacant, falling apart and graffitied. I did get a few good pictures, but honestly, don’t let that fool you.
The cathedral in the Main Plaza off of the River Walk was also a pretty sight to take in.
After our disappointment at the River Walk, we walked over to La Villita to check out the artisan shops. We were probably the only souls there. I mean, it could be because we took a trip in January and not in a warmer month but wow…we could’ve convinced ourselves that we were the only people in the entire city that’s how dead it was everywhere. I did get a nice pair of earrings in La Villita, but then we just kind of gave up, went and grabbed some margaritas and then honestly decided to spend our time at Hotel Emma since there’s so much to do there and we knew we loved that more than walking around a ghost town.
On day two in San Antonio, we were bound and determined to have a better day since on day one I was having major regrets and feeling like I really screwed the pooch on our anniversary trip. I mean, yes, the silver lining was our incredible hotel but I really was so let down by San Antonio on day one. So on day two our first order of business was what any sine-minded person would do in our position: find good food. And find good food we certainly did. We hopped over to Ocho Lounge for some Cuban brunch, mimosas and an incredible aesthetic. We were not let down, y’all. Check this out.
After Ocho, we wandered down to check out San Antonio’s biggest claim to fame: the Alamo. I feel like I’m being a huge Debbie Downer on San Antonio but like…the Alamo was okay? Word to the wise, don’t pay for a tour. The exact same information is on plaques in the mission, outside the mission and in the exhibition hall. Save the money. And I have no idea why a guided tour would take more than an hour when you could do it yourself in like 20 to 30 minutes. It’s historic enough to be worth a stop and those that fell there are worth being remembered. I’m a little disappointed in how much it’s been turned into a tourist trap though.
So we did our time at the Alamo and then popped over to Historic Market Square. I was desperate for some good culture and excitement and I think I got maybe a tiny glimpse of that at Market Square. Again I think we just happened to be there in the off season so it was a bit empty, but at least there were some fun shops and markets to go into and look around. Was it slightly touristy? Yes. Did we still pick up some pottery (probably mass produced) salsa bowls to bring home? Also yes.
So, y’all, my husband and I both agreed that we were still glad we chose to go to San Antonio because Hotel Emma was so worth it and because we would’ve wondered if we’d missed out on something and now at least we know, but we also agreed that the Fredericksburg portion of the trip was the true anniversary celebration since it was so much more enjoyable. I always want to be honest about my travels, highlight things that I love and explain what I didn’t love as much and why so that it might be helpful to anyone else planning a similar trip or needing help with recommendations.
I love sharing these guides and I’m still continuing to learn how to make them better and how to document my trips while I’m on them because I still struggle with capturing moments and shots. I suppose that’s a good thing since it allows me to enjoy things in the moment and I often forget my phone in my bag. But I am still working on finding a healthy balance. So, as I’m still working out how to do this whole blog thing entering into my 10th month of doing it, I would love any tips, suggestions or comments from you guys! Feel free to reach out by DM or just drop a comment anytime to let me know what you think!