I felt like a zombie after bolting out of bed at the crack of dawn (3am my lord). I grabbed a cab to the airport, silently dreading the 11 hour travel day which would have me flying into Austin shortly after the lunch hour. While connecting at the Dallas Airport I couldn’t help but smirk as a legion of cowboys wearing leather boots, brimmed hats and fir filled moustaches stood in line eager to board a flight to Houston. One feels as though they are on a different planet here…
While each of America’s States offers a unique history and cultural identity, only a handful stand out to me as destinations that really make you feel as though you are exploring a country-within-a-country: Maui offers a Polynesia paradise in Hawaii, New Orleans a Creole inspired decadence and Texas a Wild Wild West cowboy culture.
Texas has been scribbled down on my Travel To Do List for some time, patiently waiting between Tahiti and Mongolia, each destination offering its own interpretation of exoticism. I was eager to indulge in that sexy Texan twang, march on horseback through cattle studded farmland and sip on bourbon spiked cocktails at sunset.
Located in breezy Texas Hill Country just a 25 minute drive outside of the state capital, Miraval Austin is nestled against 210 acres of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, overlooking beautiful Lake Travis. Travaasa is an experiential resort brand which encourages its guests to enjoy a healthy holiday away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Last Fall I had the opportunity to visit Miraval Austin’s sister property in Hana Maui and was pleased to see that both resorts offer a consistent wellness-centred experience.
Miraval Austin includes seven lodges with 70 guest rooms which are located along meandering paths featuring rich indigenous vegetation where mighty agave sets a ranchy mood. Well appointed accommodations all feature Eastern exposures that offer jaw dropping unobstructed views from patio or porch. Inside guests find a new home sweet home via comfy queen-sized beds, organic cotton linens, sleek bathrooms and plush Miraval embossed robes.
The property includes a 3.25 acre organic farm, horse stables, a challenge course designed in partnership with Outward Bound, fitness centre, pump track, yoga studio, infinity-edge pool, dinning room which spills onto a pretty patio and tranquil 11 room spa. Guests are encouraged to make the most of their vacation; relax by the pool and stretch out at morning yoga or dive right into the adrenalin rush via bike pump track and giant swing.
Sips and Nibbles
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served daily at Jean’s Kitchen under the watchful eye of Chef Benjamin Baker who creates new menus each day to reflect the changing harvest. His kitchen showcases produce from the resorts working organic farm, as well as locally sourced meat, fish and dairy to create flavourful, healthful meals with a Texas Fusion flare.
Pull up a seat at the bar and work your way through an extensive list of sipping tequilas, small bath bourbons, scotches, local Texas craft beers. In the Spring mornings can be cool so be sure to sit in the spacious dining room at breakfast with a frothy latte (add a shot of Bailey’s for good measure) and Kale smoothie. If the weather is warm lunch and dinner are best enjoyed on the restaurants patio where a canopy of trees offer the perfect shade while enjoying a fine feast with a view.
High Ropes and Giant Swing
The Prickly Pear Challenge Course was designed in partnership with Outward Bound Professional. Begin at the Cob Web, progress over Raider Bridge, through the Flying V, to navigate Double Trouble. The linear progression of the course culminates with a fantastic flight of over 250 feet long, soaring over tree tops. While I had my own hesitations (and let out a few gasps and screams) even those “faint of heart at heights” will find the challenge a rewarding and exhilarating one.
Bike Pump Track and Archery Sharp Shooters
Those looking to find thrills on two-wheels will find their own slice of nirvana at Miraval Austin’s Bike Pump Track, a 100 sq ft course that specializes in p.26 AM jump biking. Looking to brush up on your bullseye? Stroll next door for an archery class where top of the line Samick Polaris bows offer the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your inner Robin Hood. As an urban cyclist I had good fun on the Pump Track and was amazed at how much I improved after my first timid spin. In the bow meets arrow department I quickly realized my skills here were best utilized behind my SLR.
Looking to quench your thirst while lounging on a sun drenched patio after lunch? Sommelier extraordinaire Edward Morgan offers a candid tequila tasting which demystifies Mexico’s famous golden spirit by diving into the history and production of agave while sampling through four of his favourite bottles. Start with sips from the standard Jose Quervo a standard for the mighty margaritas and then dive into three lux offerings (which typically retail for over $200 a bottle) best suited for sipping: DeLeon Reposado “Purisma del Rincon,” Hurradura Seleccion Suprema “Extra Anejo” and Casa Dragones “Joven.”
“Find” Dining Experience on the Farm
Making its debut in the summer of 2013, the 3.25 acre farm is managed by the resort’s resident farmer, Kim Grabosk and features more than 80 varieties of vegetable crops, perennial fruit orchards, native pecans, edible flowers, and culinary and medicinal herbs, all of which are used extensively in the resort’s food and beverage offerings as well as in treatments at the award-winning spa. The operation also features a greenhouse, activity garden and chicken coop, home to mare than 100 laying hens. Guests looking to get their green thumbs dirty can sign up for seeding, harvesting and composting classes as well as a chicken-keeping course. Our group arrived at the farm just before the dinner hour and after a quick tour of the property were tasked at harvesting bright beets and sweet peas which would be used by the chef that evening to prepare a memorable al fresco feast.
No trip to Texas is complete unless you’ve saddled up cowboy styles. Miraval Austin’s Equine Centre is located just opposite the organic farm and plays home to seven American Quarter Horses which guests can ride into the Texas Foothills. The trail includes a quick prance across the farm, splash in a quiet creek and zig-zag march up live oak and mountain juniper dotted hillside.
Treat Yo’self at the Spa
Whenever I hop off a horse aches and pains are soon revealed by muscles I wasn’t even aware existed. There’s no better place to loosen up then at Miraval Austin’s award-winning wellness spa. Male guests indulge in treatments at the Western Sky Room: lined with reclaimed Douglas fir planks from an old Texas elementary school and Loblolly pine from a local library. The ceiling is etched with a fibre optic recreation of the Texas night sky, deer bust hangs overhead and rawhide chair offers a welcome throne to relax before and after your treatment. I opted to indulge in the Detoxifying Juniper, Olive Stone Exfoliation and Massage which had me singing sweet zzz’s.