Travel: Romance Revisited

De-stress Your Valentine’s Day: Revisit one of these laid-back weekend getaway destinations.

With Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away, women are getting excited — and guys are getting nervous. “Should I order flowers, or will they just wilt and die? Should I get her chocolate?
She’s been on a diet. I can’t afford diamonds, so what can I do?”

These are the worries and wonders of loving husbands and boyfriends everywhere.

How can you ease your sweetheart’s mind and yet still have a Valentine’s Day you’ll both enjoy?
Get away together. Tell him you’ll make the reservations, and all he has to do is pick up some grocery store roses and a bottle of wine (or a six-pack of beer if he’d like that better), and everybody wins.

Here are five picks for a laid-back but romantic Texas getaway you’ll both enjoy:

Port Aransas
He likes to fish, you like to sit by a fire with a good book, and you both like the Coast. Winter is a great time to head to Port Aransas. For a really romantic getaway, be sure to stay somewhere special, like a condo or even a house at Cinnamon Shore. These new elegant properties set around a travel-bluecrabswimming pool, exercise room and restaurant all have fully equipped kitchens, so you can cook up your honey’s catch of the day. Then you can sit in the hot tub or roast marshmallows around a campfire on the beach or at the fire ring on the Cinnamon Shore property. Call and make a reservation at the Blue Crab House [(361)444-0036] if you’re bringing the family or another couple along—this gorgeous three-story home near the pool and with a boardwalk to the beach nearby, has three king-sized suites, each with its own private bath on the second floor, and a top floor rec room and children’s room with bunk beds and a bath all their own. If there are just two of you, consider staying in the romantic FDR Suite at the old Tarpon Inn (rates for this fab room are so much more affordable in winter). Your husband will like the old fisherman feel to this quintessential Port A property, but you’ll enjoy how well they’ve decorated the spacious upstairs suite. Then enjoy a romantic dinner at Lisabella’s Bar & Bistro at Cinnamon Shore or at Liberty Hall Inferno in town, or maybe head over to The Boiling Pot in Rockport for a shrimp boil. Your guy will think this is the best Valentine’s Day ever. And even though winter at the beach may be chilly, some days are downright warm and sunny in a South Texas winter. Best of all, winter is low season, so lodging rates are better this time of year. If your honey is a fisherman, maybe head to Rockport/Fulton and hire a fishing guide for a day on the water.

When was the last time you went to Laredo? Just because Nuevo Laredo hit hard times, it doesn’t mean the American side has. In fact, Laredo has been growing and getting better than ever, and some of the stores you always loved in Nuevo Laredo have moved to the U.S. side of the bridge, like Deutsch & Deutsch, with its fine jewelry and watches, at the Mall del Norte. The iconic Laredo inn we’ve always loved is La Posada Hotel [(956) 722-1701], and it’s just as fabulous as ever. Its Zaragoza Grill, bar, and Tack Room restaurant (known for fabulous steaks and margaritas) are also favorites. Great food, good shopping, a nice hotel — Laredo is the kind of place where you really can get away together and practice the language of love.

Austin and San Antonio have just about grown together — it’s only a quick drive up the road to one of Texas’ best big towns. So why not make a weekend getaway to the capital city? If you want an elegant travel-southcongressnew midcentury-style hotel in the hippest part of town, stay at the South Congress Hotel, a property that opened in 2015 in SoCo on the spot of a former food truck parking lot across from great stores like Allen’s Boots, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, and Uncommon Objects. Eat at South Congress Hotel’s Otoko, a 12-seat Japanese restaurant by Austin celebrity chef Paul Qui, a James Beard Award and Top Chef winner, or have a romantic little Italian dinner at Botticelli’s on South Congress Avenue. Grab a breakfast taco at Guero’s Taco Bar and then walk the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike-Trail edging Lady Bird Lake in the morning, wander over to Rainy Street for music and drinks, or two-step at the Broken Spoke. Just walking around Sixth Street and the Warehouse District is fun. If you prefer a more traditional hotel, stay downtown at The Driskill with its cattleman-style bar and its intimate and oh-so-romantic Driskill Grill restaurant. Or stay close to the UT campus and the Bob Bullock Museum at Hotel Ella, a historic mansion property with a modern flair, featuring a wrap-around porch and a fabulous fine dining restaurant, Goodall’s Kitchen, downstairs.

Who knew that such a quaint little getaway spot was just 35 miles away? This old-fashioned Texas small town, encircling its picturesque Central Park on the downtown square, is home to a special little gem—an uber-affordable historic hotel that has had a million-dollar-plus facelift. The Park Plaza Hotel [(830) 584-4400], just across the street from Central Park, has a great little Chop House restaurant, suites overlooking the park, clean rooms with fabulous mattresses and a brand-new microbrewery and tap room a few blocks away. The adorable Gift & Gourmet and other cute boutiques and antique shops are fun to peruse in the afternoons. On Friday nights the Court Street Coffee Shop has live music and no cover, and there’s a wonderful old school beer joint downtown, The Oak, as well as live music at Austin Street Live. The Seguin Power Plant restaurant, with decks overlooking the Guadalupe River, also offers burgers and fries and some tasty onion rings with a side of live music, and the Tavern on the Creek across from the town’s new $5 million library serves fresh seasonal fare. Sometimes the historic Palace Theatre has an old movie playing or hosts a play or concert, and most weekends the Haunted Magnolia Hotel, [(512)571-2706] a historic museum-like property, offers ghost tours or history tours of this 1880 stagecoach stop hotel building. In 1977, Doug Sahm released a song called Meet Me in Seguin. Follow his advice and visit there, soon.

Lake Charles, Louisiana
Maybe you’d like to go to Las Vegas but don’t have the money or the time for a big trip like that. Why not head for the border and gamble on a good time in Lake Charles, Louisiana? You can leave work early and be at the blackjack table or sitting at the slots long before midnight. With the beautiful L’Auberge Casino Resort [(337)395-7777] just a half-hour’s drive beyond the Sabine River border of Texas, a romantic casino stay is close at hand. This hotel is a favorite of my husband’s because it has this Jackson Hole western lodge look to its design scheme, and his favorite steakhouse in the South is L’Auberge’s Ember Grille & Wine Bar, a highly romantic but masculine place with low lights and high travel-lakecharlesstyle — a wonderful place for a special Valentine meal. The atmosphere is dark and intimate, the steaks and seafood are wonderful, and you can walk back to your room without cutting through the casino. If you want to try your luck in the casino, stop and have a cold drink at the round and glittery Globar first. There are also shops in the resort, along with Modern Pantry, with gourmet goodies, PJ’s Coffee, gelato, breakfast pastries and desserts; restaurant Asia, with its fresh sushi and more; Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill, and the big Beaucoups Buffet. It may be too cool for a dip in the hotel’s lazy river, but L’Auberge does have hot tubs and a nice spa — so maybe you’ll get that massage after all. Lake Charles has more to offer than its fine casinos (like the two-year-old Golden Nugget with its fabulous pool area, modern midcentury decor and gorgeous grounds or the recently renovated Isle of Capri Casino Resort). While there, try out some of the town’s best fine restaurants like La Truffe Sauvage and Calla, or go for some real down-home Cajun eats your guy will like (like crawfish and oysters) at Steamboat Bill’s, or have a po-boy at Darrell’s. With a romantic Lake Charles weekend, you’re both bound to win big.

By Janis Turk

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