A House is Not a Home

guest blogger Regina James Clark

A Girls Trip Respite

Four women smiling seated in a porch swing.

The beautiful love song, “A House is Not a Home”, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David describes that a structure can have all the needed components—a chair, a room, a key—but a home that does not make. But fill a house with good company, open hearts, and shared bonds of affection create the beautiful life that I found in a vacation rental aptly named BellaVida Haus.

BellaVida Haus is minutes away from one of the earliest settlements in Texas—New Braunfels. An influx of German immigrants was stranded near Matagorda Bay off the Gulf of Mexico with winter looming before them, and they had no place to call home in this New World. Essentially, this group of original settlers forded inland “up” the Guadalupe River stopping at the site of present-day New Braunfels. Here they built their beautiful German Texas life in the heart of what we Texans now call the Texas Hill Country!

So, what does this story of a town named for its “brown rocks”—perhaps, a reminder of another “brown rock” town in Germany—have to do with me? It was the second weekend of this past December that I spent the weekend in BellaVida Haus with good company, open hearts, and shared bonds of affection with 3 of my gal pals from Dallas, TX.

BellaVida Haus felt like HOME immediately to us! (See definition of “home” above.) Let me restate that: BellaVida Haus felt like HOME in a perfectly appointed and secluded house which is nestled in a deer family’s yard. Our group of four women (whose age span is 26 years and none of us are spring chicks!) arrived overly tired and stressed out from the busyness of the holiday season, a daughter’s wedding, navigation of a tricky divorce, and being moms of adult children and some of our adult children are dealing with some adult sized “situations”. We had one common goal that weekend: RESPITE

R = rest
E = experience
S = sleep
P = pray
I = ignore
T = taste
E = enjoy
OK, so that’s really 8 common goals we had! And, we accomplished them all!

A large white leather sectional sofa with a tall brass side lamp hovering over the left end. In the background is a sofa table against the wall and a mirror above it.

Rest: We loved “just hangin’ out” at BellaVida Haus’ spacious living room #1—the one with the “I would die for” white leather sectional. We had brought charcuterie type snacks and wine to share for our first night. We visited the night away until the midnight oil was burned out. This kind of messed up our S in RESPITE, for the time being.

Experience: When in Rome, do as the Romans do—right? It follows that if you are in the oldest German settlement in Texas, then you just simply must eat like the Germans! We dined in the lovely Alpine Hause which dishes up authentic Alpine cuisine of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The restaurant itself is located in a 163 year old house on Sequin Street. We felt fortunate that we secured reservations for dinner since seating is very limited in this old house. Each dish was delicious and we all agreed that the potato dumpling was a “must have”. Unfortunately, we were too full to order the apple strudel that I’d eyed on the menu the day before. Retrospectively, I should have ordered it “to go”!

Four women at a dining table. In the table center is an Alpine Haus menu surrounded by four tent-folded linen napkins.

Sleep: Yes, yes, yes, yes! We got that done! We all felt comfortable enough in each other’s company and in the comfort of those luxurious beds that we slept in until at least 9 am on Saturday morning. BellaVida Haus can comfortably sleep 8 adults with 2 king sized beds, 1 double bed, and a sofa bed. Those beds were so comfortable that you felt like a grown woman getting a hug from her mother.

Woman lighting a menorah

Ignore: Our goal for the weekend was truly to decompress, so we actively practiced the art of ignoring the stressors we had left behind in Dallas. Did you know that the art of ignoring is scriptural? (Insert tongue in cheek.) “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Taste: We did 3 tastings in addition to the “tasting” at Alpine Haus restaurant.
• We “tasted and saw that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Amen!
The other 2 tastings were less spiritual. I’m not even sure if we prayed before we ate. (uh oh)

Four women sitting outside holding to-go coffee cups from Naeglin's bakery.

• Naegelin’s Bakery which is described as the oldest continuously operating bakery in Texas. Established in 1868 by Edouard Naegelin Sr. and it is still operated by the Naegelin family. The bakery has been in its current location since “only” 1870! Late Saturday morning we found ourselves at Naegelin’s and we each selected 3 “dainties” and found a table on the front sidewalk outdoors. Of my 3 “dainties”, I enjoyed the plain glazed doughnut the best! I’d say it was the best glazed doughnut I’ve ever tasted. The other delights were tasty as well. And, as a coffee snob, the coffee was pretty good too!

Three tempting donuts. One is glazed, one chocolate icing with white drizzle, and one has a fruit center.

• Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar is located on the Guadalupe River in the famous historic district of Gruene within the city of New Braunfels. The gristmill was an operating mill built in 1878, which also had a “new-fangled” water-wheel to gin cotton. A 1922 fire destroyed the structure except for the three-story brick boiler room. Fast forward to 1977, to the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar which incorporates the brick boiler room into the multi-level restaurant and has become a local and travelers’ favorite hot spot for excellent Texas fare and Texas air! This was our farewell-for-now to New Braunfels as we had an early lunch here as we prepared to hit the road for Dallas. The popular GristBurger and flaky onion rings were a winner! A lot of food for the money too!

The tree covered entrance to The Gristmill Restaurant.

Enjoy: On our way out to our cars from the Gristmill River Restaurant, we heard music! Live music!! Our ears led the way to the source of the familiar country western beat to the Texas’ oldest dance hall—Gruene Hall! We couldn’t believe our eyes and our ears to find live music shortly after noon on Sunday and folks were actually boot scootin’ on the 6000 square foot dance floor! We loved that Gruene Hall, built in 1878, is very much like it was in 1878! That dancing rhythm penetrated our sense of time and sense of urgency to make our way home to Dallas. The eldest of our gal pal group is a dance instructor in Dallas and was a well-known competition dancer in her dancing prime. Additionally, she and her dancing male counterpart are the creators of the wildly popular Progressive Country and Progressive Double Two Step dances seen in every dance hall in Dallas/Fort Worth. All that to say that two of our group got out there and showed how it’s really done! I would have too, except that I am nursing a torn meniscus and awaiting surgery!

Two ladies dancing in the foreground. In the background are other ladies dancing.

Yes, one simple word and 3+ pages later: our common goal for the BellaVida Haus at New Braunfels weekend was RESPITE. And, that we did!


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