Don and I finally had a Notable Night at the ever so grand, Madonna Inn.
10 years ago, I began my never-ending search, for unusual accommodations, Whenever I Googled, CURIOUS hotels, QUIRKY hotels or ODD hotels, Madonna Inn, always came up.
San Luis Obispo
On a California road trip this past October, we finally spotted the classic pink sign, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I was pretty giddy as we approached the sprawling property from US 101. I hoped the hotel would be as over-the-top-kitschy-crazy, as the website seemed to promise.
Pink & Stone Main Building
I have no photo of the grand entrance, but it looked like it was built to handle Disneyland crowds. Luckily there was no traffic jam and we found the Main Building quickly.
I clapped and grinned as I took in the whimsical design. There was a pink, Swiss chalet style, happening on the left. On the right, there was a hefty stoney round structure, with a chimney right out of the Flintstones! What a combo!
The office for checking in, was in the building beneath the American flag. I dashed inside, hoping I might spot a starry-eyed honeymooning couple, getting their key to one of romantic rooms. (there are a lot of them) The "Love Nest" room, with its pink carpet and spiral staircase, was out of our price range.
But, I was the only guest checking in at 4:30. I got our key and Chauffeur Don drove us, beneath the bridge-like building.
We passed white fences and pink lamp posts, as we headed up to the Hilltop units.
There are 110 themed-rooms today, but in 1958 there were only 12. Alex and Phyllis Madonna opened their dream motel, on 10 acres of property. I'm not sure if they began with such outrageous decor, or if their outlandish style grew over time.
110 Unique Rooms
Today the hotel sits on 1,000 acres. There are 110 themed-rooms. The website has photos of of them all. It's amusing and exhausting to look at the website.
After opening in '58, the Madonna's motel quickly expanded, but a fire destroyed the original buildings in 1966. They rebuilt and reopened in a year. The rounded Hilltop buildings were completed in 1969... I believe.
Curves and Curls
I saw no bubble gum pink or caveman rock, when I first saw the white buildings. However my eyes almost ached as I took in all the rounded staircases and busy railings.
It was hard to find a straight line in the midst of all the curls and swirls... arches and hearts! It was fun and funny. There was something exaggerated and cartoonish about it all. I loved it.
I spotted a little color, with some of the patio furniture.
If we'd had more time, we could have lounged a bit on the chairs and enjoyed the view...
Sea of Trailers
The view over the railings showed the surrounding mountains, beyond what I believe is the Madonna Meadow.
On the day of our stay, the view included an added feature! A sea of trailers and RVs, which I tried to hide from my photos. Yep, we managed to book a night, just before a big weekend RV show!
The Merry Room
All the rooms at the inn have distinct themes and names. Our room's name was dull, compared to some. Daisy Mae, Jungle Rock, Country Gentleman, Showboat, Mini Maxi, Caveman...
But there was an important reason for our room's happy name. We shared a little entry space with two other rooms... named Go and Round. So we shared a little name-theme, with our neighbors. Hmm? That seemed very random. And so did the Tiffany "Coke" light fixture, above our doors.
Sparkly and Round!
When we opened the door to the Merry Room, I'll admit it did delight me. I gave a theatrical gasp as I took it all in! There was a lot going on, with rounded walls, vaulted ceiling and elegant chandeliers! Best of all, the walls sparkled!
It's hard to adequately describe our room, but the website does a dandy job! "Merry Room... a joyful glow that mirrors the bubbly character of this effervescent room."
Poor Don had to steer clear of my camera as I rushed about snapping photos and jabbering comments. "Just look at those wall chandeliers! How about that connecting chain! Is that a safety feature?
"That's a very unique and alert pillow display!" They weren't leaning against the rounded wall. "I'm so tempted to move things around and center this... what do you think?"
Then my eyes took in the sitting area!
"Look! We sort of have thrones!" I cheered to see shiny, pale green chairs! The Pepto-Bismol Pink ice bucket and tray was a nice touch. Actually it was super nice having that sitting area. I'm sounding snarky, but I was happy.
"And look! We can write love letters or poems at the dainty desk, as we enjoy the view!" We were glad the windows opened. I'm afraid the room did smell a little stale.
It seemed like the room colors were playing tricks. I walked away from the golden sparkle walls, into sort of an orange-pink bathroom. There were many surprises in the bathroom. The toilet had bidet options, plus a heated seat!
We had our own French pedestal sinks, with lovely floral designs. A curvy display of roses and lights, seemed to embrace the matching mirrors.
A large gold framed mirror was displayed, across from the walk-in shower. The colorful diamonds in the tile, coordinated nicely with a Harlequin character, in the painting near the bed. Sparkles... Merry... Harlequin? What exactly was our Merry Room Theme?
Okay, maybe I'm trying too hard to analyze our room. But I sure would like to have heard the brainstorming that helped decide how this room was decorated. I finished inspecting the painting, then examined the walls more closely.
Those sparkles were actually, round reflective circles. I will call them Magical Mermaid Scales. All those reflected colors! Our room was a "sparkling pink jewel... a cheerful kaleidoscope of glitter and delight." That's another website quote!
One more thing about the lovely lighting. There were a lot of bulbs in that room. 18 bulbs on the wall above our pillows.
The grand chandelier hanging from the beams, had 16 electric candles. There were 7 glowing lights in the rather wonky-wobbly table lamp. You could say 14, if you add the reflection in the mirror!
After absorbing the wonders of our room, Don was allowed to clutter the place with our stuff. Then we left the glamorous lighting of our room and headed out to catch some of the late afternoon light. First, we headed up a walkway to the spa and pool.
It was breezy and cool but the water was warm. It actually looked very pleasant.
A young couple rushed ahead of us, to claim the cozy gazebo above the pool. That's okay, we didn't have time to linger at the pool.
Posing on the Property
I made sure to wear a pink shirt, so I could pose properly on our way down the hill to the Main Building.
Don posed with a pair of carved doors. I often make him pose with doors. Someday I will create a large collage of all my Don & Door photos.
Stone and Glass
There's a lot of stone on the exterior of the building, that houses the restaurant, lounge and shops.
Some of the boulders used on the exterior are origianlly from the property and weigh over 200 tons. There are lots of boulders inside as well. The fireplace looks like something that was created for a movie set. But those stones are real.
I noticed more stone around some grand portraits of the Madonnas. A closer look shows that the images are also surrounded by carved wood. Carved vines and grapes! These dramatic portraits made me wonder more about what the Madonnas were really like. Mr. Madonna passed in 2004, but Phyllis evidently still lives nearby. She could tell some stories, I'm sure!
Oh I do adore a dramatic stairway. Especially stairways accented by cherubs! There are a lot of cherubs at the Madonna Inn.
There are also lots of roses in the decor. The gigantic roses on the carpet could distract you from noticing the cherubs carved into the railing.
Don and I had reservations for the main dining room, but we took a peek at the family friendly Coffee Shop.
We walked past another carved door and found some curious, cozy seating. The round, wooden booth reminded me of a ride, at an amusement park.
Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge
The bar was fairly quiet at 5 pm. It was bright enough to get a nice look at the carved archway. More carved grapes!
I loved the curvy-cushioned pink bar, with pink-padded bar stools!
The leaded glass windows let in some light, to show off the carpet and colorful chairs.
Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steak House
The restaurant's name is a mouthful. I wonder if Mr. Madonna named the restaurant after himself, when he was alive. The room was simply dripping with loveliness. I've heard that Mr. M was the driving force behind this over the top decor. Was he trying to please the Mrs,?
It was every bit as grand and whacky as I had hoped. You could almost get dizzy taking it all in!
We climbed the stairs to get a good view of the round booths and pink table cloths. I couldn't wait to get back to the room and dress for dinner.
Playing Dress Up
Don and I prepared for our stay a month before, with a trip to the Goodwill.
I hunted for a dazzling outfit in pink or gold. I ended up keeping it simple with a 7 dollar, pink polka-dotted blouse.
I packed candy cigarettes and a tiny pink feather boa. I think my portrait is stunning.
Don lucked out with a J Crew, pink-checkered shirt from Goodwill. A keeper, I'd say. My pink hubby made us drinks, while I set up the camera and timer. Another fine photo. We look rather sad and sickly.
Nighttime at Madonna
We headed down to dinner as a chilly wind began to blow.
We headed into the glowing building and found 2 blue chairs in the lounge. Perfect for showing off our pink shirts, in a selfie.
From the lounge we could see the dance floor in the Venetian Room. They have live music every night! It became clear that locals come out regularly to show off their dancing skills. It was very entertaining.
Don and I opted for martinis, but pink champagne would have looked more picture perfect. Our server Sharon was efficient and happy to snap our pic. I'm pretty sure she gets that request from most diners.
Surprisingly, most of the tables were filled, on a Thursday night. Almost all tables were taken by "romantic couples" like us. But I don't think anyone could have been more excited than me.
I was giddy over the goblets, although I'd hoped for a pink glass.
The complimentary meat and relish dish and bread basket was such a treat. The salads were dressed perfectly, with thick 1,000 island and roquefort. Just like a restaurant in the romantic 1950's.
Not Camera Shy
I usually feel obnoxious snapping photos in nice restaurants. But, we were at the Madonna where the atmosphere begs you to appreciate and document. I posed and pointed to the magnificient "tree" of lights and roses, behind me.
Don's pose with his halibut and rice, was more subdued. He was very pleased with his selection. My grilled portobello mushroom entree was rich and decadent, with goat cheese and balsamic.
The last food photo shows less focus on the food, but a better look at my ill-fitting satin and lace blouse. My grandmother's costume jewelry didn't really help much. I was able to donate my shirt back to Goodwill, after our trip.
After our delicious and entertaining dinner, we made sure to stop in the "world-famous" restrooms. (Yep that's how they are described on the website)
The Ladies Room had a chandelier and padded doors. Nothing too fantastic.
If it had been less busy, I would braved a peek into the Men's Room myself. Instead I had Don take photos. Why didn't the Ladies get giant clam shell sinks?
Don also took a photo of the waterfall urinal, which has become a well known Madonna feature. It actually looks pretty lame in his photo, because the waterfall hadn't been activated... ?
Our walk back to the room was chilly, but pretty. A fog had rolled in, which added some drama.
We followed the fencing and street lamps back up the hill.
I spotted a horse in the pasture. I wish we'd had time to visit the stables during our visit.
We headed up to our third floor room and wondered just what was really behind this Alex Madonna guy, who created this crazy place.
Before bed, I lounged in one of the pale pink robes for a while.
In the morning we made some coffee in the room. Don took a photo of me in my coral colored shirt, that matched the woodwork. I love to coordinate.
I stepped out for a quick walk around the property, before check out.
The building below ours had a distinctly 1960's cottage look. As I wandered, I became more curious about the guests staying at Madonna. What words would they use to describe their stay. Were they charmed or in awe? Amused? Confused?
I studied the odd architecture of this stone and wood structure on the Hilltop. Was Mr. Madonna trying to see how many different styles he could incorporate? What exactly was his inspiration? Was he actually winking a bit, with some of this?
And then there was that sea of RVs and trailers. It was extra odd, in the fog. Was it really a mirage? I was glad we were leaving on Friday, before the big Expo was in full swing.
As we headed off before 10 am, I smiled with a bit of relief. We had not been a bit disappointed. The sparkly guest room walls and the nearly nauseating glam of the dining room, had been just what I had hoped for.
So we paid a bit for our Madonna experience. Rooms and restaurant are not exactly bargain prices. But it was worth every penny.
Gotta thank that hubby of mine for going all in with the pink! I know I probably annoy him with my endless photos, but he joined right in the fun! Yay for a Memorable Merry Madonna Experience!
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!