A Notable Hotel Stay... Some Years Back
In December of 2009, Don and I latched onto some cheap flights from Houston to Rome, so we planned a 3-day weekend trip!
I attempted to find a bargain hotel for our stay and came up with Hotel Columbus. I couldn't believe I'd found such a lovely place, for under 100 dollars! The hotel was housed in what had once been a palace, commissioned by a well standing cardinal, who was a relative of Pope Sixtus IV! I was eager to find out!
Oldest Building Yet
The yellow structure on the left shows our hotel, which wasn't a hotel until 1950. Cardinal Domenico della Rovere began construction on the building in 1480.
I'm pretty sure this makes Hotel Columbus, my oldest hotel experience. But equally impressive, is the location. The building faces Via della Concilliazone. It was just a short stroll down to St. Peter's and the Vatican City.
The Other Direction
If we went the other direction on the Via, we ended up at the River Tiber.
Our flight arrived early in the morning. It was too early to check in, so Don studied the map, which made us look like tourists. He looks engrossed in the map in this photo, but he was also fretting about his dirty jacket...
Earlier at the train station, (when we were not reading maps) a man pegged us as tourists. He seemed very concerned as he rushed over to help Don. He pointed out a huge blob of bird poop, on Don's jacket. Luckily we were pretty aware of pickpocket dangers, so we shooed the helpful man away. Days later, we learned there really is a thing called "Bird Poop Scam"... which is really white paint, that doesn't wash out.
Finding the Entrance
Although we were early, Don and I headed through the building's walkway to the parking area.
We found a wall, fountains, a courtyard and the hotel entrance.
Old and New
I loved the old marble dragon fountain, with trickling water.
The decorated entrance looked quite modern for a 500+ year old palace, that had once been a noble residence and seat of a line of holy knights!
We entered the lobby area, where we found the first of many Christmas trees.
We knew it was hours before our room would be ready, but we explored a bit to find a restroom, where Don could go to work on his stained jacket.
Le Colone Bar
We passed through the quiet lounge and eventually found a washroom.
Don had no luck removing the stubborn white paint. Bird poop would have been preferred.
We left our luggage and took off for the day.
When we returned, our room was ready and we were eager to explore some more. This was just one of the many grand rooms that once made up the Palazzo della Rovere.
Dining in Style
This two-leveled space, with vaulted ceilings and frescos, was the hotel's formal dining room.
During our short stay, we didn't get a chance to dine, but the tables looked terribly romantic, with white cloths and glowing lamps.
This doorway was impressive enough, with the carved marble frame and hefty wooden doors. Even the floor was intriguing.
But once inside the room, the real surprise was directly above us.
A few sconces lit this dramatic space with paintings in gold frames.
But the ceiling above was the real focus. The shape itself was stunning.
The frescoed ceiling was the work of Francesco Salviati. The image of Apollo with his chariot and horses was at the very top of the curved ceiling.
A carved mask peeked out from each corner! I wish I could have asked these odd little faces to tell me some stories.
Up We Go
We headed up to the top floor to find our room.
This sweet little nook was near our room.
I failed to make a note of the room number, but I'm pretty sure our room was the least expensive, on the top floor.
Our low bed with flat pillows, took up most of the space. A desk and TV were not really needed, but the window was the prize. The shutters made me feel like I was living in a fairytale.
The wooden chair in the corner, made me want to take a seat for hours at the window.
The tiny window had a great view of the courtyard below, but my eyes were drawn to the tile roofs and beyond.
There it was!
The cupola of St. Peter's! I remember being 11 and counting the steps as I climbed inside the dome with my family.
With the camera, I could zoom in on little details... designs near the window and a metal cross above a pointy roof.
On the Roof
I loved being able to open the window, so I could feel like I was sitting on the clay tiles, peering down at the treetops.
The hotel made us feel like we were spending the night in a museum. How odd to walk through such grand rooms without being followed by guards.
But the hotel room was really my favorite part of the stay. That tiny window brought in the sounds of pigeons cooing and the chiming bells of St. Peter's!
What a treat, to watch the sky change colors in the evening... then to watch the silhouette shapes appear... and then the stars. I think I might need to revisit this hotel!
Mining Town Stop in 2013
It's been 4 years since Don and I stayed a night in the highest incorporated city in the U.S.
Luckily my photos and notes allow me to add it to the list of notable nights!
It was a beautiful summer afternoon when we arrived. The 3-story hotel from 1886 looked impressive.
In fact I thought the place was impressive on it's own, without a costumed greeter on the corner. Once we stepped inside we saw more Victorian costumes and the employees wearing them, didn't seem thrilled about it.
This and That Lobby
We entered and walked through the cluttered lobby/gift shop to the desk. A woman wearing a costume-dress, that didn't match her glasses and hair, checked us in.
We said we needed no help with our 2 backpacks, but a young man, who seemed to be new on the job, stared at us with sad eyes. I gave in and handed him my backpack, which weighed a ton. He huffed and puffed up the stairs (no elevator) and stood awkwardly as I fumbled with the key and a tip. I didn't know what was more unsettling, his strained assistance, or the decor of the lobby. I didn't have this blog at the time, or I would have gotten photos of the tacky little antique-ish doodads and crafty delights that were for sale all over the lobby.
The Wide Hall
I guess the furniture filled hall passed code, since it was incredibly wide. But it wasn't easy finding the door to the room with all the wardrobes, desks and buffets filling the space.
There were price tags everywhere, so i guess there was a reason for the crowded halls.
A Santa Surprise
We turned the corner at one point and found a rather frightening Santa staring us down. I was too scared to get close enough to check out his price.
It was hard imagining the hotel filled with guests 100+ years ago. They would have been impressed by the 50 rooms and 6 bathrooms, the steam heat and running water. I'm not sure what they would have said about Santa.
I still remember Don and I trying to hold back laughs until our young lad went off with his tip. The tiny room was cramped, even with the tall windows letting in light. The hefty mounted TV looked out of place and there was a worn, dusty smell.
But I look at this photo now and laugh at how new to the world of retro, vintage and historic travel we were. Yes, the place had an odd feel, but there was a lot more that we should have appreciated. Don and I've come a long way in 4 years.
The best part of the hotel, was the location.
We were just steps away from Tabor Opera House and the Silver Dollar Saloon.
Leadville was once one of the largest and richest silver camps in the U.S. There were 25,000 living here at its peak. Luckily they weren't all trying to fit inside the Silver Dollar Saloon. There were 64 saloons at one time and plenty of bordellos, as well.
By the time these nifty neon signs came into town, Leadville was past its peak. I peeked in the Manhattan Bar, right across from our hotel. I liked the glowing martini above the A and R.
I liked less, the crowd of workmen that had gathered inside on Friday evening. Instead, we checked out the Pastime, which was quiet at 5:00. We had a nice chat with a few inside, but later learned there had been a stabbing recently. Living on the edge in Leadville!
Bright Blue and Yellow
The cute little golden burro on top of the cafe sign, was very welcoming and just a couple of doors down from our hotel.
We were surrounded by intriguing buildings and storefronts!
It's sad to think there are only about 2,500 residents today and I don't think any of them are famous.
Years ago, you could have bumped into a number of celebrity guests or residents...Doc Holiday, Unsinkable Molly Brown, John Phillips Sousa and even Houdini. Movie star, Rudolph Valentino was even born here!
Breakfast in the Library
We were given a complimentary breakfast in the "library" the next morning. There was nothing special about the cereal selection or the table decor with plastic placemats.
Our fellow guests whispered and avoided eye contact as if the whole B n B atmosphere was more than they could handle. Don and I checked out with a whole new set of costumed staff.
At the time, Don and I chuckled about the "one visit is plenty" feel about the place. But as I look back on photos, I realize I have a lot of questions.
I'm a much more open traveler now and I didn't give the hotel a chance. The building itself is beautiful, the town is a museum and the hotel experience was well worth the stop!
Mostly, I love the town!
One Night in a Skyscraper
Don and I recently snuck in a night at The Magnolia for sort of a late Valentine's celebration. The hotel is only 22 miles from our home, so it was an indulgent treat to drive in from the suburbs, to enjoy a day and evening in Houston.
The entrance to the classic skyscraper from 1926, was on Fannin Street. Kind of eerie, since my last 90-Nights post was about sleeping in a fort... where Colonel James Fannin, leader of the Texas Revolution, was killed.
Orignal Grand Entrance
In the hotel, I found a photograph of the main entrance, when it was on Texas Avenue. A lot of the ornamentation on the lower part of the building went missing, when the skyscraper was modernized.
But it's lucky the building is here at all. Not that long ago, the hotel sat vacant. This part of Houston was not an area you went to, for your staycation.
Tallest in Houston
The hotel building is now almost 100 years old. The classic skyscraper was built to house the Houston Post Dispatch and KPRC radio station. The impressive limestone creation was the tallest in Houston, when it was built in 1926.
That was 3 years before Toronto's Daily Star was built. That macho Canadian building with the same number of stories, was what Joe Schuster, the creator of Superman, used as a model for Clark's Kent's news office building... Daily Planet. Newspapers were big back then!
Today, 22 stories isn't that impressive. But they don't make sturdy buildings like this anymore.
I'm glad those mighty pilasters, framing the windows, were not messed with when they gave a facelift to the building's base, years ago. I loved standing and looking straight up from the corner and thinking about Superman sailing out a window.
Once inside, it was hard to believe we were in an old building. The boutique hotel is only about 10 years old and has a totally modern feel.
Curves & Colors
While Don checked us in, I studied the cushioned walls and fireplace focus. I loved the glass light fixtures, but the cushy-brick made me think of preschool building toys.
Too many years teaching, I'm afraid.
In the center of the lobby, there was an almost space-age feel to the metal columns and curved stairway, floating above us.
Round skylights let in some daylight, so I could study the modern interior. What a contrast to the classic structure on the outside. Both equally bold.
We didn't get a chance to use this space at the top of the stairs.
By late afternoon, The Lounge Restaurant & Bar was covered in purple, green and gold decor, for a private Mardi Gras/Birthday party. I guess we could have crashed.
Heading to the Elevators
We headed for our room and I took this shot from the elevator, looking through the hall to the lobby. More curves and colors.
Our suite was one of 314 rooms at Magnolia.
I failed to capture a good shot of the room. It was much more spacious and attractive than the photos show. I might add, the room was peaceful at night. No sounds from the big party below.
Coming in from the suburbs, we hardly needed the spacious 2-part bath and the fridge/cooking area.
But no complaints.
The modern suite gave no hints of the building's past. But the window-hook gave a tiny clue that this building was in use, back before air-conditioning.
I could picture open windows and newsmen, pacing back and forth with ties loosened, while typewriters clicked nearby...
Even though it was February, Don and I packed swimwear and spent time on the roof reading around the pool.
The pool was small, but the view was big.
Better at Night
We returned to the roof in the evening to see the view and it was even better.
The lit up buildings and distant ferris wheel were festive on a balmy winter evening.
Off to Dinner
Since the hotel restaurant was being used for the private party, we walked down to another historic hotel for dinner. We were the only ones dining at Hotel Lancaster when our waiter snapped this photo.
The packed cafe had emptied just before 8 pm, when the entire lot headed across the street to Alley Theatre. Later, we took our time heading back to Magnolia, stopping at the historic Rice Hotel for jazz and dancing. So much, within walking distance!
Cookies and Milk?
When we returned to Magnolia, the complimentary Cookie and Milk Bar had just been put away.
But a lovely staff person, trotted back to the fetch us some chocolate chip cookies and we made coffee in the room.
In the morning we took a walk around downtown, studying other old buildings. When we returned, I looked up and noticed the ornate top of our hotel's structure. I had to zoom in with my camera to see that those were indeed lion head gargoyles, above the rows of pilasters. Why did they put all the good stuff up so high?
It was Sunday, so the street in front of hotel was pretty quiet as we waited for the valet to bring our car. We did see quite a parade of folks leaving our hotel, getting into nice cars, carrying their dresses and suits. Evidently, lots of wedding guests stayed the night before.
But when the bells at Christ Church Cathedral began to ring right across the street, we saw another parade. The choir was entering the church from the cloisters. Nice!
I later learned the church had some concerns when the building was being converted 15 years ago. There were issues about the hotel bar serving liquor, within 300 feet of the church school. They must have resolved that one. I love old and recent history tidbits!
I know it's the interior that I'm supposed to remember, but I'll definitely recall the traditional look of the skyscraper exterior.
I'm glad that we didn't have to sleep in an old office, with clicking typewriters. Our room really was lovely and the modern spaces were attractive. But I wouldn't have minded a quick glimpse of Clark Kent walking by, or Superman leaping out the window!
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!