Coming off Highway 45, about an hour's drive and 50 miles south of Houston, and as we approached Galveston my thoughts went back the 20 years previous when I last reviewed the Hotel Galvez. I remembered this grand old hotel in all its splendour as it stood out like a sore thumb on the wind-swept beach of the famous city of Galveston. I had spent three days at the Hotel Galvez and revelled in its history and olde world charm. And now here I was again traveling back in time. After a long time traveling the coast road at last in the distance I could see the 'Galvez'. As I drove up it looked smaller than on my last visit, less grand and I'm sure a different color. Its now a khaki or olive green whereas I remembered it as white or pink in color. The shape of the building was the same. Parking off the front was now for valet parking only and the driveway up to the lobby remained the same and just as inviting as it appeared so many years previous. I drove to the rear of the hotel and mounted the steps to the lobby which was just as I remembered it. The old and richly timbered reception was exactly the same, the floor coverings and decor of the hotel resembled what I had pictured. I checked in at the Metrostar.com rate of $119.95 which was a good rate compared to what was generally on offer. Other hotels and motels in the area were offering rates from $25 to $45 a night but were not of anywhere near a comparable standard. The Flagship hotel, a couple of blocks away and mounted on a pier with absolute waterfront views from every room was a hotel that captured my eye, just as it did 20 years earlier when I attended a New Years Eve function there.Anyway back to the Galvez and a lift ride in one of the hotel's two lifts, both of which had plenty of character, and whilst modern were adorned with early days decor. In to the hallways and my hopes sagged as the freshly renovated corridors featured wallpaper, light fittings and doors that would have been more at home in a modern 3 star motel. The old, richly timbered doors were gone and replaced with plain and painted doors, albeit painted in brown, with new rather tacky looking fittings. How marvellous it would have been for the hotel to have been restored in its original splendour as the character of this hotel, I would have thought, would have been one of its most appealing features. The room I had been allocated was 259 and I opened the door to a delightful setting reminiscent of my earlier stay with lavish olde world furnishings that readily captued the bygone era in which this hotel was born. The view from the front window was perfect as it captured the ocean and the beach. A second, side, window also captued ocean and beach views which complimented the room nicely. For those of us that work a welcoming facility was the high speed Interent access, at $9.95 a day. This was provided through Wayport.net which specialises in providing this service to hotels everywhere. A connecting cable was required from reception which was easily obtained and presto within a minute or two I was connected. This is an excellent service and worked perfectly over my three day stay.
The wardrobe in the room was not all that large but quite sufficient. The design tri-angled into a corner saving some space and had been designed to be unobtrusive. There was plenty of drawer space and a TV cabinet above with connections to local, Houston and cable channels. There's a little hallway on entry to the room which housed a mirror and a bench with coffee making facilities.
The bathroom was not super-large, to be expected in any older hotel, but was spacious enough. A combined shower and bath with the shower providing excellent flow. Bench space in the bathroom was inadequate but not much to be done about it. Plenty of good lighting ni the room and the bathroom. The bed was super comfortable and the accommodation generally comfy and cosy.
The first night I had a couple of drinks in the bar, after I was able to attract the attention of the barman who was helping out in the restaurant. Unfortunately the hotel has no draft beer but for most guests I'm sure this is not a problem. The bar has been shifted since my last stay. It was previously in one of the wings but is now midway between the recption and the restaurant, which is a far more practical place for it. A nice touch for the hotel was the the ready supply of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today newspapers which were complimentary to guests. The restaurant was fine with excellent service, variety of dishes and food quality and presentation. The restaurant was as I remembered it.
In the next couple of days I toured the hotel. One of my favorite haunts was the swimming pool and jacuzzi, which as I recalled was situated in the basement. I couldn't find it although I stumbled across a gym which was very well fitted out with two running machines, a climbing/stepping machine, dumb-bells and free-weights, a complete Cybex working station, water fountain and freshly laundered towels adorning each device.
I went and asked where the pool was and was directed to an outside area. Alas there was a fairly new pool area and jacuzzi, in an excellent and well laid-out and appealing design in an outdoor area. Perfect for everybody else but for me a disappointment. Nonetheless life goes on and I'm sure future generations will enjoy much more the new facilities than those of the old, as they were tucked away in a basement.
The rest of the hotel was partially as I remembered it and partially renovated with light fittings, paint and wallpaper which, in some cases, was fine and others appeared, to be frank, tacky. It appears the hotel has undergone a number of renovations in recent years and has been subjected to phases of careful meticular restoration and at times has been rather cheaply attended to the point where the hotel is now a mixture of the old and the new. Some would say this is ok, but I don't. I would have liked the hotel to have been restored to its old glory.
The Hotel Galvez is now part of the Wyndham stable and is owned by local identity and multi-millionaire George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy fame. Another Mitchell enterprise, of which there are many in Galveston, is the Pier 21 Theatre which runs a feature documentary on the hour every hour every day titled 'The Great Storm'. This is a tale of America's worst natural disaster which occurred in September 1900. One of the most powerful hurricanes in history engulfed Galveston, then the richest city in Texas and its major seaport. Of the population of 40,000 over 6,000 were lost in the disaster.
In conclusion the Hotel Galvez is a very good class hotel with excellent ballroom, function and conference facilities to complement its accommodation business. Although I enjoyed the visit and would not want to discourage others I don't think I will be yearning to stay at the hotel again. For me the hotel was not the same as the hotel I visited more than 20 years previous.
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