TRAVEL THERE: A ROYAL WELCOME FROM HOTEL CONTESSA
The first Riverwalk hotel in my memory bank is the La Quinta Riverwalk, but that was way back in high school and the river was several blocks away in those days. I’d been selected as a delegate to a convention by my Home Economics teacher. ( Don’t laugh, I’d just won an award for a table setting. I still can’t sew a hem that will hold.) I stayed at this La Quinta several times since high school, but never since the Rivercenter Mall was next door and since then the hotel has grown into a high rise. It was once just a little La Quinta.
I’ve stayed at the Marriot Courtyard Market Square several times, because it’s convenient to downtown and the Riverwalk, without having the Riverwalk price. (It doesn’t hurt that I can use the points from my Marriott credit card there.) On the trip just before this one, I stayed at La Mansion and that is an experience everyone should enjoy, but I have a new favorite – Hotel Contessa.
Choosing the Contessa
As Deb and I perused our Riverwalk choices, the words “luxury suites” kept bringing us back to The Contessa. So we booked one of their suites, but being the frugal ladies we are, we didn’t opt for a Riverwalk view. We figured we needed to stay on the Riverwalk, but that didn’t mean we had to see it from our room. Besides, we congratulated ourselves on our wisdom by pointing out to one another that some people had complained of the noise on the Riverwalk side.
Due to my research, I knew the only parking for the hotel was valet parking and it was quite a chunk of change. I also read there was a huge, much cheaper, parking lot catty-corner to the hotel. So we pulled into the big public parking and rolled our suitcases across the street to the Contessa, like paupers approaching their liege with all their earthly goods in a wheelbarrow.
There is nothing about the outside of the Contessa to signal what’s inside. It’s just another building. If it didn’t say it was the Contessa, you’d wonder why someone had built a new office building right on the river. Then you walk inside. The bustling lobby has a cool chic that says, “You’ve arrived!” On your left is a huge full-length portrait of a lady in Spanish-looking garb – the Contessa I presumed. Further to your left is registration.
The registration desk was busy, but not hectic. I didn’t have to wait long. The greeting was cordial and the clerk asked me the reason for my visit. I explained it was a belated birthday celebration – and then I got my birthday present: an upgrade to a River View room. Hot diggity dog!
The elevators are glass, giving you a view of the inviting atrium as you glide to your floor. We went to 401, a corner room which overlooked the Briscoe sculpture garden on one side and looked over the Riverwalk on the other. Heaven!
But the view was only part of the charm. It really was a luxury suite. The den had a sectional sofa,a large coffee table, a tall side table with two barstools and the requisite TV. The next room was a sort of dry kitchen connected to the bathroom, with the honor bar, frig, coffee pot, ice bucket etc. We used this area as a second vanity, because though the bathroom is quite luxurious, it’s really not set up for two women getting ready at the same time. That worked fine, because of the huge mirror over the honor bar. And there was a TV.
The bedroom was functional, not palacial, but adequate. The accouterments were luxurious. There were lots of drawers, but closet space was limited. And there was a TV.
Because of the other generous spaces, the bedroom seemed a little tight by comparison, but how much space do you need to sleep? You could get in on both sides of both beds, so what more do you need? This is not a complaint, just a description of what you’ll find.
We loved that room. The whole hotel has a very modern feel, but on the warm side of modern, not the sterile, “”don’t-move-that-magazine” modern. On the following night, we would come back to the hotel right after dinner, just so we could luxuriate in it. We also enjoyed the Cork Bar, down at the river level. Las Ramblas, their Spanish restaurant on the same level as the bar, also looked marvelous. We just ran out of time. We also didn’t make it up to the pool on the roof or the spa. That’s for next time – and we will make sure there is a next time!
I read a lot about extraordinary service when I was shopping the hotel. I’d have to agree and my favorite guys were the doormen. Once we parked the car, we didn’t go back to until we were ready to go home. We’d set forth from the hotel with all sorts of questions and the doormen would have answers for us. They also had a warm greeting for us every time we came “home.” Yep, I liked this hotel.
There are great reasons to stay at all the wonderful riverside hotels, but for my travel dollar, the Contessa is the queen.