#268 - Sylvia Beach Hotel
The Sylvia Beach Hotel calls itself, an Oceanfront Bed & Breakfast for Booklovers.
That's pretty inviting and so is this sign!
On a Cliff
The 108-year-old hotel sits high on a bluff, overlooking Nye Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
When the hotel first opened in 1913, it was called the New Cliff House. It stood where the original Cliff House (a boarding house) once stood. In 1921, the hotel changed hands and became Hotel Gilmore. It became popular with honeymooners.
The old seaside hotel was rundown by the late 1970's.
Hotel Gilmore became more of a rooming house, with communal baths and some very curious characters... so I read.
When Don and I arrived last July, the historic hotel was in good shape. The green shingles and colorful flowers looked inviting, along with a blue sky.
I was excited to see the place that my sister raved about, years ago. She first learned of it, when our mother sent her an article from the New York Times. I wished that Mom had been with us. She never got to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
For the past three decades, the hotel has been attracting bookworms! The current owners bought the rundown Gilmore in the 1980's.
They named their new buisness after Sylvia Beach, who was a person not a beach. Back in the 1920's and '30's, Ms. Beach owned Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore in Paris.
Little Free Library
Today the hotel has 21, author themed rooms. But before we checked out the inside, we saw the library outside.
The little green book-holding house, looked mighty sweet rising up from the flowerbed. There were about 100 times more books, inside the big green hotel!
It was about 3, when Don and I stepped into the cozy lobby. I noticed an armoire to my left. The note on the door, invited guests to borrow a hat or jacket if needed. Temps were chilly, so it was tempting... but these pandemic times made me less inclined.
We checked in with Janet, who welcomed us behind plexiglass. (a hint of the times) Across from the lobby counter, I chuckled at the large piece of art, titled Find Me Between the Covers.
Sitting With the Authors
Next, I had a seat below another large, literary themed piece of art. No social distancing with this crowd!
I recognized Twain and Hemingway, but felt a little embarrassed that so many faces were not familiar. I hoped there would be no quizzes to find out if I was worthy of being a guest.
Books From My Youth
I felt comforted to see a few displays that took me back to my youth. The blue and yellow poster, featured my favorite book character from when I was 6. Oh, I "simply adored" Eloise, and her adventures at the Plaza Hotel!
In the dining room, I loved the giant books mounted on the wall. I was about 11, when I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I saw the book cover and remembered how Francie savored her library books and lemon drops, while sitting on her fire escape!
There were so many themed pieces of art that were fun and playful. The painting of the big green hotel, was a hoot! Authors' faces peered out of windows! The (not all familiar) faces didn't intimidate, they amused me!
I could have studied the framed shadow box for days! The little room with its miniature writer's desk, delighted me!
The hotel had no elevator, so we got a little exercise on the way to our room. Don didn't need to read the sign that warned, "Attention! Tall People..." He's learned to watch his head in old hotels.
Not far from the stairs, we spotted the Mark Twain room. The hanging knotted rope, had something to do with measuring river depth... just like Mark Twain's name. I had some fun Googling that.
Collette and Seuss
We passed the Collette Room. I had to look her up, to learn that she'd written "Gigi". I've never read, but loved the movie.
I had no problem recognizing the author associated with the blue room. Sweet Seuss and Cat in the Hat!
The Shakespeare Room!
I was excited to see the room we booked. No problem recognizing William Shakespeare's face on the door!
I was mighty pleased when we stepped inside. We didn't have a TV or WIFI. No coffee maker or phone. But we had a throne and a crown and swords! Surely that's a first for us!
Comedy or Tragedy?
I'm guessing every play from Hamlet to Midsummer Night's Dream, was represented in some way.
Some of the eerie and dramatic props, were obviously associated with Shakespeare's tragedies. But mostly the room made me smile and chuckle. So many discoveries!
Even the window drapes seemed theatrical. They were thick and red and parted like the curtains on a stage.
Both windows looked out on a roof and garden. No ocean view for us, in the Shakespeare Room. But the price was $165. (135 in winter) That's pretty good for a hotel on a beach, that comes with history and breakfast.
Curtains Behind the Bed
There were more curtains behind the bed. They revealed a stage in a frame! Very curious!
The bed itself was quite a thing! Would this be Juliet's bed? Red velvet bedding and white fabric wrapped around the top. I wish I knew more about the individuals who took on the fun, of decorating each of the hotel rooms! I heard that many locals have been involved over the years.
In the past decade, Don and I have stayed in many old hotels filled with antiques. I grew up in a house full of antiques and I've always appreciated them.
But the pieces of furniture in the room hardly got noticed, because of all the curiosities that covered them!
At first glance, I thought the goodies that decorated the room, were for sale.
There were tags attached to statues and bottles and figures. But when I put on my glasses to have a look, I realized the tags gave clues. Clues that I couldn't understand.
I believe the clues were meant to help me figure out which play went with each prop. Except I'm not a Shakespeare scholar. Even though I grew up with a dad who directed and a mom who wrote... and I've even played some of these roles a million years ago... I needed more guidance!
Example a good clue I'd like: "This item is from a play about 2 lovers... one of which was named Romeo."
Again, there were no tests. I was happy to just enjoy my surroundings! The mirror above the dresser was charming!
I enjoyed a little comic relief when I laid eyes on the fairies from Midsummer Night's Dream. And there was Bottom, with his donkey head! I love donkeys!
I stretched out on the bed with a book for a while. It would have been a sin, to have stayed in this hotel and not done a little reading. But I was so distracted! I couldn't keep my eyes on the book. I spotted the floral wreath crown on the bedpost. Then there was a king's crown balanced on the throne. Hmmm? Should Don and I put costumes on and perform?
Then I noticed the Kleenex box, below the bedside table. Shakespeare was begging me to take a tissue from his mouth! I was restless.
Should I write?
On the little writing table, I was inspired by the quill pen. Should I write a sonnet?
Or should I write a play? Comedy or Tragedy? I did neither and I have a good excuse. No ink in that container.
Originally, the rooms only had sinks. The communal bathrooms were down the hall.
I washed up and dried my hands with a towel, beneath the sign saying "Out! Out damned spot!" Okay, I know that one. Lady Macbeth.
To Pee or Not to Pee...
I was glad to see a little humor, in a frame above the toilet. I was also very happy to count 7 Shakespeare-related portraits in the bathroom.
Actually, I was just glad to have a bathroom period. I guess the bathrooms were added 30+ years ago.
Since we didn't have an ocean view, I went in search of one. I found chairs on a porch and patio, but the gusting wind was unbearable.
Instead, I took a seat in the comfy chair and looked out the glass doors.
Then I put the hood up on my sweatshirt and hiked down to the beach. The sand blasted me in the face and I watched the sand dunes change shape. Entertaining!
After a numbing few minutes, I headed back inside. It was happy hour time and Don and I needed to find a place to enjoy our wine. We headed to the library on the third floor. There was a fireplace and wood was available for anyone interested. Maybe.
There were chairs set up, facing out the window. But the glass was coated with a layer of salty-sea-air film. And 2 young women were asleep on the couch behind. (that was sort of annoying) We headed upstairs to the loft.
A set of stairs took us from the third floor to a walkway, filled with cozy seating and books. I should have given the beanbag chair a try. It was held up on a very odd wooden holder!
The loft also was good for spying on people in the library below. But it's not that entertaining watching people read or sleep.
Puzzles and Games
The library and loft wasn't just for reading. The coffee room had a table with a couple puzzles in progress. There were shelves packed with games and a table with coffee and tea.
The hotel politely discourages cell phones and computers in the common areas. However, they do encourage guests to interact over games and discussions. They even offer complimentary hot mulled caret in the library at 9 pm. We missed that, I'm afraid.
Before heading down from the loft, I paused to look at this enormous dictionary. It made me miss my mom. Mom was good at all games that involved words.
She adored books and she was very good at the Dictionary Game, which was a game my brother made up. She would have loved the Sylvia Beach hotel!
Don and I finally found a place to settle in, with our wine and reading. I wish the hotel cat had found us and curled up for a bit. We never saw the furry friend we'd heard about.
Instead of reading a book, I opened up the box on the table and skimmed through a huge collection of news articles, with literary themes. Once again, I was reminded of Mom. Oh how she loved to snip articles from the New York Times and then mail them to her kids! She always knew what would be of interest!
Table of Contents!
I was excited about our dinner at the hotel's basement restaurant. Right before 7 we dashed downstairs where other guests had gathered in the lobby.
At 7, we heard the dinner bell and our tiny crowd headed to the basement. I was a little anxious about our dinner. I knew the hotel served at community tables and there's always a worry that you'll sit with dull or intimidating strangers. There's also that pandemic thing. Don and I have traveled so carefully, why would we choose to dine with strangers?
In minutes, the guests were all seated at assigned tables. I smiled to realize we'd lucked out with a corner table, with the best ocean view!
In just a matter of minutes, it was clear that we'd also lucked out with the best mix of guests. The 6 at our table began talking at once and our 4 course meal flew by. We passed homemade bread and platters of salad and ate the entrees.
Our Happy Bunch
What a special evening, sharing a table with these wonderful folks. Our conversations went in a million directions and I loved every moment. I sort of missed the setting sun and some of the delicious flavors in our meal, but I'll always remember the stories that were shared.
I'm a rule follower, but I just ignored the reminder I'd seen when we entered. "No Technology Please" Luckily, our gracious server was happy to snap our photo with my cell phone. She also allowed us to linger long after dessert.
Don and I slept well in the quiet hotel. We headed back to the Table of Contents dining room for breakfast. I wondered if we would see our dinner friends. Would we be as talkative over coffee, as we were over wine?
We did end up up sharing the table, with a couple from the night before! The caffeine didn't even have a chance to kick in and we were talking a mile a minute. Our converstaion picked up where we'd left off. Then we began asking new questions of each other. How had the pandemic changed us? Which parents did we take after? We talked about our childhoods and making friends now, in the digital age. Who talks like this at 9 am? It was wonderful.
After a year of isolating and only visiting family, it was a refreshing treat to get to know strangers. Vaccinated strangers, with so much in common.
I was afraid our stay at the Sylvia Beach, might be intimidating or stuffy. At first I felt like we needed to whisper. I worried that the whole hotel would be filled with bookish intellectuals.
But our 1-night stay, felt playful and full of little surprises. I loved the history and I loved the location, even though we hardly made use.
If we come again, I'd like to stay in the Mark Twain room and meet the cat and try to enjoy more of the beach. Maybe we could stay long enough that I could actually get absorbed in a book!
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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!