The Sylvia Beach Hotel calls itself, an Oceanfront Bed & Breakfast for Booklovers.
That's pretty inviting and so is this sign!
On a Cliff
The 108-year-old hotel sits high on a bluff, overlooking Nye Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
When the hotel first opened in 1913, it was called the New Cliff House. It stood where the original Cliff House (a boarding house) once stood. In 1921, the hotel changed hands and became Hotel Gilmore. It became popular with honeymooners.
The old seaside hotel was rundown by the late 1970's.
Hotel Gilmore became more of a rooming house, with communal baths and some very curious characters... so I read.
When Don and I arrived last July, the historic hotel was in good shape. The green shingles and colorful flowers looked inviting, along with a blue sky.
I was excited to see the place that my sister raved about, years ago. She first learned of it, when our mother sent her an article from the New York Times. I wished that Mom had been with us. She never got to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
For the past three decades, the hotel has been attracting bookworms! The current owners bought the rundown Gilmore in the 1980's.
They named their new buisness after Sylvia Beach, who was a person not a beach. Back in the 1920's and '30's, Ms. Beach owned Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore in Paris.
Little Free Library
Today the hotel has 21, author themed rooms. But before we checked out the inside, we saw the library outside.
The little green book-holding house, looked mighty sweet rising up from the flowerbed. There were about 100 times more books, inside the big green hotel!
It was about 3, when Don and I stepped into the cozy lobby. I noticed an armoire to my left. The note on the door, invited guests to borrow a hat or jacket if needed. Temps were chilly, so it was tempting... but these pandemic times made me less inclined.
We checked in with Janet, who welcomed us behind plexiglass. (a hint of the times) Across from the lobby counter, I chuckled at the large piece of art, titled Find Me Between the Covers.
Sitting With the Authors
Next, I had a seat below another large, literary themed piece of art. No social distancing with this crowd!
I recognized Twain and Hemingway, but felt a little embarrassed that so many faces were not familiar. I hoped there would be no quizzes to find out if I was worthy of being a guest.
Books From My Youth
I felt comforted to see a few displays that took me back to my youth. The blue and yellow poster, featured my favorite book character from when I was 6. Oh, I "simply adored" Eloise, and her adventures at the Plaza Hotel!
In the dining room, I loved the giant books mounted on the wall. I was about 11, when I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I saw the book cover and remembered how Francie savored her library books and lemon drops, while sitting on her fire escape!
There were so many themed pieces of art that were fun and playful. The painting of the big green hotel, was a hoot! Authors' faces peered out of windows! The (not all familiar) faces didn't intimidate, they amused me!
I could have studied the framed shadow box for days! The little room with its miniature writer's desk, delighted me!
The hotel had no elevator, so we got a little exercise on the way to our room. Don didn't need to read the sign that warned, "Attention! Tall People..." He's learned to watch his head in old hotels.
Not far from the stairs, we spotted the Mark Twain room. The hanging knotted rope, had something to do with measuring river depth... just like Mark Twain's name. I had some fun Googling that.
Collette and Seuss
We passed the Collette Room. I had to look her up, to learn that she'd written "Gigi". I've never read, but loved the movie.
I had no problem recognizing the author associated with the blue room. Sweet Seuss and Cat in the Hat!
The Shakespeare Room!
I was excited to see the room we booked. No problem recognizing William Shakespeare's face on the door!
I was mighty pleased when we stepped inside. We didn't have a TV or WIFI. No coffee maker or phone. But we had a throne and a crown and swords! Surely that's a first for us!
Comedy or Tragedy?
I'm guessing every play from Hamlet to Midsummer Night's Dream, was represented in some way.
Some of the eerie and dramatic props, were obviously associated with Shakespeare's tragedies. But mostly the room made me smile and chuckle. So many discoveries!
Even the window drapes seemed theatrical. They were thick and red and parted like the curtains on a stage.
Both windows looked out on a roof and garden. No ocean view for us, in the Shakespeare Room. But the price was $165. (135 in winter) That's pretty good for a hotel on a beach, that comes with history and breakfast.
Curtains Behind the Bed
There were more curtains behind the bed. They revealed a stage in a frame! Very curious!
The bed itself was quite a thing! Would this be Juliet's bed? Red velvet bedding and white fabric wrapped around the top. I wish I knew more about the individuals who took on the fun, of decorating each of the hotel rooms! I heard that many locals have been involved over the years.
In the past decade, Don and I have stayed in many old hotels filled with antiques. I grew up in a house full of antiques and I've always appreciated them.
But the pieces of furniture in the room hardly got noticed, because of all the curiosities that covered them!
At first glance, I thought the goodies that decorated the room, were for sale.
There were tags attached to statues and bottles and figures. But when I put on my glasses to have a look, I realized the tags gave clues. Clues that I couldn't understand.
I believe the clues were meant to help me figure out which play went with each prop. Except I'm not a Shakespeare scholar. Even though I grew up with a dad who directed and a mom who wrote... and I've even played some of these roles a million years ago... I needed more guidance!
Example a good clue I'd like: "This item is from a play about 2 lovers... one of which was named Romeo."
Again, there were no tests. I was happy to just enjoy my surroundings! The mirror above the dresser was charming!
I enjoyed a little comic relief when I laid eyes on the fairies from Midsummer Night's Dream. And there was Bottom, with his donkey head! I love donkeys!
I stretched out on the bed with a book for a while. It would have been a sin, to have stayed in this hotel and not done a little reading. But I was so distracted! I couldn't keep my eyes on the book. I spotted the floral wreath crown on the bedpost. Then there was a king's crown balanced on the throne. Hmmm? Should Don and I put costumes on and perform?
Then I noticed the Kleenex box, below the bedside table. Shakespeare was begging me to take a tissue from his mouth! I was restless.
Should I write?
On the little writing table, I was inspired by the quill pen. Should I write a sonnet?
Or should I write a play? Comedy or Tragedy? I did neither and I have a good excuse. No ink in that container.
Originally, the rooms only had sinks. The communal bathrooms were down the hall.
I washed up and dried my hands with a towel, beneath the sign saying "Out! Out damned spot!" Okay, I know that one. Lady Macbeth.
To Pee or Not to Pee...
I was glad to see a little humor, in a frame above the toilet. I was also very happy to count 7 Shakespeare-related portraits in the bathroom.
Actually, I was just glad to have a bathroom period. I guess the bathrooms were added 30+ years ago.
Since we didn't have an ocean view, I went in search of one. I found chairs on a porch and patio, but the gusting wind was unbearable.
Instead, I took a seat in the comfy chair and looked out the glass doors.
Then I put the hood up on my sweatshirt and hiked down to the beach. The sand blasted me in the face and I watched the sand dunes change shape. Entertaining!
After a numbing few minutes, I headed back inside. It was happy hour time and Don and I needed to find a place to enjoy our wine. We headed to the library on the third floor. There was a fireplace and wood was available for anyone interested. Maybe.
There were chairs set up, facing out the window. But the glass was coated with a layer of salty-sea-air film. And 2 young women were asleep on the couch behind. (that was sort of annoying) We headed upstairs to the loft.
A set of stairs took us from the third floor to a walkway, filled with cozy seating and books. I should have given the beanbag chair a try. It was held up on a very odd wooden holder!
The loft also was good for spying on people in the library below. But it's not that entertaining watching people read or sleep.
Puzzles and Games
The library and loft wasn't just for reading. The coffee room had a table with a couple puzzles in progress. There were shelves packed with games and a table with coffee and tea.
The hotel politely discourages cell phones and computers in the common areas. However, they do encourage guests to interact over games and discussions. They even offer complimentary hot mulled caret in the library at 9 pm. We missed that, I'm afraid.
Before heading down from the loft, I paused to look at this enormous dictionary. It made me miss my mom. Mom was good at all games that involved words.
She adored books and she was very good at the Dictionary Game, which was a game my brother made up. She would have loved the Sylvia Beach hotel!
Don and I finally found a place to settle in, with our wine and reading. I wish the hotel cat had found us and curled up for a bit. We never saw the furry friend we'd heard about.
Instead of reading a book, I opened up the box on the table and skimmed through a huge collection of news articles, with literary themes. Once again, I was reminded of Mom. Oh how she loved to snip articles from the New York Times and then mail them to her kids! She always knew what would be of interest!
Table of Contents!
I was excited about our dinner at the hotel's basement restaurant. Right before 7 we dashed downstairs where other guests had gathered in the lobby.
At 7, we heard the dinner bell and our tiny crowd headed to the basement. I was a little anxious about our dinner. I knew the hotel served at community tables and there's always a worry that you'll sit with dull or intimidating strangers. There's also that pandemic thing. Don and I have traveled so carefully, why would we choose to dine with strangers?
In minutes, the guests were all seated at assigned tables. I smiled to realize we'd lucked out with a corner table, with the best ocean view!
In just a matter of minutes, it was clear that we'd also lucked out with the best mix of guests. The 6 at our table began talking at once and our 4 course meal flew by. We passed homemade bread and platters of salad and ate the entrees.
Our Happy Bunch
What a special evening, sharing a table with these wonderful folks. Our conversations went in a million directions and I loved every moment. I sort of missed the setting sun and some of the delicious flavors in our meal, but I'll always remember the stories that were shared.
I'm a rule follower, but I just ignored the reminder I'd seen when we entered. "No Technology Please" Luckily, our gracious server was happy to snap our photo with my cell phone. She also allowed us to linger long after dessert.
Don and I slept well in the quiet hotel. We headed back to the Table of Contents dining room for breakfast. I wondered if we would see our dinner friends. Would we be as talkative over coffee, as we were over wine?
We did end up up sharing the table, with a couple from the night before! The caffeine didn't even have a chance to kick in and we were talking a mile a minute. Our converstaion picked up where we'd left off. Then we began asking new questions of each other. How had the pandemic changed us? Which parents did we take after? We talked about our childhoods and making friends now, in the digital age. Who talks like this at 9 am? It was wonderful.
After a year of isolating and only visiting family, it was a refreshing treat to get to know strangers. Vaccinated strangers, with so much in common.
I was afraid our stay at the Sylvia Beach, might be intimidating or stuffy. At first I felt like we needed to whisper. I worried that the whole hotel would be filled with bookish intellectuals.
But our 1-night stay, felt playful and full of little surprises. I loved the history and I loved the location, even though we hardly made use.
If we come again, I'd like to stay in the Mark Twain room and meet the cat and try to enjoy more of the beach. Maybe we could stay long enough that I could actually get absorbed in a book!
The Curly in Crescent City, California!
Even though Crescent City is on the coast, there's not a whole lot to see there. I never thought there would be a Notable Night option, in the small town.
Don and I have passed through Crescent City a few times, while traveling 101, between CA and OR. I guess we just flew right past the Curly Redwood Lodge, without noticing.
I learned about the 1950's motel last spring, when I called to reserve a room at another motel. I spoke to Rik at the Itty Bitty Inn, in North Bend, OR. We had an entertaining converstaion about our shared appreciation for vintage motels.
Rik's motel is awesome by the way. (#263 of Notable Nights) And Rik is awesome, for giving us the scoop on Curly Lodge. He loved the place!
On the Redwood Highway
I was excited about our stay at the retro motel, last July.
Don and I enjoyed the scenic drive up the Redwood Highway. We had reservations, so I was paying attention, as we neared the south end of town. I spotted the faded billboard and thought it might be from the 50's, until I noticed WI-FI, written in the corner.
I was delighted that we'd arrived before check in, so we could see the motel without cars. The exterior looked mighty spotless, with all the spiffy covered parking spots.
The north side of the horseshoe-shaped motel looked pretty fabulous, with its zigzag design. The picture windows were neatly line up, with opened drapes and centered lamps. Should have gotten a better photo!
We pulled up beside a red car, near the lobby.
That was my first good look at the smooth curly redwood exterior. I'd never heard of curly redwood, until my chat with Rik. It's a kind of redwood, with swirly-curly grain, rather than straight.
At 2:30, the lobby door was locked. There was a sign on the door reminding us to wear masks. We pulled our masks up and rang the buzzer. I like a cautious motel host.
Jay greeted us moments later and welcomed us into the immaculate lobby. More curly redwood and awesome mid-century decor!
What's the Story?
We've stayed at some unusual motels over the years, but this one really needs a bigger spotlight! It was built in 1957, using the 57,000 "board feet" of lumber, that came from this single curly redwood.
Above, we see Lucie and Tom Wyllie, posing with the tree they had cut down near the Klamath River, in 1952.
I was pretty giddy when I spotted the all the wavy wood, in the office desk.
This beautiful wood was used in panelling, posts and doors, throughout the motel, inside and out. All solid. No veneers!
I Spy Curly
Jay seemed a little surprised by my enthusiasm, but he eagerly turned on lights and closed some doors, to help enhance my photos. I loved the curly redwood mailbox on the desk... and then I spied the wastebasket.
Jay said a lot of the curly redwood pieces have walked off over the years. I think the guest rooms once had redwood wastebaskets, (like the office) until people decided they liked the wooden treasures, a little too much.
The office also had a lot of framed art, displayed on the paneled walls. The art of course featured redwood trees.
There were also a couple of amazing curly redwood tables... if you can zoom in and see the detail.
Jay probably wondered why we lingered so long in the office. But this was not your usual mid-century motel lobby. I needed to study the wood frame, with the illustration of a curly redwood. The tree was a timeline, showing all the history that took place during its life!
And I had to stop and grin at the retro pen holder, with the Covid announcement, which reminded me it wasn't 1957 anymore. Jay said they used to have those in the rooms also, but people walked off with them. Shoot, I'd love to buy that thing!
Off to the Room
We got our room key and Jay headed back upstairs to the family's home, above the lobby. We stepped outside and noticed a set of stairs beside a wall of curly boards.
I wondered if those were the stairs I read about? 11 people were killed when a Tsunami devastated Crescent City, in 1964. I heard that a fisherman escaping the rush of water, ran up some stairs at this motel. From the second level, he watched water and debris slam the lower half.
Can't believe the wood survived, along with the man!
We told Jay we were eager for a first level room, with wonderfully retro, covered parking. Some rooms like 12, were along a flat section without the tricky staggered doors or parking spots.
Jay said he'd give us one of the best. Ours room was towards the end of the U. Those rooms had their own parking, between flower planters. The doors opened to the side!
Out of 36 rooms, our room #1, was almost at the end. We backed in and enjoyed the thrill of no elevators, no lugging of bags. Easy as can be!
Silky Smooth at 64 Years!
How can this wood look so spotless after 64 years! The motel is my exact age and I wish I had such smooth and glossy skin!
I don't know what kind of maintenance goes into this wood, but the new owners, along with all those going back to the Wyllies in 1957, did something right. This is a damp, foggy, coastal town with more than 1 Tsunami in its history! This wood must take some special care.
The wide angle makes this photo a little warped, but it really was a great sized room!
I was so happy to see that most of the room hadn't been altered over time!
This little sitting area took me right back to some of the houses my family used to rent in the 1960's! That angled table, was just out of this world! The lamp looked right out of... "I Dream of Jeanie"!
I love vintage everything... but the new mattress and linens were appreciated.
Rik had raved about the curly redwood motel, with its spacious rooms and glorious wood paneling. The doors and wall in the desk area, showed the wood off well.
Rik reminded us to peek in the closet to see the original "no-steal" hangars, with words stamped on the metal ring. He thought it was pretty fun that there was a patent pending on that design, back in 1957!
Love the Lamp!
I was sad for Don that he had no beside table. Sorry, but I got the table and clock, because I always claim dibs, when older hotels have only one. He is very kind.
We both got to use the hanging lamp, though! Man I love that little push button thingy, above the pillows!
We had no tub, but the shower was pretty awesome.
If you look at the photo of the table near the picture window, you'll see this same mod shape! I call it the chopped off triangle look.
We've had better hotel views, but I was happy as can be with this one from our picture window! I even love the term picture window.
We could keep an eye on the rental car and watch cars pass by on the 101, Redwood Highway. We could also see two planters with orange flowers and of course the Curly Lodge sign.
Whenever we check into a hotel, I rush out to explore with my camera and search for a good happy hour spot.
There was a large span of grass inside the "U", with 4 Adirondack chairs just waiting for us. Fingers crossed that no other arrivals would claim!
You can see some sun glowing on my face. That was lucky, since Crescent City is known for having some gloomy, foggy weather. It felt lovely.
One More Pic
I put the camera timer on for this shot, to show off the zigzag building behind us!
We enjoyed our early evening, listening to sounds... a little car traffic, distant sea lions barking and the eerie sound of a fog horn, every 10 seconds or so!
At Sun Set
Here is an image of the motel/lodge with both lit signs.
This funny little motel turned out to be a comfortable stay, with some fun stuff right across the highway.
The location of our motel turned out to be better than we realized!
The crescent shaped beach, was just a short walk across the highway! The town might not have a sweet historic downtown, (destroyed in 1964) but there was some fun stuff across the road, near the water.
Taking Our Time
It was nice to have time to wander across the road and explore. We meandered the harbor and dined at the seafood cafe right across the street.
It was wonderful to leave the car under the carport and explore on foot. We even spotted Jay, walking with his kids. (I think) What an interesting little world, when you give it a chance.
For less than $100. we had a comfy, relaxed stay in a motel right across from the Pacific Ocean. We were also just minutes away from the Redwood National and State Parks!
I'll remember enjoying our drinks and popcorn, sitting on the lawn with the pretty weather. I enjoyed learning more about the crazy history of this place. And I got to know a little bit more about Crescent City. I have a little more respect for this small town, that sometimes gets called Tsunami City.
I'm so glad Rik shared his knowledge and I'm so glad Jay and his family are caring for this special place now. I hope the lodge can handle another 64 years, for visitors traveling the Redwood Highway!
On our "coastal road trip" in July, Don and I veered inland, to stay at The Benbow Inn.
On an internet hotel search, the curious name caught my eye. The photos looked pretty magical. We went above our usual $ amount and booked a night.
Old Resort in the Redwoods
I liked the idea of an isolated old time resort, built in the California Redwoods.
Knowing the hotel opened nearly a century ago, I was excited to arrive and find the Benbow Inn, still surrounded by trees.
The Benbow name comes from the family that opened the resort and ran it, until 1962, It was built to attract travelers on the newly opened Redwood Highway. The 9 Benbow siblings were a well known in the area in the twenties. Dam construction... power company... this family had a lot of projects. And money.
The fam hired popular Bay area architect, Andrew Farr. Farr designed the wilderness retreat, on 1,290 acres. It's surprising to me that he used such a blend of architecture. I would think he might have used more stone and less timber... due to his bad luck years earlier.
Remains of Wolf House
I first heard of Andrew Farr about 4 years ago, when visiting the home of novelist, Jack London in Sonoma County.
Farr designed the 26-room, rustic mansion for the writer and his wife. It was named Wolf House. In 1913, the newly completed home burned to the ground, before the Londons moved in. Just over a decade later, Farr designed the Benbow Hotel. No fires at Benbow, as far as I know.
It was about 2:30 when Don and I arrived. I snapped a few pics from the garden. This photo looks pretty nice, despite the cloudy day.
In person, the grass and plants looked a little weary. There were just a couple cars parked near the entrance. We headed towards the double doors on the right, in the newer section, which was added in the '90's.
I felt a wave of disappointment when we stepped into the "new" lobby. I hid my reaction and greeted the woman at the desk with a cheery comment about the nice day. She seemed worn out and complained of the hot weather. But she let us check in early, so no judging.
The lobby wasn't worth a click of my camera. I peeked in the room behind and it looked a little better, with some old furniture and books. But the ceiling was low and there was no historic appeal. It felt like a new addition, which it was.
After getting our key, we headed into the original part of the building and I felt relief.
The large sitting/parlor area had some nice woodwork. Best of all it was open and airy, with large windows on both sides of the room.
Rugs and Tables
There were lots of tables and sitting areas and a large fireplace on one wall.
This space made it easier to imagine the hotel, when the Benbows first opened 95 years ago.
Chess and Puzzles
Back when the hotel was in its hey day, there was golf, canoeing and horseback riding and fishing.
Today I didn't see signs of outside activity, but there were lots of games and at least 9 jigsaw puzzles, in progress.
We saw no hotel cats, but we saw these birds.
I was fooled for a moment. They weren't real, but I liked the odd cage in the parlor. It amused me.
Up We Go
We started to catch the elevator in the lobby, but decided not to share the ride with others. We're Covid cautious travelers. But also, there was no room for us. A man was maneuvering a cart filled with sherry decanters onto the elevator. We headed for the stairs.
I liked the old stairs, in the old building. I'm not sure why I was so turned off by the lobby.
Halfway up the stairs, there was an odd display.
What was this stuff? Were those candle holders from a cathedral? What was with those branches, shooting up from cloth? Was this creepy or curious? Once again, I was amused.
A Creepy Hall
Don and I had sort of a hard time finding our room. When we finally did, it was at the end of this hall, stuffed with mattresses and a rollaway. A work room was across from ours, with its door wide open.
I found it a little creepy and curious that our room was tucked back with the work room and mattresses. I did not find it amusing.
We returned to the lobby and very politely, asked for a different room. It took forever, but we were given a new key.
I liked the art on our door and I liked the old glass door knob.
Deluxe Queen with a Smell
Again, Don and I appreciate old. We put up with creaks and smells. In fact we usually embrace them. But this room smelled like rancid grease. We opened the windows.
The decor was fine. Nothing memorable. At least there were 2 comfy chairs. We could have paid more for a "luxury room", but this was above our budget already, at nearly $300.
The seclusion and elegance of this hotel, attracted the Hollywood elite, back in the day.
Spencer Tracey and Clark Gable were once guests. They might have enjoyed one of the suites with a fireplace. I don't think they would have been overly excited with our room.
Other Important Guests
Eleanor Roosevelt and Hebert Hoover also stayed at The Benbow. Eleanor would have looked just right, on one of those pinkish chairs.
The desk was a little too small for President Hoover. He might have taken a nip of the sherry, though.
I look like I drank a whole bottle, in this pic. So this is what the cart of sherry decanters was all about. The are delivered daily to each room, with only 2 glasses worth of sherry.
I did more posing than drinking. I was more intrigued looking out the window.
If there had been no tent, we could have seen the Eel River. The tent was set up to accommodate more guests for outside dining.
I didn't like having an obstructed view, but I was glad to know the hotel was trying hard to be safe during these pandemic times. They only took dinner reservations for hotel guests.
This actually looks more festive in my photos, than in person.
I did like the colorful retro blue. (which might have been 1990's retro) Lighting was a little dim, but I did like the funny wall nooks, near the sink.
I always have to do a little wandering, after check in. I love peeking around before things get crowded. But were things going to get crowded?
I worried that guests weren't coming. There was something a little sad looking about the place, without guests.
The Terrace Area
I wandered around the terrace area, between the hotel and river. The rounded stairs led to the prettier end of the building. The lower level may have held some of the more luxurious guest rooms. Not sure.
Above the stonework, I could see the windows of the dining room. We made sure to get reservations for later.
I wanted to step back and get a full look at the hotel, but the tents made that impossible. I liked the crooked tree.
The Eel River
Below the terrace, there was a lawn leading to the Eel River. I crossed the lawn and then the bridge. I finally was a good distance away to see the full hotel. This time, the trees blocked my view.
The next day was sunny, when I took a photo of the old bridge from the terrace. Sadly there was only a trickle of water because of the dry summer. No fishing or canoeing on The Eel.
On the front of the hotel, I found a porch that had a view of the garden. (and the nearby campgrounds) This porch needed people.
I returned to our room and made some coffee. Don and I took our books and computer to the porch.
We had it to ourselves! How I love a hotel with a porch!
The air was perfect. We hung out a while, keeping an eye on the parking lot. Guests were beginning to arrive. And a musician or two!
The Cocktail Lounge
This is how the hotel bar looked before 5.
The place filled up later. Poor bartender had to work hard to keep up with orders.
I was glad I got a good look at the fireplace before it was busy in the lounge. The elaborate screen and the mantel decor, was picture worthy. Although I cut off the heads of the dogs, in the framed portraits!
At 6, Don and I got drinks from the bar, but carried them to the terrace.
We watched 2 musicians setting up. Then we watched the musicians pack up, when it started to drizzle. I thought they would just move over a bit and perform under the tent. But they continued to pack away their instruments.
Watching the Rain
We took our drinks to the porch and wondered why no one else did the same.
I loved that porch! A light rain fell for a while. We watched the musicians drive away. We stayed dry.
When I checked on reservations earlier, I peeked in the dining room.
I noticed a couple tables already had guests. Furry guests.
I'm not sure what was with the bears, but I appreciate the humor.
No one likes to eat in an empty restaurant. Maybe the bears made the dining room feel more alive?
We really did enjoy our meal. We chose to sit inside, since the wind had picked up on the terrace.
My Caesar salad was an absolute hit, with moist chicken, fat anchovies and a crispy wafer of parmesan. Pandemic dining has been iffy, but the staff was efficient and the food was quite good at this hotel. No complaints.
The rains fizzled. It would have been nice to open windows and hear some thunder and enjoy a real storm.
We wandered just enough to see the lights on the porch a little later. No TVs in the historic building, so it was peaceful. Made good use of robes and books.
The sun surprised us in the morning. Lots of blue sky!
Our stay came with breakfast. The pandemic protocol gave us a few options, which we picked up in the lounge and enjoyed on the terrace. The cool and sunny morning made me wish we could stay long enough to enjoy some nearby trails.
I'm glad The Benbow is still open. I know all hotels have struggled with the pandemic, especially the historic ones. I just hope the staff and the wearier parts of the hotel, can get a little lift. There was a bit of an odd mood in the place.
But, I'm glad we stayed. I loved the neon sign and the porch. I loved the carved wood in some of the mantels and woodwork. I didn't adore our room, but the pretty window made the room brighter. I loved the trees and hills that surrounded and I love knowing there are 95 years of stories behind this place.
Actually I would have loved the whole place just fine, if it had been priced lower. I think I had just raised my expectations too high.
Delightful! In Petaluma, California
This 140-year-old, Parisian style hotel, was full of surprises! Don discovered the place 4 years ago and loved it. He booked it for us, this past July.
I think I had the proper response when we pulled up to the front. "Wow! This is totally charming! So much cuter than the website photos!" I was ready for a trip to Paris!
We arrived at 2:15, on a Monday. Don drove us around to the curious parking lot in back. We were early, so there were no other cars during our parking adventure.
We pulled in, next to the little blue and white sign. The figureinabed image, was very European! Then Don headed under the carport, (made of solar panels) and aimed for one of the yellow chains, hanging on the blue fence. This kept the parking orderly, for later when more cars arrived.
Toddler Near the Airstream!
"Watch out!" I warned Don, when I spotted a small child on the pavement, near a pair of Airstreams. (We could have booked one of those fun trailers!)
I alerted Don when that I spotted another toddler! Or was it the same one? They seemed to be popping up, like Munchkins in Oz.
Dad and Kiddos
Actually the tiny twins were not in danger. Their very serious looking, young dad, was the third Munchkin to appear. He herded them up, then greeted us near the blue picket fence.
The Dad/host seemed to be the only one in charge at that moment. We offered to come back later, since we'd arrived early. But he motioned for us to come along. He guided us past another Airstream and a Bocce Ball court. We followed him and his toddler twins, in a side door.
As soon as we stepped inside, I could not wipe the silly smile off my face! Don had set this stay up because he knew I'd love it. I swear this hotel was made for me.
I'd gotten excited weeks earlier, when I saw the photos on the hotel's website. But when I saw the bold mix of classy antiques and whimsical curiosities, I was blown away! School desks, chandeliers, mannequins...! The website needs to be updated. This was way cooler!
Dining & Music Room?
I followed our host, while glancing into the room off to the left. I tripped over my feet as took in all the fun decor. What a table! What was with those large, colorful framed prints?
I saw a piano and another antique instrument, with keys. I love old instruments. What warm and worn, wooden floors and such modern lighting!
Don and the Tots
There was so much to take in, but I had to make sure I didn't trip over the kiddos either. Oh my, they were so incredibly adorable, trying to keep up with their daddy.
The little girl followed our host into the office, but her brother was a little slower, since he was busy dragging an orange cone over to Don. Such a good helper!
Cafe and Front Entrance
We followed into the office, but I kept peering out, towards the front of the building. I could see the cafe tables, where we'd have breakfast in the morning.
There was light coming in through the front door entrance, near a huge framed smiling face. Oh, I couldn't wait to explore.
While we checked in, Daddy scooped up the kids and placed them in a double stroller. At one point the little boy stood and nearly tipped the stroller, trying to get to something breakable. I quickly distracted with a game. I used to be good at that. But it was hard to compete with the playful surroundings.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be 18 months old, running around this magical place, with all the bright colors... and all the antique toys! What a crazy collection of gnomes! Then I wondered about being a parent in a place like this! Whew! Exhausting.
To the Stairs
Our host grabbed our key and gave us a quick tour. Then he headed briskly towards the front door, with the little ones toddling behind.
I spotted the narrow, curling staircase, near the front door. I wondered how the tots would handle that.
The dad didn't skip a beat. He scooped up a twin in each arm and zipped up those stairs.
I held that slick white railing and huffed my way up. I wasn't even carrying luggage. (which was tricky later)
I reached the second floor, just in time to see the trio at our door!
I'm afraid I didn't write down our host's name. It was French though. He showed us a few things in the room and asked if we had questions. I mostly wanted to ask about the cute kids and if he was an owner... but we'd taken enough of his time.
Our welcoming committee left moments later and I grinned at our room! Was that a purple chalk board? I'm not sure. I didn't find chalk.
Yes, the room was small, but it worked perfectly for us. The little lamps and tables were fun and functional. The quaint cafe chairs & table, felt like Paris.
The TV was almost too large for the space, but I won't complain. I appreciated the reminder sign, to keep volume down in later hours.
I made sure we got our goose turned on. I heard that every room had one.
I took a good look at the pillow and smiled. "Let's do!"
French Words & Colors
Our room had at least 3 large framed prints. They totally amused me. I could have practiced my French with the print, Signaux De Danger.
I loved the blue doors and the red accents here and there. The colors and words of France, were everywhere. Even our "privacy sign" on the door was in French.
A sliding blue door, opened to the bathroom. The little sink and grand mirror felt European. The bath products were attractive, in blue bottles. The hairdryer even managed to look cute, hanging in a tasteful bag.
I loved the retro tile floor and the mini claw footed, red tub and surprise skylight!
I found a tinier surprise on the roll of toilet paper. A cupcake sticker!
There were surprise duckies in the bottom of the tub. I used just little of the bottled bubble bath, in the smallish tub. Very cute!
Narrow Halls, Big Art
After admiring the room a bit, I took off to explore! The upstairs had a couple narrow halls. I believe there are over a dozen guest rooms, but not totally sure.
The halls and many of the spaces were filled with the most intriguing vintage prints!
I wanted to study each one for hours.
It turns out that these posters were really used for studies. Children used them in French schools, in the 1950's. They were tools for observation, vocabulary... problem solving. I love that kind of learning!
Connected to The Metro
I always love the exploring part of our hotel stays. As I wandered the colorful rooms of The Metro, I felt like I was connected to every whimsical item. Every curious displayed item! Out of all 265 hotels that I've blogged about, The Metro Hotel pleases the kid side of me, more than any other.
I grew up with antique furniture and toys. I played school with my sibs, using the antique school desks, in our family room. These desks reminded me.
French Guignol Puppet Theatre
I was fascinated by these two puppet theaters, displayed on the wall.
I did a little Googling and learned that Guignol puppet shows weren't intended for kids originally. There's some fun history there!
I love how hotel adventures lead to eager researching. And I love how this hotel's treasures, reminded me of the treasures I grew up with.
Seeing these Guignol faces made me think about the Punch & Judy bookends that were in my childhood home. And the Sicilian puppet, that our family bought in Italy and now hangs from my mantel. I wish I could have met the owner, because we have similar taste in treasures.
I stepped out to see what I missed outside. I studied the building at different angles. It was built in the 1870's. Oh how I wish there were photos of the family and home, back then. What place!
I had to smile when I spotted the sweet critter-combo near the gate. The chicken in French flag colors, seemed unaware of the little black cat below.
During my exploration, I hunted down the best spot for a glass of wine. Don and I always bring a little wine and to "celebrate" our hotels.
There were tables on the front and side patio. That could have been a good place for our evening toast.
Tea for Two
I looked around inside, for a cozy place to sit and sip.
I loved these two pairs of chairs. But really they didn't look too comfy. Maybe better for sitting up properly, with a cup of tea.
The cafe was empty and there was coffee. We decided to just go for a little cup of caffeine and venture out later for a drink.
Drink & Dining Options Within Walking Distance
If it hadn't been a Monday, a little Peruvian food at Quinuia, would have been lovely. The green painted restaurant, was on the property and it looked wonderful, when I peeked in the windows. Closed on Monday.
We ended up having dinner at McNear's, in the old 1886 building.
Before that we wandered on foot and found a good brewery and some fun scenery. All was in walking distance from the hotel. That is a huge perk.
By 9:30, our hotel was quiet.
The lighting was so pretty from the street. I think I heard the twins in one of the rooms, when I stepped inside. Do they live here? Who is the actual owner? I heard that a French woman bought the hotel in 2010 and that she's passionate about filling the place with the treasures, she finds on trips home to Paris. Oh how I would have loved meeting her.
In the morning I expected to find the cafe, as quiet as the hotel felt at night. But guests had come out of the woodwork and filled the tables in 2 rooms.
A sweet woman greeted from behind her red mask. I spotted a cooked eggs and sweet breads, set out near the gnomes.
There was a Nespresso maker for fancier coffee, as well a drip coffee. The woman was very busy cooking up crepes on a sizzling grill.
We found Nutella, jam, fresh berries, whipped cream and butter for our crepes. Then we found a nice table, near an amusing old highchair holding a lunch box. Oh my eyes were so busy!
I was sorry that check out was so easy. There was a little wooden box near the front door for our keys.
I said good bye to our bell hop. I really wanted to say good bye to those sweet twins. They were no where to be seen.
What a sweet Parisian boutique B&B experience! No corny Americana stuff. (Then again, Airstreams & flamingos...) But I really did feel like I had taken a quick trip to Europe. And that was a treat, since I'm not doing that until the pandemic is over.
I loved the exterior, with all the blues and reds, and its 140-year-old charm. But the interior was perfection to me. There was quirky, whimsical charm in every corner. But this place did not have random "old stuff" hanging from the ceiling or spilling off shelves. No dusty old thrift store junk. Every piece fit perfectly and I'm pretty sure every item had a story. I love my own treasures and I appreciate a place that shares theirs!
North Bend, OR
This colorful place, was our little home away from home, for one night in July.
The 5-room motel, is in Oregon's Coos Bay County. It sits right on Route 101.
Don and I made reservations a month before. It looked like the perfect stop on our travels south, along the Oregon coast. When we crossed the McCullough Bridge we knew we were 1/4 mile from the inn. But, I was a little too delighted by the retro welcome sign.
I failed as navigator and Don drove right past the cute little motel.
We went around the block and slowly pulled in. We were early, so there were no problems finding a parking spot. If only we'd been driving a Tesla, we could have charged up, for free.
Near the office, I noticed there was bike parking also. (and bikes for borrowing!)
We headed for the office door, hoping our room might be ready early. I was eager to meet Rik. I felt like I already knew him, after our 30 minute conversation when I made reservations in June.
Itty Bitty Office
We buzzed and it took Rik a moment to answer. This is Rik's home too, so we felt a little bad arriving before check in time. But Rik greeted with an enthused elbow bump. (unclear how much was pandemic and how much was an injury that had to do with a torpedo... a long story)
Rik talked a mile a minute, just like he had a month before on the phone. He was overjoyed that we were so giddy about renting the Tiki Cha Cha Room. "You will just love it, my Angels!" He told us he had a turntable with music waiting for us. Don showed Rik his favorite Exotica Tiki Music playlist on his phone.
Itty Bitty History
I studied the small office/shop. There were tiki mugs and tee-shirts. There were lots of local goodies for sale from soaps to coffee. And there were framed portraits!
I loved knowing that Rik had a spotlight, on the original owners. It was fun to learn that the inn opened as "Itty Bitty Motor Inn" back in 1950. Kitty (in photo) had wanted a bigger name. (Trade Winds, I believe) Kitty's family teased that name was too big and it should be Kitty's Itty Bitty... When Rik bought the biz in 2015, the inn had another name, but he brought back that wonderful name.
Signs and Murals
I haven't had luck finding old photos of the motel, in the 50's. I wonder if they had a neon sign. Today's colorful sign and arrow looks retro, but not mid-century.
The murals are fun. You can see chickens painted on the roof of the VW van. Rik has no pet bears, but he referred to his chickens a lot.
"Tonight, I'm going to watch some B-rated movies and play Bingo and hang out with my chickens ..."
I thought it was just playful babble, but he really does have chickens.
#1 The Tiki Cha Cha Room
Out of the 5 themed rooms, 2 of them were Tiki-themed.
I chose Room #1, from photos I saw on the internet.
Don and I stepped inside and placed our shoes (as instructed) on the towel that Rik had left by the door. That could seem odd to some, but it was also a reminder of how clean Rik keeps his rooms.
I loved the little entry way with microwave and fridge and bar. Then we stepped through the bamboo to see the room.
There it was! The bamboo design, painted on the ceiling!
It was that fine bamboo ceiling that made me grin, when I searched the website photos.
There was also a creative bamboo touch on the wall, behind the beds.
Room #1 was the only guest room with 2 beds. The extra single bed came in handy for bag holding. And I might mention, there were rainbow/unicorn sheets underneath the comforters!
We didn't get a chance to see the Star Trek Room, Oregon Trail Room or the 70's Room. But I'm convinced our room had more bonus decor than the others.
Look at the mosaic, fruit bowl art! And how about those swooping diamond shapes, holding the clock and "candles"!
This table held more fun stuff. The lamp and nut/candy dish were classic. The tiki figure and rotary phone were 60's vintage. The Growler bottle was all about 2021! And that's a photo of Rik up there, reminding us to borrow that growler and get it filled with beer.
Again, the Tiki Cha Cha Room was fresh and clean. That's always extra appreciated, when you step into the bathroom. It was an extra treat to find locally made oatmeal soaps.
The retro tile and clamshell toilet lid, made me smile. And those were some fine wooden accent-treasures, on the wall.
I liked the divider wall, which opened into the micro/fridge area.
There was a built in bookcase and I found a book or two that intrigued me.
The bar/ counter, was handy. It held tiki glasses and a candy dish, offering a couple tootsie roll pops. Rik brought us some freshly ground coffee and we enjoyed a cup later.
Rik was very excited to share some of his favorite albums. The Exotica music was ready to go, when we walked in.
Don and I turned on the music and the room filled with flutes, drums and jungle sounds. We put on some tropical shirts.
Ready to Go!
Don has about 10 tiki shirts, but he packed one of his tamer shirts.
I left my flamingo dress back in Texas and went for a flowered shirt.
Off to See Rik
Rik heard we'd packed festive shirts and insisted we stop by the office, with our shirts and empty glasses. He had a few options on tap. Don went for a Mocha Stout and I had Cranberry Hard Cider. Thanks Rik!
We spent about 30 minutes gabbing in the office. Rik told us some pretty hysterical stories about a few famous guests who have enjoyed stays at the Itty Bitty. It's hard to picture celebs like Woody Harrelson and Kurt Russel choosing a place like this. But Rik has created a one of a kind getaway. He's also pretty good at keeping things secret when celebrities stay. It was fun to learn that Itty Bitty was rated #1, of the Top 10 budget hotels on Yelp!
Tips from Rik
I wish I'd had a tape recorder while we talked. I needed to take notes. Rik's enthusiasm was infectious. Whatever he suggested, we felt excited to try. Maybe because he called us "My Darlings" and "My Angels" a lot. He was much younger than us, but he seemed like a persuasive, favorite uncle.
We took Rik's suggestion and headed for Chuck's Seafood to order some of the fresh and odd seafood options. He sent us off with a cutting board and knife.
We did what he said. We bought octopus jerky and oysters sticks and all the good fresh fish that the locals buy. "You need to take it to the beach with a bottle of wine!" It was a fun, Rik-led adventure.
Rik also told us about The Liberty Pub, which was in walking distance. He said it was a local favorite, especially on Wednesdays, for the Irish Music. He raved. So we went that night. Good food and good music!
And a month earlier when I booked, Rik and I swapped motel stories over the phone, for a half hour. I was excited to tell Rik we had booked one of his recommendations. The Curly Redwood! Oh I love an enthused inn host, with tons of good ideas.
We checked out fairly early on Thursday morning and said good-bye to Rik. He put his hands together and bowed slightly,
"When you come home, we'll have lots to talk about."
He was quiet and sort of subdued in the morning. I was hoping for one more story, or to hear him call us "My Angels" just another time.
Our memory of the Itty Bitty, will be such a combination of our sweet Tiki Room and our sweet and curious host.
We weren't the coolest and hippest of Itty Bitty guests. We won't make it into Rik's stories. But I know he appreciated, that we appreciated... his place and him!
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!