Home of a Chilean Admiral
In 2013, Don and I kept our fingers crossed as our taxi wound up the narrow road in Vina Del Mar.
We had booked our stay after reading positive reviews, but the price had seemed almost too good to be true. We hoped our inn wouldn't end up being in a ghetto.
Gated Community... Chilean Style
From the taxi, we could see lots of large homes behind a wall.
Could this possibly be where our B&B was located?
The taxi let us off beside the stone wall and was gone before we even found the buzzer beside the thick blue door.
We hoped we had the address right, because the home behind and above the door/wall, looked very intriguing!
Our First Greeting
Our host Jose, answered our buzz quickly and with a click, the blue door unlocked. We fumbled our baggage up the cement stairs and found ourselves face to face with a bold white house, trimmed in blue.
The wonderful old home, which had been an admiral's house, felt like a welcoming little fortress high on the hill. We were greeted by a sweet kitty in the garden...
And once inside we were greeted by Jose! What a treat to have a host who spoke English.
We had been in Chile a week and had learned to expect no help with communication! Jose, (along with the fresh colors and decor of the inn) couldn't have been more welcoming!
The living area was spotless, with strong beams of wood and walls covered in bright paint and bold patterns.
I peeked in the kitchen and could see a few reminders that this was not just a hotel, this was a home. Jose's wife and daughter weren't home, but there were crayon drawings and a few kiddie dishes. I hoped we would meet his family.
Up the Blue Staircase
The fresh paint, polished wood and modern light fixtures, made it hard to imagine this building, 100 years ago.
I would love to have seen photos of the admiral who once lived here. What kind of furniture? What kind of curtains? I should have asked Jose more questions.
Our Green Room
Our room was clean and spacious. I would have loved a comfy chair or sofa, but we hardly spent time in the room anyway.
And I was impressed that we could open windows and let in the sea air! Over the rooftops, we could spot the Pacific, with a few ships.
The neighborhood location was a treat for open windows, far from honking cars. But we did have some sounds to keep things from getting dull.
Occasionally a dog would break the silence, with a bark. Then a scattered chain of barks and howls would follow. I felt sure these dogs were sharing important messages, like in "101 Dalmatians".
On Monday morning we woke to the giggles and chatter of school children, traveling nearby in groups. Sure, we could have closed the windows, but I felt like we were getting a secret glimpse into another world!
There were a few other guest rooms with attached baths, but our bathroom was just across the hall.
The slight inconvenience of having to cross the hall, was outweighed by having the best bath and shower. I loved the blue tub, the large windows and clean wood and tile. I can't say enough how clean everything was!
This is the table where breakfast was served in the morning. I so wish I'd been brave enough to snap a photo with our fellow guests. At first, we were a quiet group around the table, nibbling homemade pastries, hardboiled eggs, meats and cheese.
But when the coffee finally kicked in, the 6 of us were all talking at once. Something about the accents and the sophistication (of the others!) reminded me of a scene from "Room With a View". I loved hearing about our fellow travelers from Quebec and Brazil, while tiny Laura, who spoke no English, served us. After a long breakfast we all hugged good-bye. Funny to hug people you just met.
So What is Most Notable?
The big house was like a hilltop retreat! Clean, safe and welcoming.
We loved being able to walk down and explore the charming streets and waterfront area. But Vina is like most cities. There's graffiti and there are dark alleys and you have to be aware at night. But we felt safer and more at home in our little fortress on the hill, than we would have at the nearby Sheridan, with the doorman and security guards!
A Chilean Ship-Shaped Hotel!
In March of 2013, Don and I had one of our most memorable overnights at this odd hotel beside the Pacific, in Central Chile.
This art deco structure has been entertaining travelers and locals, for a long time. Don and I heard about the hotel from a few people we met in Santiago, before coming to Vina.
One said she remembered coming as a child to the hotel, for grand puppet shows. Another said the the hotel's restaurant was the best in Vina Del Mar.
We Came For A Drink
We had heard the hotel was booked, but stopped in one evening for a drink. Max the bartender treated us well. (Maybe because we were the only ones there) He served our drinks and supplied us with tasty spread of olives, cheese and bits of beef on toothpicks.
While chatting, we determined there had been some miscommunication about the "booked" hotel. We ended up making reservations for the next night.
Our Non-Floating Hotel
I was pretty delighted when we checked in the next day. The whole place just made me laugh with the retro, nautical feel! Rounded woodwork and brass railings everywhere!
Even though the building is not a boat, everything felt a bit tilted, as if you might need to grab the railing at any moment, to keep from sliding across the floor!
Both options for reaching the second floor, were tricky. Don and I couldn't fit ourselves and all our bags into the cage-like elevator, so Raul said he would bring up the rest.
By the time we reached the second floor, Raul had already dashed up the spiral staircase with our gigantic load and was standing at our elevator door!
Our Junior Suite Awaits
I've always been amused by the term junior suite. Does that mean it's a "little bit" luxurious. Or does it mean it's a glam suite, for tots. Who knows, but our junior suite was amusing.
And we loved it! Yes it was oddly worn with faded spreads and drapes with many patterns. But it was grandly spacious and the open windows let in the sea breeze and sounds of waves and seagulls!
It sort of reminded me of a Greenwich Village apartment in the 1960's, with book shelves and cafe tables. I could have enjoyed lounging with a book or just staring out the window at the waves crashing up against the hotel, built out over the water.
This room with the blue tile, held the Jacuzzi tub and pedestal sink. There was another door off the bedroom that lead to a tiny closet that held the toilet.
That sort of cracked me up. But no complaints. We weren't sharing a bath with other hotel guests!
Cheers to Cap Ducal!
The restaurant didn't open until 8pm. So we made reservations and arrived early so we could enjoy some Pisco Sours and a little of the bar's ambiance, in the daylight.
Reviews for the restaurant all raved about the food, but some picky people suggested coming after dark, to avoid seeing the worn appearance. I don't agree. I was happily amused by the faded patchwork fabric that covered our bar table. (Do I recognize that material from my grandmother's apron?) I just don't like to miss a thing!
We were able to reserve the best dinner table at the very bow of the boat, overlooking the water... and the curious Wulff Castle.
The food, the service and the view, could not have been better! The candles in their iron stands, seemed to be the only light in the dining room. That meant we were able see out over the water, long after sunset.
We enjoyed razor clams with cream sauce, then sea bass and conger eel. There was a zippy-flavored, chocolate cake with surprising slivers of orange peel. All was perfect!
A Surprise from Raul and Max
Our team of servers brought us very curious complimentary shots, of some kind of Chilean drink. Raul did his best to translate for Max. Evidently, there were some herbs involved, that would help with gastronomical problems!
Hmm? Did we look like we had issues? My grin is ridiculously large, so the photo must have been taken before I took a sip. It was nearly impossible to swallow, as I recall!
Morning at The Cap
We fell asleep quickly with the open windows and waves pounding. And the Chilean drink must have worked, since we woke feeling fine!
A spread of complimentary breakfast foods awaited in the dining room. Don posed nicely between the buffet and the sea maiden, hovering above his shoulder!
We loved our stay at our quirky ship-hotel! It felt a little odd that we only saw a few others.
So what, if the floors and linens were dated and sun faded? The staff and food was all fresh and pleasing! Great stay and fun memory!
In the fall of 2013, Don and I stopped in the old California boomtown, of Grass Valley.
We were lucky to get one of the 27 rooms at the Holbrooke, on a Friday night.
The hotel was built in 1862, but the vintage car we parked next to in the back, was almost 100 years younger!
Interesting Lobby Vibe
This lobby photo makes the hotel look peaceful and cozy.
It was actually pretty hopping at about 4 pm. Live music was pouring out, from the hotel's saloon. A group of musicians had just finished rolling equipment through the lobby.
Checking In & Heading Up
As we checked in, we chuckled with the desk clerk about hotel hauntings. The Holbrooke, as with most historic hotels, has a few ghost stories. Then we climbed into the cage-like elevator and rattled upward, watching the first floor disappear.
We reached the second floor and admired the 150 year old woodwork... with the 1980's updates. I've seen a lot of 80's-era parquet floors and green wallpaper, in old hotels. There must have been a lot of hotel renovations going on, 30+ years ago.
There was a guest book in the hallway with Grover Cleveland's signature. Mark Twain also stayed at the Holbrook once, but I guess he didn't sign the book.
I would like to think Mark Twain stayed in our room and did a little writing... but I guess not, since our room was named for Gilbert Barry. I don't even know Mr. Barry, but evidently he was one of those silent movie actors who became less popular when transitioning to "talkies".
About the Room
Our room was modernized just enough. The mattress and bedding were good quality and I appreciate that. There were some "antiques" like you'd find at a nice garage sale... which is fine. The woodwork had a fresh coat of yellow.
I'm glad they didn't mess with the bathroom floor. The hexagonal tile with the "H" was a pretty nice touch!
Tub and Tank!
I love a claw footed tub, with a shower option. And I love a comical old toilet tank, if it works.
And it did. The lace curtains in the bathroom window didn't offer much privacy, though. Of course there was a brick wall about 6 feet across, so I don't think we probably needed curtains at all.
The hotel restaurant looked very classy with exposed brick and gallery art. The tables were inviting with purple and magenta linens.
We didn't get a chance to sample the menu for dinner, but did have the hotel's complimentary breakfast in the morning. Sadly it was served in a newer addition, which felt more like a banquet hall.
Exploring and Lounging
There was a parlor off the lobby that offered some nice seating and maybe even a fire, had it been cooler.
Golden Gate Saloon
By early evening the hotel's Golden Gate Saloon was filled with a mostly middle aged crowd, being entertained by a decent singer and guitarist.
Locals and Travelers
Don and I were able to grab the last table and order drinks, before heading off to dinner. We enjoyed a little people watching and quickly determined the crowd was made up of more locals than travelers.
And these locals didn't seem to be your typical small town bar crowd either. The fact that tennis instead of football was playing on the TV above the bar hinted at that.
A Friend at the Bar
Don and I both noticed the gentleman with the cap, seated at the bar. He seemed to be sipping water as he applauded Nadal's tennis skills. Seeing such tennis enthusiasm, let me know we had something in common.
Before long, the man who called himself G.G., was seated at our table talking about his passion for nearly an hour. He told us about his time in the service during the Korean War and how being on the tennis team made the difficult flight training program bearable. He talked about his later years as a Pan Am pilot. I had to ask if that world was as glamorous then as we've been lead to believe. He laughed and steered the conversation once again to tennis. He hinted that overseas travel got tedious and tennis gave him something to look forward to. "Wherever I landed for the night, I always made sure I had a match lined up!"
The historic hotel itself was not as memorable as the sweet town of Grass Valley and our interesting chat with one of its locals. The convenience of staying right no Main Street with restaurants and shops, is worth noting.
But I'm glad we didn't take off for dinner any earlier, or we would have missed the memorable atmosphere and conversation at The Golden Gate Saloon!
My sister-in-law, Kate discovered this place while browsing on her I-Pad.
When I took a look at the site, I realized not only could we stay in a tree house for the first time, but a lavender farm as well!
After the Rains
I was glad to learn that the Farm/B&B, located northeast of Dallas was open after recent Texas flooding. However the tree house I'd seen pictured was booked. I called to chat with Gwen, who owns the farm with her husband Mike. She offered up their second tree house, Bare Creek Hollow. "It's not officially open yet, but we could put you up there if you like."
It was muggy and hot when we arrived at 3. It was questionable whether we could drive the car on the recently flooded dirt road. We managed to get close enough and hauled our stuff up the winding, wood ramp. My cowboy boots came in very handy for hiking down to the creek for more photos, later.
The Other Side
From the creek there was a better view of the fun side of the tree house, with upper and lower porches. The photos look a little like Dorothy's house lifting up in a cyclone. It felt a lot sturdier than the floating images.
Mosquitoes were swarming, so it was nice to step inside. The air-conditioner seemed to be struggling a bit, but we were pretty delighted with the interior. Numerous windows made the place feel spacious and airy. If weather had permitted, we could have opened all the windows and really enjoyed being up in the trees. However, we did enjoy the fun of two trees intruding our space! One was growing right up through the floor.
Tree & Stair Climbing
A larger trunk was given permission to lean right into the room near the stairs. A little plexiglas protected us from tree-climbing critters.
The funny staircase to the upper guest room and bath, was also a divider between the tiny kitchen and sitting area. Nobody ever said tree houses are safe and the staircase added a little adventure to our stay. It got a little iffy at the top and one careless step from the guest room to the bathroom, could have given me more interesting stories to tell!
Mike Brought Breakfast and Stories
In the evening, Mike brought us a breakfast tray to put in the fridge till morning. He'd been celebrating his birthday with family on a boat all day, but was still happy to linger with some stories.
Discovery Channel's Treehouse Masters, had been involved with the building of the tree house we were in. He laughed about some of the problems they encountered in the building process.
There were still things to complete and fix and he apologized for the sluggish a.c. Lucky for Mike and Gwen that we were pretty laid back guests and able to relax, even though the thermostat read 81 degrees.
At the top of the stairs we found a sweet little room with a brightly decorated iron bed. The sliding "barn door" to the bath, also held a ladder leading up to a tiny sleeping loft. The bathroom was pleasant. It smelled of lavender soaps and scrubs and the antique mirror made it hard for me to see my wrinkles. The view from the window in the shower made me feel like I was standing up in a tree during a summer rain!
I have to chuckle at these heavenly photos. I could barely sit long enough for the camera to snap, before running inside to escape the buzzing skeeters!
It's easier to enjoy the dense, green world that surrounded the porch... in the photos! I can only imagine how lovely that rocking chair would be during a cool, dry season.
After a little slathering of bug spray, it was time to explore. There was a duck pond and a purple hen house, with it's own little chandelier. There was also a pair of friendly dogs who followed us everywhere. Fred was happy to pose in the lavender.
The Odd Stuff
Wandering the trails and dirt roads, it was hard to figure out what was decoration or art or just discarded stuff. I'm all for the odd and whimsical, but it was perplexing to see a punching bag in the Zen garden. And the legless chair with wings was the strangest of all.
I wasn't sure if the metal wires that held the chair were strong enough to hold me, so I just gave my camera bag a ride. The fallen unicorn with the broken horn, was odd. I noticed that Fred the Dog seemed confused and afraid when he began barking at a large plastic deer leaning against a tree.
Near the larger lavender field there was more fun-clutter that fit the term shabby chic a little better. I appreciate weathered wood and rusty metal when they're resting in wildflowers.
The large gold frame in the grass offered a view of the silo, which is also the office and gift shop. A few platform stages and scattered chairs and tables reminded me that it's not always so quiet at the farm.
We did get to peek at the other two B&B offerings on the farm. The trailer was decorated inside with more vintage oddities. We were excited to see the "Majestic Oak Treehouse" before guests arrived.
There were actually 3 spaces connected by bridges. A huge tree trunk was in the center of the living space. The bedroom was more like a hanging platform with screens that could be rolled up. What a hoot!
And The Lavender!
The main field doesn't really cover that much area, but it was lovely in the evening light.
I sprayed up and went out the next morning before 7 to wander before the heat. That was much nicer. I could enjoy the lavender smell without sweating!
Our tree house wasn't exactly rustic, since we had a flat screen TV and a cushy lounge chair. There was no internet, but there was a mighty fine charging station, set up in an old built-in telephone nook!
And there was a good fan over the bed which helped us get to sleep until the a.c. for some reason kicked in, sometime in the wee hours.
It was peaceful and pretty in the morning. I wandered a bit with my doggy friends. I found a few spiderwebs and other surprises.
Don and I checked out with Gwen in the silo office. She was very apologetic about our a.c. and gave us a big discount. She was bustling around the office getting ready for the Lavender Festival, which was a few days away. It was a little hard to imagine the farm, with lots of people.
I will always remember sleeping in the trees and wandering in lavender. And that was great. But aside from the obvious, I'll remember the odd mix of nature and junk.
I've always been a fan of stuff that can be transformed for function or art. But there was a lot of stuff (which I didn't photograph) that made me ponder. Was that put there on purpose? Where did that come from?
There's a part of me that wants to go back with my own tools and imagination and do some rearranging. Hmmm?
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!