Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Last June, Don and I were looking forward to taking a look at the hotel that had been described as "a mountain resort for the 19th century elite."
Only we could barely lay our eyes on it.
As our car approached the hotel's address, I couldn't even see the enchanting structure, modeled after the Italian, 17th century Villa de Medici castle.
The trees were lovely, but I was frustrated.
This old image shows the massive u-shaped hotel sitting between the mountains and the mineral hot springs pool.
What a luxury to be a guest and stroll down the lawn to the pool and bathhouse.
Where's the Pool Now?
Today the pool and bathhouse sit across a street, congested with construction. The hotel no longer is affiliated with the pool and spa.
The impressive, sandstone bathhouse was intriguing, but the hot springs didn't tempt us. It was nearly 100 degrees when we arrived and it would have cost us about $50. for a quick, hot dip.
We searched for parking and found a lot a block away. The hotel seemed to have lost its grand front entrance with all the tree & garden growth, but we found a side door.
We stepped through the doors and felt a sudden wave of stuffy air. After passing the gift shop, with about a million stuffed teddy bears, we stopped at the lobby desk, where I spotted a real stuffed bear above an old vault. There's a story about how the history of "teddy bears" began at this hotel, when Roosevelt was once a guest.
While Don got our key, I peeked at the old cash registers and a stuffed buffalo on the wall.
I liked the curious collection of antiques, but the enormous lobby felt odd.
I captured no lounging guests when I took this photo at 9 pm, but in the afternoon, there were quite a few guests slumped in the formal chairs here and there. Some looked like they'd come from a day at the hot springs and others just looked like tired and grumpy travelers.
The heat had obviously zapped everyone's energy. Even the woman at the desk talked about the heat. Before we headed upstairs, she gave us some advice.
"Just so you know, we don't have air-conditioning. My advice is, go to your room and open your windows and turn on the fans. Then go to our patio and order a drink."
Just Plain Odd
We headed up the stairs chuckling about that strange bit of advice. The warm air seemed extra still on the landing.
I paused to have a look at the cheesy Botticelli reproduction. Surely that piece of "art" had not been decorating the hotel for 124 years.
The main hall was so wide, that we easily walked by 3 housekeeping carts that were lined up. We turned down our side hall and headed towards an open window, with fluttering drapes.
The pink woodwork was comically dated. I noticed one door with an open transom and heard voices. There was no room number on the door, so I wondered if that was the third floor's haunted room that I'd heard about. They no longer offer the questionable room to guests, so maybe those were indeed ghostly voices.
Our Corner Suite 342
For some reason, we were bumped up to a suite, so maybe I should have felt more grateful.
But we stepped into the sitting room and just laughed. The heavy air was stifling and the decor was amusing. The Victorian seating fit the era, but the 1970's updates were awkward.
We were happy to at least have a microwave and fridge. But the corner "wet-bar", along with the tiny flatscreen TV, just seemed so out of place.
We turned on the 2 ceiling fans, which rattled and whirred. Then we opened windows, which let in blasts of heat along with the sounds of traffic and construction.
At least our corner room allowed for better ventilation and views.
If we looked straight forward (and not down towards traffic) we got a nice view of the mountains.
I sound like a snob when I chuckle about our suite. It really looks fine in this photo. But the carpet was worn.
The bathroom door hit the toilet when it opened and the exposed pipes and popcorn ceiling seemed more tired-dusty, than quaint-vintage.
Don and I felt much better about facing the warm evening after quick showers. We headed down to the patio and yard in search of the coolest spot.
There were a few vacant wooden chairs on the lawn. We enjoyed sitting and studying different parts of the brick and sandstone building. I loved the towers with their flags.
Patio and Fountain
There was a patio with umbrellas and a few early diners.
The sound of the nearby fountain made things seem a little cooler.
The veranda had a decent looking bar with whirling fans and a nice view of the garden patio.
But the bartender seemed as worn and grumpy as the travelers we'd seen inside. We didn't stay long.
Moving to the Lawn
A couple of log rockers opened up and we took our drinks to the grass. I got giddy when a few trees brightened up with lights and I got even more excited when an Amish couple I'd noticed earlier, strolled by and stopped to chat.
It absolutely made my evening, listening to the happy couple talk about their exciting journey on the train from Indiana. They stood, in traditional Amish dress and just smiled about the heat. "We don't have air-conditioning." They laughed.
Better at Night
After the sun went down, the hotel looked much better. The temps dropped and the fire pits came on.
Dinner was served on the patio, but we ended up lounging in our funny suite and eating some of out travel food.
By morning, the temps were in the fifties, although the room still hadn't cooled.
It actually looked beautiful outside and I was sort of sorry we weren't staying longer to give the hotel a chance to impress us.
Fan and Fire
From the courtyard, I looked up at the windows and chuckled at the fans I saw in windows.
It looked like an old apartment house. Then I stepped back into the lobby and noticed a morning fire in one of the grand fireplaces. What a contrast!
There was a ghostly feel to this gigantic, past-its-prime hotel. It was as if every employee and every guest was in some kind of fog. The only people we connected with at all, were the Amish folks and they weren't overnight guests.
It made me sad that I couldn't have been more impressed. I so adore an old hotel and I don't need fancy renovations to make me feel at home. But the grand size of the hotel and perhaps the overly flattering website, made me feel disappointed.
As we rolled our bags to the parking lot, I turned back and saw the back of the building with no obstruction. There it is! I could finally see the hotel.
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!