Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Ladies Hit the Riverwalk in San Antonio

If you don’t already have a regular girls’ trip that you take EVERY YEAR, I highly recommend it. I organized my college girlfriends four years ago and now we take a trip every spring. We all met as freshman at Texas A&M back in 1993, graduated in 1997, and have kept in touch ever since. There’s about 8-10 of us, depending on the year.


2011 being our fourth year, we decided on San Antonio (all of us but one still lives in Texas). But, not just San Antonio, the Riverwalk to be exact. It’s a fabulous place for a ChickVacation because it’s got a lot of what women want: culture, great food, a happening scene, and plenty of reasons to relax.

After much research, we decided upon Hotel Contessa for our weekend trip. As always, there was a lot of laughing, talking about our kids, and a little gossip about the husbands, too. We were extremely pleased with our accommodations. Here’s a little advice to get you started planning your next ChickVacation to San Antonio’s Riverwalk.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Sure, there are hundreds of hotels in San Antonio, but you really want to go the extra mile to be where things are happening in this cultural mecca, and that’s on the Riverwalk. You will spend a little extra, but it will surely be worth it. Hotel Contessa has an attractive circular drive, where you drive up, drop your luggage and hand over the keys to the valet.

You’ll be greeted with excellent customer service and enjoy the surroundings of this hotel with a modern flair. When you walk out the back of Hotel Contessa, you are literally on the Riverwalk. You can meander along the pathways and find dozens of restaurants (like Rio Rio), shops (big and small) and interesting sights.

IDEAL ACCOMODATIONS

The floor plan of the junior suite at Hotel Contessa is just perfect for a girls’ trip. Most ladies want their own bed, but you can easily put three people in a junior suite. You have two beds in the bedroom, a nice-size bathroom, mini bar area, and a living room with a fold-out sofa (for the third person) and small table. This floor plan is conducive to an economical trip with three people sharing a room; yet, there’s plenty of room to move around (versus a typical hotel room layout). In addition, the living area is a nice place to relax if you and your girls want to watch a movie. There’s an array of in-room movies, though they are a bit pricey ($13-18).

RELAXATION AND REJUVINATION

One of the most important parts of a girl’s weekend is plenty of opportunity to relax. The Spa at Hotel Contessa, which is situated on the top floor, has a menu of typical services. This Aveda spa offers massages, body treatments, facials and nail care. There is no relaxation room so just plan to arrive 15 minutes early for your treatment and await your therapist/ technician. If you opt for a massage and enjoy a deep tissue massage, know that the main massage offered-- the Elemental Nature Massage-- is very light. This massage highlights the olfactory lobes (a.k.a. smell) more than the muscles.

Right down the hall from the spa is the rooftop pool. We found this the ideal location to enjoy each other’s company. When I arrived Friday afternoon, by myself, I couldn’t find a single empty chair. So I waited about ten minutes and grabbed the first one to open up. By the time my first two friends showed up, there were plenty of chaise lounges to choose from. We ended up hanging out at the pool for a few hours while the rest of our group showed up.

You’ll want to bring your own refreshments up to the pool as there is no pool service unless you call down to room service. If you do call down to room service, someone will come up with a menu and you can order food or beverages. Note: it might take a while. Therefore, you’re better off to bring your own soft-sided cooler and snacks up by the pool. Just remember, no glass.

We were able to enjoy a fabulous breakfast both mornings at Las Ramblas restaurant on the bottom floor that feeds out to a patio bordering the Riverwalk. The food was delicious (buffet or ordering off the menu) and very reasonably priced (buffet approx $15 and a breakfast entrée off the menu, approx $10). We felt like we’d been to Spain and back, all before noon! Overall, we were very happy with our selection of Hotel Contessa for the fourth annual Aggie girls’ weekend.

Reviews from some of the chicks who vacationed with me:

“As I pulled into the hotel, I was greeted by an extremely friendly staff. The gentlemen eagerly took all 6 of my bags- yes, I was only staying one night! The check-in process was fast and easy; a quality I enjoy! There was a beautiful waterfall from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor and a beautiful bar that doubled as a coffee bar in the morning. There was ample seating all over and little nooks and crannies with couches and chairs to have private conversations.

The suite was very spacious. While the room was very modern, it had an old world feel with the exposed brick wall on one side. The bathroom was large and perfect for three women who like to get dressed up for the evening! I was surprised that there wasn't a larger refrigerator in the room.
The beds were heavenly! I slept in....8:45am is 3:45 hours past when this working mom with 2 small children usually wakes up....it was fabulous!!!

Once on the elevator, I realized the pool was on the top floor! What a treat to be able to see all of downtown San Antonio! We laid out, got in the hot tub and heated pool.....the only thing missing was someone to bring us drinks! We did call down for a drink and 30 minutes later, I got my glass of house wine for $20 (yikes!).

The next day at the spa, I was super excited because I had scheduled a Caribbean Body Therapy Treatment (90 Minutes of BLISS), which included everything from a full body massage to a body mask and finally a full body massage! I was in for a treat. When we got there 30 minutes early to hit the relaxation room (there wasn't one (what?!?) they had me down for a 50-minute massage. I was really upset, but she did a fabulous job. She incorporated hot therapy in the massage as well as Aveda peppermint oil (blue oil) and it truly was relaxing! They also gave me a discount for the mix up....almost made up for my Caribbean dream!

For breakfast, we ate at Las Ramblas, whose décor was Old World Spanish. I chose the buffet and at $14.95 it was an absolute steal! They had a omelet bar, waffle bar, amazing fruit, fresh squeezed OJ, muffins, bacon, and every other breakfast food you could think of...YUMMY!

If you use the valet, make sure to call at least 15 minutes ahead. The valet told me the parking garage is quite far away, so they take a long time to get the cars.

All in all, this hotel is really beautiful. The service (with the exception of the pool area) was fabulous. I would prefer a larger spa with a relaxation room and a bartender at the pool.” --Linda M. Jecmenek

“The hotel itself was great and so was the location! The room was perfect for getting a good amount if people in, but I wish it had a fridge. The spa was nice, but wish it had a relaxation area. The staff was just ok, not too excited to be at work it seemed and not really helpful. The pool area was nice, but it would have been great to have bar service up there. The restaurant food was good; however, the service was not. Check out on the TV did not work, which was annoying!”—Kim Saenz

“A good breakfast buffet. The restaurant wait staff was very good and accommodating. I received a sizable discount and profuse apology after I complained about lots of noise and disruption during the night. It was right on the Riverwalk, so great access to all the Riverwalk restaurants and shops. Only two blocks from San Fernando cathedral. The rooftop pool is fun for hanging out.

Now, for the not-so-good stuff: Housekeeping not so great; they cleaned the room nicely but never brought me extra towels when I called for some; I had to go get towels myself from the pool area. Due to a wedding, it was very noisy at night; and management seemed unable to handle the crowd at the hotel. No fridge in the room.” --Gracie Stanford

Hotel Contessa

306 W. Market Street, San Antonio, TX 78205

Tel: 210.229.9222 • Reservations: 866.435.0900

http://www.thehotelcontessa.com

By Southern Chick, Marika Flatt