Creole Plantation B&B
The day after Mardi Gras, Don and I continued our Louisiana celebration!
After a few days of parades in New Orleans, we found ourselves relaxing in a totally different Louisiana setting. Our B&B in Lafayette, was a peaceful oasis, in the heart of Cajun Country.
Home from 1820
We arrived late afternoon and found the 200 year old home, tucked into the Sterling Grove Historic District. The peaceful house and grounds, sat just one half mile from downtown.
I crossed fingers, as we pulled into a gravel lot. It looked awfully empty and quiet and I hoped there hadn't been a glitch with reservations.
200 Years of Stories
Don and I have never spent a night in a 200-year-old plantation. I was happy about having another first for the Notable Night list. But I felt a tiny bit anxious, as I allowed myself to wonder about some of the history and stories.
I knew the Moutons built the home in the early 1800's, but who were the people who labored to create this home? Who were the women who cleaned and cooked... the men who worked in the sugar plantations? As we approached the side of the house, I realized we probably would never know those stories.
Finding the Door
We parked and headed towards the walkway. I spotted moss growing on the roof of the carriage house. The grand oaks seemed to dwarf the house and other buildings.
We headed past the carriage house and followed the covered walkway.
The weather was a little chilly, but the brick patio with fireplace, looked inviting. There was a chiminea, loaded with wood and ready to be lit.
We headed towards the red-brown door in the rear of the old house. There was a sign saying "Check-in at 4". My watch said 4:01. Yay!
Our host Eric, met us at the door. He didn't have an Acadian accent like Charles Mouton, who built the house. But Eric had a wonderful French Canadian accent. He was from Quebec.
We entered the bright breakfast room, which was actually an addition. But it could have been added 100 years ago. I'm not sure.
I loved the feel of the area between the breakfast room and kitchen. There was a mysterious curving stairway, beside the white brick wall. I really loved the old pie safe, standing nearby. The gigantic bottle of Tabasco on top, reminded me that we were in Louisiana.
Erik checked us in and gave us a key. The key wasn't for our guest room, since there was no lock on that door. The key was for the exterior kitchen door, if we came in late.
Through the House
Eric led us through the downstairs, towards the front of the house.
The breakfast room opened into another eating area. Then we passed through an interesting, wide door.
That door led us into the parlor. Another set of blue doors took us to the front porch and garden.
We headed up a narrow set of stairs, to the second floor. The wooden steps were comically warped and worn. They didn't look a bit like the grand staircases from movies like Gone With the Wind, and I liked that.
The second floor had a set of doors leading to the balcony and another set of stairs heading to the third floor.
The second staircase looked like it had been added in later years. We took a peek upstairs at the cozy rooms, with slanted ceilings. Who once slept there?
The Voorhies Suite
Our room was one of two second floor guest rooms, on the front of the house. I believe our suite was named for the previous owners, a few years back. Mr. Voorhies was a descendant of the Mouton family.
I loved our tall skinny doors, even if there was no lock and we had to trust our fellow guests. The blue paint was soothing.
Chandelier and Fireplace
I haven't a clue who slept in our cozy rooms, 2 centuries ago. I loved imagining it.
Our front room had the fireplace, chandelier and balcony door. The middle room had a sweet four poster and closet, with coffee maker and fridge. The bathroom in the back had plumbing. Yay for that! Who knows when that was added.
Mr. & Mrs. Mouton
I liked imagining Charles Mouton and his new bride, enjoying this fireplace during the cold winter months.
For most of the year, I'm sure all the windows were open and the balcony got lots of use.
There was lots of sunshine coming through our 5 windows.
But the balcony was a little chilly, with wind and temps in the low 50s.
We had the whole balcony to ourselves, since no one had booked the other room. We should have taken a quilt from the rack in our room and enjoyed the view.
But we did take in the garden view for a bit. The trees were just beginning to flower and I spotted daffodils and some blooming azaleas in the yard.
We took a walk around the property and tried to imagine what it was like when Charles first built the house. It was a nice, reasonable size. I like to think that the Moutons weren't pretentious.
Trees and Land
The home was built on property, that had been part a 300-acre plantation, owned by Charles' father.
I wondered about the age of the grand live oaks. Were they there, 200 years ago?
When Eric checked us in, he let us know there was a social hour around 4:30
We of course went for Mint Juleps. We sat at the table near a festive display of flowers and Mardi Gras beads.
When Eric went off to prepare our drinks, we introduced ourselves to Bobby, who sat at the end of the table.
Bobby apologized for his raspy voice. It was of course the day after Mardi Gras and he had spent the last few days performing and celebrating. He sang some Cajun tunes while he stomped and fiddled. And he shared stories with about growing up in Lafayette.
Before long, the table was full of guests. Some were staying in the other buildings. A family of 6 from Switzerland, was staying in rooms above us.
Eric greeted most of the guests in French. Bobby spoke Creole French, that he'd learned from his grandparents. As it turns out, Lafayette has become a travel destination for many French speaking tourists. We shared conversations with guests from Montreal, French Basque Country, Leon, Switzerland... and Atlanta. My photo fails to capture the warmth and fun of this group, all trying our best to communicate with one another!
Don and I headed to dinner and found downtown Lafayette a little quiet, on the night of Ash Wednesday.
And when the Swiss family returned a while later, we were again glad we had met our "neighbors". The old floors were squeaky. They seemed to be moving chairs around or unpacking and laughing and talking softly. Funny. It just felt homey and quaint. I went to sleep feeling like a mom, "Oh good the kids are home."
The whole gang (and a few more) showed up at the breakfast table at 8:30. We had been asked the night before if we wanted the American breakfast or a Creole.
Don and I chose both. He claimed his crawfish eggs with spicy Cajun sauce was excellent. Normally we would share, but Eric had encouraged us to spread out and our socializing distracted us from plate swapping. All in all, a great breakfast experience!
We were totally surprised with our stay! The website was a bit vague, so we weren't sure what we were in for.
The house and grounds were charming and the people (host and guests) made the stay memorable. What a treat to experience a culture so different than our own (in Texas) just a few hours away!
Texas Hill Country Inn
That was long before we were searching for "Notable Night Hotels". But we were intrigued by the inn and the small town... pronounced like Bernie.
The Kendall Hill Country Inn
In January, Don and I returned to Boerne and spent a night at the hotel. The canopy was no longer green and a sheep had been added to the logo. The "Ye" was gone.
There was also a new set of critters. A sweet mama and baby buffalo, greeted us out front!
Then and Now
The town has nearly tripled in size, since we first stopped through, in 2003. I knew the town had grown, but I was eager see what had changed at the inn.
We arrived on a sunny January afternoon. The town of over 17,000 was buzzing with activity. The exterior of the 160+ year old hotel, had changed little... except for the entrance.
Home & Hotel
The hotel history goes further back than this aged image. The old photo was taken after Mr. & Mrs. Reed's Southern Colonial style home (from 1859) became the Boerne Hotel. The original Reed House is in the center.
Early on, the Reeds ended up renting out rooms in their home, to travelers. The Reed Hotel became the Boerne Hotel in 1878. Wings were added to both sides of the old house.
The black and white photo shows lots of land. It's nice that some of that open land has been preserved in a city park.
If we'd had an upstairs room, we could have looked out over the park.
But near the main doors, we found lots of open rockers... and a pair of dogs. We could have rocked away and pondered history for hours! We could have thought about all the activity that occurred on that open property. Instead we wandered and pondered.
Cowboys, Cattle, Horses... Camels!
The grounds around the hotel were used as a key stopping point for cattle drivers and military men. Cowboys and horses camped out on the land.
Before the Civil War, camels also spent some time on this land. Jefferson Davis stayed as a guest in the hotel, while 33 camels from Tunisia were tied up outside. It was part of Jefferson's experimental "Texas Camel Drive"!
Into the Inn
It was about 3:00, when Don and I headed inside to check in.
Clearly, the hotel had spiffed up since our last visit. There was a great blend of old and new.
Then and Now
It felt brighter! When I pulled up some of my old photos, I could see changes. Lots of light paint and fewer rugs.
Don headed for the desk and I checked out both sides of the lobby.
Nicole checked us in. She was wonderful, showing us around and sharing a little history. All the staff seemed enthused about our interest in the hotel's past.
I wanted so badly to stay in one of the original Reed House rooms, at the top of the stairs. But out of 34 guest rooms, only a few are available in the old section.
Out We Go
We weren't sure what we had booked... except that we usually go for the lower priced rooms. We followed Nicole out back.
The hotel doors opened to the back porch. There was no view of the park, but there were nice sitting areas, overlooking the courtyard.
There were tables and trees and strings of lights, to make things festive at night.
And there was a long, one-story addition that made me think... motel?
I was a little bummed when I realized our room was in this new addition. I had hoped for a 160 year old room. But once I learned the addition was from the early 1900's, I was fine.
Our sweet-suite at the end of the porch, was a pretty nice deal!
It was January, but nice enough that I sat on the cushioned chair with a little ivy for privacy.
The suite was small, but we could sort of spread out in two rooms for a bit.
I used the little sofa for some reading. The horse kept me company.
Comical Heating System
The room with queen bed, was cozy and quiet... except when the heat went on.
The sound came on with a distant clanking. The sound made me think of kids, racing up a metal fire escape. Then a rumbling roar, like a jet liner taking off... followed by a simmering, humming vibration in the wall. The sound was more amusing than annoying. Don and I had a hard time falling asleep, because we were giddy with anticipation. Honestly, I've never fallen asleep on the verge of laughter. But somehow we both slept!
The bed was comfy and the bathroom had nice marble and tile. The robes were just the right weight for Texas weather. I can't handle heavy robes.
The cozy, clean space gave no hints of the past. Most guests probably appreciate that, but I kind of missed having creaky doors and floors.
Luckily there was lots more to experience around the hotel.
Right outside our door, we spotted a fireplace. We wondered if some of the fireplace could have been part of the original kitchen.
We found some additional guest house buildings, past the courtyard.
The carriage house was original, but the church and school had been moved to the property, in recent years. All can be rented. We didn't get a chance to use the little soaking pool.
Food and Drink
The hotel's restaurant changed hands and had a new name, since our lunch years ago.
It was Friday, so we peeked in early to see about dining.
This photo shows just one end of the dining room. On a warmer day, there would have been extra dining options on the wraparound porch.
I remembered the cozy bar from our last visit. The colors and decor had brightened, just like the hotel.
There were a few people getting the weekend started before 4.
Past the bar, there was a classy little lounge space, with a scary critter. Without guests, I could get a good look at the puzzle of limestone, covering the walls.
Restaurant or Bar?
We returned at 6 and the restaurant was filling up. We were able to get a table in the bar, where we watched lots of regulars, greeting and gathering together.
We shared a dish of Mac-n-Cheese and devoured Chef Bohanan's, Chicken Fried Quail. An amazing dish, with cornmeal Johnny-cakes and Maple Cayenne syrup!
Night at the Inn
After eating, we stepped out in front to see the building lit at night.
Then we grabbed some coffee from the lobby and headed for the courtyard.
The winter chill, meant we got to enjoy the fireplace! The winter season also meant, we didn't have to share the courtyard with family reunions or wedding parties. I'm sure it's not always so quiet.
We scooted the chairs closer and enjoyed a real wood fire. My camera flash made things way too bright!
Nice Stay and Town
In the morning, we walked a block to town and had breakfast. We strolled through shops and studied old buildings. What a curious history with the town and hotel.
I wish we'd had more time to learn about the community's past. It was first inhabited by German "Free Thinkers". That's an interesting tangent right there! Around the turn of the century, Bourne was attracting visitors with health concerns. The hotel became sort of a health resort for guests suffering lung ailments. So much to think about!
So what will I remember most? Our one night stay was a good combination. Our welcoming inn, plus a quaint town, along with some intriguing history. Having our hotel a block from town, meant we got sort of a package deal. Hotel, Town & History! Perfect!
Don and I spent a few days over Christmas, in New Orleans!
It was not actually dark (like photo) when we arrived. But this is the tall Roosevelt sign we headed towards, when we turned down Baronne Street.
The entrance beneath the glowing tree, didn't match my memory.
I remembered flags and a bold marquee, from 9 years ago. I was a little confused, until I realized there were entrances, at opposite ends of the building.
Years ago we stopped in with our kids, to see the spectacular Christmas decor. Of course, I had to snap a couple photos.
This photo makes me smile and miss the kids. This photo also made me wonder. Where were the crowds that evening, in late November?
Golden Revolving Door
This is the ornate entrance, that took us into the crowded lobby on Christmas Day.
We fumbled and rumbled our bags through the crowds. I didn't pull out a camera until much later!
We must have looked lost. One kind man pointed us in the direction of the desk. It was hidden behind decorations and crowds.
Across from the desk, I spotted a brass mailbox.
In 1950, my grandmother stayed at the Roosevelt with her mother. My mom was in college when she received this letter, written on hotel stationary. It's funny to read my grandmother's description of New Orleans, "America's Most Interesting City! Those are actually the hotel's words on the envelope, not my grandmother's.
We lucked out. Our room (one of 504) was ready early! We headed up to the 9th floor.
The room wasn't huge, but it was a clean and comfy, corner room! I love extra windows!
Just like 1950, there was no fridge or coffee maker in the room. However, recent renovations meant there were plenty of outlets for technology. And there were comfy robes and good lighting in the bathroom. Simple pleasures. When did they start providing robes in nice hotels?
I liked the framed photographs, that took me back in time.
The photo on the left shows the hotel in its earlier days. The Grunewald opened in 1893, then expanded to 14 stories in 1908. It became The Roosevelt in the 1920's.
The view from the 9th floor, was entertaining!
And far to the right, we could spot the roof sign, for Hotel Monteleone. We could also see a sign for, "Oriental Sauna Spa Body Rubs". Hmmm. Interesting area!
I've never gone to a bar on Christmas... except when the car broke down in 1981.
It was 2 p.m. when we entered the crowded Art Deco bar. My eyes were drawn right away to the WPA murals, painted on the curved walls. When Paul Nina created them in 1939, they were meant to focus on the working people of the area.
No one in the crowded bar seemed to be paying any attention to the art, or the plaque that addressed concerns about the stereotyped images.
Celebrating at the Bar
Someday, I would like to come back and study the murals longer and learn more. But on Christmas afternoon, the Sazerac Bar vibe was not about contemplating anything.
We were lucky we got a standing spot, near the rounded, bar. Oddly there seemed to be more locals than tourists enjoying the iconic lounge. We had a fun time getting to know a few... while we nursed our Sazerac and frothy, Ramos Gin Fizz.
Eventually, Don and I each got a foot on the foot railing. We were able to admire the impressive 1878 Ascot Cup!
But that was not nearly as awesome as watching the skilled bartenders, juggling, shaking, stirring... and remembering orders! These guys were sharp!
Don and I suddenly realized we needed food. The hotel's Fountain Lounge Restaurant, was packed at 3:00, unlike my 6 am photos.
We didn't attempt to dine there. Instead we searched the internet for nearby restaurants.
We only found a few places open on Christmas day and they looked pretty sketchy.
The wait for a table was long, but we were able to grab 2 stools at the bar. The young staff, in festive floral shirts, was friendly and attentive.
We were served the most delicious pizza, with "Happy Hour" prices! Our check for $13. came with a complimentary, mini chocolate dessert!
Dinner and Back
Later in the evening, Don and I headed back to the French Quarter for dinner.
We could have Ubered, if the streets had looked deserted or eerie. But, there were plenty of people out and about. Walking to dinner added to the fun. We dined at the iconic 162 year old restaurant and meandered back around 10.
The lobby was still lively and loud! A tipsy couple asked if we would use their phone and snap a photo. That meant we got our posed pic, out of the deal. We headed up the elevator after that and our room was a quiet oasis.
We only had one night at the hotel and I was determined to experience the lobby without crowds. On December 26th, I came down the elevator before 6 a.m.
I felt like a kid, sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning. The elevator doors opened and I stepped out and grinned. The tree lights glowed and Christmas music played softly.
Just like a hotel ghost, I floated towards one end of the lobby to the next. I could finally take it all in, without distraction!
From Floor to Ceiling
I stared down at the mosaic tile, which I hadn't noticed, when it was covered with feet. Evidently it had been covered by carpet, until renovations that took place after Hurricane Katrina.
The coffered ceiling above my head, was equally impressive.
Doors and Windows
Without throngs of people, I found doors and windows I had missed earlier. Sadly the doors to the Blue Room were locked. What was room like in the 30's and 40's when Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller played?
I took time to study the display window, of the hotel's gift shop. Did any of the famous guests ever get a chance to browse through the lovely store. I doubt Elvis or JFK ever got to shop anywhere.
Chairs and Stairs
Down one hall, I found a most theatrical looking throne. I later chatted with the gentleman who would have shined my shoes, if I'd worn something worth shining. He was delightful and shared such a genuine enthusiasm for the hotel's history.
I also found a lovely, but modest staircase. I wondered why a grand hotel wouldn't have something larger. Maybe I missed some others stairs. Even though I explored, I missed plenty of things, like 23 ballrooms and the rooftop pool!
Most of all, I just couldn't stop studying the amazing display of lights and trees!
There was a day when I rolled my eyes at flocked trees. But the tradition of decorating the block-long lobby, goes back to 1925. I now love the Royal-Retro look! Looking from one end to the next was like staring into an infinity mirror.
I read that the decorations include, 46 decorated trees, 135,572 lights, 2,200 glass ornaments and 698 hand tied bows.
The trees and branches were dazzling, but I was sort of curious how the lobby looked when the decor was gone. Maybe Mardi Gras colors invade the lobby in February? I'm guessing, the statue on the pedestal, (which is actually a pendulum clock) gets a lot more attention when the decorations are taken down.
Before heading back upstairs, I stepped outside, into a foggy, eerie morning.
This time I felt like the teenager, sneaking out the house. Was it wise to be out, where I'd seen some questionable characters, the night before? But it didn't seem at all daring. Everyone in all of New Orleans seemed to be off sleeping, somewhere far away.
Coffee with Don
By the time Don and I had showered, we could smell coffee from Teddy's Cafe, just off the lobby.
We grabbed two cups and wandered the lobby, in search of the perfect sitting area.
We sat along the wall, sipping and chatting... and peeking out through the lit trees as the lobby came to life.
We couldn't linger long, with a drive ahead. We grabbed our bags and checked out before 10.
Don took a picture of me with the holiday decor. I took a picture of him, just before we headed back to Texas.
What will I remember most? The giddy crowds, the entertaining Sazerac Bar... and my quiet morning with the Christmas lobby!
We finally stayed! This hotel in the French Quarter, has been on the list for a while!
I first fell in love with the idea of a holiday stay, in 2014.
We were in New Orleans visiting family for Thanksgiving. While wandering the day after, we came upon the fabulous Monteleone, already decked out for the holidays. Since my daughter was also decked out in her new hat from a nearby shop, I begged her to pose. The hotel went on my mental list, that day.
Five years later, Don and I found ourselves facing a Christmas without any kids! Instead of pouting, we looked into hotels in New Orleans. Monteleone had special Papa Noel rates! $136 !!
I was giddy as we headed toward the French Quarter, on Christmas Eve-Eve! Our hotel on Royal Street, looked as Royal as I remembered... with its flamboyant, Beaux-Arts style. In fact it looked like it had been plucked from a street in Paris and planted in New Orleans!
Royal Street was bustling when we arrived. Even our Uber driver was surprised by the mini traffic jam.
We were glad not to pay $40. a night for parking, but the parking garage couldn't have been cuter!
In We Go
We headed inside and awkwardly rolled our baggage up a few stairs. There was a ramp from the parking garage, evidently.
The space was not empty, like my photo!
There were lots of people in the lobby. Just off the lobby in the the Carousel Bar, there were even more people. The coveted seats at the rotating bar were all taken, with plenty of hopeful guests lurking nearby.
Looking in the Lobby
Our room wasn't ready, so we lounged in the lobby and took it all in.
First I admired the lovely Christmas decorations. Then I took in all the permanent decor, from chandeliers, painted ceilings, arched windows and ionic columns.
I heard the beautiful clock chiming, before I even spotted it.
The side of the classic antique clock, had a some sweet carved surprises!
The Monteleone Family
There were plaques and portraits to remind us, that the same family has owned the hotel for 133 years.
Antonio, a cobbler from Sicily, switched from shoes to hotels in 1886. Five generations and five major additions later, the hotel is still in the family. That's amazing.
Before long, our room was ready and we headed to elevators.
The elevator took us up in a building, that was one of the 5 additions.
Our Papa Noel rate didn't get us one of the fancy suites in the grand, older section. But we got a 15th floor room, facing Royal Street.
I loved the small lion, greeting us from the door plaque. Our room felt cozy and classy. I appreciate it, when TVs are hidden.
There was a soft, reading chair. Two would have been nice.
The linens were freshly pressed. The gold trim and lion logo, added to the royal feel!
The fridge and Keurig coffee maker came in handy. The bathroom was small and a bit dim, but there was a tub!
However we weren't too high, to be free from the street noise. But that was fine. The distant sounds of street music and occasional honking and voices, just added to the flavor.
After unpacking, we headed down to the Carousel Bar, but it was of course jammed. We wandered back up, to explore the roof deck.
The roof top pool looked inviting, even in December. The poolside, Aqua Bella Bar was closed but would have been fun. We peeked again later and the water was warm and lovely. Bring suits next time!
One of the biggest treats of our stay, was enjoying our location.
We could step out our door and easily walk to all our favorite places. Being so close to Christmas Day, meant we didn't deal with bachelorette parties and crowds of frat boys. The sidewalks were felt busy and friendly. What a nice surprise.
On Christmas Eve, we had reservations for Criollo.
The restaurant looked formal and quiet, when I peeked in earlier.
The lounge was not empty. Later, there was live music. Don and I laughed over our Christmas Eve dinner, when we heard a jazzy version of "Do the Hustle".
Dinner with the Writers
Our reservations weren't until 8:30. I'm sure that would be considered early dining, by the famous writers who used to dine and drink at Monteleone.
We were seated in a small, side room. The space was decorated with curious art and objects, related to authors like Hemingway and Faulkner, who have histories with the hotel. I loved the framed image of Tennessee Williams (with rows of books) looking down from the wall.
Criollo is the Spanish word for Creole. The menu got me excited about tasting all those Creole flavors... Spanish, Italian, French, African and Caribbean!
Here I am, ready to dig into my filet mignon, with scallop and shrimp. Merry Christmas Eve to that!
It was after 10 when we finished dinner. We peeked into the Carousel Bar.
Forget it. We thought the tourists would disappear on Christmas Eve and we'd finally get a seat. We gave up and I posed with the Christmas trees instead.
Morning at Monteleone
I was determined to see the hotel without crowds. On the morning of Christmas Eve I headed down the elevator before 7.
It was fun to see the street without cars and people. I was glad the holiday lights were still glowing.
Then I headed through the quiet lobby and found my way to the fitness room.
All trips to Nola involve consuming lots of calories. I enjoyed a little workout with a view of the Mississippi.
I finished up and returned to the lobby in my grubby state. I peeked into the quiet lounge.
As I snapped a photo of the empty bar, I was greeted by Michael Dupree, the hotel's beverage manager. I asked him for Carousel Bar tips and he laughed. He said there is always a line outside the door, when the bar opens at 11.
Morning at the Carousel!
I couldn't have been more thrilled when Michael invited me into the closed bar to take photos.
It was so much fun to see the cushy couches and the colorful bar, without a single guest.
Michael seemed incredibly relaxed for a manager, ready to face the holiday crowds. He talked about his love of New Orleans and the parades and the people.
I thought about Truman Capote who claimed his mother gave birth to him at the Carousel Bar. Not true, but she did live at the hotel, when she was pregnant with him!
Michael and I shared a few stories about St. Louis and Texas and by the time I headed up for a shower, I was holding tickets for drinks at the bar. What a sweet guy!
Don and I didn't bring presents to the hotel, but we did bring our stockings.
Instead of calorie burning, I focused on calorie partaking. We enjoyed coffee and muffins... and candy for breakfast.
After numerous attempts, we finally had the Carousel Experience! First Don and I lurked, like we learned from others.
Then a zebra seat suddenly opened! I sat and Don awkwardly walked beside me as I traveled on the platform. We learned quickly that people are drinking and no one cares. He squeezed on and rode next to me.
Don eventually got the lion seat, next to me. He had a Sazerac and I tried Carousel Bar's famous, Vieux-Carre. We enjoyed the people watching as much as the drinks.
Catching a Ride
We chatted with a number of carousel travelers. We snapped pictures like tourists. We also jumped up and moved out of the way when there was a shift change. The bartenders have to hop over the bar, to get out of their circle!
It seems ridiculously obvious, what is notable about a stay at Monteleone.
But the travelers and the locals we met, all seemed to be enjoying themselves. The hotel felt festive and the city felt welcoming. The only thing that could have improved our stay... enjoying it with the kids!
Fresh Look for The Fredonia!
Our night at The Fredonia, was a perfect ending to a weeklong road trip.
But the historic town of Nacagdoches was right on our route. And one peek at the hotel website, showed me that the place had made some recent changes. We booked.
November in Nacogdoches
The drive into town was a breeze. The lack of SFA State University students, could have played into that. It was the Sunday, before Thanksgiving.
We arrived to find the sun shining, on the sprawling brick building. I could just imagine the excitement in 1955, when The Fredonia opened. The community got the first-class, modern hotel that they'd craved.
The People's Hotel
As we approached the entrance, I admired the "Creole Modern" wrought iron. I didn't know the term at the time, but I recognized the style. I'm pretty sure my Great Aunt Marguerite had some of that white-painted iron work, with acorns and leaves. I had no interest in it that look, as a kid in the sixties. It totally amuses me now.
The plaque near the door, reminded us that the hotel was built by the town! In 1952, residents saw the need for a modern hotel and the residents came together and raised funds. Could that even happen today?
I altered my photo to look like an old postcard. I love motel and hotel postcards from the fiftie & sixties. Actually the stylish white lettering is new. The hotel changed names from the 1970's until it closed in 1985.
It regained its Fredonia name when it reopened in 1989. That was back when mid-century modern was not so hip. The 1950's decor disappeared.
We checked in at about 3. The staff was welcoming and pretty cute, in their purple checked shirts.
I was thrilled to see the photo mural, spotlighting the swimming pool (with bathing caps!) in the fifties.
I noticed the glowing, pink terrazzo floors, later that evening. I'm glad they were saved, during recent renovations. I was also glad to see the mid-century furnishings were back... at least the style.
I liked the retro look of the stairs. I'm not sure where the stairs went and I'm not sure why I failed to find out. I'm usually a better explorer.
And then there was the purple guy on the wall, near the bar entrance! The angry Lumberjack, was a reminder that we were in a college town.
First City Cafe
The hotel's spacious, main dining area was recently given a new look. A new name was given, to put a spotlight on Nacagdoches, which claims to be the oldest city in Texas.
I loved the bright, space age feel. It looked like it could have been a dining room, at the NYC World's Fair in 1964.
The curved shape of the room was extra mod. The view of the kidney-shaped pool and patio, was pleasant on a sunny afternoon.
It was close to perfect weather, for dining outside near the pool.
I liked the critter, watching over the pool and garden. I asked the desk staff if that was a bunny and if so, did it have a name? They laughed and said no one had ever asked about a name. I will name him Astrobunny, after my one and only bunny pet.
The pool/patio was totally enclosed by the restaurant, hotel and the one-story motel addition.
We wanted to stay in the tower section, because it was the part of the original building in 1955. But, the motel came soon after. I would pick the motel experience, next time. There are 10 "Cabana Suites" overlooking the pool.
Staying in November, wasn't the best time for enjoying the pool area. But there were a number of standing heaters and a fire pit.
And the trees still had some leaves. There were about 3 amazing trees, on that patio! They obviously built around them, in 1955. Beautiful.
We always ask for higher floors when we book. We hoped our room on the 6th floor might have a view.
We stepped out of the elevator on the 6th floor and found a nice little sitting area. There was hot coffee available in the morning.
Our room was small but luxurious. (We usually book the cheapest) The bed linens were lovely, with simple, green stripes.
Don graciously gave me the side, with the desk. There wasn't room for two bedside tables. small room, meant the TV felt huge. There was a nice soundproofing feature.
The bathroom was also small, but very sleek. I wore a comfy robe and enjoyed coffee in the cute mug. The serious owl watched from above.
My favorite renovations, don't remove all reminders of the past. The room felt fresh and new, but that funny window, happily took me right back in time. Why did they place it so high?
The height and the condensation, made it hard for me to get a perfect view. But it was a fun one, when I stood on my toes. I spotted a few fall colors and church steeple.
Autumn in Nacagdoches
One of the nicest things about our stay, was being able to step outside the building and explore the historic old town.
We had the most glorious afternoon walk, as the sun lowered. Next time, we'll take in more of the town's history.
9 Flags Bar and Grill
In the late afternoon, we peeked into the hotel's bar. The sun was illuminating the glass bottles in the window. There was some very intriguing decor, that was very 21st century. Copper stools and lights, dripping from the ceiling like Spanish moss...
We weren't able to peek in the hotel's other restaurant, Republic Steakhouse. It was closed on Sunday. For dinner, we had to decide between the Cafe and 9 Flags Bar.
We decided on 9 Flags, since it seemed cozier and had an interesting crowd at about 7. The menu looked intriguing. We ordered a chicken Caesar salad and "Gruene Chicken Enchiladas". The cornbread croutons on the salad were good enough to be an appetizer. The Mexican dish was an amazing mix of sophisticated flavors! I can't begin to explain! Yum!
After dinner, we headed out to the patio and enjoyed the view across the pool and building, bathed in pastel lights.
The temps had dropped quite a bit, so we asked at the desk about the fire pit. It took a little while, but before long the fire was lit. What a treat! We sat outside on that chilly night, talking about our past week traveling through OK, MO and AR. A nice way to wind down.
We were pleasantly surprised with our stay! We got to enjoy a retro modern hotel, in the oldest city in Texas!
I'm glad the the DeWitt family stepped in, to bring this hotel back to the community in 2017! What a great job.
Chain Hotel in the Blog?
When Don and I travel, we shy away from chains, because we like surprises. Hotel chains are predictable and don't usually make it into the Notable Nights Blog.
I just love the idea. Refurbish an old building in an urban area. Fill it with a luxurious hotel, an upscale restaurant and a modern art museum. Along with that, throw in lots of curious stuff!
The first of its hotels opened in 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky. Soon they will have 11 of these artsy, city hotels. They aren't in hip NYC or trendy Austin, but in states like Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee. Love that.
When Don and I started planning our road trip through Arkansas, we were thrilled to learn that Bentonville had a 21c hotel. But, the hotel was in a new building, with no history. There would be no city vibe. Blog worthy? We decided to find out.
Before we got curious about the hotel, we were interested in the Arkansas town... which is known to some, as the Birthplace of Walmart.
Whether you're a fan of Walmart or not, the Walton name has a lot to do with Bentonville history. I've actually been sort of intrigued with Sam Walton, since my history prof in the '70's spoke of him...
Downtown Bentonville looked charming, when we arrived last November. It was easy to imagine locals strolling down the sidewalk, back when Sam and his wife first opened Walton's 5 & 10 Variety Store.
70 years later, the original 5 & 10 Store is still open on Main Street... and there are over 50,000 residents!
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
61 years after Sam Walton opened his store, his daughter founded Crystal Bridges. The town began to explode. Like many, Don and I were lured to Bentonville, because of the museum.
The 217,000 square foot museum opened in 2011 and began attracting tourists quickly. Obviously, they needed more hotels.
Now... About the Hotel
Don and I were eager to experience a little of this now popular town. We had one day & night, so we hit the museum early. (Wonderful!) Then we headed to the hotel, about a mile away.
As we approached, the hotel looked clean and modern against the blue sky. I hoped there would be some good surprises in the somewhat stark building.
The old downtown area was bustling with festivities, leading up to the town's tree lighting ceremony. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street, across from the skating rink. Wish we'd had time to skate!
We rolled our bags down the walk. As we got closer, the brick and glass building started to look more intriguing. We passed a lineup of windows, jutting out on the sidewalk. Odd!
Before reaching the entrance I spotted our first art surprise.
A sweet bee sculpture was clinging to the brick. He looked like he was heading up to the sign, that wrapped the corner. "The Hive Restaurant" Glad he pointed it out.
We walked past the entrance so I could take a quick hotel pic, without people around. A little later, the area was swarming with crowds, enjoying festivities.
The Fleetwood Cadillac limousine was a fun surprise. The green penguins, perched on the roof added a little extra amusement! They looked like they were guarding the place.
A chained off space beside the building, held a towering sculpture called, "Orange Tree". The balls and hoops tempted me to play, but it was obviously meant to be enjoyed with eyes only.
Two very friendly valet guys opened the entry doors, as we came through with our bags. They made us feel like we were entering a gracious old hotel.
The lobby looked nothing like a gracious old hotel. The airy space was more art gallery, than lobby. The registration desk was a simple table with stools and computers and a very welcoming staff.
Don checked us in and I checked out the art. I was drawn to the boats that floated along the white wall.
When I stepped closer to examine each piece, the art became eerier. Each boat felt like it was from a different dream. I really liked them, but I hoped I wouldn't dream about them.
Across from the desk was a snaking, couch. The divided gray pieces reminded me of cushy dominoes. They seemed ready for me to trigger some action, with a little tap. At the end of the curvy lineup was a treadmill... which was part of an art installation and not for running. Was the couch art? Should I sit on it?
Two years ago, Don and I stayed at another 21c, in Kansas City. We knew a bit of what to expect. The hotels all have permanent art galleries, as well as traveling exhibits that rotate through their hotels.
What a shame that the current rotation exhibit in Bentonville, was the same one we saw in Kansas City! I recognized most of the thought provoking pieces from the "Refuge" collection.
"Sudden Gust of Wind"
Before heading up to our room, I peered down this hall. I could see the narrow windows, that we had passed earlier on the sidewalk.
A glance at the walls and ceiling, made me feel like a sudden cyclone had just busted out all the window glass. It looked like the wind had scattered a huge pile of papers! Those "flying" pieces of paper, were really 400 pieces of metal.
Clearly, our hotel didn't restrict art to the galleries. We passed a light fixture, that was a work of art. It didn't need a spotlight, since it was one.
While we waited for the elevator, I noticed movement behind us. The wall-like structure, suddenly seemed aware of us. Our movement sent the fan-like discs whirling. The shadow on the wall also came to life! Hard to capture in a still photo.
4th Floor Walls
We asked for a room on an upper floor and got our wish. We headed up to the 4th floor, which is the top floor. That's high for Bentonville.
When the elevator doors opened, we colorful surprise.
Even though I was excited to get to our room, I had to stop and stare at the wall. I was fascinated by the green design, that surrounded the emergency info panels. Were those faces? The patterns below, looked like intricate rugs, perfect for an elaborate dollhouse!
Who's in the Hall?
We turned down the hallway and I spotted one of the hotel's mascots!
I crossed fingers as we headed closer. Please be next to our door! Yep! He seemed to be guarding our room, #405.
Fun With Penguins
I love the 21c Penguins! Each hotel has their own colony. Guests are encouraged to interact with them.
I welcomed our Green Friend into the room for a visit. We checked out the view and looked through some books.
The whole penguin thing started as a temporary exhibit with the opening of the first hotel in 2006.
People fell in love with the red penguins in Louisville, so they stayed. Now, all the hotels have them. I loved our green guy. He looked perplexed when I talked into the receiver, which plugged into my cellphone. (another room perk)
Don and I met our first penguin at the Kansas City hotel. They had sky blue penguins there, which seemed to all disappear into guest rooms, later that evening. Staff claimed that the penguin kidnappings were due to the large number of "kids" staying that night.
That memory kept us from hogging our green guy for too long. After a while, Don took him to the elevator and faced him towards the doors, so he could properly await new guests. An hour later, he was riding the elevator...
More Room Perks
Our room wasn't cheap. Over $300. in a small town, is a lot to me. But the room was hip and spacious and scattered with animals. There was a hen pillow and dog pillow and a mighty fine hippo collage.
In the bathroom, there was another critter. The rubber ducky in the shower would have preferred a tub... like me. But the bathroom's sleek design, glowing mirror and soft robes made up for the lack of tub!
The hotel's Hive Lounge was super crowded, so we enjoyed our own happy hour with a view. I'm sure the lounge wouldn't have been as generous with olives, as Don!
We sat near the window and let it entertain us. We peered down at the orange, "Hoop Tree" and out towards the water tower. Later that night, we gazed down at the lit trees, on the square.
Around 8:00, we headed down to the restaurant and surrounded ourselves with honeycombs, bees and vines.
I also missed the meaning. I read that there was a serious element, to what I thought was whimsical art. The hidden treasures were more sobering than fun. (hidden skulls etc.) The bees looked cute, but there was a message, reminding us about current concerns, with honeybees and environment.
Waiting for a Table
We were told the wait could be 30 minutes for a table, so I made a quick dash while Don did the waiting.
I trotted down a block, with my camera and caught the last of the festivities. The live music had ended at 8, but Santa was still seated in his sleigh outside of Walton's. The trees looked like they wore glowing hairnets! I felt like I had stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie!
I returned, just as a table opened up in the back corner. It was a fun spot, for taking in the beehive art and watching diners interacting with penguins.
Jessica was our very energetic server. Her black lipstick, colorful glasses and stories, made everything more entertaining. We worked up an appetite while Jessica raved about the chef's specialties.
I was cautious about saving room for the special treat, that I'd observed other diners enjoying.
Cotton Candy With Our Friend!
I've been to a restaurant or two that offered free popcorn, but never cotton candy! I was giddy when Jessica brought our complimentary bags to the table.
As we nibbled, I saw the table across from us leave. I asked Jessica if she could grab their penguin for us. She whirled around and delivered the green guy right to us. Then when I asked her to take our picture she got serious. "Oh we need to stage this!" She cleared our dirty dishes and moved our friend to a better spot. Oh I do love to play at dinner!
The rest of our evening was lovely and we headed out happy the next day.
Our hotel could have been floating at sea and we'd have been content exploring and relaxing inside. But the location in Bentonville was a huge plus. My memory will be a combination of our hotel, the colorful town square and of course the Crystal Bridges Museum.
But let us not forget the penguins! I was afraid I might tire of the fun, but no. Yay for green penguins!
Over the years, Don and I have done some exploring in the Missouri Ozarks. We only learned recently about the town of Hollister. We were excited when we heard the small town had an historic hotel.
That's because there wasn't much to talk about. By the 1960's tourism had fizzled in the old resort town.
Back in the Day!
It was just this past year that Don and I both became aware of the town. It was my grandmother's "A Line A Day" diary that mentioned Hollister frequently.
In the early 1920's, my grandmother Daw, was a young woman. For a number of years, she jotted notes in her little red book about her daily activities. I was most intrigued when she talked about the long weekends she spent with her sister and friends in the town of Hollister. She never mentioned Ye English Inn, but she wrote about swimming and picnicking and she used the word camp a lot. I wondered about this river resort area, with all its clubs and camps.
England in the Ozarks
Don was equally curious, so in November we headed for Hollister, to spend a night at the inn. The winding drive through the Ozarks reminded me of childhood trips, riding through "hillbilly country" in the station wagon, with windows down...
But when we arrived in Hollister, we saw no cedar shacks or wild west facades. All the buildings on Downing Street were stone and timber. The little English Village faced the train tracks, almost like an Elizabethan version of Silver Dollar City.
Hollister got their first post office in 1904, about the same time Daw and her family took the train to the St. Louis World's Fair. There were no trains or tourists in Hollister at that time.
Hollister was a remote town when the train depot opened in 1910. William Johnson was the realtor who predicted a boom in tourism and built the English style hotel, 2 years later. In 1913 it was decided that all the buildings on Front Street, should have half-timber exteriors. The street name changed to Downing in 1963.
This vintage photo shows what passengers would have seen around 1912, when their the train pulled into the Hollister Depot.
The Bank of Hollister was on the corner next to the inn. The hotel only had two stories then. The words on the window said "English Inn Hotel". Maybe the "Ye" came later. I know the "Olde" didn't get added until a decade ago.
Folks can't do their banking on the corner anymore. The bank closed in 1934.
However, I could have stopped in and had my hair and nails done inside the cute little building. Sadly, many of the shops past the hotel, were not open.
By the 1920's, tourism was booming in Hollister. The hotel expanded to 3 floors and a dining room was added. Tourists would line up on the sidewalk for Sunday's meal, served on white tablecloths.
I'm not sure if Daw ever enjoyed a Sunday meal at the inn. She did mention going to some church revivals, though. I so wish I could find old photos!
Today, Downing Street Pour House Restaurant & Bar occupies the space on the right, under the awning. No lines, but the place was hopping by evening.
In We Go!
I was excited to step inside, since the website photos kind of confused me. I needed to be convinced that the stone fireplace and timber accents were original.
At a glance, the interior stonework did have sort of a stage set feel. But the chunky limestone rocks were solid. The lobby matched up perfectly with a vintage photo from over 100 years ago.
What a crazy design, with all the curves and primitive stonework! Evidently there were some fun things built into the rock. I'm afraid I didn't find the fish and ship, in the stonework. I should have asked.
I snapped more pictures while Don checked us in. From the entrance, the stairs seemed to disappear into a hole in the ceiling.
When I walked past the stairs, I could see that the steps led to an s-shaped balcony. There were beams in the ceiling and stucco on the upper walls. None of this looked like a turn of the 20th century hotel, in Missouri.
Flood of 1943
Across from the stairs there was a mark on the wall, to show how high the water rose in the flood of 1943. Another photo showed the owner paddling a canoe in the lobby.
The town and hotel had already been suffering from a decline in tourism. Frequent flooding and The Depression didn't help. Sadly, the popularity of car travel lured tourists to other places. The hotel closed in 1951.
A quick peek at some adjoining rooms, made me see that the space had been remodeled in recent years. We asked our chatty host a few questions.
She didn't know much of the hotel's early history, but she knew the inn was purchased in 2010, by a writer named Janet Dailey. We learned that she died a couple years after opening.
Janet Dailey had an appreciation for the hotel's history. She and her partners renovated and reopened in 2011. As we climbed the stairs I thought about what we had learned an hour earlier from another local, in the coffee shop.
As we reached the lounge area on the second floor, I wondered about the hotel's eerie past. The local woman told us there had been 2 deaths in the hotel and that she had been asked to help with a visiting ghost hunter team. Yikes.
Up to Third Floor
Don and I headed up to the next floor, even though our room was on the second. This was the "newer" addition, but it felt older and creepier.
The curling stairway took us up to a hallway, with a thick archway and dark red painted walls.
Let's just say that both deaths occurred when guests died peacefully in their sleep... way down that hall... away from our room.
We booked "The Buckingham" room, which was tucked into the corner of the second floor sitting area.
The red and brown decor was a little kitschy, but I was all for it. I'm glad Ms. Dailey and her crew did not come in and gut the place. I like to visualize the past. Plus, swanky hotels have swanky rates.
Don and I usually pick lower priced rooms when booking, but we could afford one of the hotel's bigger rooms.
We had ample space, with robes and reading lamps... and lots of history, for just over $100. And how about that red carpet!
There was a ceiling light with a hidden fan and a floor heater if needed. There was a TV, but we didn't use it. We did make use of the luggage rack and the bench at the foot of the bed. Nice perk for people who live out of suitcases!
A Room in the Old Part
I was glad our room was in the front of the older section. In the exterior photo, our 2 windows can be seen on the left.
I loved having a set of chairs and windows looking down, over the train depot.
It was just November, but things were starting to look festive.
I was glad to have a window in the bathroom as well.
It was Friday night, so we made good use of the adjoining restaurant. The tables were all filled with what appeared to be locals at 6:00.
Don and I grabbed seats at the bar. We were happy the place seemed to be popular.
Even though he was super busy, Adam took good care of us. He also had some interesting trivia about the history of Table Rock Lake. He was much more entertaining than the guy with lame jokes, sitting next to Don. No photo of him.
We ordered dinner at the bar. Onion soup, salad, burger... all delicious. I had a good time studying the old parts of the bar... and doing a little people watching through the mirrors.
Coffee & Fire
After dinner, we got an Irish Coffee and shared it by the fire.
We flipped through old scrapbooks with hotel history and photos.
Checking on Things
Throughout the evening, I had to check on things repeatedly. Now and then I dashed upstairs to peek out our window.
We had a great view of the Branson Scenic Railroad, when it came through and stopped a couple of times.
I also had to step outside and check on the Christmas decorations. There was a lot of activity with Santa and Elves, when the train stopped. I'm not sure what that was all about!
And I had to check on the weather. Those are big raindrops, not snow. Snow would have been nice.
We slept well and heard no train whistles in the night. I wouldn't have minded.
In the morning we rose early and grabbed coffee, just outside our door. There were a few food options, but we headed off early to explore.
Wandering in Hollister
The town was quiet on Saturday morning. We had a nice walk and met a nice man and his dog. Here are some photos from the morning and the day before.
We found some old houses up in the hills and we found 230 steps that children once climbed, to reach the school. We found a closed antique shop and a park. I wish we'd had time to explore Turkey Creek or White River. That's probably where Daw cooled off in the summer.
We stayed in a British style inn, with gables and stone and timber... but we were in the Missouri Ozarks. That's unique right there.
Most of all I loved feeling connected to the area, through my grandmother. I so wish Daw was still with us, so I could ask her questions.
Just yesterday I called my dad in Springfield and asked him what he knew of the town. "Hollister!" He answered, "We used to stay in cabins in Hollister when I was a kid." What!? Next time we visit Missouri, we'll take Dad as our tour guide!
Rustic Luxury in the Ozarks
In late November, Don and I enjoyed the scenic drive towards Big Cedar Lodge. We both chuckled to see the yellow "Bass Pro Shop" logo, above the sign.
I wasn't sure about this. I like a little luxury now and then and I'm always game for rustic. But I'm not keen on a gimmicky combination. I've always questioned this resort, created by Johnny Morris, 30+ years ago. Would it be like staying in one his 70+, mega stores?
I liked the idea of a lodge, but I hardly needed a resort. I liked the idea of staying a night in the Missouri Ozarks, but I didn't care that we'd be conveniently close to touristy town of Branson.
Then, Don found reduced winter rates and I was suddenly game. It could be a fun stop on our Missouri road trip. It might not make the Notable Night list, but the off season prices convinced us to check the place out.
Okay, I'm Excited
We followed the road, hoping to find the registration office. With lodges and cabins scattered over thousands of acres of property, it was mind-boggling.
The drive was pretty, even if we'd mostly missed the fall colors. That would have been spectacular. But lucky for us, Big Cedar had decorated early for Christmas. The kid in me started getting excited.
After passing over a bridge or two, we spotted two white buildings. We could also see a glimpse of Table Rock Lake behind.
Was that an enormous Cedar tree, to the right of the road? I believe there was a star on top of that gigantic tree!
Old or New?
As we approached the Welcome Center, I wondered if this was one of the old buildings that was saved and refurbished, when the property was bought in 1987. I liked knowing Johnny Morris appreciated old. I also liked hearing that Morris' first business was selling fishing tackle from his dad's store as a kid. He was an Ozark boy!
The white, welcome center was pretty and classic, but not historic. They did a darn good job, if I couldn't tell.
The lobby was gigantic, with an amazing mix of rustic wood & stone. I spotted an upside down canoe, hanging near the skylight.
The center of the grand space was filled with a twinkling, winter display.
Above the snowy scene, was a soaring cast-iron chandelier. I spied fish and tree branches and deer. It was like searching for Hidden Pictures in my childhood Highlights magazine!
We were greeted by a friendly woman at a massive, lobby desk.
I stood back and just stared at the textured wood, with panels of metal art. It was hard to believe this was all crafted in recent decades. Usually you have to go to historic lodges like Yellowstone, to find such large and well-made pieces.
I love traveling off season. On a Tuesday in November, we seemed to have the place to ourselves. I wanted to come back later and sit in this corner of the lobby, with lake-facing windows and stone fireplace.
We did return to the lobby later, but found a different spot.
We enjoyed the leather couch after the sun got lower. Just a bit of light illuminated the upper stained glass.
The lobby also held a Lincoln Log table, with cute built in seats! A nice family kindly let me join in for a bit!
The Worman House
Soon after we checked in, we found two of the original vacation homes built by Mr. Worman and Mr. Simmons. They were the wealthy Missouri men who bought 300 acres near an arm of the White River in the 1920's. That was decades before Table Rock Lake existed. The area was known as Big Cedar Hollow.
The Worman home was a lovely stone and stucco house. The stained glass windows were gorgeous in the afternoon light. I assume the Carriage House next door, was also original.
Simmons Log Mansion
We found the old Simmons' home, closer to our cabin. It now houses the Devil's Pool Restaurant.
I couldn't find a vintage photo showing how the "log mansion" looked, when it was the Simmons' resort home in twenties and thirties.
Today the restaurant looks over a curvy pool with no diving board... and no bathing beauties. At least not in November.
The log exterior was somewhat hidden behind decks and glass, but we could see the same narrow chimney, visible in the old photo.
Spring View Lodge
We wandered around the pool and spa, then peeked at the lodge next door. It was a fun surprise to find historic lodging from the 1940's.
The website didn't talk this up, but if we'd known this log lodge was historic, we'd have booked our night there. I wonder who stayed here in the '40's? Hunters, fishermen, families?
Our Little Cottage
We booked one of the duplex cottages, across from the lodge. It looked old, but I couldn't find any info about when these were added.
We were excited to see the stone chimney and firewood, ready for burning.
The cottage interior was pretty sweet. The knotty pine reminded us of some of the dusty and musty cabins we've stayed in, over the years! But we didn't spot a cobweb or catch a whiff of mildew.
It could have been a little creepy sleeping beneath a deer head, but I was in the "when in Rome" spirit. The taxidermy, antler chandelier and fox fur made it feel like an old hunting cabin. The fish on the lamps and drawers, also fit the theme.
The bed was as comfy as it gets, with the linens and Pendleton blanket. The earthy, lodge furniture was well made. Actually, I guess a real hunting cabin would never be like this!
The biggest surprise was finding a lit Christmas tree next to the fireplace.
Later that evening we moved the Old Hickory style chair aside, so Don could make a fire.
We got into the comfy hotel robes and enjoyed tree-shaped ginger cookies, that were waiting for us... along with a recipe card.
The bathroom was worthy of 2 photos. I soaked in the Jacuzzi tub and took in all the features. Even the smoke detector was worth noting. It was cleverly hidden behind a metal, leaf-shaped decoration.
Everything was pretty top notch in our little bathroom from bead board to the vanity, to the Old Hickory mirror. Only issue... a very startling jacuzzi cleaning system, with a piercing sound that made me leap in the air!
Don and I loved not having to drive anywhere. It took 1 minute to walk to dinner. First we checked out the Buzzard Bar, in the lower level of Devil's Pool Restaurant.
The tables were full (unlike photo) when we arrived. We sat at the bar for a bit, but it was loud and the chatty man next to us, wanted to talk about nothing but himself and hunting...
Devil's Pool Restaurant
We graciously slipped away with our drinks and headed upstairs to peek into the main dining room. The restaurant was full of guests, but nice and roomy and much quieter.
There was a wait for a table, so we headed to a different bar, connected to the restaurant.
The beautiful bar near the cozy fireplace, was totally empty. We ordered some tasty pulled pork, salad and potato soup. We dined and chatted and wondered more about the history.
What We Learned
We got a few questions answered by staff, but mostly the internet helped us piece together some of the mysteries of this huge place.
This beautiful area in the Ozarks was once home to the Osage Indians. Supposedly they were the ones who gave the name Devils' Pool, to the deep spring that was once on the property. In 1958 the river was damned to create the lake and Devil's Pool pretty much disappeared.
Church and Bridge
Looking at the map of the entire resort was mind boggling. It was easier to just absorb the buildings and pathways near our cottage.
I don't believe the little church and Devil's Pool Bridge were old, but they were built nicely, into the landscape.
We didn't get down to the marina to see the boats, but we saw this one, with Santa.
Even if we'd been staying a week, the thought of so many options sort of wore me out.
It's nice that they offer so much for those who care, but my favorite part was just wandering. The best part was walking after dark, with a chill in the air and a zillion lights.
Those Christmas lights made me a happy kid... instead of an eye-rolling teenager. It's easy for me to play travel snob. I'm too cool for a mega resort. But, luckily there was lots that pleased us.
We slept well in our woodsy cottage. In the morning we got coffee at the Truman Cafe. What's the history with that sweet building?
We took our warm drinks to the lobby and enjoyed a little Christmas decor before checking out.
Our one night at Big Cedar was full of little surprises.
Most of all I loved discovering lots of little bits of history about the property and learning a little about the "low-key billionaire" who created this resort. Our one night was worthy and notable!
Frank Lloyd Wright in Oklahoma!
We did it! Don and I finally spent a night in Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper!
I guess not. Phillips had some issues with the building and used it mostly for storage. Thankfully, they donated the building to Price Tower Arts Center in 2000. Today it houses hotel rooms and much more.
Bartlesville & The Tower 2019
Don and I rolled into town on a Monday afternoon, in November. It was easy to spot the skyscraper. Oh, how I love that retro word!
I have a feeling that this very view of the tower (with the street and shops) hasn't changed a whole lot in 60+ years.
"The Tree That Escaped the Crowded Forest"
The sight of the lone tower was pretty dramatic as we approached. What an unusual design, even for Frank Lloyd Wright!
Wright nicknamed the tower, the tree that escaped the crowded forest. The skyscraper wouldn't have looked nearly so tall and unusual, in a crowded city.
Cantilevered Reinforced Concrete Tower
We parked in the nearby lot and headed to the lobby. The asymmetrical building looked like it was balanced at the end of a diving board. I was ready to get a huge lesson in architecture and construction.
Nature and architecture! The tower was the tree trunk, with some kind of anchoring structure, acting as roots. The floors, "cantilevered" from the core, like branches. The outer walls were actually hanging from the floors. All mind boggling to me!
The lobby was quiet and colorful! We passed some curious built-in chairs, before stepping into a stunning space, now called the Taliesin Room. Josue greeted us from behind the desk.
After checking us in, he kindly gave us a bit of a mini tour. It was Monday, which meant no regular tours and no restaurant. He was pretty delightful with his enthusiasm.
He sent us upstairs to see the their permanent museum. He pointed out the crazy angles in the stairs and the aluminum hand rail.
In the museum, we spotted a copper panel, like the greenish ones on the exterior. It was crazy to see the bright copper as it was, before being treated to hurry the weathering effect.
What a treat to have this complimentary museum all to ourselves. Both of us loved the P-Tower model. Don studied it like an engineer. I looked at it with my dollhouse-maker eyes. I love miniature things and how they're made.
Originally, most of floors in Price Tower were used for office space. I wonder what kinds of things cluttered that particular desk, 60 years ago?
"Willows and Reflections" Added in 1979
Josue insisted we needed a photo of the two of us, with the 25-ft long, cloisonee mural.
We were happy to pose with the fabulous copper & enamel, willow scene. The branches hung behind us... their shapes and colors, "reflected" in the table! So gorgeous! But, now I sort of cringe to see our silly selves in our drab colors, invading that colorful scene!
Heading up to our room was an adventure! The oddly shaped core of the building, held 3 elevator shafts... or were there 4? I just remember standing in the hall center, surrounded by doors.
We grinned as we entered the tiny elevator, ready to ride to the 13th floor.
We stepped out to see a porcelain water fountain, a shiny, brass floor design and 4 guest room doors.
Our "Glass-Wrapped" Room!
The hefty door let us into our 430 sq-ft room. There are 19 hotel rooms now, but none in 1956. The upper floors had been office space and the Price Family penthouse. There had been apartments and shops and businesses below.
What a great office this would have been, back in the day. I wouldn't have minded a desk job, with all those windows to distract me. Lots of sunshine too! The sheer curtains kept us from being blinded by sunlight.
Once inside the confusing structure, we started to make connections with what we'd seen of the exterior. Those long, horizontal windows weren't so visible from the outside.
Once inside, we could actually open the windows to let in air. Some of the exterior copper panels worked like sun shades... just like leaves on tree branches! This was all pretty fun and curious!
Don and I were both giddy, absorbing every nook and cranny. The room shape itself was playfully geometric. No right angles.
There were non-parallel lines everywhere, in the furniture, wallpaper and on the fabrics and carpet.
I counted 10 triangle-lights on the ceiling. There were triangle shapes on the wallpaper.
There was even a triangular waste basket, tucked into the mod desk. And look at all the electrical sockets. This 64 year old office space was built for today's technology!
Copper & Concrete
The dressing/bath end of our room was a fun mix of concrete, wood and copper. It was fun to see the exposed concrete floor with Wright's favorite, Cherokee Red.
The sink and vanity area had lots of copper, in the furniture accents, hanging light fixtures and towel rack.
Love a Quirky Bathroom!
I'm all about the memories. I'm happy to put up with some inconvenience, to have a memorable experience. I won't forget our bathroom, with its tiny green tile.
The toilet was mounted from the wall. A cantilevered toilet? Maybe not. But it amused me. Don't jails have toilets like that? And copper pipes, holding our toilet paper and towels! Love it! All was clean and fine with me!
Our oddly-shaped shower couldn't have been cuter, with its triangle shelf and seat! I was too impatient to wait for the hot water, so took a cold one... kind of like I was in jail. Don showered next and said it was wonderfully hot. And how about that great corner window?
We had a fabulous view from the bathroom window. Later when outside, I spotted our corner windows, surrounded by those greenish copper panels! The "patinated" copper represented the "leaves" of Wright's escaped tree!
I can't say enough about the windows. All 18 were trimmed in aluminum, with handles that reminded me of my grade school. We opened some up at 4:00 pm and heard church bells and a train whistle.
Having open windows and good weather, was a huge treat. Having window views from the 13th floor, was even better.
It was fun to see the buildings in Bartlesville and to wonder which were there when Price Tower was built.
It seemed pretty peaceful for a small city.
Sunset and Nighttime
Since the bar was closed, we made our own drinks and toasted to the sunset, over the distant prairie landscape. Were those Osage Hills, far off?
The prairie view would have been a little more dramatic 60+ years ago, but we could see the horizon! It was dark before we headed out for dinner. The town was quiet, but we found the lively Painted Horse Bar/Cafe, within walking distance.
We slept well with our windows open and woke to the sound of church bells. 8 chimes... at 7:00. Funny.
We headed to floor 16 for the complimentary breakfast. The door to the hotel bar was locked, so I couldn't get a peek. But we at least got to experience the dining space.
I think we were the only hotel guests. We had the pick of all tables in two rooms. The soft jazz music was lovely.
The outdoor areas looked pleasant. We sipped our coffee and enjoyed the view. The breakfast options were not a bit exciting, but from everything I've heard, the restaurant itself is worth a trip to Bartlesville. Next time!
Don and I had to take off before the first tour at 11. It seemed sinful to leave without seeing the upper floors, with Harold Price's penthouse and the corporate offices.
I'm a little confused about the timing, but Phillips basically did not end up using the building for much more than storage. These unsafe stairs were evidently one of the reasons.
One Last Look
We checked out at 10, knowing we'd have to come back another time... for a tour and a meal and visit to the art gallery that we had also missed. But we took one last look from the outside.
Maybe we can return in the spring of 2020 when the nearby park is completed. We can do all we missed, plus have a picnic with a view of the 221-foot tree!
The obvious, is that we stayed in a masterpiece created by Frank Lloyd Wright.
...be open to observing and exploring and learning about all that was created by a man in his 80's!
This was a pretty amazing stay for about $145. in 2019! You don't have to be rich either!
A Night in Berkeley
While visiting the San Francisco Bay area in October, Don and I decided to spend a night in Berkeley.
Neither of us had ever visited the city, which is home to University of California's oldest campus. It sounded fun.
I kind of shy away from the word CLUB. It makes me think of exclusive country clubs... places that aren't welcoming to all. But this had once been a club for women in the twenties! I had to read on!
Before booking, I read about the building and the woman who designed it. It was intriguing and reasonably priced! Don was game to stay, even though it had once been a club... that was not so welcoming to men... at least until 1962. Thanks Don!
I headed in while Don parked. Street parking! That was a treat, since the night before we'd paid 76 dollars, to valet park at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel.
Designed by Julia Morgan
As I approached the building, I only knew a few things.
I was surprised to learn that Morgan was also connected to The Fairmont, which was the hotel we had stayed in, the night before.
The Fairmont & The Earthquake
During our SF stay, Don and I learned a lot about the 1906 earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco. We learned that our lavish hotel, on top of Nob Hill survived the initial earthquake, but not the fires that followed.
How crazy that Don and I spent two nights in a row, in hotels that were created or improved by Julia Morgan.
Back at The Berkeley
So, as Don unloaded the car, I headed towards our sturdy, massive, building. It looked like we would be staying in some kind of Italian Palazzo-Fortress, if there is such a thing. I was ready to learn more.
Too bad we didn't have a teeny tiny earthquake during our stay... just for the ultimate test.
As I approached the entrance, I could see the concrete flowers and embellishments around the door. Molded? I guess you don't carve concrete? I know so little.
Was this the entrance? Was this actually a hotel? I saw no obvious signs. I felt hesitant walking towards the door, since I couldn't remember if I'd gotten confirmation, when booking.
I glanced at the windows. The columns and arches reminded me of a fairytale castle. The doors with their diamond-paned leaded glass, were mighty impressive... and locked. I buzzed a buzzer and heard a voice. "May I help you?"
I heard a click and worked with two hands to open the heavy door.
This was my first glimpse at the interior! Wow! I hoped this wasn't a flubbed reservation, because I really wanted to stay in this building. It looked like a church and I've never spent the night in a church.
To the right of the entrance was a desk, where I spotted two women looking over paperwork. This is the only photo I took that includes a peek at that space.
The women who quietly worked behind the desk reminded me of librarians or nuns or professors. I felt like I should whisper when I inquired about our reservations.
We Are Guests
Whew, I was helped by a very kind woman who found our reservations. This was indeed our hotel.
However, this lovely Gothic building offered much more than hotel rooms. Locals can become City Club members and use the numerous lounge and meetings spaces... or the amazing pool, which was down this hall.
I was in awe of the vaulted ceilings and the wrought-iron chandeliers. I was very much in love with the sweet bear-like creatures who were perched here and there, when I walked up the stairs.
We were glad we didn't have to hike the stairs with our bags up to our 5th floor room.
However the old elevators were a little slow and wonky. Luckily they got us to the floor and the clanky noise didn't bother us in our room... which was next to the elevators.
We peeked down the hallways before stepping into our room.
There are now 38 hotel rooms, but I had the feeling we were the only guests. I wondered about the women who used to stay here in the 30's and 40's.
Our corner room was simple and basic. The door almost bonked the corner of the queen bed, when we opened.
There was no TV, but we had some appealing artwork and great windows for our entertainment. I'm not being at all sarcastic. It was peaceful and cozy.
I liked the old radiators and the wicker chair for lounging or reading. The desk was very sweet. I wish it could have inspired me to write a letter... or a novel.
Love the Bathroom
If I had been staying a month, I might have hoped for a little more bathroom luxury. But we were staying one night. I actually loved this oddly shaped bathroom. I felt like I was in a film noir movie scene, when I brushed my teeth.
The floor and tub tile was retro fun. The curtain around the trough-like tub, meant Don got his shower and I got to soak. The wooden medicine cabinet was handy with its little shelf. The frosted, metal-framed window opened up, to a view of the campus!
But, we actually spent little time in the room.
It was time to get out and explore the City Club Building.
It was late on a Monday afternoon and all seemed very quiet.
Don and I searched for a good place to relax a bit before dinner. The library was nice, but there were a couple of men quietly studying their laptops. We moved on.
We found a piano and maybe I should have played! This Women's Club was after all, created to give women a place for social, cultural and recreational activity.
I was the most excited about seeing the pool, designed by Julia Morgan, over 90 years ago.
The 75-foot pool was empty, when we peeked at it from the viewing deck. I wonder if there were any swimmers at 5 am when it opened? I didn't check.
Later, we found a different door that took us to the pool deck, where we could see the beautiful arches and columns reflected in the water.
All To Ourselves
With no swimmers, the water was smooth enough to study the tile work. It was tempting to grab our suits and make use. But I saw a sign that said something about swim caps. Really?
We explored the locker rooms since no one was around. Don wandered through the men's area and I went through the women's. It looked like there were a few "men's" dressing rooms, spilling over into the women's area. Hmm?
There were some outside areas that we could have enjoyed, but the sun was getting low.
From the stairs, I peeked out one of the diamond panes and saw a little bas-relief panel on the wall. Surprises everywhere!
While wandering upstairs, we saw some activity, through the door to the auditorium. A very gracious man invited us in to look around.
He told us they were setting up an event. He shared a little history and encouraged us to peek out at the covered terrace/walkway. He gave us some suggestions for exploring the campus, later. Nice guy!
We continued to wander and wonder. I wasn't sure how this room was used today, but it was fun imagining it, when the Club opened in the thirties. Did women gather for lectures or musical performances? Were there once tables for reading and research?
The Women's Club Movement was much more than a social club. Women gathered to engage in recreation as well as education. They joined to get involved in civic activities and to rebuild their personal lives.
Morgan's Bar and Lounge
The hotel's bar looked classy, with dark wood bar and spacious seating. We were so disappointed it was closed on Monday.
We have learned so many wonderful tidbits from locals, in hotel bars. Being a block from Berkeley's campus and being associated with the City Club, we could have met some very interesting people here.
Since the bar was closed, we decided to make ourselves drinks in the room and carry them to one of the sitting rooms.
There were lots of game options. I spotted Scrabble and a chess board, nearby.
Books and Art
But I was more drawn to the art and books. The walls held an exhibit by Risa Lenore. Beneath each painting was the "forgotten snapshot" that inspired the art. Oh how I love that idea!
Then we both flipped through some nearby books. I took a photo of one book, with plans to put it on my Christmas list. What a beautiful (and informative) book!
Before dinner, we wandered the campus on a balmy Monday night. We were impressed to see so many students out and about. Clusters of activity... dance, Taekwondo, drumming, yoga.
As advised earlier, we wandered to Hearst Gymnasium, one of Julia Morgan's designs. It was spooky on the outside, but inside it was bright and active. Open doors revealed ballet and tango classes, karate and EMS training classes.
It was clearly Berkeley 2019. It was not 1929 or 1969! We wandered a few more blocks for a Chinese feast, then back to sleep well, at The Club!
We woke to sunshine, through our 3 windows. We dressed and headed early to Julia's Restaurant, for our complimentary breakfast.
It was extra nice having the breakfast option, since the restaurant had been closed the night before.
The simple buffet was not memorable, but the setting was perfect. There was an ornate fireplace and mirror, at one end. A wall of windows, looked out to a terrace, with potted flowers.
What a fun bit of news! RBG had been speaking at an auditorium, just a block away! It's too bad she couldn't have stopped by the historic Women's Club, afterwards... to mingle with the spirits of Julia Morgan and all the women from long ago... who would have fainted with joy to know that someday we would have a woman on the Supreme Court!
We had so many fun surprises! We spent a night in a concrete castle that happened to be a club.
Our stay exceeded expectations!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!