A Museum/Hotel on the Island of Curacao!
The island of Curacao is hard to explain and so is this unique hotel.
The location of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles, is a very appealing location, since it's in the Caribbean, below the hurricane belt. But the island's history as a major hub for slave trade, could make a tourist cringe.
I'm still trying to fathom how we ended up staying in such a unique hotel/museum combination!
Over 20 years ago, Jacob Gelt Dekker took a charming historical neighborhood and created a hotel complex and a museum. The whole complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which tells you something right off.
I had read good things about Dekker and his amazing dream to bring Curacao's horrifying history of Slave trade into the spotlight. But how do you combine that with a luxury hotel?
There was no one around when we arrived on an August afternoon. As we traveled up the cobblestone walkway, the only "people" we met, were these statues.
If this had been an American resort I would have winced. But I was ready to try to understand.
The Welcome Center
This palace style office was where we checked in. It felt more like some kind of Embassy than a hotel lobby.
We were introduced to our gracious bellman, who handed us cool drinks while we signed paperwork.
Where Was Everyone?
We wandered the 8 block village while our room was being prepared. We wondered what these 18th and 19th century Dutch Colonial buildings had looked like 20 years ago when Dekker found the crumbling, crime infested neighborhood.
At a glance there was a Disney World feel, but these buildings were real, not created. And there also didn't seem to be a tourist in sight!
As we explored, we found 2 lovely (and empty) pools.
This one had luxurious levels and waterfalls, rocks and lush growth. It also had a little excitement when a humongous palm frond plunged from a tall tree into the pool! Luckily there were no swimmers!
The Sunny Pool
We found a sunnier pool in a different area of the complex. This one wasn't empty. There was a speedy iguana zipping from 1 corner to the next.
I was a bit freaked out that this guy had fallen in and couldn't get out. I was also a little uncertain about the thought of sharing a pool with a critter like this. He did manage to escape.
Finding Our Room
The hotel complex was a maze of cobblestone roads with about 18 colorful buildings.
Our room didn't have quite the curb appeal of some, but our door was at the end of pleasant walkway. There were courtyards, little tables and fountains, flowers and statuary everywhere. It was all up for grabs.
Our room was ground level, although the slanted ceiling looked like an attic.
There were nice tile floors, a decorative area rug and cozy sitting and desk areas.
It's funny how I hardly noticed the green trim and painted design until I saw these photos later. The flash on my camera really lit up the space.
I must be getting old because I'm starting to take notice of hotel room lighting. Our room really was a bit on the dim side, which is funny since it had some pretty memorable light fixtures!
Not for the Tall!
Don did a nice replay for my camera. You'd think this bright, blue lamp would be hard to miss, but he crashed into it more than once!
We learned to leave the light on most of the time, so he could see to avoid it. I think Don matches the blue light, nicely!
Modern Bathroom... Modern Door
I hate it when historic buildings are too modernized. But I don't mind a little updating in the bathroom! Antique plumbing is not really a good thing, after all.
However, once again I found myself annoyed with the modern trend of using big glass panels in bathroom doors. No, I'm not panicking over privacy. I just don't want to wake my fellow traveler when I get up early to shower! Why should my bathroom light have to seep into the guest room?
This photo shows a blending of the hotel complex and the mural covered museum.
It felt strange to step from our colorful oasis, into the museum, but I was ready.
Art, Artifacts, History and Stories
It was sobering to wander through a maze of 15 buildings, on land that was once a former slave yard. There was much to absorb as we were reminded about those who suffered here for 200 years. It seems impossible that we were able to see instruments of torture and images of families being separated... and then later lounge by the pool or in the courtyard.
But there was something comforting and peaceful in the atmosphere, that allowed for time to ponder. Maybe if we had been surrounded by noisy tourists, I would have felt differently. But the quiet made it easy to sit and imagine and wonder about how all this could have really happened. Some would say, "I don't call that vacation!" But traveling is not all about playing and having fun. This was a good place to be and a good place to learn.
Don and I spent the night in a lovely hotel, on the land where lives were once lost and ruined. We've been "guilty tourists" before, when touring a lovely southern plantation, without any focus on the struggles that occurred outside the Big House.
But this was the first time we absorbed both... the luxury of being pampered tourists and the experience of learning about something as tragic as slave history. It was an odd combination, that I'll never forget.
That would be... Paris, Texas!
For the final night of our Fall Road Trip, it seemed fitting that we stay in a place as awesome as Paris! After 21 nights in different hotels, motels and B&Bs, it seemed like we deserved a little Paris treatment... even if in name only.
No Louvre or fine French cuisine in our Paris, but we did have an Eiffel Tower. Some would claim there's no comparison with this 65-ft replica, but hey, what about that mighty awesome cowboy hat!
Actually, I was really looking forward to seeing the thing. I even packed my boots and a French beret when prepping for our trip. I knew we would reach Paris on my sister's birthday and I wanted to text her a special photo greeting. After all, she had been so kind to do the same for my birthday 6 months earlier, when she was in Paris, France. Again, let's not compare.
The Ledger Home
We considered ourselves pretty lucky to come across such a lovely place to stay, since Old Magnolia is the only B&B in Paris!
The home was built by The BF Ledger Family in 1871 and sits on a landscaped hill overlooking Clarksville Avenue. At one time the home was much larger, but Mr. Ledger made a few bad investment choices and had to downsize... which means they removed part of the house!
The Red Doors
We parked in back and by the time we reached the front doors, our hostess Debbie was there to greet us.
The original screened door was a reminder of the days before air-conditioning. And the "L" etched in the glass was a reminder that this was once a real home with a family.
What's that smell?
Sometimes you have to put up with a whole history of odors when you stay in 100 year old hotels or homes.
Click But the smell that greeted us, was coming from the kitchen. Debbie apologized for greeting us with an apron. "I was just finishing up the cinnamon rolls!" No complaints about that smell!
Debbie scurried off to check the rolls and we took in some of the wonderful details from stained glass to arched woodwork.
Debbie returned and took us upstairs. She explained how the staircase had once been more grand, before the Ledgers removed part of the house. I couldn't quite picture what she meant...
Door to Nowhere
...until we reached a small landing and I saw the blocked doorway.
I guess the door once lead to another room, but now opened to the air! It wasn't as dangerous as I first thought, since there was a railing to catch you from falling to the ground.
The Magnolia Room
We had our pick of 3 guest rooms, since we were the only guests. We chose The Magnolia Room which is on the front of the house, with its own bathroom and sitting room.
It was comfy, clean and jam packed with decor. Even Debbie chuckled as she removed a pretty little bed tray with china cups and shoved it under the bed to get it out of the way. She and her sister own and run the B&B and Debbie said it was her sister who went crazy with all the decorating. Debbie said it was the cooking that she loved.
Everything One Could Need
Let me say again, this place was spotless. I have cringed at historic hotels packed with doodads and lace that collect dust. I can't imagine how long it must take to clean this house with all the knickknacks.
In the bathroom we had 2 tubs (one was a Whirlpool) and a corner shelf full of shower products. There were wall shelves with china and glass, as well as numerous breakables on the tank lid. I smiled at the retro plush toilet seat cover and the tiny glass bell by the tub. Could I ring for service?
More Doodads in the Sitting Room
Our Room With a View
We had a nice view from our guest room windows of this lovely, white home across the street. It may be a funeral home now, but I liked the image of big lawn, columns & veranda.
I liked imagining the "across the street neighbors" helping one another, back in 1916, when Paris was nearly destroyed by a city fire. These two homes were some of the few that survived.
Paris closes down early on Sunday night, so Don and I struggled to find one open Mexican restaurant. We had a quick feast and drove out for one more glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, all aglow in colored lights.
We returned to the big house to find our bed turned down for the evening. Debbie had added a teddy bear holding a bag of homemade brownies. Once again it was like staying at Grandma's... although Debbie is about my age. What a treat!
Rainy Monday Morning
We had a wonderful night's sleep with the sound of rain and thunder. In the morning, I think I heard pigeons cooing on the window sill.
We headed down at 8 and shared the dining room table with numerous pumpkin and fall flower arrangements. While Debbie bustled in and out of the kitchen, Don and I sipped a little coffee with our cinnamon rolls and studied our surroundings.
Who Needs Fall Decor?
We hardly needed the distraction of decoration with the beautiful wood and glass all around us. The glowing yellow & green stained glass window had a story, about a wild neighbor boy and a bb gun. The corner fireplace was a piece of art, with carved mantel and ceramic tile.
And the hefty, built in china cabinet, was like nothing I've ever seen. Debbie explained that it opened like a garage door, with counter weights.
Debbie pulled off a fabulous feast, despite the fact she'd been up half the night... due to severe weather alerts. (Hosts are always on duty) We were served the "house juice" and a dish of fresh berries accented with mint and toasted oats.
There were sweet & white potatoes, seasoned, then grilled and drizzled with sauce. And yummy veggie frittata, biscuit, bacon and fresh tomato and sprouts! Don claimed this was his favorite breakfast on our 22 day trip!
The fact that I will remember this sweet, sherbet-colored house at all, is amazing. My brain was so clogged and exhausted from absorbing 22 days of trips details, I hardly wanted to look, smell or taste anything.
But our stay was peaceful, cozy and comfy and that made us relax enough to take more in.
I will definitely remember Debbie's gracious hosting and her delicious food! We never met her sister, (who was coming in that day) but I will remember all her personal touches from scarecrows to mini Eiffel Towers. The contrasting decor of old and new, made sense for a town that owned an Eiffel tower sporting a cowboy hat!
So let me just say, I will remember that we stayed in Paris!
Our B&B stay had all the snazzy glitter of France and all the homey warmth of Texas!
At the Crossroads of Routes 66 and 71
A Stop on Route 66
There used to be so many of these wonderful motels and courts along the Mother Road. This one first opened with 8 rooms, then added 5 more with a modern annex in 1948.
But once we stepped inside the office, (which had been a gas station once) our moods were quickly lifted. We met our host Debye, who couldn't have been more pleasant and chatty.
She shared about the motel history and the Carthage area and she was also eager to ask questions about our travels. I was pretty amused as I peeked around the office, at the red door with glass knob and the vintage TV, acting as a table for travel brochures. A case of pop was propped up on the floor. The funny little office made me eager to see our room.
The Kitty and Annex
Debye gave us a tour of the motel, starting with the Annex.
Room with a Carport
We were pretty giddy with the idea of our 1939 room with attached carport. The door to our room was inside the carport, so it took about 3 steps from car to room! And that was a real treat for weary travelers on night #21!
Our room was special, not just because it was the only original room that had been renovated. (The sisters started work with the annex first) But this very room is where Clark Gable slept years ago.
I've slept in historic hotels that brag about the famous actors and presidents who have been guests. But never before have I stayed at a motel with this claim. Since Mr. Boot's grandson was at the grand re-opening of this motel a few years ago, I'm pretty sure the stories have been passed down correctly.
Not only did we have a bright yellow Chenille bedspread to make things feel authentic. But we had a cozy alcove with a built in desk, holding a retro radio, which was already playing a station with old time music!
And the bathroom just amused me with the black and white tile and a little window for letting out a little shower steam. Black and white monogrammed towels were a treat, as well.
Thanks to Debye!
When I called for reservations earlier, Debye had been concerned that they wouldn't have heat installed in the newly renovated room.
so she provided us with a space heater, as well as a bucket of ice for drinks. Our room was toasty, while we sipped a celebratory cocktail and listened to music from the '40's and '50's. Then we had quite a Saturday night, down the road at "Sirloin Stampede" for dinner. The place was hopping with locals for the big buffet. We got pretty stuffed, which made us eager to turn in early that night.
The wonderful Art Deco, streamlined structure was a first for us.
But what I'll remember most, was the fun of staying in the room where Clark Gable slept. And... I'll remember the cat, with all his kitty charisma. I'm just going to go ahead and believe there's more than a name connection there!
"Coming Home" to Springfield, Missouri
On the 20th night of our 22-day road trip, Don and I found ourselves in Springfield. I didn't grow up in this Missouri town, but I've been coming home to visit grandparents and cousins since I was a little girl. This was bound to be a memorable overnight.
This house on Walnut Street was sadly torn down years ago. My grandmother (far right on lawn) was born there. This was the home of her maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. JB Jewell.
Next Best Thing
When we found the Walnut Street Inn on the internet, it looked like a wonderful way to add to our list of unusual accommodations.
We would be staying in a beautiful home, just down the street from where my great-great grandparents once lived. And then we discovered there was a Jewell connection! The "Great Great's" son, Harry Jewell had lived in this very house from 1917 to 1945.
It was a chilly, damp October afternoon when we checked in. The home was quiet, but numerous guests were expected and staff was rushing about.
I was sad not to meet the owner, Gary, since we had exchanged some enthused emails earlier. I knew he would have been delighted that we shared a special interest in this home.
Stopping on the Stairs
The guest rooms on this floor, opened up to a sunny room with fireplace and game table. It was the second floor that my great-great Uncle Harry re-designed after his wife died in the 1940's. He created his own living space and kitchen so his granddaughter and her family could live below.
Up Some More
Uncle Harry wouldn't have spent much time in this part of the house since it had been maid's quarters.
But I loved our cozy room with slanted ceiling. Don could have rolled his eyes at my pick of rooms, The Wilder Room. The room definitely had a feminine touch, in honor of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who lived her later years in Missouri. Maybe the fact he actually liked the Little House books as a kid, helped him approve!
Cozy and Quiet
For being tucked beneath the roof, our room actually felt spacious. An open hallway (with fridge and drinks) made our room feel larger.
There was still lots of floor space, even though we had a claw footed tub (with snazzy lace curtain) and a sink in the room.
Love the Sink!
Our Own Treetop Porch
If only the weather hadn't been so drizzly-cold! We had our own little back door and balcony, with a spiral staircase taking us to the backyard. This also gave our attic room a more open feel.
The back reveals a few more changes since the home was built 119 years ago. Uncle Harry made some revisions when he added his own upstairs entrance and more recent owners added the deck and ramp. I imagine in warm weather, the umbrellas are open and the tables get plenty of use.
Porch and Lemonade!
I have always had a thing for front porches and I haven't had one since I was a child. Knowing I would be allowed a little porch time when we booked our stay, I made sure I had some lemonade available.
I would have been in heaven, rain or shine just rocking on that swing. But I had a double piece of heaven as I swayed and sipped and imagined Harry's daughter Margauritte sitting on that porch. I have fond memories of my Aunt Margueritte and her lavender Cadillac! She would have so loved the pastels on that porch!
In the morning, smells of sausage and eggs wafted all the way up to the third floor. At 8:00 we followed our noses downstairs.
Breakfast was served in this room, as well as the dining room. Both tables were filling up, so Don and I made a quick assessment and decided which guests looked the most interesting. We grabbed the last 2 spots at the table with a cute assortment of painted chairs.
Good Food & Good Talk
John, the clarinet player from Manhatten, was doing a gig with the local symphony. A young woman from St. Genevieve, Missouri talked with us about her sweet little town on the Mississippi... where we had stayed 2 weeks earlier.
Even without all the family nostalgia, this would have been a wonderful stay. I will most remember the dreamlike feeling of being on that porch and imagining Walnut Street 100 years ago. Maybe the hazy skies made it easier to ignore the modern cars and buildings and to just focus on the details surrounding me. The wrap around porch and leaded windows, the side carriage entrance, the 20 cast iron, Corinthian columns painted in pastels!
Lots to think about!
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!