Christmas in California
Don and I never expected to spend Christmas Eve 2021, in a Victorian mansion, in California!
We had expected to be in our Texas home, with our 2 kids, their spouses and our grandchild. But last minute panic over omicron and air travel, forced us to change plans. On December 22, Don and I threw clothes and gifts in the car and headed for Oregon.
Snow forced us to adjust our route on the third day. It added time, but it also landed us in the sweet town of Ferndale, on Christmas Eve. It felt like we'd stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting when we arrived at 7 pm.
The Victorian buildings were outlined in lights. We could spot the town's claim to fame, at the end of Main Street. The Tallest Decorated Living Christmas Tree! Don pulled over so I could get a quick pic. It's hard to tell, but the giant Spruce is over 150 feet tall. The town has decorated the tree since the 1930's.
After I got my photo, it was time to find our B&B. I had booked it just 2 hours before. The Gingerbread Mansion was glowing, on that dark & drizzly night! I wondered how the mansion looked in 1899, when the Ring Family moved into the newly built home.
As we headed toward the festive porch, I pictured Dr. Ring and his family celebrating inside. I'm not sure how many Christmas Eves they shared, but there were 10 Ring children in all.
Our rushed travel was all about destination, so we'd expected to be in chain hotel the night before Christmas. It felt like we were getting an early Christmas gift, when we headed inside the storybook mansion.
The doors opened to an entry hall. It was quiet and warm and cozy.
No children flying down the banister. I would have welcomed that sight!
To our left of the entry was a parlor, with a lit tree in the window.
To our right was another parlor, with a decorated mantle and Christmas stockings.
Our host Angel, heard us enter and came to greet. We were wearing masks and appreciated hers. I didn't need to explain that we were traveling with extra caution and that we were determined to have a Covid-Free Family Christmas. We'd already talked on the phone earlier and she knew our situation. Angel was wonderful. Her name matched her perfectly.
Angle gave us a quick tour of the quiet inn. I lost count of all the sitting areas.
Even though Don and I have stayed in a lot of Victorian hotels, I'm always amused by all the patterns! So many florals, stripes and colors in the carpet and wallpaper and ceiling.
We wandered back through more rooms, to Angel's office and checked in. I quickly snapped photos of cabinets and doorways.
We were only able to see a handful of rooms... out of 32. What activities happened in these rooms?
We told Angel we wanted a basic room. Why pay for anything extra when we had so little time to enjoy.
She walked us up to the second floor and said she'd picked a room for us, with a wood burning fireplace.
I could have probably learned a lot more history about the mansion, if I'd had more time to take in all the framed photos and scrapbooks here and there.
We rarely arrive at hotels after dark. It was killing me to not do my usual exploring. There were doors at both ends of the hall, with balconies that I never got to enjoy!
Strawberry Hill Room
Our room had a its own little sign.
I never found out why it was called Strawberry Hill.
The door opened to a hallway, covered in patterned paper.
We followed the patterned carpet to our cozy, corner room.
I had to grin at the wooden steps leading to the bed. I was delighted to see we had lots of windows... but it was pitch dark out there. I have no idea what our view might have been.
Angel said she would deliver some ice to our room and she pointed out the pressed log in the fireplace. An easy way to get a real fire, without the work!
I was a little curious about the brass bar, covering a portion of the windows. Ballet barre? Time for pliés?
When I pulled the sheer curtains aside I noticed a giant crack in the wall. I guess that bar had a bigger job to do, than supporting dancers. Angel had mentioned that they'd had some earthquake damage recently. Was this from a less recent quake?
Angel offered us a little wine, even though we'd missed the evening wine/tea hour.
She delivered it to the parlor with a tree and fire. Perfect!
Angel left us to enjoy and we took a photo with the camera timer. Don't want to forget Christmas Eve 2021!
Out We Go
We debated about dinner. It was 8 pm on Christmas Eve, in a tiny town.
Only a couple restaurants were serving and no DoorDash options. We weren't up for dine-in, so we decided to just get out and walk in the misty, cool night.
The drizzle stopped and we wandered and pondered and wondered and meandered.
Cheese Feast & Fire
Then we stopped to grab food from the car on our way back in.
Don started the paper log fire in about 2 seconds. I grabbed robes from the closet and we had a Christmas Eve feast, of cheese and crackers and nuts.
Just about perfect!
5 AM on Christmas
We slept well despite waking to sirens at some point in the night. Luckily our fire was out by then and we weren't the cause. At 5 am, I woke again and couldn't go back to sleep. Just like when I was a kid on Christmas morning.
There were no Santa gifts to peek at, so I gave myself an indulgent gift. I tiptoed into the bathroom and made a predawn bubble bath.
Don was up and showered before long and then it was time to set up our Rapid Test Lab!
We had a day of driving ahead and then we would be with our kids in Portland for Christmas night. It was a nerve-racking 10 minutes, waiting on results. What exactly would we do if we saw the positive pink line? We softly cheered when we saw the negative results!
We tiptoed down the stairs, not knowing how many other guests were even sleeping at the inn on Christmas morning.
We had told Angel we'd be departing before the complimentary breakfast. I hated missing out on some of the experience.
That would have been odd to have shared Christmas breakfast with strangers. Luckily there was coffee ready and we took some with us.
Good-bye House and Hospital
We loaded the car and I took a peek in back. The sun was up enough to glimpse at the garden.
I could see some of the building that was added in 1920. Dr. Ring built a less ornate addition, to serve as a public hospital. I didn't have time to even figure out where I room was.
The garden looked lush for a winter morning. I wondered briefly about all the people who have lived in this house with all the turrets and gables and spindles and balconies! The mansion became a Rest Home and later apartments over the years. How about the people who stayed in the hospital part. There must be some good (and maybe eerie) stories somewhere.
We were welcomed in on Christmas Eve, by an Angel! How about that!
We had expected to stay in some kind of Comfort Suites. I had expected to pout about it... just a little. Instead we had a Surprise Storybook Notable Night! Merry Christmas!
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!