Monday, July 28, 2014

Not Quite Mexico

Hank and I have been wanting to take a vacation, but between home improvement projects, fall trips, and other assorted things, it just wasn't in our budget to take the kind of trip that we really wanted (like to the beach in Mexico). Instead, we decided to make it easy on ourselves and booked a long weekend at the Éilan Hotel in San Antonio. Not quite Mexico, but super easy to get to (and affordable with our Marriott points).

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel

The hotel was beautiful, we lucked out by getting one of the few rooms with a balcony, and the amenities were really nice. However, the service left much to be desired. Long story short, almost everyone who worked there didn't seem to give a flip about providing any type of enjoyable experience. If we had paid full price for our room, I would have been much more vocal about our disappointment. It did not ruin our trip by any means, but it did ensure that we will not return the hotel again. With options like La Cantera and the JW Marriott right around the corner, I'm surprised they don't up their game.

Our room wasn't ready when we checked in, so we walked down the steps toward the residential area. The hotel is part of a larger development with condos, a few office buildings and shops. There is also a Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings that was really fun to visit too. On our way down the steps we noticed a sign that said cocktails (and nothing more). With an hour or so to spare, we made a beeline for the door. We were thrilled to walk into this tucked away little Speakeasy-type bar called George's Keep. It was cool, empty (they had just opened), and had an amazing craft cocktail and beer menu. We kept cool and hydrated until our room was ready.

The Holland House: George's Keep

After getting settled, we cleaned up a bit for dinner at Piatti's. It was also located right down the stairs from the hotel, which was very convenient. I didn't get any pictures at dinner (I was trying hard not to be on my phone much during vacation), but the restaurant was really pretty inside and we had a fantastic dinner! One of my favorite things about their menu was that they offered small and large portions for both salads and pasta dishes. I hate wasting really big portions, so this was a perfect way to get both without feeling super stuffed. Hank ordered a Caeser and I ordered the Bibb salad with preserved lemon dressing- yum!! We had a really tough time choosing our entrees- they had so many great options. Hank ended up getting the pasta special with shrimp and peas (two of his favorite things that I never fix at home), and I got the rigatoni with fennel sausage, roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. Needless to say, neither of us had much leftover, and the "small" portion was just right.

My parents had a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries sent to our room at check-in, so we ordered a piece of chocolate lava cake to go (because....duh!), and headed up to enjoy our balcony. After drinks in the afternoon, a bottle of wine at dinner, and champagne- we were both well on the other side of tipsy. But we had so much fun sitting on the balcony, talking, people watching, and maybe having a strawberry stem throwing competition. (Hank totally won).

The Holland House: Champagne and Dessert

Day 2 we slept in just a bit, went down for Sunday brunch at the hotel restaurant, and then got ready to hit the pool for the day. I had reserved a poolside cabana when I booked our room, and we were looking forward to a full day of relaxation and sun. After a little snafu with getting our cabana (remember that service issue I talked about?), and waiting an hour for towels, we were all settled for the day. The cabana was perfect because I can't be in the sun for extended time, and it allowed me to cool off in the pool and then retreat to the shade as needed. Our comfy lounge bed was also perfect for an afternoon nap. Life is rough, I tell you!

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel Pool

The Holland House: Poolside Cabana

After our previous late night, and a day of doing absolutely nothing, we were too exhausted to get dressed and go out for dinner. Hank ended up picking up dinner from the restaurant downstairs and we stayed in bed, watched a movie, and ate dinner. It was absolutely perfect.

Day 3 we decided to be a little more active, and started the morning with a run around the property and a visit to the hotel gym for some medicine ball drills. Hank and I don't often work out together (he's a much faster runner than I am), so this was a fun treat. We grabbed breakfast afterwards, and then got dressed to head out for a bit. Being from Oklahoma, Hank had never been to visit The Alamo before. He loves history, so we made our way to downtown San Antonio to see it. If you don't know anything about it- it's home to a famous battle in the Texas Revolution, and included legends Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie. It's also way smaller than people imagine it, and it's fairly easy to miss if you happen to drive by it. He loved getting to visit, and I didn't get bored because it took all of 5 minutes to walk through it.

The Holland House: The Alamo

After the Alamo we stopped by a restaurant that a friend of ours is associated with. We had been dying to try it, so I'm glad we were able to make it happen. Stella Public House is located in the Blue Star complex in downtown San Antonio, and it's a must! Their menu is farm to table, and I love that they list the farms where their ingredients come from. Their specialty is wood-fired pizzas, and their beer menu is out of this world. (Seriously- I really want a job that allows me to taste beer for a living.) We started off with an order of brussels sprouts. On the menu it's just listed as Brussels Sprouts- roasted with crispy pancetta. But it was SO.MUCH.MORE. It was roasted in a blueberry soy reduction sauce that I swear I could have drank straight from the pan. In fact, I saved the pan so that I could dip my bread crust because I wanted every last drop.

We ate at the bar, and the bartender was super nice and very helpful. Plus, he was just fun to talk to. He sampled a few beers for us and we stuffed our faces with the Sausage and Kale Pizza.  We were probably there for nearly two hours, and really loved having a leisurely daytime lunch. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

The Holland House: Stella Public House

The afternoon was spent by the pool, and then we made one last trip for dinner at La Fogata (another must for San Antonio, in my opinion.) The patio is just amazing, they have terrific margaritas, and so many classic dishes that it's nearly impossible to choose what you want. It was just a tad warm, but nothing a frozen drink couldn't fix.

The Holland House: La Fogata

It's always sad when vacation is over, but we were missing our animals by day 4 and were ready to pick the pups up from Mud Puppies. The trip was everything we wanted it to be- relaxing, fun, and easy.

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