Deetjen's, Deetjen or Big Sur Inn?
While trip planning, I was so excited to run across Deetjen's on the internet! I'd never heard of the little inn, in Big Sur. The photos on the simple website, made the place look mysterious and magical. It became more intriguing when I learned from my sister, that she and my mother had once stayed here! Who knew?!
When we arrived for our 1-night stay in October, I spotted the little storybook sign. It confused me. It showed BIG SUR INN, in large letters. DEETJEN, was written on a tiny piece of wood, above. I'd seen Deetjen's with an apostrophe, on the website.
Helen and Helmuth's Inn
The name of the inn comes from the couple who created the collection of cabins and barns in the 1930's. Helen and Helmuth Deetjen began welcoming travelers, after CA Highway One was completed in 1937.
They built the first barn, with old materials from Monterey's Cannery Row. Other buildings were added over the years. All the rustic structures reflected Helmuth's woodworking skills and Norwegian roots. This postcard shows the Big Sur style that Mr. Deetjen made popular. Today, you can barely see any of the buildings, because of all the lush growth!
Big Sur is considered one of the most beautiful scenic stretches of undeveloped coastline in the US. Redwoods! Mountains! Coast! And very few hotels. Rates can be sky high.
I was thrilled to learn about this somewhat unknown inn, located right off Highway 1. It was Just minutes from beaches and Pfeiffer Big Sur National Park. And the rates began at $100! Well, that's a room with 1 single bed.
On the Road
We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and parked near the stack of wooden signs. Interesting that there was a permanent No Vacancy sign.
On the fence there were two more signs. "Slow Please" and Please Heed All Signs".
Since I was asked politely to heed all signs, I did. I carefully noted the words on the mailbox... which really only said Deetjen. But it was a darn cute "mail house"!
The sign saying, "Open From Dawn to Dusk But Not Always Awake" was hammered onto one of the old cabins. I'd read earlier that Mr. Deetjen, (also called Grandpa) loved to create amusing and curious signs and decorations.
The office was fairly hidden. The open door welcomed us.
Clarrisa greeted us from behind a desk. She was young and cheery, as she reminded us that there were no phones in the room or tvs or internet or cell service. She also reminded us that there were no room keys. But we could lock our doors, once we were inside.
I had booked us the Van Gogh Room, in the Hayloft Building. But before heading to our room, we wandered around to peek at the other cabins. Each unique structure blended into the nature that surrounded.
Stripes of white paint warned guests to duck as they climbed the stairs to the Chateau Fiasco unit.
It was amazing how small some of these properties appeared, beside the towering trees.
Some of the cabins were built beside the Castro Canyon Creek. Long before the first structure was built, Helmuth and Helen once lived near the creek, in a tent.
As we wandered the property, I almost felt like we should whisper. The few guests we saw were reading or strolling quietly. The inn has a history of attracting artists and writers. Was this inn designed for introverts?
Long before we arrived at the inn, I Googled the hotel's name and had a funny surprise. Urban Dictionary showed an actual meaning for the term Deetjens!
What a hoot! I doubt I'll ever meet anyone cool enough to use this term, but it can be used in a positive or negative way. Posh or Crappy! That is too funny! When I first read this, I hoped we would be inspired to use the positive definition, after our stay!
The Hayloft Building
Our guest room was housed in the Hayloft Building. This was the second structure on the property. It was completed in 1938.
The Deetjens built this 2-story, to allow for living quarters above and storage below. The upper level now holds 5 guest rooms, accessible by the exterior staircase on the side. Can you spot the little stone creature, in the landscaping?
At the top of the stairs there was an open window. It belonged to one of the 2 community bathrooms. Note to self... "Close that thing. You can see right in!"
The only available room with private bath, was over $400. We were fine with sharing a bath for one night. But this one was a real doozy! We spotted it right away when we stepped inside. There was a little wooden door and a wood ceiling.
But the tiny shower did not have a ceiling of its own. Don helped demonstrate the issue by waving his towel from the shower! It was very handy for getting help from anyone passing by!
Van Gogh Room
We needed no key for the Van Gogh room, because there are no keys. But I did scratch my head when I noticed the little bolt on the outside of the door. Would someone lock us in at bedtime?
I knew when I booked that our room was tiny and had 2 single beds. But we were saving bucks. It would do.
But would it do for Don? The slanting roofline dropped towards the window. Don's 6'2'' frame was in danger. I should have photographed his expression when he saw our room. He rubbed his head as if he'd already bumped it on the ceiling.
I started fretting. I wanted Don to be happy. His birthday was the next day and he'd been dealing with back issues. I knew the inn was fully booked, but maybe...? The door to The Fireplace Room was open. I was jealous of the people who had booked that room, with the high ceiling!
The other rooms down the hall appeared to be occupied, with closed doors. Then I saw the other bathroom. (5 guest rooms share 2 bathrooms) The second bathroom was closed off with caution tape. Are you kidding me?
I headed down to the office with fingers crossed. I looked up at the windows and the little balcony, that belonged to The Fireplace Room. It was almost time for the office to close at 4:00. Was it possible the Fireplace guests had cancelled?
Clarissa was getting ready to lock up. I told her I was worried about my husband in that tiny room... And she happily informed me the Fireplace Room was available. She also mentioned that it would be $145. extra. Sheesh, I thought. $275 for a room with no bath? But then I mentioned the broken bathroom and couldn't she give a little discount for that inconvenience.
Hip Hip Hooray!
I only got us a tiny discount, but suddenly price didn't matter. We were both so thrilled to suddenly have a spacious room, we could have done backflips. If either of us had been able.
The room couldn't have been more welcoming. I was charmed by the creamy white paint, on the wood walls, ceiling and rounded brick fireplace! The interior felt like a cottage in one of Hans Christian Anderson's fairytales.
The corner room was filled with light and breeze, from the open windows. A Dutch door opened onto a little porch. Plus, there were 2 chairs in the room and they were actually comfortable.
I loved the split door. I was reminded of the old TV show Mr. Ed. When the bottom of the door was closed, I expected to see Mr. Ed (the horse) pop his head through the top, to have a chat!
When we stepped onto the porch, we found a wooden table and 2 chairs with pillows.
There were some curious carved posts, holding the railing. It looked like some of Grandpa's old handiwork. They must have added boards later, to make it safer.
There were views in all directions. The hill behind had interesting gardens and a house. We had a great view of the restaurant, straight ahead.
The view showed us the side of Deetjen's Restaurant. The lighting was lovely on the porch and arbor.
We made reservations for 7:30, so we could make use of all the remaining daylight, on that October afternoon.
We explored the grounds, starting with the restaurant. We walked to the front of the restaurant, that faces Highway 1. It was originally a redwood barn, built to house some goats and Deetjen's workshop. That's when Helen and Helmuth lived in the tent.
In 1939, a refined Englishwoman name Barbara Blake came upon the property. It was the Depression, but she had money to invest and experience with operating inns. She leased the barn and turned it into a restaurant. Her success helped to fund future building projects on the property, into the 1960's.
Don and I continued to the opposite side of the restaurant building. We spotted one of the (at least two) hotel cats.
We followed the cat a bit. He ended up near the Hayloft Building, lounging near some bamboo.
Don was able to get the black kitty to come in for a little head scratching session. We were told by a guest, that if we left the top of our Dutch door open at night, we might end up sleeping with a cat. Sounds good to me!
As we wandered we found a few little surprises that were most likely created in Grandpa's workshop.
This "House of Cats" only had a ceramic cat when we examined it. I could picture Grandpa being a quiet guy who liked cats. I think Grandma was the social one.
I loved the wooden railing on one guest house. The rounded posts reminded me of when I used Milk Duds and Tootsie Rolls on a candy house, once.
The carved wood in this cozy sitting area, looked like it was practically alive. I loved the chair backs, like rays of sun. The table pedestal seemed to swirl!
We came back to our balcony for Happy Hour.
It was wonderful to watch the light changing. It was also fun watching guests as they began to arrive for dinner reservations.
Before long the sun was down and we spotted the moon through some branches.
I was glad we weren't diners arriving by car. The yellow doors were just steps away, for us.
It was dark and the air was cooling down, by the time we arrived at 7:30.
I had peeked in earlier, to get a photo of the room where we ended up dining.
We sat at the table to the left of the fireplace. Some of the paintings and decorative china, probably go back to the 1930's, when the restaurant opened.
The Long Table
The room in the rear had a slanted, beamed ceiling that went well with the wavy, wood floors. A long table with two benches occupied the center.
I read that Grandpa used to join friends and guests at a long table for meals. This must be the one. I imagine he carved those curious benches.
Our dinner experience could not have been better. Our server Ellie, had been there for 7 years. She raved about the chef who has been there about 20. It was clear that the staff worked well together.
We ordered local wine and Don enjoyed the special Sea Bass. I ordered a Pasta Primavera, packed with prawns and heavenly vegetables.
While we dined we enjoyed watching some of the other diners come and go. It wasn't your typical tourist crowd. I had the feeling that Deetjen's has been attracting interesting people, since it first opened.
While I was wondering about the past, the fluffy cat wandered in the open door. He walked over near the shelves of china and the portrait of Grandpa Deetjen. Yep, I think Grandpa was a cat person. Fluff was paying a call to his portrait.
After we finished, the restaurant was fairly empty. We walked past a staircase to peek at the old bar. I took the photo earlier in the day and had meant to ask what was at the top of the stairs.
I forgot, but I did get to ask about the bar. The beautiful old bar has been there since Ms. Blake opened the restaurant. I don't know about the piano. But I did ask about the odd display of rabbits sitting on top.
The woman behind the bar laughed that I'd noticed the realistic rabbit, lounging sideways in the pot. She said the staff had a good time moving those rabbits around. I loved knowing this staff enjoyed each other.
Back in the room, we made use of the wood burning stove. There was a nice supply of wood and newspaper. There were matches and tools.
Don got the fire going and it was peaceful and cozy, with one window still open.
Reading & Writing
No TV of course. So I attempted to read "Shepards of Pan on the Big Sur-Monterey Coast". It was a little tedious. Some of the serious guests I'd eyed earlier would have loved it.
The guest book was incredibly entertaining. I found artwork and poems and clever write-ups from past guests. I wrote a few positive words, but avoided the word MAGICAL, since every other guest used it. Then I slapped on a very fine quarter-sized sticker... of Don and me. Silly.
We slept well in our sweet room. Don woke to his birthday. A year before he had celebrated with open heart surgery on his birthday. This was very different. I lit a match and stuck it in his granola bar.
I grabbed complimentary coffee at the restaurant and we sat on the balcony while Don read cards. We'd celebrate more later.
Luckily we overheard someone talking about a path we could take on the property.
So we started Don's birthday (after coffee) with a hike up through the redwoods.
We passed a few "fallen" redwoods that we'd seen the day before.
We looked up to enjoy the incredible height of the redwoods.
Then we hiked further up a dirt road. We'd been told there was a bench with a beautiful view.
Here are photos (click to enlarge) of the views on our walk. It was incredible to hike above the tall trees and suddenly see the ocean below.
We found the bench, with a plaque. "Helen's Favorite Bench" We sat and took in the view. I spotted horses below and Don's good ears picked up the sound of whales. Then we spotted them! What a perfect birthday treat!
Deetjen's is as magical as you make it! It's not a place I'd recommend to everyone. Some people can't handle a shared bath or an unlocked door. Some get bored when they suddenly can't stare at their phones.
It certainly helped that the weather was glorious and that we switched to the cozy Fireplace Room. The setting and location couldn't have been better. The romantic restaurant with top notch food couldn't either. But the whole combination was made perfect because I was with a pretty darn wonderful travel companion, who is always GAME. Even with his aching back, he was game to enjoy this rustic retreat. This was indeed a memorable and notable night!
I would definitely say, Deetjen's is more POSH than CRAPPY!
The Jeffery was our motel for 2 nights in early October. The refurbished motel was quite decent, but the name annoyed me.
The Jeffrey. Sounds like a spiffy boutique hotel in Aspen. What was with that name?
Earlier that day, we had checked out from South Lake Tahoe's Zalanta. I'm not overly fond of that name either. Like a movie title... "Aliens from Zalanta". The word actually has origins in a Native American language, and it can be found on lists of names for girls. Interesting.
So enough on names. I was grumpy about leaving Zalanta and heading to The Jeffrey. It was hard leaving this lovely place with the ultimate location, near the lake AND ski slopes.
It was hard to leave a grand hotel where the staff greeted us by name, when we came and went.
That was mostly because we were the only guests in the entire hotel, for the first two of four nights.
It was hard to leave our third floor accommodations, with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
It was hard to leave the balcony on that fine sunny morning.
It was hard to leave the snazzy little fire table, where I warmed up on chilly mornings, while making my daily calls to check in on Dad.
It was hard to leave the swimming pool and hot tubs... which we had to ourselves.
So we left the luxurious Zalanta and I was grumpy. But not really about leaving the hotel. It was the people we were leaving.
We'd had 4 glorious days with our kids and spouses and our granddaughter. It's not a surprise that I was a little moody when we pulled up to The Jeffrey.
Motel & Trees
The little neighborhood motel was indeed cute. The towering pines surrounding us were lovely. I was glad to see no other cars. It was peaceful.
I was fine with "contactless check in". That's become more and more common since the pandemic. We're used to checking ourselves in at Airbnbs. No big deal.
We took a couple trips getting our bags upstairs. No elevator or luggage carts. Our updated motel room actually looked pretty nice. King bed, ceiling fan, bedside tables. Decent sized, mounted TV and a fireplace-heater.
The room was little stuffy. It didn't have the glorious spa smells of Zalanta.. But we had windows at both ends and I loved that we could open all the windows and get some good air flow.
"Kitchen" & Bath
There was even a tiny "kitchen" area with microwave and fridge. I wish I'd gotten a photo, when we turned on the mod light fixture in the evening. The 6 bulbs where comically bright! We joked that we needed sunglasses. We actually had to keep it off.
The whole place was spotless and the bathroom with fancy shower head, was much better than expected.
What the room lacked was a comfortable chair. Don's been dealing with serious back issues for a year. I should have known to check on that. The 2 chairs in the room were cute metal things. For him they were torturous.
There was a lobby area that could have offered couches, but it was under renovation. So we looked at the deck. There were about 6 different kinds of lawn furniture... and a fire pit that didn't work. Don tested the chairs and I "borrowed" his comfiest pick and lugged it to our room. He was happy.
We hunted for an ice machine and found none. Don texted the help number and we were told where the nearest grocery store was. "Did you ask about the broken fire pit?" I asked. Don had not. I growled.
I was in a bad mood. I suddenly wanted an old fashioned lobby with desk staff and ice and better communication. We headed for the grocery store and skipped the ice, but got salad fixings. We actually had a nice lunch on the sunny deck.
By evening, I'd stopped complaining like a Travel Diva. Don's back felt better and we both managed to relocate our usual Flexible Traveler personalities. We happened to see a maintenance man and eagerly asked him to help us figure out the fire pit.
We pulled some S'more fixings from the car and toasted up a few.
While Don checked his phone for dinner ideas, I watched the moon, rise in an opening in the trees. Our cozy deck wasn't ritzy, but it suddenly felt just right.
The next day, we made use of all that Tahoe had to offer, from mountains to water. But the best part was just a short walk from The Jeffrey.
We found this lovely beach park and had it to ourselves. The air was warm enough that I was able to stretch out on the rocky sand and let the icy water lap at my feet.
While I sat there I laughed to myself, about how grumpy we'd been the day before. We usually embrace old hotels, with lumpy beds, warped floors and leaky ceilings. It's part of the adventure. But we'd temporarily become picky, Everyday Travelers, just because we were a little tired and missed our kiddos.family. Just a reminder that we are human, with highs and lows.
We stayed in an updated motel, tucked into a pleasant little Lake Tahoe neighborhood. The room felt fresh and new. If there had been just one soft chair, I would have called the room comfy. We liked the isolated atmosphere, with the deck to ourselves. But we missed the warmth of real people, in a cozy lobby. The renovation looked close to being done. Maybe they'll even have an ice machine when work is completed!
Don and I recently spent one night at the Santa Maria Inn, while traveling the California coast.
This is not what we saw when we arrived. But this is what travelers in 1917 saw when they drove up on the El Camino Real. The road was dirt back then.
A green sign with gold letters, greeted us when we pulled off what is now, South Broadway. Behind the sign and fountain, stood a 6-story building and parking garage. It was part of the 164-room Santa Maria Inn.
The odd collection of old and new buildings looked very different from the quaint 24-room inn, that opened over a century ago.
1954 Ford Motor Company's Cookbook
It was our vintage cookbook that recently guided us to this historic hotel. A month before our trip, Don and I were finalizing plans for our road trip, when I grabbed the old book and flipped through the California section. I spotted the Santa Maria Inn and paused.
I did an internet search and was excited to learn that the 105 year old inn, was still in operation!
Charming... in 1954!
Don and I have made some major road trip detours, to hit some of the classic restaurants featured in our cookbook. This time we decided to make a detour for a meal AND an overnight. Fig pudding, if we were lucky!
We canceled a cute hotel in Solvang, CA and booked our Friday night at the Santa Maria. I kept fingers crossed that we wouldn't regret the decision. Reviews were questionable about the historic wing of the hotel. But how bad could it be?
Not My Usual Style
I prefer old, but the hotel's website seemed to spotlight Santa Maria's "new" addition. It was added in 1984... so not that new. I sort of cringed when I first laid eyes on the rambling complex. Not my style.
I'm sure the addition, with big picture windows was quite the thing, when it was built in the eighties. But that is not my favorite era for anything. Except for giving birth to my kids.
Frank McCoy's Inn
Luckily, I'd made it clear when I made reservations, that we wanted a room in the old building. We could see the original 2-story structure, to the right of the entrance. It looked different than the cookbook illustration. A clock tower had been added to hold an elevator. There were no vines.
The original Santa Maria Inn was the dream of Frank McCoy. Over 100 years ago, he built the Olde English-style inn, then filled it with art and surrounded it with gardens. McCoy's luxurious little inn catered to upscale travelers, needing accommodations between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The inn also became popular with movie stars, who were frequently invited to William Randolph Hearst's "Ranch". Back in those days, the 75 mile drive from Hollywood to Hearst's Castle, was more than a day's drive. Many of Hearst's guest spent a night at the inn, on their way.
After arriving, I headed for the lobby. It was in the newer section, but the brass revolving doors made me feel like I was stepping into an old hotel.
Near the lobby I spotted a photo of Walter Matthau, with the revolving doors. I'm guessing this was taken about 25 years ago, when Matthau was in the area, filming Odd Couple II. He might be the last celebrity to have visited the inn. The sweet roadside inn became less popular by 1950, when Highway 101 was built and steered travelers away. The hotel struggled for years.
The historic side of the hotel is actually said to be haunted. However, the lobby in the "newer" wing, attempted some haunted creepiness, with Halloween decor.
The lurking character on the left, was a little annoying with his ghoulish schtick. (I kept getting too close and triggering his voice) Sometimes I wish historic hotels would skip the cobwebs and skeletons. They get in the way of my photos. But mostly, it was an eerie odor that was a bit unsettling. What was that?
Off to Gloria's Room!
Before long we were given the key to our Gloria Swanson Suite! This old postcard image shows how the inn looked, back when stars like Ms. Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart visited.
The exterior has changed some over the years. But at least I could recognize the roofline and tile and original upper windows. The doors and windows on the first floor were hidden.
An enclosed walkway had been added to the front of the building.
We rolled our bags towards the elevator, walking past the windows and double doors, that had once been part of the hotel's exterior.
Gloria Swanson Suite
Upstairs, we wound our way down a few hallways, reading the names of different Hollywood celebrities, on each of the brass stars. I spotted maybe 20 different "star rooms", but the inn claims to have had at least 100 celebrity guests over the years.
Our corner suite was spacious, with lots of windows and a sitting area. But there were issues. My photos don't really show the worn fabrics or dingy furniture... or the unappealing odor in the room. Honestly, I'm not usually this picky. But the sour milk scent was hard to ignore.
Santa Maria rates are very reasonable, but we'd paid extra for an Executive Suite. We wanted a room with a balcony and courtyard view. We opened the doors for fresh air and took a peek.
The balcony would have been fine, if the solid, (ivy covered) wall hadn't totally blocked our view. When I stood tall and peered over, I could see a patio, with an odd covering. It was a little disappointing.
The Old View
100 years ago, the courtyard would have looked more like this.
There would have been rocking chairs on a porch and no a.c. units humming. But times change. We were just frustrated that we'd paid more and expected more.
Clark & Carol
I'm the Queen of Adapting. I rarely complain. I take pride in making the best of what I'm given. But I just wasn't up for paying extra, for a smelly room with no view. I went to the desk and spoke with the manager. Marie was very pleasant when I sort babbled about hoping for a balcony with a better view... She graciously walked with us to the Clark Gable & Carol Lombard Room to see how we liked it.
Basically we got a downgrade, which was just fine. The room was smaller and still a bit worn, but we were satisfied. We thanked Marie and stopped fretting.
Don and I do love a hotel balcony! This one was tiny, but at least we could see out, without standing.
The view was mostly a jungle of palms and some windows. But the air felt good and it was entertaining to study the old building. I think that was the Charlie Chaplin Room balcony, below.
Olde English Tap Room
It was before 5 on a Friday and I was eager to check out the Tap Room, at the far end of the building. From the exterior, we could see the fireplace chimney.
Frank McCoy added the Tap Room in 1941. It was designed to feel like an English pub. I loved the ivy covered side entrance, with the old neon sign.
Long before we entered the bar, we heard the music loud and clear. I'd seen photos on the website, with cozy couches near a fireplace. I had pictured a different vibe. My photo looks pleasant enough, but the rap music was blasting, along with TV and laughter. A lot of locals seemed to be arriving for Friday Happy Hour.
There were wonderful hints of the 1940's tavern, with classic red, tufted bar & booth seating. I spotted Gargoyles looking down from beams and the stone fireplace could have been inviting... if it hadn't been blocked by DJ equipment and more ghostly decor. We opted to let the locals enjoy the bar without us.
The weather was pretty lovely, so we headed outside to wander a bit. There was a large pool area that was nicer than we expected. Hopefully we didn't break rules. We didn't stop to read all 10 signs on the gate.
We walked across the deck, wondering where all the guests were on a Friday evening. Then we found our favorite kind of guest. Hotel Cat! Don got his cat fix.
We explored the grounds and found rose bushes and trees that were most likely on the grounds from the early years. Frank McCoy took great pride in his gardens and filled the hotel with fresh flowers.
We peeked up stairways and wondered about the rooms and the guests who once stayed.
I was curious about the age of the this crazy looking tree. I climbed onto the roots for a photo and wondered if Shirley Temple climbed any trees on the property when she came to stay.
The more we wandered, the fonder we became of this place.
I wondered if Bob Hope or Bing Crosby sipped martinis near this fountain, when they visited nearly a century ago.
We found the room named for Charlie Chaplin, with its cozy porch. I wonder what he was like as a guest. Did he make the potatoes dance at the dining table?
As we explored, we saw tables beginning to appear on the lawn. The next day there would be an event.
This property had seemed so dated and weary an hour before, but I found myself envious of the people who would later dine at these tables on the green lawn.
After exploring, we grabbed our own wine from the car and headed to our balcony.
We sat for a while enjoying the evening. I set the camera timer and we did a porch pose. Suddenly I felt like we were missing things. "Let's take our drinks and go explore some more!" I insisted.
The Coach Room?
I had noticed earlier that there was a room with lots of framed photos and history. There was a closed sign, but I chose to ignore that.
Cones and caution tape blocked off an area where tables and chairs were stacked. A giant fan was blasting away... trying to dry up a leak of some kind. Maybe it was wet carpet that created the smell that annoyed me earlier.
Old Dining Room?
We cautiously walked around the barricades and entered the room that had once been one of the dining rooms. I found a photo of it from the 1950s.
My color photo shows light fixtures that are similar to the ones in the vintage photo. We studied the colorful murals on the walls. There was a common theme. Each image featured a stagecoach.
Sipping and Strolling
Don and I meandered with our wine, studying the old photos and reading the little bits of history. I felt like we were guests at an art gallery event. Except there was no one but us. Unless you count the life size skeleton and the furry spider on the table.
Some younger guests might not be overly enthused about some of these ancient stars. It was even hard for me to recognize the earliest photos of Joan Crawford and John Wayne. The fact that Don and I are big fans of classic movies, helped.
We happily absorbed it all the faces and the trivia. Evidently Rudloph Valentino regularly haunts the inn. And Marilyn Monroe came to dine at the restaurant years ago. But she wasn't a star then. She was a child, dining with her foster parents, who lived in Santa Maria.
Up and Down
Don and I moved on from the stars... to the stairs. We found an old set that was lovely, with intriguing designs.
We wandered into the new wing and found a set of stairs that made us feel like we'd had 5 glasses of wine. The mirrors and reflective brass made me feel woozy! We wandered downstairs and around wine bar, with a bored bartender. We didn't go in.
Hints of Old
Instead we continued our search to find treasures from the past. I love it that they haven't updated much in the old section. We found a few old phone booths.
And I was pleased to find old doorknobs and hardware and woodwork.
We followed one more stairway and discovered a private patio. I'm not sure if we were supposed to hang out near the John Wayne Room, but no one seemed to be around. The doorway was intriguing with it's arched entrance.
I wish when we booked earlier, that I could have gotten more input about the various rooms. Maybe we could have asked details about some of the better rooms. The internet and the young staff, didn't seem very helpful with specifics about the different historic rooms. Next time I'll ask to speak to Marie.
Today the hotel has just one restaurant in operation. It's called The Century Room.
The restaurant looked surprisingly formal and upscale when I peeked in, before hours.
The hostess desk was vacant. I approached the cobwebbed desk and took a peek at the menu, held by another statue. Not a ghoul this time. It looked a bit pricey. We'd had a big lunch and Don was skeptical.
The restaurant looked lovely. There were no corny cobwebs or musty smells. The cozy booths and tables looked classy and the menus were appealing.
But, Don and I had been on the road, dining out for days. We had hoped for a more casual dinner that night. But, we had the darn cookbook! I reminded Don that we HAD to have a cookbook encounter, with at least someone during our stay. He looked very skeptical. "I don't see that going well." He moaned. And I knew he was right. So far, we'd met no one in the hotel who seemed liked they'd "get it" about how we use this book like a treasure map when we travel.
Glad We Dined!
We ended up going for it, with plans of paying the 6-dollar splitting fee, to share an entree. Perfect. The second we walked in the dining room, I felt like we were in a different world. There was no tacky Halloween decor and the furniture looked fresh and comfy. The only odors were delicious ones, wafting from the kitchen.
There were white tablecloths and the voice of Frank Sinatra crooning quietly. Best of all we were given the waiter I had hoped for. I'd seen him earlier, bustling around attending to diners. He looked friendly, but seemed to take his job seriously. I liked him.
No Fig Pudding
Jesus introduced himself to us with an apology. We assured him that he hadn't kept us waiting at all. I kept the cookbook under wraps and didn't ask if they served fig pudding... just yet. We let Jesus' description of the pasta special make the decision for us. We ordered some local wine and dug into the olive bread!
Jesus brought our salad, split beautifully, with separate boats of dressing. Our half orders of pasta were ample and also delicious. We ate every bite!
Jesus and the Cookbook
By the time our meal was finished, the restaurant was nearly empty. Jesus looked relaxed and happy when we complimented our meal and service. I told him we were from Texas and asked if he could guess how we heard about Santa Maria Inn.
I didn't press Jesus for an answer. Instead I pulled the book from my bag, telling him we'd never heard of the inn till a month ago. Then I opened the book to show him the illustration and Fig Pudding recipe. Before we knew it, Jesus had pulled over a busboy to take a look and then take our photo. Then he pulled out his phone. He wanted to send a photo of the 3 of us, to his daughter in Mexico. It was the perfect way to end our evening at the Santa Maria Inn.
After dinner I stepped outside to have a peek of the hotel at night. It looked peaceful on a Friday. I walked around to see if the neon cocktail sign was lit. Sadly it was not.
Then I glanced inside the old tavern and the music was actually softer and more inviting. The DJ had started up and he nodded with a pleasant smile when I looked his way. Then I headed upstairs to give my last report to Don. I chuckled as I used the old chain on our door. We slept well.
We checked out by 10 and headed off on one quick adventure, to complete our Santa Maria Experience. We drove not far to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. We'd read about Cecil B. DeMille filming the silent version of the epic, The Ten Commandments at the Dunes, in 1923. He stayed at the inn during that period.
I tried to imagine the massive pieces of scenery he created. Up to 12 stories high! I pictured the director and his crew and actors heading back exhausted, to relax at the inn.
When the film was completed it was too costly to remove the giant sphinx head and all the scenery. DeMill had the pieces buried in the dunes.
We tried to visit the Dune Center which exhibits many of the remains that were excavated in the 1980's. Sadly the place was closed on Saturday. That means... we must return!
Our stay at the Inn was indeed memorable! The Santa Maria may not be the most classy hotel we've every enjoyed, but it was defiantly a classic! After our shaky start, the place absolutely grew on us.
The historic section is obviously what we loved... flaws and all. But the modern, upscale dining experience was a huge highlight of our stay. I'd say we made good use both the old and new.
Special thanks to Marie and Jesus for making our stay extra nice!
Off to Camp!
At the end of September, Don and I went to camp!
Not really. We just spent one night at Basecamp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. This curious lodging-community, was created from a cluster of renovated motel buildings. Love that.
The cute hotel lobby didn't exactly look like a place for roughing it.
It was a cozy space, with a fun collection of radios. However it was not very inviting, since some employee was lounging (lengthwise) on one of the couches for most of the evening. Not sure what that was about.
There were lots of outside places for lounging. Just outside of the lobby, there was a "Picnic Deck" area, with tables and benches.
Above the lobby there was a Spa Deck, with a hot tub and some Adirondack chairs... and lots of fallen pine branches. It needed some spiffing up.
Courtyard and Beer Garden
On the opposite side of the property there was a spacious Courtyard, with picnic tables and fire pits. I'm not sure what the Airstream camper and small platform stage were used for.
My morning Courtyard photos are peaceful, but the place was hopping when we first arrived at 5 pm. It was "Happy Camper Hour" and guests were purchasing craft beers, and settling into Adirondack chairs.
Ping Pong, Spa & Pit
Steps away from the Courtyard, there were lots of other areas that invited more activity. There was corn hole and ping pong...
...and a much larger and cleaner hot tub, in an enclosed area. In October, the heated tub was empty, but during ski season... I can only imagine!
We had a few shopping options at Basecamp. This little shelf of merch, was inside the Beer Garden Bar. I noticed some mugs and blankets for sale in the lobby as well.
I would have bought a postcard, had they had one. But I didn't need a t-shirt or hat or frisbee.
Our main reason for a night at Basecamp, was that we were meeting up with some younger folk, who happened to fit the Basecamp scene more perfectly than we parents! Don and I needed a place to stay with our son and DIL, before our" reunion" gathering a day later.
We just needed a reasonably priced, comfy, clean place for a night. Scott and Chali had stayed at Basecamp during busy ski season. They knew it would be quieter in October. Don and I were game to enjoy some of the campy flavor!
The smell of pine on that balmy October evening, was just what Don and I needed. We'd been up since 4:30, traveling from Houston to Sacramento to
Live music started up softly in the space behind garage doors. Temps began to cool and the nearby fire pit could have come in handy.
We thought about the hot tub. It was empty after all. Chali laughed to remember their last stay, when the tub was filled with "ski bros".
But we were lazy and just relaxed with our South of North craft beers. Then the music cranked up a notch and we headed off for dinner. Basecamp's location was perfect, for walking to dinner!
Our 2 guest rooms were in the motel building across from the office. Judging from the trucks in the parking lot, we were sharing the motel with a crew of roofers, instead of hikers or skiers. I wonder if they were impressed by the "camp theme" in the rooms. I liked the canvas map of Tahoe, behind our bed.
The room and bath were nicely updated. I really appreciated the colorful bottles with symbols, in the shower. Perfect for someone who needs glasses to read the labels, on tiny containers of shampoo & conditioner.
Our somewhat budget room was pretty darn cute for the price. We oldsters could have used a comfier chair and a bigger bed, but I did love the camp theme.
There was a cute orange lantern and rail road nails for hanging jackets. The artwork featured images and quotes that appeal to nature lovers. "Those who wander are not lost."
The Great Indoors
Only later did I study the website and realize we'd missed out by not booking one of the Great Indoors Rooms! If I'd only known, we could have slept inside a tent and sat on hard benches around a fake fire!
This website photo shows forest wallpaper and a picnic table and cooler. What a hoot! But it's probably good I didn't know about this. Don's fractured back is still healing and we probably couldn't have said yes to this option.
Early the next morning, I rose and headed off on a walk in the opposite direction of the ski slopes. I found the lake!
What a treat to be able to step outside and lay eyes on Lake Tahoe, early in the morning!
Coffee and Lounging
When I returned, I grabbed comp coffee in the lobby and asked for a late check out. I noticed some amazing breakfast smells coming from the little coffee/breakfast shop in the rear of the lobby.
We had a leisurely morning enjoying the quiet motel. Chali and I went shopping and the boys, hung out in the lobby. No one was sleeping on the couch in the morning!
For the price, Basecamp is hard to beat. The location (with free parking) is pretty ideal! For an off season, weeknight it was perfect. If all 73 rooms had been filled with young skiers, it would have been very different!
The renovations were just right. I liked the feeling of staying in an old motel, but I loved having remodeled bathrooms and nice bedding. The whole atmosphere took me back to my college days, when I actually spent a good amount of time backpacking and camping and skiing.
At least our stay inspired a little Tahoe hiking!
The McMenamins Hotel Chain
Don and I usually avoid chain hotels, but we make exceptions for this "family chain".
This past summer, we had our 6th stay at a hotel owned by the McMenamin brothers. This one was less quirky than the others. It had a golf theme.
Old or New?
Most of the McMenamin hotels are located in refurbished, historic buildings. Most of the hotels on my 90 Nights blog, are historic or unusual.
This hotel in Gearhart, Oregon wasn't old, but it was unusual. Plus it had a lot of history behind it.
An Overnight with Family!
It was towards the end of August, when "Pop and Grammaloon" traveled to the coastal community of Gearhart, with our grand baby and her parents. We found the Cape Cod-style hotel sitting conveniently beside the highway, across from the Pacific Ocean!
The old-looking hotel was actually constructed around 2001, on the spot of the original 1926 golf clubhouse. Around 2018, The McMenamin Bros bought the newish building, which held a pub and pro shop. (I believe) They added hotel rooms on the third floor and all the other festive stuff they're known for!
We weren't able to check in early, so we had some time to kill. We could have borrowed some of the hotel bikes and explored. Cute bikes!
Or we could have taken a seat on the bench in front. Old! That bench looked like it had been sitting there much longer than the hotel.
If we'd had clubs, we could have killed time on the golf course, behind the Gearhart Hotel. Scary! It's been a quarter century since I've held a club.
This course has been attracting golfers since 1892. Gearhart Golf Links is one of the oldest golf courses west of the Mississippi.
Time at Beach
But, we hadn't come to the hotel for golfing or biking or bench-sitting. We came because it was near a beach. A century ago, travelers could come to this seaside hotel and enjoy both grass and sand. The original hotel from 1912, offered a beach on one side and golf course on the other.
The beach was much closer then. Guests could easily wander down from the porch and sit or stroll on the sand. They could even enjoy the ocean breeze as they rode in a horse drawn buggy. If guests didn't like the salty sea water, they could swim in the indoor pool. Sadly this hotel burned down in 1913.
The Last of the Oldies?
The hotel was rebuilt, but it lasted less that two years, before it met the same fate.
I'm guessing this old image shows the third hotel, built in 1922. Look at the grass and the stairs leading down to the water! Nice! This one lasted into the 1970's, but was razed to make way for condos.
Today's hotel sits with its face to the highway and rear to the golf course. The ocean view is sadly blocked by newer buildings.
Luckily the Pacific was just a short walk away. And that's what we did with our spare time!
Down to the Beach
We crossed the street and headed down a pathway towards the ocean.
After passing a cluster of buildings we continued on a sandy path. I spotted a few familiar benches, oddly distant from the beach. The dunes must have shifted a lot over the years.
Before long we reached the sand and Charlie (at 18 months) saw her first ocean!
We had to travel south a bit to reach the car free zone. Then we practically had the beach to ourselves. Charlie couldn't have been happier!
By 3:30, we were able to check in. Our 2 rooms were located in a newer building, that was even closer to the highway.
We'd hoped for a room with a view of the golf course, but we ended up on the west side of the building. However, we were happy to discover that we could indeed see a bit of the ocean, from our dormer windows!
Annex from Behind
I usually shy away from the annex of anything. When I hear the word, I picture additions that aren't as good. But this building looked pretty sweet when I viewed it across the putting green. It looked classy... even though part of it was a golf cart garage.
The building wasn't old, but the chimneys and shingled exterior reminded me of an old seaside hotel in New England.
We got our keys and headed in a door facing the highway. There was no lobby and no elevator, but right away we recognized the unique McMenanmin decor!
There was a small sitting area, which offered complimentary coffee in the morning. The warm knotty pine and colorful art reminded us that we were in one of the 12 unique, McMenamin hotels!
Up We Go
We headed up the stairs, lugging a portable crib/playpen. Fingers crossed that our rooms would work well for a toddler.
At the top of the stairs we found more colorful art and light fixtures.
Another hallway in the Annex had a whimsical glow. Although I will admit, my eyes had a hard time adjusting in the dim space.
Colorful lights danced around at one end of the hall. A golfer and his putter almost glowed in the dark, from a large piece of art.
The McMenimin Bros really know how to embrace a theme. The halls in the Annex and the main hotel were filled with artwork, created to fit the golf theme of the hotel.
I recognized some of the art styles and artists from other hotels where we've stayed. Such clever images, tied into the history of Gearhart!
I was curious to see what name would be on our door. Usually McMenamin hotel rooms are named for people, but ours had a word that I didn't recognize.
Evidently our room was named for some kind of golf club. There was a nice framed explanation on the wall. But long writeup was from 1887. It made no sense to me. Maybe the design of our headboard gave a clue.
The shape of our knotty pine room, made me feel like we were staying in a comfy attic space, in some grandma's old house. Although neither of my grandma's ever had such a stylish headboards.
The room wasn't fancy, but it was luxurious compared to some of the classic McMenamin hotel rooms. We actually had a TV and our bathroom wasn't down the hall.
Cute and Cozy
Our Cleek Room was conveniently located next door to "the kids". They had the same cute alcove with chairs and table. They dragged their chairs over to our room, later in the evening.
The bathroom with shower wasn't huge, but no complaints. We've done the "shared bath" thing at a few of these whimsical hotels.
After we got settled, I headed off to figure out the options for the afternoon. It wasn't even 4 pm, but we were ready to celebrate. We only had one night at Gearhart.
There was a dining terrace overlooking the golf course and lots of seating on the lawn.
There was a raised deck as well, with good views of distant mountains, as well as the course.
Sand Trap Pub
I headed up the stairs to check out the inside options. The Sand Trap Pub offered a full bar as well as the usual McMenamin brand beers and wines.
There were few people inside, on that beautiful afternoon.
Quite a few people were seated on the raised deck. (photo from morning)
It was tempting to grab a table under and umbrella. I love a hotel porch, especially when there's a view!
Here's a porch pic from long ago. These gentlemen were facing the camera, but the ocean was directly to their right. What a heavenly porch view!
After a text or 2 to the others, we agreed to gather on the lawn.
I headed down the outside stairs and grabbed a table.
Pot Bunker Bar
Not far from our table in the grass, we found the Pot Bunker Bar. The cozy little pub space, beneath the porch was convenient. We could order and serve ourselves.
The fireplace was hardly needed, but it made things cozy. I thought I spotted a fire poker below the mantel. Of course not. That was a putter.
Another small room off the Pot Bunker, had a shuffleboard table...
...and a collection of historic photos. I snapped a couple photos of photos and hurried out to join the others.
This image doesn't capture just how nice the air felt that afternoon. The Oregon coast can be windy and chilly. We were soaking in the afternoon rays, feeling incredibly lucky.
We sipped and gabbed and took in the view. It was entertaining to watch a crew of two, prepping fires in the fire pits and putting out lawn games for the evening.
In the past 2 years, we've learned not to take any of our trips or gatherings for granted. The pandemic has made trip planning more worrisome. but it's also made us more grateful.
Heidi and I toasted to Charlie's first beach visit. She couldn't have been a happier little beach baby! We also cheered to pulling off this little trip without any covid intrusions! So many friends and family members have dealt with ruined plans, during this summer of 2022!
The dining room was buzzing at 6, but we were seated after a short wait. Again the fire in the fireplace wasn't needed, but I appreciate the staff for keeping the hotel inviting!
Our server (who was also a mom) had lots of tricks up her sleeve to delight Charlie. Actually Charlie's biggest delight was tasting (and loving) Caesar Salad for the first time. Our meal was even more enjoyable, knowing we were just steps away from the Annex.
Cards in the Room
Charlie didn't exactly fall asleep easily, but she rested quietly and we 4 played cards.
There was something so simple and satisfying about playing cards in that little alcove. These are the little things I'll remember about our overnight adventure.
There was no rush in the morning, but we were all up and out early.
We wandered with coffee, trying to decide where to sit. The deck had soft chairs and a rocker or two!
We chose the tables on the grass again. Just too easy. We ordered breakfast at the Pot Bunker Bar and enjoyed lingering.
A Walk in the Grass
The course was quiet on a Monday morning. We thought about letting Charlie have her first walk on a putting green...
...but she was happy enough to just feel the regular lawn under her feet. So many simple pleasures for this little girl.
We spent a night at a hotel with a golf theme. That sounds like a resort, not a McMenamins Hotel. This hotel was definitely the most "regular" of all the McMenamins hotels that we've enjoyed. There were no secret passageways or movie theaters. There was no winery or distillery. The hotel had not once been an asylum or grade school. There was a history, but not a creepy or odd or over the top history.
Our stay was not full of wild and whimsical distraction. And that's part of what made it so nice. Our visit was not about the hotel really, it was about being with family in a place where we could easily enjoy each other... and enjoy a little taste of the beach. Perfect for us!
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!