Back in the Day
This vintage photo shows the Palace Hotel when it was young.
When we pulled up to the hotel last June, the hotel looked just as charming as it did over 100 years ago. Not too much has changed.
The Palace no longer includes the corner cafe, so the hotel is actually fairly narrow. I loved having 2 doors. The door on the left took us into the lobby. The door on the right took us directly to the staircase.
The small lobby was bright and welcoming, with Victorian furniture and colorful gallery art.
I Love Stairs
We headed up the stairs to our second floor room. The stairway was wide and well lit, which is nice when you're lugging lots of junk.
I was sort of glad we didn't have to climb higher, but the woodwork was lovely... so I wouldn't have complained.
Curves and Accents
When we reached the second floor I was impressed with the curious, curved wall and trio of decor that greeted us... gold radiator, odd little chair and lacy table display.
We opened the door to a nice surprise! We hadn't realized our "room" was really a suite with sitting room, kitchen, bed area and bath. We made use of the comfy, swivel chairs and the tiny dining area.
Cute and Retro
The little kitchen was pretty adorable. I loved the glass shelves in the window and the soft, silver tones in the cabinets and pressed tin.
The linens and pillows were luxurious. We each had a nice bedside table and lamp, so there was no fighting. We've learned not to expect that with historic hotels.
Don and I usually go for the cheapest rooms, so we're always extra excited when we have a corner room. We had 5 windows in our cute little space. I loved peeking out at the old buildings and mountains, beyond.
Walking in Salida
The location of The Palace was ideal. We were just steps away from the Arkansas River, where we watched kayaks coming through the rapids. We ended up eating dinner at The Boat House Restaurant, with its green awning and umbrellas and river view.
Neon at Night
I love a little neon. It always seems extra whimsical in a small town. Of course there was a little noise at the Victorian Bar across the street. That made things seem more citified... but the hum of the a.c. helped with that.
In the morning, a little platter of goodies was waiting outside our door. We made our own coffee in the room and enjoyed it with muffins and parfait, with fruit, granola and yogurt.
Walking off Breakfast
We took a walk after breakfast and found the river much quieter. Lots of locals were out walking dogs and a mama and baby deer wandered down one street.
So did the Palace Hotel live up to its name? I'm not sure it felt like a real palace, but all the little surprises made me feel pampered like a picky princess. So I guess I'll say it passed the test. I would definitely stay again.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
As our car approached the hotel's address, I couldn't even see the enchanting structure, modeled after the Italian, 17th century Villa de Medici castle. The trees were lovely, but I was frustrated.
This old image shows the massive u-shaped hotel sitting between the mountains and the mineral hot springs pool. What a luxury to be a guest and stroll down the lawn to the pool and bathhouse.
Where's the Pool Now?
Today the pool and bathhouse sit across a street, congested with construction. The hotel no longer is affiliated with the pool and spa. The impressive, sandstone bathhouse was intriguing, but the hot springs didn't tempt us. It was nearly 100 degrees when we arrived and it would have cost us about $50. for a quick, hot dip.
There's a story about how the history of "teddy bears" began at this hotel, when Roosevelt was once a guest.
I captured no lounging guests when I took this photo at 9 pm, but in the afternoon, there were quite a few guests slumped in the formal chairs here and there. Some looked like they'd come from a day at the hot springs and others just looked like tired and grumpy travelers. The heat had obviously zapped everyone's energy. Even the woman at the desk talked about the heat. Before we headed upstairs, she gave us some advice.
"Just so you know, we don't have air-conditioning. My advice is, go to your room and open your windows and turn on the fans. Then go to our patio and order a drink."
Just Plain Odd
We headed up the stairs chuckling about that strange bit of advice. The warm air seemed extra still on the landing. I paused to have a look at the cheesy Botticelli reproduction. Surely that piece of "art" had not been decorating the hotel for 124 years.
The main hall was so wide, that we easily walked by 3 housekeeping carts that were lined up. We turned down our side hall and headed towards an open window, with fluttering drapes. The pink woodwork was comically dated. I noticed one door with an open transom and heard voices. There was no room number on the door, so I wondered if that was the third floor's haunted room that I'd heard about. They no longer offer the questionable room to guests, so maybe those were indeed ghostly voices.
Our Corner Suite 342
For some reason, we were bumped up to a suite, so maybe I should have felt more grateful. But we stepped into the sitting room and just laughed. The heavy air was stifling and the decor was amusing. The Victorian seating fit the era, but the 1970's updates were awkward.
We were happy to at least have a microwave and fridge. But the corner "wet-bar", along with the tiny flatscreen TV, just seemed so out of place.
We turned on the 2 ceiling fans, which rattled and whirred. Then we opened windows, which let in blasts of heat along with the sounds of traffic and construction.
At least our corner room allowed for better ventilation and views. If we looked straight forward (and not down towards traffic) we got a nice view of the mountains.
I sound like a snob when I chuckle about our suite. It really looks fine in this photo. But the carpet was worn. The bathroom door hit the toilet when it opened and the exposed pipes and popcorn ceiling seemed more tired-dusty, than quaint-vintage.
Don and I felt much better about facing the warm evening after quick showers. We headed down to the patio and yard in search of the coolest spot. There were a few vacant wooden chairs on the lawn. We enjoyed sitting and studying different parts of the brick and sandstone building. I loved the towers with their flags.
Patio and Fountain
There was a patio with umbrellas and a few early diners. The sound of the nearby fountain made things seem a little cooler.
The veranda had a decent looking bar with whirling fans and a nice view of the garden patio. But the bartender seemed as worn and grumpy as the travelers we'd seen inside. We didn't stay long.
Moving to the Lawn
A couple of log rockers opened up and we took our drinks to the grass. I got giddy when a few trees brightened up with lights and I got even more excited when an Amish couple I'd noticed earlier, strolled by and stopped to chat. It absolutely made my evening, listening to the happy couple talk about their exciting journey on the train from Indiana. They stood, in traditional Amish dress and just smiled about the heat. "We don't have air-conditioning." They laughed.
Better at Night
After the sun went down, the hotel looked much better. The temps dropped and the fire pits came on. Dinner was served on the patio, but we ended up lounging in our funny suite and eating some of out travel food.
By morning, the temps were in the fifties, although the room still hadn't cooled. It actually looked beautiful outside and I was sort of sorry we weren't staying longer to give the hotel a chance to impress us.
Fan and Fire
From the courtyard, I looked up at the windows and chuckled at the fans I saw in windows. It looked like an old apartment house. Then I stepped back into the lobby and noticed a morning fire in one of the grand fireplaces. What a contrast!
It made me sad that I couldn't have been more impressed. I so adore an old hotel and I don't need fancy renovations to make me feel at home. But the grand size of the hotel and perhaps the overly flattering website, made me feel disappointed.
As we rolled our bags to the parking lot, I turned back and saw the back of the building with no obstruction. There it is! I could finally see the hotel.
Learning about Baldpate
We had learned about the place when flipping through a 60-year-old cookbook, which featured the inn's tuna noodle casserole recipe. It was fall of 2015, when we tracked the inn down. We fell for the quirky place and vowed to come back for a stay... even if they no longer serve the casserole.
This past spring I began trying to reach the hotel to make reservations. I knew the place closed down from fall to summer, but I became more than frustrated when 8 emails and 12 phone calls were not returned. I was close to giving up, when I made one last attempt and got reservations.
"Stay Before It's Gone"
Don and I have a list of old hotels we hope to enjoy before they disappear. Smaller, lesser known hotels can close unexpectedly. We've experienced that surprise upon arrival, twice.
As we drove down the gravel road towards The Baldpate, I braced myself for disappointment. My reservations had been online and I'd never spoken with anyone. Plus, I had spotted a notice about the Baldpate being up for sale. But the heavy door with wooden bolt was standing wide open when we arrived!
After months of fretting over the owner's lack of communication, I was delighted by the welcoming summer staff at the desk. One young woman gave us hiking suggestions and another asked if we needed help with bags. I turned from the desk to see the empty couches in the cozy lobby. Two years ago on a cold rainy day, the space had looked different with hikers and families, warming up around the fireplace.
Remembering the weather 2 years earlier, we decided to take the hiking advice. Just up the gravel road from the inn, we found Lily Lake, which was part of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Easy access to RMNP was an added perk.
Back at the inn, we explored. If the weather had been crummy, I would have enjoyed curling up with a book in front of the library's stone fireplace. I should have checked the shelves to see if they had a copy of "The Seven Keys to Baldpate". That was the book (about guests at a mysterious inn) that gave the inn its name.
The Keys and The Inn
A cookbook is what helped us discover the inn. But it was the mystery novel that gave The Baldpate Inn its name.
After the Mace family opened their inn 100 years ago, the author of the novel visited and was surprised at how closely the inn resembled the imaginary inn of his book. The Mace family gave their hotel a new name and started a key tradition.
The Key Tradition, Then Collection
In early years, Baldpate guests were given their own keys to keep, as a fun, book-related gift. The tradition changed during WWI, when metal was rationed. However, loyal guests began arriving on return visits, with unusual keys to give the inn.
The Mace family began receiving keys from all around the world. They displayed these keys (to cathedrals and castles, universities and jails...) in what became The Key Room. My old cookbook boasted about the collection of 7,500 keys. Today it is over 20,000.
Hiking to the second floor guest rooms was sort of comical. The slanted floors and worn carpets made the inn seem a little eerie and neglected. But the youthful summer staff, trotting up and down stairs, made me feel like I was at a lively summer camp. It became clear that the youngin's were housed upstairs as well, when one off-duty worker smiled and greeted, as he dashed into the shower room. I was suddenly glad we'd gotten one of the three rooms with its own bath.
Our tiny room had a bit of a summer camp feel, except for the plush robes on hangers. (The seemed a bit out of place.) The slanted ceiling, paneling and retro sink made it feel a little more like we were spending the night in Grandma's attic. I loved it.
We opened the windows and let the fresh piney air blow in. A few hummingbirds came dangerously close to entering, which added to the fun.
The Red Bathroom
Clearly there had been some updates in the bathroom, with the red paint and tile. The claw-footed tub at least had a helpful spray nozzle. The night before, we had stayed in a hotel that also had a claw-footed tub. Don is 6'2" and does not enjoy the charm of retro tubs. I reminded him that there was a shower room, down the hall.
I had to laugh at the little red lamp attached to the wall, between the pillows. The slanting ceiling also made the bed a little claustrophobic, but all was clean and we had Colorado air blowing our ruffly curtains. We were pleased.
Sharing the Porch
The porch got good use in the afternoon. Many guests who had come just for lunch, lingered on the porch. I was curious to ask some of them how they had heard about the inn. I doubt any of them had been guided to the inn, by a vintage cookbook.
Porch to Ourselves
At one point the other guests were suddenly gone and we had the porch to ourselves. The scenery was ideal and all was calm...
Except for the Critters!
The chipmunks didn't cause too much of a disturbance, but we actually moved our chairs at one point, to get out of the direct path the hummingbirds. It was pretty amusing, hearing the hummers as they zipped back and forth between feeders and flowers. Pretty funny.
Wine With Our View
We enjoyed the porch while other guests seemed to flock to dinner. We watched the wildlife, heard a few rumbles of thunder and kept an eye on the activity across the road. The outdoor theatre was in the midst of a tech rehearsal for the summer run of "The 7 Keys of Baldpate". We got to chat with The Villain when he wandered over during break. He was the one who took our picture.
Dinner on the Porch
We had peeked at the dining porch earlier and hoped to get a table with a view. We got our wish and a wonderful server as well.
Sadie and The Book
As I've said, the young staff couldn't have been more gracious. Sadie, was delightful and even seemed properly curious about the old cookbook. She guided us towards the soup and salad bar, which is the only option at the inn. But that pleased us, since we'd been on the road, overeating.
The glassed in porch held the diners, but the main dining room held the food. An ice-filled, claw-footed tub held the fixings for salad. Two kettles held the soup options.
One table held numerous fresh breads and a tray showed the pie choices. We took our full plates to our window table and enjoyed a perfect comfort meal, while a little classical music played.
P.J.s and Bedtime Snack
We had heard pajamas were welcome at snack time and sure enough a few of the staff had already changed into theirs.
Before bed, Don and I opened the window a crack, but it was still too quiet. The walls were thin and there were lots of feet making trips to the restroom down the hall. Don set the cellphone "sound app" to crickets and that muted the creaky floors, a bit.
The phone app didn't block out the smells of baking breads at 4:22 a.m. I didn't complain about waking to that! I fell back asleep, then woke to a beautiful view out the window.
Breakfast was heavenly. Fresh raspberries and a poppyseed muffin. Swiss quiche with strips of bacon. Then came the most humongous cinnamon roll and I had to draw the line. Our server boxed up our iced rolls for later.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the warm and cheery staff. It will always be a mystery how the owner (spotted once) could remain so distant, when the staff appeared well trained, efficient and happy.
And... That Notable Porch!
I will fondly remember the raised porch! I felt like a kid in a treehouse, surrounded by the beauty of Colorado. Knowing that The Baldpate could be sold and the inn might close, added to that blissful feeling. "Whew! So glad we got to stay... before it's gone!"
Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Markers and Signs
So we planned it into our road trip. Medicine Bow wasn't exactly on our route, but it was on the Old Lincoln Highway. It was worth a detour.
When we arrived at the hotel last June, we parked beside two old highway markers. I climbed out of the car and spotted a sign, with a quote, bolted right onto the hotel's cement bricks. The words reminded me that I hadn't done my hotel homework! The Virginian Hotel was named for the first western novel, written in 1902. I wished I had read the book, since I only vaguely remember the old TV series and movies.
Standing Sturdy Since 1911
The sturdy, but stark hotel looked pretty quiet, sitting beside the highway and across from railroad tracks. Fresh paint helped hide the age of the hotel, completed in 1911.
It was odd to picture this hotel, 106 years ago, capitalizing on a book's success. But the hotel did just that. It was named in honor of Owen Wister's novel, which was set in Medicine Bow. I would love to have seen the town, back in its rowdier days of cowboys and railroad workers.
I tried not to worry, that the missing key might reveal the fact that most visitors come to eat, but don't actually stay overnight. I just amused myself looking at the old cash register and the fancy call board. I'm still trying to figure out how those buzzers and arrows worked.
While Sharon searched, I wandered through an opening with velvet drapes and found the more formal dining room. The set tables looked pretty inviting, even with the stuffed critters watching from above. Sadly this would not be an option for our dinner, since the room was reserved for special occasions.
The Room Search
So Many Rooms
The 16 rooms on the second floor were all open for viewing. It was pretty clear no other overnight guests were staying. However, we were prepared to "not be alone" since we knew some travelers in the diner had been invited to explore.
During our own exploring, we found a cute little sitting room. I imagine this was used mostly by the guests renting the smaller "sleeping rooms". The "water closet" was also available for the sleeping room guests, who only had sinks in their room.
The "Owen Wister Suite"
At the end of the hall we found the door to our room. I'd been told it was the prized room, often used for honeymooners. Mostly we chose it, so we wouldn't have to share a "water closet".
There was a sort of confusing cluster of doors and entrances, but basically we had 3 bedrooms, a parlor and a bathroom... and 3 entrances to the hall. We entered the parlor first and found the old button light switch, right beside the nifty call button.
I'm a bit amused to see how elegant the parlor appears in my photo. My eyes are drawn to the glowing chandelier, the antiques and velvet... the colors of gold and burgundy... even the pipes were painted gold.
But there was much more than meets the eye.
There were many visuals to distract me, but my other senses went to work. The odors of old carpets and fabrics mingled with cooking smells from the kitchen. The sound of a train rumbling by across the street, didn't drown out the sound of the saloon's juke box below our room. The textures of dusty wood and lumpy pillows and metal radiators... well, it was a lot to take in.
Voices in the Bathroom
Don and I aren't used to having so many bed options with our whacky overnights. We took our decision making seriously.
We could have slept in the yellow room with its sewing machine, if we hadn't been nervous about the bed collapsing in the night. The brass head and footboards leaned towards each other, even without bodies weighting it down. However, the mattress was practically touching the floor, so we might have slept through the fall. "Does, it even have a box spring?" Don asked.
Two More Rooms
The room with the single bed was easy to cross off. The bed near the bathroom looked sturdier, but there seemed to be a huge lump under the 1980's era bedspread. I bravely investigated and found an issue with some kind of mattress topper. Nope. I wasn't going to sleep on that.
Don and I have a lot of tolerance for the oddities of aging hotels. We choose places that amuse or intrigue us, over hotels that pamper us. Usually we just laugh and take photos. However, sometimes our photos reveal our inner discomfort.
After checking for clean sheets and deciding we were up for the "Virginian Experience", we attempted to settle in. I posed with a hat I found on the dresser and Don read a pamphlet. However, my expression looks anxious and Don looks a bit tense. We are usually so easily entertained, but there seemed to be so much time and so little to do.
I peeked out the window and spotted the old train station (now museum) across the highway. It was about 100 degrees, but we decided to explore.
After peeking in windows of the closed museum, we wandered around the back of the building and found the old bank, a laundromat and a very creepy old jailhouse. I had a good time comparing the image today, to vintage a photo.
The Shiloh Saloon
Before dinner we stopped in the saloon, expecting to meet the voices we'd been getting to know through our floor. However, most of the afterwork locals had already moved on and only one beer drinker was left. "You staying in the Owen Wister room?" He asked, sounding more gracious, than nosy. He said he'd been told to lay off the juke box since there were guests upstairs. He asked for our permission to play some tunes and even asked what kind of music we preferred.
Horns, Hats and a Clown
Our new friend chatted about life, growing up in an isolated town, of less than 300. He liked it enough to move back, after some years in more exciting places.
Posing in Our Western Wear
After Sharon hustled over from the Eating House to take our order, our new friend encouraged us to pose behind the bar.
I'm posing with a bottle because I wasn't as bold as Don. He always asks for a glass for his beer and he wasn't shy with Sharon. Sharon looked at him as if no one had ever made that request. She looked at his bottle and said, "Your beer's in glass." Don and I grinned, because we liked Sharon... not because we were afraid. Then she brought him a mug.
There were no options in town for dinner, besides the hotel's Eating Room. Don and I took a table under the fine Virginian mural. Local families and a few teens ate at the other tables and booths. Sharon teased some teen boys for ordering french fries when dinner was waiting at home. The hotel owner addressed a few diners by name, as he busied himself with some paperwork.
Dining and Goats
While Don and I settled into our good enough sandwich meals, I became distracted by a man who had stopped by the hotel to announce something about goats. I ended up outside with a few other diners to see the 3 baby goats riding in his truck. He said they'd been born 2 hours ago and he was out to get them some milk, since they were unable to nurse. That was the highlight of my meal.
We both lay back and laughed. We were amused by our accommodations and amused with ourselves. It wasn't even 10:00, but we were going to bed so it would hurry up and be morning. Shortly after 10 pm, we heard a door slam below and the final car pulled away from the gravel lot. For some reason I slept well and hardly even noticed the numerous trains in the night.
We weren't worried about safety or ghosts or even the dust and smells or sounds. But it was odd sleeping in a building that seemed more of a community gathering place, than a hotel.
I will remember our curious and creaky Victorian suite and the fortress like vision of our isolated hotel. But I will also remember feeling like we were outsiders. When we walked down the stairs, we were the guests from the Owen Wister room. When we were in our room, the voices from the saloon reminded us that we weren't a part of the local crowd. Maybe if we had stayed one more night, we could have eased into the place and talked with more folks. Well, never mind that.
I'm glad we stayed. But one night was all that was needed!
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!