The charming town’s reputation as a Hill Country gem is firmly cemented in the minds of anyone who has visited the historic Texas area. With so much to do in the locale, we decided to identify its “must see” spots for a romantic weekend.
By Scott Black
Photography By Greg Harrison
Sometimes you want to get up and get away. Wind in the hair, with hands behind a powerful car to feel the open road. Only 80 miles from San Antonio and Austin is the place of a small city with a big reputation, Fredericksburg. Wanting to make the journey in style, John Eagle European’s Bentley of Austin provided a 2013 Bentley V8 Continental GT Convertible (GTC) for the trip. With 500 horsepower, a sumptuous interior, stylish good looks and sharp handling, the car is the ideal blend of muscle and elegance.
“The new 4-liter twin turbocharged Continental GTC V8 delivers exceptional standards for the high luxury sports cars,” said Sonny Morgan, dealer principal at Bentley of Austin. “Nimble and beautiful, Bentley’s famous wave of torque makes it perfect for motoring in the Texas Hill Country.” Sliding into the Bentley feels like putting on a tailored suit. Roomy, yet not cavernous, sporting but not harsh, the car wraps you in maple, leather and thick carpets. The handsome sheet metal is dazzling with board shoulders under lustrous blue paint. With a powerful V8 connected to the silky smooth all-wheel drive system, the convertible can pass just about anything regardless of conditions. From the moment the Bentley growled to life to moment it stopped with authority on Main Street, it was an impressive coach to Fredericksburg. Pulling the convertible up to the first stop on this magical trip, Vaudeville, the stunning car drew admiring crowds.
Vaudeville is difficult to describe. Is it a gourmet market? Yes. An art gallery? Yep. A spot for an upscale event? That, too. How about a delicious eatery? Absolutely. Owner operators Richard Beaupre and Jordan Muraclia personally turned the building into three stories of sophistication and elegance gleaned from their globetrotting. Avant guard art, gourmet food, antiques and vintage wine merge effortlessly at the chic spot.
Downstairs in the café, the scent of fresh baked pastries and lunch fills the air while the main floor beckons with home furnishings, accessories and contemporary giftware. At the top of a flight of stairs, one-of-a-kind antiques, museum pieces and art await.“Vaudeville is a one-of-a-kind retail experience designed to delight the senses,” explained Muraclia. “Our showroom, gallery and bistro-style cafe tickles the palate, stirs the imagination and inspires the soul. It’s where we share our passion for home furnishings, decor accessories and culinary pleasures.”The cafe also features specialty meats and cheeses, as well as an extensive wine and beer menu. The stunning courtyard is devoted to special events and private functions. It’s possible to spend an entire day enjoying the art, ambiance and energy at Vaudeville, but we had to pry ourselves away to see Fredericksburg’s other treats that awaited.
Strolling past the Bentley and across Main Street, my wife was drawn to the Haberdashery Boutique as if Jill Elliott, owner of the shop, was a siren beckoning her to the retail mecca. Once inside, she was as excited as a pre-adolescent in her mother’s closet.
Elliott’s collection comes from the reaches of Europe, Latin America and Central Texas. Some of the labels that adorn the hardwood floored and vintage newspaper covered walls are from Luii, Magnolia Pearl, Sapolo and Angels Never Die. Shoppers love to mix or match the pieces to create their own look. “We’re a boutique that helps women adorn their fanciful soul,” explained Elliott. “Haberdashery specializes in beautiful modern clothing with a vintage twist. Our selections are handpicked for their uniqueness, quality and beauty. The eclectic clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats and purses give women a way to be stylish and individualistic.”
As difficult as it was to describe Vaudeville, it’s easy to sum up Red, located in a vintage former Buick dealership. The store is a home décor paradise. The Red story is as unique as the offerings inside. Dreamed up in a local bar over a glass of wine, owners Mary Ransben and Carolyn Moore envisioned a place where people passionate about home décor could shop a delightful collection of industrial vintage furniture, original antiques, urban organic pieces and stellar one-of-a-kind gifts. According to in-house designer D’Ette Cole, “We help people complement their home with interesting, exciting, fresh and new pieces that reflect their soul.” The wonderful collection is by artisans from around the world, including Central Texas. From canine statues to lighting and furniture, it’s easy to be inspired with an entirely new perspective on home goods.
Whistle Pik Galleries
Armed with dreams of redecoration, we stopped in one of Fredericksburg’s most revered institutions. Whistle Pik Galleries is an art gallery offering traditional, original paintings and bronzes from over 50 of America’s top artists. It is a place of pure artistic fantasy. Original landscapes, still life, portrait, wild life, European, western, Texas Hill Country scenes and more adorn the walls of several cottages gathered around a courtyard decorated by outdoor sculptures. Whistle Pik keeps the works of around both painters and sculptors in their gallery at all times; about 1500 pieces are typically available. Often, the gallery has a handful of guest artists whose work is displayed on a limited-time basis. Estate art and pieces from private collections are also offered. “Our artists are among the ‘cream of the crop’ in the traditional art world,” explained co-owner Tim Taylor. “They work in various mediums, which include oil, watercolor, pastel, acrylic, bronze and mixed media.”
Taylor and his wife Pamela opened Whistle Pik in 1995 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the founding of Fredericksburg. They pioneered the concept of displaying art as it would look in a home rather than how it appears in a typical gallery.
“Our G. Harvey show put us on the international map,” added Taylor. “About 140 people attended and bought $2.5 million of art in only twenty minutes.” Since then, the Gallery has sold thousands of original pieces from 145 artists. Over 3,500 collectors from all 50 states and 12 foreign countries representing five continents have purchased works there. Pieces at the Gallery have been by C. James Frazier, John Hanna, James Kramer, David A. Leffel, Eric Michaels, Paul Strisik, Robert Summers, Wayne Wolfe and Gene Zesch.
Since shopping can wear out the body, we cruised in the Bentley (top down, of course) to the stylish Hanger Hotel. Built new from the ground up, the hotel was designed to look like a 1940’s WWII hangar. Best of all, it sits adjacent to the runway ramp area, providing spectacular views of flying machines in action. “The Hangar Hotel is not just for pilots,” stated owner Dick Estensen. “It is for anyone who wants more than just a bed and shower.” This hotel is far from a simple bed and shower. Unlike cookie cutter chains on a budget, the Hangar Hotel’s combines fine woods, granite, custom carpet and tile with unique furnishings. The result is a stylish environment featuring airplane memorabilia, model planes, USO history and the romance of the 1940’s. Even the Airport Diner adjacent to the hotel was built in keeping with the era.
We relaxed there amid the aviation-themed backdrop to watch a Citation jet from Jet Linx land. That stirred a discussion over whether it would be more fun to ride the sleek Jet Linx plane for a quick ride into Fredericksburg or drive the Bentley. Both are wonderful choices we concluded and Jet Linx offers a membership program for companies and individuals who don’t want to own an aircraft, but want guaranteed availability of one 24/7.
“By utilizing and coordinating all extra time available on an aircraft, we provide the perfect private jet availability solution,” said Lance Welch of Jet Linx Aviation. “It’s an especially good fit for those who fly less than 50 hours per year.” From art to wine, fine décor and culinary treasures, it was a trip that stoked the fires of the imagination. One filled with the “ultimate souvenirs.”
“The central shopping district, referred to as ‘The Magic Mile’, offers top quality shopping,” explained Ernie Loeffler of the Fredericksburg CVB. “Wide sidewalks and courtyards line the streets making this a lovely walk. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind.” We agree and we are counting the moments until we embark upon our next Hill Country jaunt to create more memories.