#264 - Eureka Inn
While traveling 3 years ago, Don and I took a peek at the Eureka Inn. Our son had tipped us off about the place. He knows how much we love historic (and quirky) hotels.
It was October 2018, when we stopped in, while traveling. Don and I were definitely intrigued by the 4-story Tudor hotel, but we couldn't stay. We had reservations elsewhere.
On that October day, we stepped inside to see if we should put the hotel on the list, for future travel adventures.
One look at the lobby lounge area and I knew we'd come back. Maybe we'd come in winter and read a book by the fireplace. Or maybe we'd arrive to see someone playing the grand piano.
But the hotel seemed so large and empty. Was this going to be one of those hotels on our list, that closes down before we ever get to experience it?
Just in case, we decided to check out the Palm Lounge, at the end of the hall past the lobby desk. We've learned a lot about hotels by visiting their bars or restaurants. We could have a mini-experience, before taking off.
Cocktail Lounge Experience
We wandered the lobby, until the lounge doors opened at 5. I hoped we'd step inside and find a bartender in a bowtie, or at least Frank Sinatra crooning on a juke box. Instead, we found a frazzled young bartender, who seemed surprised to see us.
She wasn't quite ready for guests. She had a lot of setting up to do. We made it easy and ordered wine & beer. Then we found a table near a brick wall and a glowing flamingo lamp, where we couldn't feel her stressed energy.
We were the only guests in the Palm Lounge. I have a feeling our experience would have been a little more comfortable, if there had been other guests, or if the lights had been dimmer. We thought things might get lively, when a guy arrived to play piano. But he looked really disappointed to see us, like he'd planned on hanging out with the bartender for a while. When he started playing, I couldn't tell if he was practicing or performing. We finished our drinks and politely left a tip on our way out.
The awkward Palm Lounge visit, only made us more curious about Eureka Inn. What was the story with this sort of forgotten hotel, in the town of Eureka?
So, Don and I made reservations for a night, this past July. The 99-year-old, stucco & timber hotel looked even bigger than I remembered, when we pulled up. The hotel filled the whole block.
When Eureka Inn opened in 1922 it wasn't quite as large. 50 guest rooms were added in 1925.
What a grand place it was, with over 100 rooms. This hotel was considered premier lodging for travelers between Portland and San Francisco. In 1933, they added a cocktail lounge for Ladies and Gentlemen. Was it called Palm Lounge, back then?
Vacancies and Renovations
Like most old hotels, Eureka Inn has had some struggles over the years.
The hotel fell on hard times in the late fifties. It was vacant from 1993 to 2010.
After new ownership and renovations, the hotel opened again, in 2010. That means we first visited, it was just 8 years after reopening. Hmmm? Why had it seemed so quiet then? Would there be more guests during our stay in July?
As we walked with our bags toward the hotel, I admired the white stucco and green trim. The hotel's original colors! I also noticed there were no cars or guests at 4:30. But then again, it was the unpredictable pandemic summer of 2021.
All to Ourselves
I guess I wasn't surprised to find the hotel as empty as before. That was actually fine with me.
Being cautious pandemic travelers, I didn't want to see the lobby crowded with guests. In fact there wasn't a single person in the spacious lobby area.
We headed with our bags to the front desk. I tried to be enthused with a few questions, for the weary looking young woman who checked us in.
I also tried to hide my huge disappointment when she told me the hotel's Palm Lounge and Britstol Rose Cafe were closed, due to lack of staff. Man, I really wanted to eat in that dining room with the high ceilings and beams!
Up We Go
So we took our key and headed for the elevator. The older elevator with its paneled doors, was no longer in use. I was tempted to take a ride.
But Humphrey Bogart glared from his portrait, like an elevator guard. I think Walt Disney was actually egging me on, to give it a try. (I just love old elevators!) But, we were good guests and took the newer one, which was not all that new.
The doors on the third floor had been updated just a bit. I wonder how long ago, they filled in the old transoms with wood? Now and then, we find an old hotel with transoms that still open for airflow.
Our room was a decent size, but had sort of budget hotel decor feel. I appreciate historic hotels and I try not to criticize, but I expected a little more, since Wyndham has taken this one over.
The wallpaper looked a little like contact paper and the framed art was oddly placed in the room. The bathroom door hit the toilet and the updated vanity and tub, was not very impressive.
But maybe I was just crabby because I wanted to enjoy the cafe and lounge. The "fainting couch" was comfy and I loved being able to open the windows and look down on the pool & courtyard.
After making a few snide remarks about our room, I was over it. I was truly happy to be in this curious place and I was ready to explore. Don hung out on the lounge chair and I hit the lobby. First I stopped at the mailbox and thought about mailing my postcards. Then I realized, the postcards could stay in that box forever.
I also thought about playing operator, with the old switchboard. Or is that even what that is? I loved finding these old relics from the past.
I remembered admiring all the framed portraits on our first visit. So many famous guests have visited over the years. Four of those guests surrounded this door to the ballroom.
Just like the doors to the cafe and lounge, the ballroom doors were locked. I hate it when I can't sneak into special rooms. So instead, I paused and said hello to Nancy, Shirley, Ladybird and Steven Spielberg.
The hotel may have disappointed me with their room decor, but they did a nice job sharing their history, in the common areas.
I found numerous corners and hallways, holding displays of hotel memorabilia. There were old menus and pieces of dining china. I loved studying the old photographs and comparing to now.
The Grand Parlor
It was interesting to study this image with the midcentury modern decor. I recognized the wall, with the ballroom doors. No Shirley Temple or Mrs. Reagan, peering from frames.
There was much less furniture back in the day. Hey! Is that Ladybird Johnson near the fireplace?
Grand Parlor Today
Today, the large area is jam packed with furniture. It looks like the hotel is expecting lots of guests.
The flat cathedral ceiling and polished redwood beams, look the same as the old photos. And that massive fireplace, with the painting above! What is the story of that piece of art?
Across and Above
Across from the fireplace, I was excited to look up and see even more seating, on the second floor mezzanine. What was all that gold anyway? It looked like gold foil. Do we call that faux gold leaf? There was a lot of it.
The Palm Lounge was closed, but Don and I always travel with wine. We had lots of seating options for our own happy hour.
After I finished exploring I went back to the room to get Don and wine.
We carried our blue travel glasses and looked for a good spot. Window seat, with view of pool? Maybe.
The weather was lovely, so we peeked outside to see about seating on the patio. Nope, that wasn't quite right.
We did spot our room though. Up in the corner to the right of the chimney.
Next, we climbed the stairs to the mezzanine level.
There was seating along the railing, looking down on the Grand Parlor.
A good start. Don sat in a comfy green chair with a famous director looking down on him. We kept an eye on the space below. I am not kidding when I say we had the place to ourselves.
Beneath the Presidents
After a while we decided the Grand Parlor needed us. We headed down and sampled some spots. I felt like Goldilocks, testing some of the furniture for comfort.
These green chairs were fine, but the presidents (although smiling) were too intimidating.
Sitting Near the Fire
There was no fire in July, but we decided to take the couch directly in front of the brick fireplace.
I clicked the timer on the camera and we posed on that slick, baby blue couch. If we had accidentally spilled wine, I think it would have wiped right off. That was some interesting furniture!
A few more guests finally arrived. We heard them check in and get the same disappointing news we got, about the closed cafe and bar. I was grateful to have some wine and a husband who loves exploring as much as I do.
We looked down a few more halls and I found this display about a movie that was filmed in the hotel. "An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn" We took note and watched this movie on Netflix, 2 weeks later. Very odd! Lots of fun, recognizing parts of the hotel in the movie.
More Famous People
I'm pretty sure we didn't see every single framed portrait. I wish I could see a list of all the famous guests who have stayed... Winston Churchill, Truman Capote, Mickey Mantle, Ringo Starr, Robert Kennedy...
I posed with Shirley Temple and wondered if she had taken the same road trip that Don and I were on. 2 Nights before, we'd stayed at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Oregon, where Shirley had also been a guest.
Don and I could have walked a block or two and found some dinner. But we were also becoming more realistic during our pandemic travels. Short staffed hotels and restaurants can be frustrating. We decided to do the pizza thing.
So I called in a pizza delivery. Even though the old phones are just for show, I stepped into a booth to make my call. Then, Don and I studied a few more portraits, (like good old Winston) and headed up to enjoy our pizza feast.
We slept well in the quiet hotel. In the morning we found coffee and bags with donuts in the lobby.
We had expected nothing, so that was nice. We brought our "breakfast" upstairs and caught up on news... on a very blurry TV. We were bombarded with news about surging cases of Covid. It was a reminder to be patient and smart with our travels.
Heading out of town we drove down by the water and the Old Town area. It looked sort of inviting in the morning. I felt a little perplexed as we drove on. The town and hotel have so much potential. Is it just the pandemic that makes them seem sort of forgotten or under appreciated? I do appreciate the old place.
I'll remember our hotel, with fond memories. The staff seemed worn and some of the most recent updates were odd. But there was so much character in that building! In fact so many character and celebs have visited that hotel in 99 years, that I'm beginning to understand why there were so many chairs and couches! Maybe all these old presidents and movie stars come back in the wee hours to share stories with each other. There's enough seating for all! Hmm? Next time, I'm bringing a Ouija Board!
#262 - Newport Belle
On the third day of our West Coast Road Trip, Don and I spent the night on a paddlewheel riverboat.
The Newport Belle was docked in the South Beach Marina, in Yaquina Bay.
The 97-foot boat looked like something you'd see on the Mississippi, 100 years ago.
The 3-story boat was built as a floating B&B, in 1993. Originally it did travel on the Coquille River, but now it stays put in the harbor.
Don and I used to live in St. Louis, so we've seen many paddlewheel riverboats over the years. We've dined in a couple, on the Mississippi. And we slept in one, on the Sacramento River.
The Newport Belle just like the others, had the paddles in the stern of the boat.
Above the Paddles
The stern of the boat had an enclosed sundeck.
The floor to ceiling glass, gave us stunning views of the Yaquina Bay and Bridge. If we'd been moving, it would have been fun to watch the paddlewheel turning, below.
Bow of the Boat
The front of the boat faced the east. There was a nice little sitting area on the second level.
You can see the how close we were to shore. We parked in an assigned area, then rolled our bags past some fishermen cleaning their daily catch. We continued over the ramp, that took us right to the boat.
The sun deck was bright in the morning and offered a view of the nearly full moon, at night.
The B&B offered 5 rooms. An upper room would have had slightly better views.
But it was a treat to roll right onto the boat and find our door just steps from the dock.
There was no need for "checking in" since we had a code. We stepped right in and grinned at our beautifully renovated room.
The bed (with memory foam mattress & pillows) looked heavenly. The white wood ceiling and wainscotting looked fresh and clean.
The view of the fishing boats and Yaquina Bridge was a nice surprise.
I grinned out the window, then turned to take in the rest of the room.
As I took in the sweet space, "Martini Music" played on satellite TV. What a nice TV, by the way.
The Beachy-Boat theme was carried right into the bathroom. Gotta love a shell nightlight!
The bathroom was a decent size for a boat and the newly renovated space felt fresh and fun.
I love a theme and our floating hotel had an obvious one. There were seahorse lamps and anchor coasters.
I loved the sea turtle mugs and octopus pillows. The table with bottled water and Keurig coffee was handy. And below the glass table, we found books related to boats.
Life Jacket Props
I spotted the life jackets above the "closet" and chuckled. What a clever decorator prop! Then I realized these were probably required, even if our boat wasn't going anywhere.
I love dressing with the theme, when staying at a fun hotel. I could have packed a sailor cap for this stay, but didn't need to. I just popped on the orange jacket and posed for a photo, outside our door.
Finding Happy Hour
Just before arriving at 4:30, I spoke with the owner Paige, on the phone. She gave me parking instructions and reminded me that Happy Hour was at 5.
We didn't want to miss, so up we went to the second floor. We entered the "Main Parlor" and walked towards the stern.
Drinks with a View
Three other couples had already arrived. We were invited to join them in the enclosed sundeck, or we could have found a table in the parlor area.
These Covid Travel Days are tricky, but this felt safe and spaced out. The door was propped open with a fan. Plus this was a great bunch and we had good conversations about being vaccinated. Yay for that!
Owners Paige and Randy took good care of us. We were handed a drink menu and our own platter of cheese and meats.
I kind of loved the little bar counter behind us, with the pennies under the glass!
Randy and Paige treated us like guests in their home. They jumped up to refill drinks, then joined us with their own.
Randy and Paige told us how they purchased the boat right before the pandemic and threw themselves into renovations. What an adventure and now they live on the third floor, with a view like this every day.
Wandering the Marina
By 6:30, our group broke up. Some headed for dinner, but Don and I needed to explore.
We wandered up and down the docks, studying the boats. I was surprised to see the "Life Jacket Loaner Station" nearby. What a nice thought.
Some Odd Ones
I dreamed of taking off in one of the sailboats.
I studied the commercial fishing boats and I especially wondered about this very odd, wooden boat. What stories might that boat have to tell?
Don and I could have driven into Newport for dinner, but we didn't want to leave the boat. We only had one night.
We headed up to the Main Salon, which was available to all guests. We brought a few more nibbles and drinks and lounged near the wood burning stove... which would be nice in the winter.
Books and Art
We checked out this fine colorful fish and some of the other artwork and knickknacks.
There were lots of books and we found one about the Delta King, the boat we stayed on, in Sacramento.
We would have missed the sunset if a couple playing Cribbage in the sundeck room, hadn't alerted us.
I ran up to get a picture or two, through the glass.
Then I stepped out to the tiny walkway and got the best view of the sinking sun. Finally the sun was down and the old Yaquina Bridge from 1934, looked very impressive.
Glowing Green and Purple
Whenever we spend a night at a notable hotel, I make a point of getting a nighttime photo.
Sometimes there's a fun neon sign or a spotlight. But the Newport Belle had the best nighttime costume of all! Glowing colors!
After taking photos of the Newport Belle, I turned and caught the moon, glowing above the boats.
When we headed inside we had another lighting surprise. The lights behind the headboard were glowing and changing color!
I hadn't even noticed the lights before, but in the darkened room they came alive. How fun is that? I was sad to turn them off, but I knew that glow would make me too giddy for sleep. I turned on the mounted fan and slept well with the hum.
In the morning we headed upstairs, for our 3-course breakfast.
There were lots of options for seating, which was nice. We chose a table beside the window and began with juice and coffee.
The first course was yogurt, with toasted pistachio and apricots poached in cardamon and local honey. Then came a big warm slice of blueberry coffee cake.
My expression looks a little embarrased about my waffle choice. It came with bananas and big fat walnuts, plus 2 slices of bacon!
Don went for the breakfast burrito with bacon and avocado. We swapped plates and sampled each others. What a decadent feast!
Relaxing Until Checkout
After breakfast, we had a nice chat with Randy and Paige. They were an amazing team and we couldn't thank them enough.
We should have walked off breakfast, but we did some sitting instead! What a lazy, relaxing morning!
We stayed on a boat that felt luxurious and comfy for less than $200. ( I do see some higher rates now) And that included happy hour and our 3-course breakfast.
There was a nice balance between socializing and privacy. We enjoyed sharing the boat and happy hour, with others. The conversations were enjoyable. But we also felt like we had the boat to ourselves when we went our separate ways. Perfect!
Best of all, we had a view of boats and water, without being trapped on a boat! No seasickness and no claustrophobia! I would do this again!
#261 - Shelburne Hotel
In July, Don and I spent one night in Washington, on our West Coast Road Trip. Seaview was not exactly on the route between Portland and Sacramento.
But when I found The Shelburne Hotel on the internet, we changed our course. A reasonably priced historic hotel, within walking distance to a beach! We booked a night!
Our curious house-like hotel, was made up of two buildings... that used to be across the street from each other.
In 1911, the original Shelburne Hotel from 1896, was pulled across the street by a team of horses. The Shelburne Hotel expanded, by connecting with the house next door.
Don and I arrived on a sunny afternoon, this past July. We parked near the white fence, across the street from where the Shelburne once stood. There was a grocery store in its place and a man standing nearby doing a little panhandling.
That wasn't the view we had hoped for, but I still had a good time imagining how these buildings came together over 100 years ago.
Which is Which?
I'm pretty darn confused about which was the original hotel that moved.
This old image shows looks like the one that stands on the right end, now. Was this the building that moved? Why didn't I just ask the staff, when we were there?
Beside lots of green shingles, the obvious thing that caught my eye, was the garden!
What a gorgeous jungle of summertime flowers, with white picket fence peeking out here and there.
The timing was perfect, because we arrived when the afternoon light was glowing on all the colors.
I am not a gardener, so I can't list all the flowers I spotted. But I do know they have a gardener who tends it regularly.
Lots of Signs
The main entrance was in the building on the left. We headed towards the door with all its signs and banners. I'm a little picky, but I think the 2 white signs on both sides of the door, take away from the charm.
Why did those signs remind me of some touristy area with lots of fudge and tee-shirt shops? I wonder what kind of sign the hotel had 50 or 75 years ago.
But the BLM sign in the garden and the colorful sign taped to the door glass, were okay by me.
The world has changed in incredible ways since this hotel opened over a century ago. It's nice to be reminded that all are welcome now.
"Historic and Hip"
Historic and Hip, is how the hotel describes itself on their website. I have mixed feelings about that.
I love the historic-hip idea, but it seems like a title you shouldn't give yourself. I don't like it when a place tries to be hip.
We checked in at a desk in "The Parlor"
This is how it looked a century ago, with the same wood walls, beams and staircase, that you see today.
In the seventies the hotel was bought by a couple, who filled the place with Victorian furniture and art. The most recent owners removed lots of the old stuff.
I can appreciate that the updating and decluttering, but I'm not sure about the mid-century modern furniture and white painted brick.
Wood and Antiques
I did love the wood on the walls and ceiling. And I spotted an antique or two. I used my camera flash to light up the dim space, to look at the details on the lovely piece that was used as a coffee station.
Next to the lobby desk, was a cute little nook with an old phone. I wonder if that was original or not.
The trip upstairs to our room was amusing. My photo doesn't really show how slanted the steps and floor were.
We found our room (11) to the left of the stairs. After some fumbling with the feisty key & lock, we eventually had to ask for help.
I knew our room would be small, but it was only $156. Good price for hotel in sort of beach community, even if it was across from a grocery store.
Luckily Don and I know how to navigate the teeniest of hotel rooms. The fact that it had a door and tiny balcony, made it feel much larger.
As you can see there was room for little more than the bed. Luckily there were no lamps on those crowded tables. No complaints though. Cheers for having actual wine glasses in a tiny hotel room.
There was no closet, but they did offer a rack to hold the robes. There was a standing fan which was useful since there was no air-conditioning.
There were some nice bath products on the little table and the retro shower tile was fun.
In Search of Happy Hour Spot
There was a tiny table on our balcony, where we could have enjoyed a glass of wine. But it was pretty cramped. We went wandering for a spot.
Back in the day, we could have enjoyed our wine on the wraparound porch. Or maybe that wouldn't have been allowed back then. But in 1983, the owners enclosed the porch to make room for a bar and restaurant. They added some stained glass, from an old church in England.
The photos show the dining and lounge area in the enclosed addition, between the two buildings. I had seen photos on the internet that showed diners eating at tables, with white cloths.
This looked nothing like that. I heard the food was very good, and the place was popular with locals, but honestly the set up felt more like a pizza joint in the daylight. Maybe this was a temp pandemic set up. I'm not sure, but it felt just a bit odd.
We walked though a little further and found a pool table and a few more dining tables. This was in the first floor area of the old building, on the right.
There was more appeal in this space, which showed the old woodwork and columns. I wish I'd seen it when it was in use.
The pub was just to the left of the parlor. We heard it was popular with locals. The website showed a very "hip" couple sitting at the bar.
We peeked in at 5:30. The woman behind the bar did not seem to be in the best of spirits. We headed for the table by the stained glass, but paused when we heard a table of "less hip" local men talking in obnoxiously loud voices.
Then we realized there was a door to a garden area!
It was lovely. We couldn't have been happier on the little deck beside the garden.
Don and I were especially happy when we put on our new jackets, purchased that morning at a Marshal's. We did not pack for Northwest Coastal tempts!
We probably should have given our hotel restaurant a try. But we wandered down the road and had a great meal at Galletti's Italian.
When we got back, the little courtyard garden was quiet and lit with festive lights.
It was nice that we were there on a Monday, with no late night bar crowds. Our room was quiet except for the scampering feet of some children, who who kept running to their parents' room, down the hall. Sort of funny.
I was sort of amused imagining myself as a kid staying at the hotel with parents in a different room. If I'd been with my sister, we probably would have pulled out the ouija board and gotten ourselves all worked up over ghosts!
We were up and off pretty early the next day. Made a quick dash a block over to see the beach.
We had been so excited to book a hotel near the beach and yet we failed to hike over to it. We did not give ourselves the whole Shelburne experience.
I loved the charm of the building and the gardens surrounding.
I loved our room, which was teeny, but clean and cozy and fresh. For some reason, I just never felt comfortable in the common areas. Was it the staff? Was it decor? Was it the dim lighting? Was it the pandemic?
I'm glad we stayed, but we might need to give it another try and see if we enjoy it more. Maybe we'll work on our hipness, between then and now.
#260 - Columbia Gorge Hotel
Hood River, Oregon
In mid July, Don and I spent a night at this duck-loving, magical place.
Historic Hotel & Highway
On a Sunday afternoon, we left Portland and traveled on I-84, following the path of the first scenic highway built in the U.S.
In less than an hour we pulled up to this 100-year-old, Mission style hotel. It was built just after the Historic Columbia River Highway was completed.
The hotel looked familiar!
I'd never visited before, but I had a picture in my head. It came from page 231 of this book.
1950 & 2021
I recognized the roofline and tower, along with the shutters and fire escape.
The hotel was about 30 years old, when the cookbook came out in 1950.
I snapped a photo to compare. Little had changed with the building, in 71 years. However, the gardens seemed more lush. My view of the hotel and the stone bridge was a little obscured by growth.
We arrived at 3 pm and the parking lot was quiet.
We headed towards the entrance and I wondered where all the tourists were, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Towers and Flowers
I eyed the tower, wondering about its use. I had heard that years ago, the hotel staff used the tower to keep an eye on the river. They could spot steamships bringing guests, then gage their time for prepping rooms.
I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous flower baskets all around the entrance. What a welcome greeting at the door.
The lobby was as quiet as the parking lot.
The space felt more old-homey, than impressive-ritzy. I snapped some quick pics of the slick, painted columns and beams.
Across from the lobby, I spotted the same beams in Valentino Bar. I read later that these "wooden" features were actually created with plaster, by 5 artisans. Odd.
After checking in, I enjoyed a fine elevator adventure, thanks to Chris the operator. I asked Chris to pause a moment, so I could get photos of the curious paneled doors and the golden gate. Then I rolled my bags into the little space.
When I asked to take a photo of the funny handle that triggered the lift, Chris insisted I learn how to drive the thing. He asked for my cell phone and took photos of me, trying to guide us properly. I could see the wall through the gate and attempted to stop us at the "3" painted on the wall. Good enough. I only had to step up a bit to get off. Thanks Chris! That was memorable!
There wasn't room for Don in the elevator. He missed all the fun when he took the stairs.
Here is the sort of eerie stairwell. I wish I'd had time (and nerve) for a tower adventure. If I'd been a little braver, I could have climbed around that gate, to sneak up in the tower.
Don beat me to our room, at the end of the hall. Just look at that outer door, with slats and little brass handle! You don't get those at Best Westerns.
The hotel's most recent renovation was about 10 years ago. I'm glad they didn't go overboard and remove all the extra doors.
Cheers for a spacious, corner room with extra windows! It was a nice surprise, since we booked the cheapest.
The windows were also handy for getting some air. Old hotels sometimes smell... like old hotels. Air is good!
We probably should have paid more for a river view room. But our front window gave us a nice view of landscaped gardens and paths.
Our side window gave us a tiny glimpse of the river, through the trees. We could also see mountains and the newer villas, next door.
2 of Everything
The extra space was a treat, since old hotel rooms can often feel cramped.
Sometimes Don and I fight over the one bedside table and lamp. Yay for having our own tables and our own comfy chairs. We even had our own full length mirrors, which could have come in handy... if we'd wanted to admire ourselves at the same time.
Did I Mention the Bed?
I will let the photos do the telling. What a crazy bed!
Don was impressed with the 4 chains attached to the ceiling. "It's earthquake ready!" he announced. For a split second I hoped it was a hanging bed. No. But at least I felt safe knowing the canopy would not land on us in the night.
Doorknobs and Wallpaper
As I said, they did not go overboard when they renovated.
That works for me. I love old wallpaper and glass doorknobs. I love guessing how many layers of paint cover the woodwork. 100 years of stories in this room!
Bed Themed Bathroom
The bathroom had sort of an odd mix of old and new. I was mostly drawn to the framed prints.
It looked like they had taken the crazy-bed theme, right into the bathroom. There were 2 framed prints titled, "Louis XVI Bed".
Wandering in Back
I was eager to get out and wander in the late afternoon.
The back of the hotel was as pretty as the front.
The hotel sits high on a cliff overlooking the Columbia River.
The water was lovely to look at and the kite surfers were entertaining. No photos, but there were tons of them, further down the river.
There were some pretty viewing areas along the stone pathways.
I wouldn't recommend flip-flops, climbing up the rugged stairs.
I would however recommend a hat. It's very windy walking above the river, as you can see from my hairdo.
One of the nicest viewing spots, was found right outside the hotel's bar. Valentino Lounge & Terrace was named for the famous actor who supposedly used the hotel as a hideaway. That must have been when the hotel first opened, since Rudolph died in 1926.
At 3:30 in the afternoon the patio was quiet and shady. Rudy could have had a cocktail here without being noticed.
The flowers, view and fresh air, made the patio very inviting.
We returned at 5 and found a perfect table. Our bartender/server was quite confident that she could whip up a Sazerac, so I went for that.
I think she had more confidence than skills. But then again, it's stupid to order a Sazerac, anywhere besides New Orleans.
Besides, the view was lovely and we were just happy to be served. Traveling in the summer of 2021 has required patience. Hotels and restaurants have had a hard time finding workers.
Off to the Gardens
After a drink, Don and I set off to wander the grounds in the front of the hotel.
The stonework was as intriguing as the trees and plants.
Columbia Gorge Hotel in 1921
There was actually a lot more decorative stone, back when the hotel opened 100 years ago.
The hotel was built by Simon Benson, who was involved with the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway at the time. Benson tore down the Wah-Gwin-Gwin Hotel which had been on the property since 1904. He kept the trails and gardens for the new hotel.
Benson hired stone masons who had come from Italy to work on the construction of the scenic highway.
The walls and bridges on the hotel property, looked like some we'd seen on our scenic drive.
The grounds in front of the hotel were lovely. The perfect setting for an old folks home.
That's what the hotel became for about a quarter century. The isolated resort struggled for years after the depression and had to close its doors in 1952. It became a hotel once again in the late seventies.
I spotted a few fun areas on the grounds. Bocce Ball and Horseshoes!
I wonder if the aged folks enjoyed those activities? No one else seemed to be making use, on the day we wandered.
Don and I seemed to be the only guests exploring.
We didn't even see any animals. I wish I'd spotted a few squirrels or ducks, nibbling at these curious little feeder boxes.
I adore bridges, so I was glad to see a few different kinds.
There were many places to cross over Phelps Mill Creek, which wound around the property.
Wah Gwin Gwin Waterfall
The bridge with the most entertaining view, was the wooden bridge looking down over the Wah Gwin Gwin Waterfall.
The 208-foot fall of water, is also called Lullaby Falls. I wonder how it got that name.
Don and I spent some time wandering through the rose garden.
A warm breeze carried lots of lovely smells.
The best way to celebrate any interesting hotel, is to find a nice porch or outdoor area to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Before dinner, Don and I grabbed 2 glasses of wine and headed for the gardens. The evening light was pretty, but the benches didn't look very comfy.
The garden was peaceful, except for the sound of nearby I-84. The interstate has replaced much of the old scenic highway, which was surely more quiet in 1921.
By the River
We finally chose 2 Adirondack chairs looking out over the river.
The sun was warm, but the view was perfect. Yay for my tiny tripod and camera timer! Cheers to the Columbia! Roll on!
Simon's Cliff House
I love the name of the hotel's restaurant. Simon Benson would love knowing that he hasn't been forgotten. Mostly, I love the reminder that our hotel was on a cliff.
The main dining room looked pretty huge when I peeked in, hours before dinner. Too formal and spread out.
Dining with a View
There was also a smaller dining room, with a wall of windows. Much more inviting!
A Toast to Past Guests
We arrived for dinner at 7:30 and lucked out with a perfect table beside the window. We made a toast to the hotel's 100th birthday. I'm so glad it's still here, after being forced to close down a couple times in the past. So glad the hotel survived the pandemic as well.
We also toasted to the famous people who have stayed before us. A few presidents from FDR to Hoover... Burt Reynolds and Tom Cruise... and even Shirley Temple as a young girl. I should have ordered a Shirley Temple!
Gabriel and the Book
Our waiter Gabriel took good care of us. I asked him if they still served "Columbia River Salmon A La Gorge". He seemed a little confused by my question.
Then I showed him our old cookbook and the recipe. He was reasonably amused by the aged book and recipe. I'm sad now to realize, the hotel closed 2 years after this book came out.
Don and I enjoyed some local wine with our view.
I ordered duck, at Gabriel's recommendation.
Don had salmon, with a different recipe than the book. My photo is distorted. The veggies were not twice as big as the fish. All was good.
I loved our window. I felt like we were on some kind of a riverboat.
There's something soothing about looking out over moving water.
The people-watching was fun, too. A few more came out at sunset. I recognized a couple from the dining room, strolling by. They had come over to our table earlier, wanting to see our cookbook. (They'd overheard our cookbook converstaion) I love how that magical little cookbook draws people together!
Before long, I felt like I was in Hitchcock's Rear Window. I was Jimmy Stewart, watching out the window, studying suspicious characters and behaviors. I never did figure out what the 2 policeman were up to. Very curious and mysterious.
We finished dinner at 9 and strolled along the pathways a bit.
We slept well in our corner room. The chains did their job, so no crazy falling canopy stories. In the morning we enjoyed complimentary coffee from the lobby and walked the gardens before checking out.
The view of the Columbia River was stunning and walking paths were heavenly. I loved the stonework and how the building looked, sitting between the river and gardens.
My main regret is that we didn't take the time to drive across the river and find a view of the hotel. Next time!
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!