SAN ANTONIO -- The Watermark Hotel & Spa, a recently opened
boutique hotel on the River Walk here, gives travelers a
sophisticated and stylish new option when looking for a place to
stay in the Alamo City.
The hotel is owned and operated by the same team that manages
the venerable La Mansion del Rio Hotel (which is just steps away,
directly across the River Walk), so guests can take advantage of
amenities at both hotels.
"It's sort of like a little resort area," said Henry Feldman,
president of the La Mansion Hospitality Management Group.
The Watermark was constructed on the site of the historical
Karotkin Building. Built in 1900, the structure began life as the
L. Frank Saddlery Co., where notables such as Pancho Villa and
Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders bought saddles.
The original plans for the Watermark included restoring the
building's four-story, Renaissance-revival facade, which had been
covered up in the late 1960s, and incorporating it into the design
of the new, seven-story hotel and spa.
Construction began in the spring of 2002, with a November 2003
opening anticipated. The unexpected collapse of the facade on Dec.
4, 2002 turned the renovation process into a reconstruction
"The first four floors [of the facade] are a complete
reproduction, down to the color of the bricks," Feldman said. "The
owner, Patrick Kennedy, insisted on staying to the original design.
We kept to the original architecture, so the guest rooms have very
high ceilings, some with floor-to-ceiling windows."
The reconstruction delay proved minimal, and the hotel opened to
guests on Dec. 31, 2003.
With a 17,000-square-foot spa on site, the 99-room hotel bills
itself as "an oasis of calm," a claim I thought I'd investigate on
a weekend visit in January.
After a drive on wet highways and a little trouble finding the
place, I was eager to sample some of that calm.
While the lobby and elevator had been dominated by dark wood,
the room was strikingly light, airy and modern. Huge arched windows
looked out over the River Walk, La Mansion del Rio and a few
I took a hot, relaxing shower, then asked the concierge to
recommend a restaurant on the River Walk. He steered me to
Boudro's, which has great food and is just a short walk from the
hotel. He suggested the duck-and-sausage gumbo, which turned out to
be very good.
After dinner, I strolled back along the River Walk, appreciating
the rain for keeping the usual weekend crowds home.
I ventured out on foot again on Saturday, heading first to the
Alamo, just three blocks away. Although it is smaller than one
might imagine, it certainly merits a visit and doesn't take long to
With a break in the wet weather, I took advantage of the
gorgeous day and kept going. There are tons more to do within easy
walking distance of the River Walk.
I chose to do a little exploring in the King William Historic
District, some shopping at the Southwest School of Art and Craft,
and some good Tex-Mex eating along the way.
Back at the hotel, I looked again around my room through the
eyes of a much calmer guest than the one who had gotten lost the
day before in a driving rain.
Done in creams and beiges with dark punctuation marks, such as a
metal four-poster bed and a leather-topped writing desk, the room
breathed comfort and calm.
The same can be said of the full-service spa, of course. With 19
treatment rooms, four spa suites and separate areas for men and
women, it covers a lot of square footage in the hotel, yet still
The menu of services is extensive, offering up a number of
enticing massages, body scrubs, wraps and treatments.
I had the whirlpool, dry sauna and steam room nearly all to
myself, which was a treat, and delighted in a white lavender herbal
That night, I had dinner with a friend in the hotel's restaurant,
Pesca on the River, where chef Jonathan Parker plates up some
My black grouper was served over a scrumptious banana-curry
sauce, and my friend's grilled salmon sat on a bed of braised red
cabbage and apples.
We were a bit leery of the steamed cucumbers with aniseed oil
and lemon, but we both loved it. In fact, we loved it all, from the
bread at the start to the final citrus tart brulee.
Now, to be honest, there were some glitches. Service was slow,
and the waiters had trouble answering questions about the menu. But
that was to be expected, as the hotel and restaurant had been open
only a matter of weeks.
And I have to add that we were having such a good time, we
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Room key: Watermark Hotel & Spa
Address: 212 W. Crockett St., San Antonio, Texas
Phone: (210) 223-8500
Reservations: (866) 605-1212
Room Rates: $300 to $1,250 per night
Commission: 10% (on room reservations only, not
Noteworthy: Their chef-driven seafood restaurant,
Pesca on the River, is a real find.
Not worthy: They were still working out some kinks
when we visited.