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My Experience At La Toretta Lake Resort

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I recently had the opportunity to spend most of a weekend at La Torretta Lake Resort in Montgomery with a group of wonderful women I adore.  As a homeschooling mother of six, I can’t tell you how excited I was to get away!  We checked in at noon on Friday, and driving in, I was thoroughly impressed at the beauty of the grounds.  There is an expansive golf course, multiple water features,  beautiful landscaping, and of course, a front row view of Lake Conroe.  La Torretta is geared toward groups, with several options for activities as well as conference rooms and ball rooms to accommodate events. We happened to be sharing the resort with the coaches and players from Ole Miss, preparing for their game against Texas A&M Sunday.  We did as any good Texans should and terrorized them (playfully, of course) for the duration of our stay, and their coaches were actually very good sports and played along!  Our group reserved several of the cabins, which sleep 4 to 8 and are large, modern suites.  The cabins are a bit far from the main buildings, so we called for an SUV shuttle to take us to the aqua park.  The aqua park boasts a lazy river, both an infinity and a Mediterranean pool, as well as two water parks for children of different ages.  There is a full service outdoor bar and plenty of chairs for lounging.  While I soaked in the sun, some of our group headed over to the spa.  The general consensus among them was that, after the booking issues were resolved (more on that later), it was quite amenable and relaxing, if a little overpriced.

Me at the pool!

Me at the pool!

For dining, there are several restaurants within the compound, with options including sushi, upscale lakeside dining, an outdoor grill, a casual coffee shop and a buffet style restaurant. The latter, Restaurant 157, is where we ate for the duration of our stay.  The food was absolutely delicious, and there were many options to choose from. For lunch, I ate a green salad and pistachio crusted salmon with braised haricot vert and a shameful amount of cheesecake for dessert. (Don’t you judge me- I AM still breastfeeding, AND I didn’t have to cook it. So there!)  However, I must say I was thoroughly disappointed by the service.  I am generally extremely forgiving of waitstaff, having spent six years of my youth serving and bar-tending in a variety of establishments from casual to fine dining, but for a resort of this caliber, I expected the staff to be at least somewhat attentive.  The dining area was only at about 25% capacity, and there seemed to be an abundance of servers.  So it was a bit frustrating that it took 20 minutes to receive my drink, and due to a language barrier, it was the wrong one.  Twice.   It seemed as if none of the servers spoke English and for the most part, were completely uninterested in attending to the guests.  Unfortunately, it was the same at every meal.

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Service aside, La Torretta has quite a bit of entertainment options including a piano bar, a younger crowd-oriented bar called Energie which featured karaoke on Friday night, a miniature golf course, and courts for volleyball and tennis.  There is a fitness center with both Yoga and general fitness classes. For families, the resort has a children’s camp and youth center with games, crafts and classes to keep the kids busy while Mom and Dad relax.

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Overall, my impression of La Torretta Lake Resort was mostly favorable. There is no shortage of activities or luxury.  However, when I go on vacation (which in my family is very rare- this was my first overnight trip without my children in many years), it is a great disappointment when the service is not up to par with the ambiance.  When you pay for a stay in a luxury resort, you expect to be treated as a valued guest.  Having a fine meal with the service quality of a fast food restaurant or trying relax with a housekeeper almost running you down with a towel cart, is just not the same as when the service is exceptional. Our reservations were made months in advance, yet there were significant problems when we arrived to check in.  Apparently, the representative our group had coordinated with was nowhere to be found, and they were not ready or simply unaware of our itinerary and planned accommodations for several hours, which took time away from our retreat.  The front desk staff were cold and made no effort toward hospitality, and several members of our group witnessed various displays of unprofessional behavior by hotel employees over the course of our stay.  Also, we were told that a number of spa appointments would be reserved for our group, but upon arrival, we were told that the spa was completely booked.  They did open a few spots eventually, but I found that to be just one more example of low quality service.  Reading the reviews on LaTorretta’s facebook page have confirmed what I feared- this was not an isolated incident.  Altogether, it would seem that such a beautiful resort would have a higher level of general hospitality, making guests feel welcomed, relaxed and most importantly, valued.  Four star prices should be paired with four star service.  That being said, I would be willing to visit La Torretta again simply for its beauty and variety of both cuisine and entertainment offerings, provided the aforementioned shortcomings were corrected.

 

You can follow LaTorretta on Twitter and Facebook, or visit their website now for booking! They are offering specials for Renaissance Festival now!

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Houston’s Italian Festival, October 10-12th

This weekend marks the 32nd annual Italian Festival here in Houston. As in years past, the festival is located on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas. With activities for kids and adults, as well as a variety of vendors, and of course delicious food, this is a great event for everyone in the family to enjoy.

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Cost for Admission:

Admission is $8 for adults; children 12 and under are free.  All drinks and food items are sold via tickets. Tickets are $1 each.  There are several places close by that offer free parking, or you can choose to pay $2 and park in the parking garage. A few of the specialty events, like the wine tastings, cost extra. You can find out the prices for each event on the program guide.

Cost for Food:

The food prices were not too bad as far as special event pricing goes. Water and sodas could be purchased for 3 tickets, while beer and wine were 5-7 tickets. Most of the food ranged from 6-8 tickets. The big question for most people is whether or not certain food items are worth the price. For the most part, yes. The gelato and sfingi were delicious desserts for 5 tickets, and were enough to split with someone. The pizza (8 tickets) was homemade and by far the best deal price wise. You get 2 large pieces which enough for a very hungry adult, or to split with kids.

Amenities:

The grounds are lovely to walk around, and are handicapped accessible (or baby stroller accessible). There is plenty of seating throughout the venue, with some shaded areas as well. As far as bathroom facilities go, the port-o-potties are over by the children’s play area and are actually rather nice. They have large and small sized ones, as well as a place to wash your hands. But some of the buildings will also be opened to the public. These have nicer bathrooms to use and are also air conditioned (which in Houston is always needed).

Activities:

The best part of the festival is all the cultural activities they have for people of all ages to do. There are lots of hands-on classes for the kids that range from cooking demonstrations to learning Italian. For the adults, they have wine and cheese tastings, grape stomping, and dance classes. The main stage has several activities throughout the weekend that will be great for the whole family to enjoy too, such as a classic car show or the pasta eating contest. Make sure to check the schedule for each day as the events vary.

 

For more information, as well as maps and directions, please go to http://www.houstonitalianfestival.com/

 

 

 

 

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