I’m sitting next to a glistening pool, surrounded by walls covered in ivy, guarded by the statues of two sphinx-bodied women in corsets who watch over an elaborate metal gate. I’m all alone. I haven’t been so relaxed in months. Bacon, soft scrambled eggs, coffee, a blank notebook and a delightfully sharp pencil are my only companions. The air is cool, a remarkable happening in Austin this year, and the rolling, grassy grounds of the hotel are just visible beyond the greenery surrounding the pool. On the private grounds of Hotel Saint Cecilia, the 50-foot heated pool is the center of the lush landscape.
Open 24 hours a day to guests, the pool area has a tranquil, calm vibe. Like a moth drawn to light, I wanted to be in and next to the pool for most of my visit. Heavy, cushioned lounge chairs and a vintage-looking cooler filled with icy cans of water line the edges. The graceful branches of a giant oak tree flow out over the courtyard shading the glossy, emerald grass and seeming to tuck the whole property in cozily from the sky.
I’m here away from my family, staying overnight with a friend. She rented the poolside bungalow. The stairs are hidden behind a neon Soul sign, which lights up the pool at night with a steamy, rose glow. We spent last night swimming back and forth along the pool and floating on our backs, welcoming drink deliveries and cold water until almost 1 in the morning. We had no urge to walk the single block to bustling South Congress or to leave the grounds. I pleasantly forgot I was in my home city at all.
The hotel feels like a mixture of history and carefully articulated luxury. Built in 1888, the original Victorian house was once home to a descendant of Davy Crockett. The property was redone in 2008 by hotelier Liz Lambert and reopened as Hotel Saint Cecilia.
A month after my initial visit, I returned with my husband, taking a last little trip together before we welcome a new baby. I’m delighted by every piece of artful atmosphere. The deep, soulful sapphire blue of the lobby tucked against the hill and overlooking the pool is filled with the scent of Nag Champa incense. That same spicy aroma seems to float on the air outside, too, giving everything a dreamy, soft quality.
Our room faces the city and the buildings look far away and small from our stone balcony. We spend our day swimming, sitting cross-legged on cracked leather sofas outside the lounge with a beautiful cheese plate and bourbon for him. In the courtyard, elaborate chandeliers hang from the trees, lighting up intimate tables for two all around us. We wander the small property barefoot in soft indigo cotton robes, hand-dyed and light on the skin. As I lounge by the pool, I don’t even want to read because I just want to soak up this feeling of being perfectly at ease and pleased with the environment.
Every room has a record player. At night, we borrow records from the front office and lounge on a modular leather couch in our room. I light a candle, which floats dreamily in water and listen to Nina Simone, her rich, throaty voice bringing me into a heavenly calm. I want Saint Cecilia to come and redo my house, to make every element feel so harmonious and peaceful. Music plays all over the property, an intoxicating and calming mix of old and new voices in the courtyard and in the pool. Being surrounded by music is just one more tangible, sensory addition to the otherworldly feeling of serenity and a call to the namesake saint of the hotel: Saint Cecilia, patron of art and music.
If you need an intimate, restorative escape right in Austin, Hotel Saint Cecilia is a gorgeous retreat. I loved being there with friends and sharing a romantic weekend there with my partner. The property is peaceful, tranquil and secluded. I found it hard to leave.
If you go: Stay in a poolside bungalow to get the best barefoot access to the pool. If you can bring yourself to leave the property, there are endless options for dining and entertainment on South Congress. Try the two-block walk to Aba, a Mediterranean restaurant with a delicious menu and a lush, plant-filled patio. https://hotelsaintcecilia.com/