Friday, November 25, 2011
Home on the range
2 hrs west of Austin, or 1 hr North of San Antonio, but in either case you will not find it in the God's Own Dark that falls over the Hill Country by 5pm. Arriving after dark added to the effect of opening the door the following morning and seeing the Paniolo Ranch for the first time like Dorothy in Munchkinland.
I'll zoom into that landscape for you:
well....There's been a drought. Sadly, that lake in the lower right is now just a hole in the ground. In happier times, that lake looks like this. So we did miss the misty morning cup of coffee watching birds over the lake. Instead I was treated to a herd of deer sucking off the last puddle, and that in itself was a scene.
We did not get the sweep of the Milky Way which hangs low over the open landscape. Instead, we were treated to an early morning prairie style downfall, of the kind that makes Texans dance in the streets. We stood in the door and watched it for a while; it was more beautiful than the constellations.
We passed on the winery tours, which are a central activity of this region, just because we were too relaxed to get back into the car, and we had only a few days to hurry up and rejuvenate.
Paniolo bills itself as a Bed & Breakfast Spa. Meaning breakfast is served and there are spa services. It advertises Wedding Services... in that it has space for an outdoor event, but it is a haul for the caterers and decorators. It is mostly a rustic retreat and you should approach it as such. The circled building in the satellite view above is the house where we stayed, about half a mile from the main house -- it sounds like a lot, but that's 2500 feet. You can make it. If you can't, take the golf cart. We were afraid of driving it into a ditch -- and besides, we came to get healthy.
Armed with groceries for a 3-day healthy spa menu (and 3 bottles of wine -- we're not stoics, for heaven's sake), we took to the Hills, from whence cometh our help. Why is whence a statement of place? Shouldn't it be wherece? Unplugged (mostly - we had a DVD player and a TV in every room, but we couldn't figure out the cable, and the 2 movies we picked were both disappointments) and well-fed (mmm... kaaaale....), and far from the owner's 4 dogs (really - rethink that when you run a retreat), we began our annual redefinition of our lives and their promise over rounds of Scrabble -- both of which seem deeper to us as the wine bottles empty.
When you are scheduling your spa services, you'll want to listen carefully when they ask "did ya'll want to be booked at the same time?" or you might end up in couples massage. Or you might anyway, because the "spa" is just a small treatment room of 2 beds and a whirlpool, with an uncurtained window to the outdoor courtyard, where on a busier weekend, some other guests might have been having their half-day spa lunch. But none of that was happening, and we only glimpsed other guests (the deer were more prevalent) so we said "meh" and got to it. Not the best massage I've ever had, but let me disclaim that my therapist was also running the place on her own in the owner's absence. She had checked us in, brought our breakfast, and would have cleaned the room, but we gave her an out.
If darkness and wilderness makes you feel more "yikes" than "aahh," you may want something more corporate in your Hill Country experience. If you wanted to swim and boat, well, you may need to wait another 10 years for the Paniolo to get back into gear. If you wanted to work out, the fitness room is depressing; walk the grounds instead. If you hate dogs, book the house we did.
I am not linking to them, because this post sounds like a less than ideal review and I don't want to give them the impression we didn't enjoy ourselves. We did, very much. maybe I just don't want you to find it more easily than we did.
Hope you're enjoying National Blogpost Month.
Here's another NaBloPoMo participant for you to enjoy.