My husband and I have always been in agreement that staying home is safer on New Years Eve. The next best thing is to party and stay over. But in our 8 years of marriage, we have never been out on New Years eve. Since my gorgeous daughter lives in Austin and I want to have a divine 2009, I searched my Internet sources and mind for something fun to do there (in Austin) so I could visit family on New Years day and get 2 days of play for the price of one. I had spotted the Driskill Hotel years ago when I was a younger 6th street reveler and loved the look of this vintage hotel and it was decided we would go and stay there for our New Years adventure. My friends who had stayed in the hotel mentioned that is such a gem of Texas rich in old luxury and ghosts ( http://whatwasthen.com/driskill.html) that I knew we had made a good choice.
We set off early New Years eve., got to Austin in about the normal 3.5 hours and after a late lunch set out for the hotel in some fairly impressive New Years Eve. traffic arriving at the hotel at around 4:30 p.m. Now I must tell you that we signed up for a fairly pricey hotel package (which I justified dividing it into 8 New Years eves that I had not celebrated) which included a deluxe Senate room and a 7 course meal and dancing…I was excited and planned to make the most of this historical hotel and evening…
Parking in the 6th street area of Austin, TX is never easy and you can imagine how it was as the festivities on the street were being set up. There is an arts parade and celebration on New Years eve along with the amazing clubs and music offerings so peeps walk along the streets and celebrate all night…(http://www.firstnightaustin.org)
But after a few minute wait jam packed behind some other vehicles, we were valet parked by a very nice low key gentleman who was amazingly cool and collected though cars were arriving faster than they could be parked.
As I walked into the lobby which seemed fairly European in nature, small, opulent, amazingly quiet I was not so much impressed as pleased. We experienced a quick check in and all was well. I noticed two very tiny Victorian chairs sitting next to checkout, seemingly very random but definitely a conversation starter. My husband said they were for children but they seemed even smaller than that, for ghosts perhaps???
My first impression of the hotel, was how small and intimate it seemed…how dark it was but still pretty with the small christmas lights sparkling along the garland laced bannister. Actually there are 189 guestrooms/suites and the hallways ramble forever. Here I am on the main stairway with Uncle Jessie (My nickname for Jessie Driskill, the original owner of the hotel) After we got our luggage in our wonderful room, we did “recon” and I discovered Uncle Jessie first thing…
The room was wonderfully large with a huge king size bed…the bathrooms are fairly tiny with a little alcove connecting it to the bedroom/suite…I have read that it was not until the early 1900′s that each room had it’s own bathroom…read the history of this hotel here http://www.austinpostcard.com/driskill.html
So we return to our room to ready ourselves for the New Year’s Gala…I must tell you that we weren’t quite sure what to expect as the email from the hotel was fairly vague so when we called, here is what we gleaned 8:00 cocktails, 9:00 7 course Dinner with accompanying wine, Dancing afterwards…with a midnight balloon drop. When we arrived on the Mezzanine (it looked fabulous with elegant table settings), there was a table set up to check the Gala Guests in. My husband and I decided suit/tie, tea length dress would probably be the ticket since nothing was mentioned anywhere about attire. The young woman manning the table could not find our name, inquired as to whether we were in the right place (there was another event in the hotel…dinner only) and we said we were certain we were New Years Gala Dinner Package…she told us to come in and have a seat and she would assign us a table later….Hmmm….I do not know about you but when I am spending several hundred dollars for a room and dinner, I might like to know I am going to get that dinner. (and not be treated like a long lost country cousin who has just dropped in out of nowhere to stay for vittles) This was our first disappointment. After the complimentary glass of champagne (considered the free cocktails) my sweet honey went to check and “insist” we get a table assignment as many were meandering to their seats. To my relief we were accomodated at table 7 and we met the sweetest young couple there soon followed by another….the 3 sets of us enjoyed the many courses and wines with fun banter and appetite though I must say that three of the courses had shellfish. Though I adore shellfish, I found this odd, considering how many people dislike and are allergic to shellfish…the wines were well picked. The entree was lamb???(in cattle country?) We all tried it but I noticed no one was hugely keen on it, though it was excellently cooked (where’s the beef?) Another challenge was the dessert which sat untouched by all at the table but Moi….it was a Vanilla Bean cheesecakie concoction….I think something chocolate or fruit, cookies, mousse….might have been received better.
During dinner I noticed that a single elevator kept stopping with revelers off to the side of the tables, so in between dinner and dancing my honey and I took off to find out where it went….just another elevator in a rambling hotel and we got out on our floor and walked and walked and saw the most interesting artwork and doorknobs going nowhere and there are books nested along the walls for reading and was that a ghost?….no just another quiet hotel guest wandering the halls. This is indeed a hotel of character. Back to the ballroom we went and my husband worked on his “swing” steps with me and we danced 3 songs and poof, the New Year came and after a kiss, we walked outside to the balcony on the mezzanine to look at the 6th street party folks…it was fairly quiet, very few were out at this midnight moment and we presumed everyone headed into the clubs for the midnight toast….it was chilly that night.
Should you go to the Driskill? Oh yes! Lyndon Johnson and Ladybird would agree! Would I go again….perhaps in another 8 years…but say hi to Uncle Jessie for me. He really had a hard time of it starting a luxury hotel in the Wild West….and thank you Austin for keeping his diamond in the rough….