When I was checking out hotels for last weekend’s Marfa trip, Hotel Paisano was the only hotel in which I wanted to stay, hands down. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, it’s oh-so-steeped in history.
The hotel was originally designed by renowned El Paso architect Henry Trost in a blend of Prairie and Mission style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For the record, Trost also designed the tower addition of Austin’s Driskill Hotel, the El Capitan Hotel in Van Horn and many buildings throughout the Southwest.
The Hotel Paisano was built in 1930 and the hotel was the headquarters for filming one of my all time favorite movies, “Giant,” starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, in 1955. Can’t you just imagine them sipping a drink sitting in the hotel’s courtyard listening to the soothing falling waters of the fountain after a long day on the set? Well, I can.
James Dean’s room – Room 223 – is the most popular at the hotel. Rock Hudson’s suite – Room 211 - overlooks the indoor pool – complete with a rock fountain. And, Elizabeth Taylor’s room was right next door – Room 212. All the stars were assigned rooms at the hotel and stayed here for a week, but semi-permanent houses were built for them at the site of Reata. Sadly, there’s nothing left but the skeleton-like ruins of the set – just take Highway 90 west, heading towards Valentine and you can see for yourself just how little is left.
These days at the Hotel Paisano the courtyard is the first thing you see when you get there, just a block from the Presidio County courthouse and two blocks from the railroad tracks. And, just like so many Texas towns, the railroad was what first put Marfa on the map.
Though well before “Giant,” the Hotel Paisano was still a destination. Cattlemen would come here to trade horses and social events for those from miles around were staged here. The hotel fell into disrepair and closed in the 1970’s and it wasn’t until 2004 that it was bought at auction and, finally, reopened. Thankfully, it has been lovingly restored with all the original fixtures and architectural details – down to the intricate tile on the lobby floor and in the bathrooms.
As for the service…well, it’s still fit for a star. Your whims will be taken care of at the drop of a hat. The hotel also has its own restaurant, Jett’s (of course) that only serves dinner. And, there’s a fitness room and free internet access. Cell service in and around Marfa is precarious. They say AT&T and Verizon are best bets – but I have AT&T and my service was intermittent.
Hollywood still stays at El Paisano,too. Sylvester Stallone, Melissa Gilbert, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan have all been guests for various film projects.
Hotel Paisano/El Paisano Hotel
207 North Highland Avenue
I made my way to Marfa this weekend. Even though I’m a native Texan, I had never been to this town dedicated to modern art and free thinking. So, of course, I had to begin my visit with a peek at the local vineyard, three miles east of Marfa.
While driving to Marfa I didn’t check my gas gauge at the last outpost of civilization before arriving and was on pins and needles thinking that I would run out of gas in the middle of no where. It’s beautiful out here – but desolate – with no gas stations for 40 miles between Fort Stockton and Alpine. I was grateful that the last fumes were able to get me to the first Fina station in Alpine. And by the time I arrived just outside of Marfa, I was feeling a bit parched. So, I stopped at Luz de Estrella, ‘Starlight’ for those of you whose Spanish is a bit rusty. The winery is aptly named as I swear I have never seen so many stars as I did that night – with the Milky Way overhead it was, need I say, heavenly – but I digress…
The winery is home to two little bulldogs and a yellow lab who greeted me as I parked my car. And, Nora Seymour, a transplanted Canadian by way of New York and Austin, introduced me to the Luz de Estrella line of wines. You’ll be surprised that grapes can grow in the desert. But, it turns out that the warm days and cool nights are perfect for growing high quality grapes. All of the grapes for their wines are either grown at their vineyard or in the area – or as the French call it – the same “terroir” the same soil conditions and climate. I tasted a swallow of 7 of their wines but my favorite was the Cabernet Sauvignon – some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted. But, that Cabernet was the 2005 Reserve, though I have to admit, at $80 a bottle it is well worth it. I bought a bottle of the Merlot Cabernet blend, more reasonable at $24.99 a bottle, the cabernet grapes in the blend are grown in New Mexico and the wine is a wonderful full-bodied red with a berry beginning and a chocolate coffee finish. Very tasty.
And, if you’re visiting Marfa, the vineyard is the perfect place to take in the Marfa lights – and starlight. No tourists to be found.
Luz de Estrella Winery
100 Starlight Way