Lots of Blue
There's a lot of blue sky and blue water in Florida!
And they used a lot of blue, when they renovated this 1950's motel in 2009.
It doesn't look like the old motor courts and motels I remember from when I lived in Florida as a kid.
But this 196-room boutique hotel had a nice mix of styles.
The huge lobby had lots of sitting areas, all very bohemian-modern. Or maybe should say, it seemed a little Sixties-Snobby. That term I just made up from watching Jerry Lewis movies as a kid.
All the snooty, sophisticated characters who were mean to Jerry lived in modern penthouses with lots of super mod decor!
I grew up in a house with antiques, so the only modern furniture I owned was the lovely "marble" swivel coffee table, that went into my dollhouse.
That "Petite Princess" brand of toy furniture looked a lot like some of the stuff I saw in the lobby... which was luckily pretty empty. It was October and no spring break crowds!
As we passed through the lobby into the courtyard, I began to see signs of the old motel look.
More wonderful blue! We had a first level motel room on the courtyard.
Rooms with Patios
Closer to the pool, we saw rooms that may have been original from the fifties.
They had grassy patios and hammocks.
The patio rooms were just steps from the lovely pool. It was peaceful on that evening in October, but as we wandered through the tidy rows of lounge chairs I was reminded of how un-peaceful it might be with a spring break crowd.
Closer to the beach and "shack-bar" there was a handy little platform, holding some sort of creepy mattresses...for lounging, or whatever. I don't think I'd want a poolside room in March or April.
Our Groovy Room!
I'm pretty sure this is the first surfer-style room I have on my Notable Nights list! One wall was covered with a colorful surfing mural. The green wall figures lured us towards the dandy chair with mod fabric.
The window had Venetian blinds and drapes with groovy green fabric. The view looked out on our courtyard, which actually had some lovely trees and landscaping.
Pink Tile & Surf Board
I love old tile in bathrooms, especially when a soap dish and toothbrush holder are incorporated! Was that color a flesh tone? Pink, I hope.
I've never had a surfboard in the room. I have a feeling that was not to be borrowed like a hotel towels. But it was tempting, since I could hear the gulls and surf through open windows!
By the Beach
This looks like a boarded up shack in the photo, but the PCI Bar, was indeed open.
There was a small crowd seated on stools at the bar. We decided to pass on the PCI Bar, in order to catch the sunset.
Again, I'm focussing on the peaceful images.
My sunset with dunes photo does not reveal the huge beach nearby. There were volley ball nets and sunburned tourists... This is the scene I choose to remember.
I'm glad we got to see the lush grounds in the day, with the wonderful trees. I love palms, but these giant beasts were so festive, especially at night when the lanterns (hanging from the branches) were glowing!
Later that evening, Don and I enjoyed some drinks and appetizers at the restaurant/bar attached to the lobby. It was a treat to enjoy the laid back atmosphere without throbbing music and "kids" who would have called us Gram and Gramps. But I wouldn't mind a glimpse of that scene just for fun.
We stayed at a retro, beach motel with a clean & fun facelift. The place is pretty large, so there wasn't a cozy welcome, but that's okay.
I'm not itching to revisit, since we may have lucked out. I wouldn't want to return and find the place filled with partiers. But then again, I might have more interesting stories to tell.
A Sad Reunion in Springfield, Missouri
Two and a half years ago, my siblings and our families, gathered at this odd, yet comforting Bed & Breakfast.
We had come "home" to bury my mother, traveling from 6 different states. I didn't grow up in Springfield, but it was the town my parents and my 3 siblings returned to for holidays and vacations. Our family moved from state to state, but grandparents always stayed put in Springfield!
We caravanned in a few cars and arrived at dusk. None of us recognized this curious old place, even though we thought we knew Springfield well. I had found the place online a week earlier. Finding the mansion once we reached Springfield, was a bit trickier.
We found the odd location, then we needed to figure out which of the many entrances to use. And then we had to find someone who worked there to show us our rooms. It all seemed a little mysterious, which added to the foggy, dreamlike state we were already in.
I had expected quiet, since the host on the phone had said the compound had once been owned by an order of cloistered nuns, who focused on "humility and gentleness".
But as we creaked up the teak staircase to the second floor hall, it seemed almost too quiet... like The Shining.
So Much Space
The hallway was long and wide enough to hold numerous pieces of Victorian style furniture, including a pump organ.
A bit of Christmas decor hung over windows and filled table tops. The mansion, built in 1892 had 13 suites, each with a bath. That seemed awfully extravagant for a convent.
The Veranda Room
Don and I were pretty delighted to find our spacious room decorated with a lit up Christmas tree. In fact all the rooms had one.
We also had a ritzy door surrounded in stained glass, that led us to our own little veranda! Did they have 10 nuns per room?
Grand in its Time
As it turns out, this lovely home was bought by the "Visitation of Holy Mary" in 1906.
It was built 125 years ago by millionaire, John O'Day for his bride. There were originally 35 rooms and 7 baths and they called it Park Place.
Quite the Doorway
Since we had such a fine room with a terrace and stained glass, I couldn't help but think this might have been a room reserved for the O'Day's special guests.
But in truth all the rooms seemed pretty unique, some with fireplaces and sitting areas and one with a piano. I got to peek in quite a few rooms, since our family and kids took up so many of them.
There were a lot of thoughts swimming in my head, on the evening before my mom's graveside service. Emotions are a strange thing and somehow spotting that claw-footed tub surrounded in lace gave me quite the chuckle, that I so needed.
Mom would have loved this place. She was the one who taught me to love the unusual and to search for the stories. This seemed to be the perfect setting to gather and remember Mom.
My brother's room had a good table with lots of extra chairs. I very much needed this corner gathering (more than a chuckle over a bathtub) to relieve the stress leading up to our stay.
After 2 weeks of worry and planning and logistics and sadness, we were suddenly all together, spending time remembering our Mom. There was something comforting about this empty (except for our family) and spiritual place. We kept it respectful, since there is still some religious affiliation, with no liquor rules. Meaning, we respectfully packed up and carted off any plastic cups and bottles we may have used. I'm usually a rule follower, but we needed to toast our Mom.
A Chilly Morning to Reflect
I was up before the sun rose and gave myself time to walk the grounds and prepare my mind for the day.
The cold air was like a slap in the face when I stepped out. A welcome jolt actually.
Of course I thought about Mom. She would have so loved this wintery garden. And she would have loved the quirky history behind it. Mrs. O'Day was given the house when her husband divorced her, after a couple years of marriage.
She changed the name from Park Place to Elfindale, in honor of the elves she claimed to see on her misty mornings walks. It was eerie enough walking that early morning, without knowing that many of the nuns had once been buried on the grounds. Evidently they were "moved", sometime before the property was bought and turned into a B&B in 1990.
A Cottage and Tower
I wandered down the road under the odd metal arches, that must have been lit at night. I found a curious cottage that would have been a perfect elf house, had it been more the size of a shoebox.
Then I headed back to the east entrance of the mansion, where the sun was barely beginning to glow. I could spot our terrace above the stairs. And the tower!! If only I'd known that the tower held a guest room! Someday I'd like to stay in the Tower Room.
Convent, School, Church, Mansion
I crossed over to see the school/convent and church that had been built after the nun's purchase in 1906.
The sun was warming things a bit, but the wind was giving the flag a workout and my hands were numb. I headed in to shower before breakfast.
Breakfast Before Heading Out
After having the place to ourselves the night before, it was a relief to have the staff on duty, preparing breakfast.
Evidently they only do breakfasts on weekends, so we were lucky they made an exception for our small crowd. Our normally loud group was pretty quiet that morning as we sipped coffee and mentally prepared for the morning service.
Before checking out, I noticed the ornate, carved fireplace, with red and green stockings. Yep, Mom would have loved that.
She was the knitter of Christmas stockings and we have more than one photo of Mom knitting away on Christmas Eve, finishing the latest grandchild's stocking, before Santa's arrival.
We stayed overnight in an awesome, somewhat eerie mansion, that later became a convent. That's quite notable!
But personally, I'll always associate the stay with Mom and family.
August 2007 with The Family
Don and I have visited the California Wine Country twice and both times were with our underage kids.
In other words the big focus was not on wine. Our focus on this trip was a family wedding, so we didn't exactly end up making full use of the wine world or the natural baths at our historic resort. But we couldn't have asked for a better setting.
Coming from Texas, we tried to absorb as much of the heavenly California weather as possible.
Don and his brother in law Bernie, made good use of the porches. I loved our homey cottage, with wicker seating and open windows!
There was nothing fancy about the inside. We hardly needed that much space or even a kitchen, but there was a nostalgic feel about the place.
It reminded me of the motel/apartments my family of 6 used to rent when I was a kid in Florida. Of course they were never quite this nice.
Those worn out Florida motels never offered plush robes for the whole family.
We made sure to put our spa robes to good use, when we marched over to pool house for a night-time swim.
The Olympic-sized pool built in 1913, was filled with thermal mineral water drawn from geysers on the property.
We actually had a few lap swimmers in our group, but even at night the waters were too warm and our swimmers turned into loungers.
We got up early the next day to make full use of all the outdoor activities, before wedding focus took over.
The steam rising above the pool house, was dramatic in the morning light.
Time to Play!
The shuffleboard brought me back to the Florida motel days. But those beachside courts never had mountains in the background!
The tetherball brought me back to grade school days. Those memories weren't so pleasant, since tetherball is not so fun when you are short. I always lost quickly.
Pingpong and Croquet was more my style. And because all the other hotel guests seemed to be indulging in wine tasting excursions or expensive mud baths, (using the property's volcanic ash soil) we had all these crazy games to ourselves.
I will always remember the hotel as an old fashioned retreat in the middle of a glorious landscape!
It was such a calm and peaceful atmosphere for lounging around playing retro yard games! I've heard the resort has undergone some huge renovations recently. I wouldn't mind going back and sipping some wine... in a mud bath!
Venice, Florida in October 2012
Three years ago, we planned a Florida road trip to revisit some of the places I adored as a child.
I had fond memories of Venice and I loved the idea of staying in a retro Florida-Style motel. However when we arrived I had to roll my eyes at this awful sign that overshadowed the quaint semi-circular office building.
The Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami
When most Floridians escaped to the north during summer months, our family traveled south (for Dad's work) from Tallahassee to Sarasota. We knew the north portion of The Trail well.
Every neon sign and orange juice stand made the 4 kids (and our traveling pets) pretty giddy. My dream when planning the trip, was to stay at a motel on the actual Trail!
This is what Island Breeze used to look like! When built In 1951, it a had a cutesy name, a lovely grass courtyard with a fountain and most likely shuffleboard!
The sign possibly was not neon, but it had a colorful fellow sleeping under a sombrero... which may not be considered politically correct, today. But these are the images that still make me sigh today. I'd like to sit a spell in one of those webbed lawn chairs.
At Least It's There!
I was glad we were able to find any place at all right on the TheTrail! When bigger interstates opened up, the motels and restaurants suffered. This very area turned pretty shady.
The places that didn't have boarded up windows were becoming flophouses and homes to drug dealers and prostitutes. Around 2005, a few brave souls began to work on saving the area with renovations.
The motel is not on the beach or they might have gone for a pricier fix-up. But I liked the simplicity of the flat roofs and painted cinderblock. We enjoyed the convenience of backing up to the door.
There was even a covered walkway that we could have used as a porch to watch one of those great Florida thunderstorms.
The TV and microwave reminded me that it wasn't 1967 anymore. But the doors and ceiling had the original knotty pine.
This was their smallest and cheapest of 21 rooms. The woman at the desk tried to talk us into something "more comfortable" but we assured her it would be fine.
Porch with Shells and a View... Sort Of
We didn't seem to have neighbors, so the porch was ours. We noticed a few shell collectors had decorated the windowsill.
The rock and palm landscaping was pretty tidy and gave us a little view. But mostly it was just sad to see the parking lot, where there had once been a refreshing, green courtyard.
There was a tiny pool with a wooden table and grill, but I was eager to get to the beach.
It was Venice Beach where my family spent many an afternoon filling paper cups with shiny black shark's teeth. "I found 94," Says an entry in my 1968 diary. I was sad to discover that 40 years later, the "Shark Teeth Capital of the World" has lost its loot. I didn't find a single one.
They still have palm trees and the 2 rounded buildings that face the street. You have to really hunt to find traces of the original motel. And then you have to appreciate what you discover.
Island Breeze is not a place I will yearn to revisit. More than anything my overnight stay just made me curious about the history of old motels. I'm motivated to find more that have survived, since I know these Mom and Pop places do exist.
Roadside Motel in a Big TX City
Don and I have spent a lot of time in Austin, especially after we became UT parents.
We've stayed at some dumpy and swanky hotels on visits, but we've always been curious about the iconic Austin Motel on SOCO. In September of 2013, we finally got to stay at the "Far Out" motel!
SOCO, might just be my favorite part of Austin. The wide road (at least when you cross it) has a dramatic view of the Capital.
Congress Avenue is lined with inviting shops, even for non-shoppers like me. There are kitschy junk/antique shops, an old fashioned barber, Big Top's for candy, Allens Boots for cowboy attire... street music, food trucks and fine dining! Of course if you stroll at dawn, you may have to wait a while for some activity.
The motel may be a little hidden behind a wall and large trees, but the sign refuses to be ignored.
It's been there since 1938, when Jennie Eck inherited the land her parents purchased in 1888. Jennie and her husband built the motel to cater to folks enjoying the new craze of car travel! They sold to the Mr. & Mrs. Thompson in 1961.
I wish I had a photo of the inside of this 77 year old lobby when I checked in. I remember there was a sweet cat who greeted.
There were areas for lounging and and enjoying free coffee and reading materil. But the gentleman at the counter made me feel a little shy with the camera. He probably was just shy himself. I read great things about the staff and the family that still owns the motel since the Mr. and Mrs. T passed away. I love family businesses!
We wandered the grounds after checking in and saw lots of colorful Tejas-style detail.
Painted tiles, fountains, statues and pots.
When Dottye Dean inherited the biz from "Mom" Thompson in 1993, she left behind her opera singing career in San Francisco and used an artistic approach to renovating the motel. This
rusty car garden, might not have been her artistic doing, but it might be a playful reminder of what Dottye found when she arrived at the motel Austin...
Original 1939 Building
When Dottye inherited the motel, the property and rooms were being vandalized regularly.
Don and I stayed in one of these small original rooms for around $80. Luckily the rooms were safe and clean, unlike a period in the 1980's, when SOCO was more known for drug dealers and prostitutes, than shoppers and diners. There have been renovations since Dottye took over, but much has stayed the same.
The bathroom was small, but colorful. And our window had hand-painted flowers! Kind of like stained glass?
We could have spent a lot more, like $180. for a suite. But this was all we needed.
Our Tiny Room
Nothing too fancy here, but it was fun to know we were in a room frequented by car travelers in the '40's and '50's.
There was a small TV and the AC worked fine. There was no closet, but we had some hangers on a hook. And maybe those were original tile floors?
Lounging at the Retro Pool
You'll have to take my word for it, but this pool was indeed kidney-shaped! It was built in 1950, to keep up with the new motel built across the street. (which is now gone)
Don and I fixed some cocktails brought them along for lounging in the awesome metal lounge chairs. We didn't need to make use of the red and white metal umbrellas, because the sun was going down. We stayed until the motel light was all aglow!
I'm in awe that this place still exists! In the 17 years that we've been coming to Austin, it has become so much more expensive and crowded.
I think it's pretty wild that you can stay in a motel within walking distance of great restaurants, shops and the Capital itself if you have good walking shoes... for $82.00! If this had been my only visit to Austin, I would have wanted something a bit more cushy, but I got a little retro Austin for retro prices. Hard to believe!
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!