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Postcards: Trois Estate

Less than a mile from Enchanted Rock lies another captivating destination

The Central Texas backdrop of Trois Estate heightens a sense of splendid isolation. (Photo: © Destry Jaimes)

Years ago, when I first visited Enchanted Rock, it seemed to me to be a destination all to itself, both literally and figuratively. Like Australia’s domed red rock, Uluru, it was distinctive and isolated, a splendid granite island of calm along a curvy road out of Fredericksburg. On subsequent visits, when I stayed too long at the summit, or began the hike to the top too late in the day, I wished for somewhere to rest my head closer to the site. Not because Fredericksburg, a mere 15 miles away, was too far to journey in the gloaming, but because I wished to prolong the sense that I was miles and miles away from the bustle of everyday life.

Recently, I discovered that there is a hideaway as otherworldly as the rock it-self, less than a mile from the gates of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. It’s a place that allows another fantasy journey, this time to a sort of parallel universe reminiscent of old Mexico, as well as into the eccentric minds of its co-creators, Rebecca Trois and her former husband, Charles Trois.

Trois Estate, a destination bed and breakfast, is a bit of a well-kept secret, as far as I can tell, at least among those not planning a wedding. Austin-area brides and honeymooning couples have been in the know for a couple of years, having discovered the inn offers wedding and European spa services, not to mention scrumptuous dining. Rebecca, who owns and operates the business, also serves as executive chef.

But really, the view of Enchanted Rock and the craggy Central Texas landscape from an intricately mosaic-tiled rooftop patio is reason enough to go. The stucco and brickwork; the antiques and primitive, Old World-style furnishings; and the whimsical nature of the experience here make a weekend at Trois Estate feel like a quick trip to Mexico, without the paperwork and travel hassles—but with a full dose of the serendipitous flavor.

The mood is set as soon as you turn off Ranch Road 965 onto an impressively groomed lane that curves up and around stands of oak and clutches of cacti. What  looks like a mirage of a centuries-old Mexican village slowly appears upon the horizon. Interwoven with embossed and stained concrete paths that look like the local granite, the grounds are filled with a style of Spanish Colonial architecture that some have dubbed “modern Mayan.” In the late winter, with no brides venturing out for photos, the isolation of the property has an allure that is less about the venue and more about a sense of enchanted isolation, reminiscent of the magical villages that appear and disappear in the novels of Gabriel García Márquez.

I was transported back to the artisanal charm of guesthouses I have visited in and around San Miguel de Allende

The smallest accommodations are comfortable, but not luxurious, and heavy, Old World-style furniture designed and crafted by Charles Trois predominates. And as in Mexico’s historic hotels, the stone, concrete, brick, and tile surroundings that are refreshing in spring and summer can be chilly in the winter months. But tucked into my cueva—a windowless room with a high-domed, brick ceiling; a handcrafted iron chandelier; canted tile floors; and a persnickety shower—I was transported back to the artisanal charm of guesthouses I have visited in and around San Miguel de Allende. The larger villas preferred by bridal parties offer more elaborate decor and dappled light filtered through walls inset with the round amber and green glass of wine-bottle bottoms, as well as windows with views of a free-form, landscaped pool.

But to view Trois Estate only as a hotel would be to withhold its greatest secret and most enduring source of charm: It is here that a former R&B musician has amassed a collection of cap guns said to be the largest in the world. The former guitarist from the 1960s band Soul Survivors, Charles Trois more recently transformed himself into an artist, architect, furniture designer, and engineer of all you find on the 57-acre estate. But perhaps most memorable is the Renaissance man’s incarnation as a passionate collector—not just of vintage cap guns, but arrowheads; straight razors; swords; Old West chaps, vests and jackets; meerschaum pipes; memorabilia (including peace medals given by the U.S. government to Native American tribes); and even an 1870 hurdy-gurdy.

A goal since the first plans for the estate were spun in 1998 was to create a place where Charles Trois might house and properly display his collections. The resulting museum is a 5,000-square-foot building of Charles’ design, filled with wood-and-glass display cases. The cap guns alone, stunning in quantity, quality, and diversity, merit a visit. An hour spent among the thousands of guns—many with spiffy, mint-condition holsters—was a journey back to my own black-and-white childhood memories of Roy Rogers, Red Ryder, and the Lone Ranger. These are not the toys my brothers and I owned, but the stuff of our dreams. And who knew Dale Evans had her own holster set of eponymous guns—now more rare than any of those once coveted by the boys? There are palm-size pistols with inlaid mock mother-of-pearl handles and engraved silvery stocks, faux ruby-bejeweled and turquoise-encrusted belts, tooled-leather holsters, elaborately fringed chaps, and coonskin caps.

Most everything is child-size, including tiny boots and hats and entire cowboy ensembles, some on mannequin children. Always, everywhere, there are guns and holster sets. In several displays, the original boxes accompany the toys, in equally pristine condition and often bearing the names of Doc Holliday, Lewis and Clark, and of course, Roy Rogers. The Rifleman repeating rifle with its monumental scrollwork and enormous trigger ring made me want to call my younger brother, who would even today be rendered speechless by such a find. While the majority of guns on display in the museum hail from the 50s, more than a few date to the early 1800s. The collection now includes more than 5,000 pieces.

Even if you’ve no time for an overnight stay, you’ll want to wander the grounds, taking in the time-honored building techniques that Charles Trois studied in Mexico and which give much of the construction a seasoned quality similar to that of a 300-year-old hacienda. Don’t miss the underground grotto pool beyond the cathedral chapel. Much remains a work in progress; a row of storefronts is scheduled to open later this year as an artisan’s mercado.

You might want to consider calling ahead for weekend brunch or dinner reservations. Chef Elvis Canoy is as much fun as his name suggests, and his way with a balsamic-and-cherry-gastrique-flavored tenderloin got me all shook up—in the best sort of way. A breakfast of French toast and eggs Benedict served to overnight guests caters to the sort of appetite the great outdoors inspires. But even if you’ve not come to dine, do note that the dining room is furnished with shadow-box tables that showcase more treasures; ask for a look-see. There’s no telling what you might find—or find yourself remembering.

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