Frank Lloyd Wright in Oklahoma!
We did it! Don and I finally spent a night in Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper!
I guess not. Phillips had some issues with the building and used it mostly for storage. Thankfully, they donated the building to Price Tower Arts Center in 2000. Today it houses hotel rooms and much more.
Bartlesville & The Tower 2019
Don and I rolled into town on a Monday afternoon, in November. It was easy to spot the skyscraper. Oh, how I love that retro word!
I have a feeling that this very view of the tower (with the street and shops) hasn't changed a whole lot in 60+ years.
"The Tree That Escaped the Crowded Forest"
The sight of the lone tower was pretty dramatic as we approached. What an unusual design, even for Frank Lloyd Wright!
Wright nicknamed the tower, the tree that escaped the crowded forest. The skyscraper wouldn't have looked nearly so tall and unusual, in a crowded city.
Cantilevered Reinforced Concrete Tower
We parked in the nearby lot and headed to the lobby. The asymmetrical building looked like it was balanced at the end of a diving board. I was ready to get a huge lesson in architecture and construction.
Nature and architecture! The tower was the tree trunk, with some kind of anchoring structure, acting as roots. The floors, "cantilevered" from the core, like branches. The outer walls were actually hanging from the floors. All mind boggling to me!
The lobby was quiet and colorful! We passed some curious built-in chairs, before stepping into a stunning space, now called the Taliesin Room. Josue greeted us from behind the desk.
After checking us in, he kindly gave us a bit of a mini tour. It was Monday, which meant no regular tours and no restaurant. He was pretty delightful with his enthusiasm.
He sent us upstairs to see the their permanent museum. He pointed out the crazy angles in the stairs and the aluminum hand rail.
In the museum, we spotted a copper panel, like the greenish ones on the exterior. It was crazy to see the bright copper as it was, before being treated to hurry the weathering effect.
What a treat to have this complimentary museum all to ourselves. Both of us loved the P-Tower model. Don studied it like an engineer. I looked at it with my dollhouse-maker eyes. I love miniature things and how they're made.
Originally, most of floors in Price Tower were used for office space. I wonder what kinds of things cluttered that particular desk, 60 years ago?
"Willows and Reflections" Added in 1979
Josue insisted we needed a photo of the two of us, with the 25-ft long, cloisonee mural.
We were happy to pose with the fabulous copper & enamel, willow scene. The branches hung behind us... their shapes and colors, "reflected" in the table! So gorgeous! But, now I sort of cringe to see our silly selves in our drab colors, invading that colorful scene!
Heading up to our room was an adventure! The oddly shaped core of the building, held 3 elevator shafts... or were there 4? I just remember standing in the hall center, surrounded by doors.
We grinned as we entered the tiny elevator, ready to ride to the 13th floor.
We stepped out to see a porcelain water fountain, a shiny, brass floor design and 4 guest room doors.
Our "Glass-Wrapped" Room!
The hefty door let us into our 430 sq-ft room. There are 19 hotel rooms now, but none in 1956. The upper floors had been office space and the Price Family penthouse. There had been apartments and shops and businesses below.
What a great office this would have been, back in the day. I wouldn't have minded a desk job, with all those windows to distract me. Lots of sunshine too! The sheer curtains kept us from being blinded by sunlight.
Once inside the confusing structure, we started to make connections with what we'd seen of the exterior. Those long, horizontal windows weren't so visible from the outside.
Once inside, we could actually open the windows to let in air. Some of the exterior copper panels worked like sun shades... just like leaves on tree branches! This was all pretty fun and curious!
Don and I were both giddy, absorbing every nook and cranny. The room shape itself was playfully geometric. No right angles.
There were non-parallel lines everywhere, in the furniture, wallpaper and on the fabrics and carpet.
I counted 10 triangle-lights on the ceiling. There were triangle shapes on the wallpaper.
There was even a triangular waste basket, tucked into the mod desk. And look at all the electrical sockets. This 64 year old office space was built for today's technology!
Copper & Concrete
The dressing/bath end of our room was a fun mix of concrete, wood and copper. It was fun to see the exposed concrete floor with Wright's favorite, Cherokee Red.
The sink and vanity area had lots of copper, in the furniture accents, hanging light fixtures and towel rack.
Love a Quirky Bathroom!
I'm all about the memories. I'm happy to put up with some inconvenience, to have a memorable experience. I won't forget our bathroom, with its tiny green tile.
The toilet was mounted from the wall. A cantilevered toilet? Maybe not. But it amused me. Don't jails have toilets like that? And copper pipes, holding our toilet paper and towels! Love it! All was clean and fine with me!
Our oddly-shaped shower couldn't have been cuter, with its triangle shelf and seat! I was too impatient to wait for the hot water, so took a cold one... kind of like I was in jail. Don showered next and said it was wonderfully hot. And how about that great corner window?
We had a fabulous view from the bathroom window. Later when outside, I spotted our corner windows, surrounded by those greenish copper panels! The "patinated" copper represented the "leaves" of Wright's escaped tree!
I can't say enough about the windows. All 18 were trimmed in aluminum, with handles that reminded me of my grade school. We opened some up at 4:00 pm and heard church bells and a train whistle.
Having open windows and good weather, was a huge treat. Having window views from the 13th floor, was even better.
It was fun to see the buildings in Bartlesville and to wonder which were there when Price Tower was built.
It seemed pretty peaceful for a small city.
Sunset and Nighttime
Since the bar was closed, we made our own drinks and toasted to the sunset, over the distant prairie landscape. Were those Osage Hills, far off?
The prairie view would have been a little more dramatic 60+ years ago, but we could see the horizon! It was dark before we headed out for dinner. The town was quiet, but we found the lively Painted Horse Bar/Cafe, within walking distance.
We slept well with our windows open and woke to the sound of church bells. 8 chimes... at 7:00. Funny.
We headed to floor 16 for the complimentary breakfast. The door to the hotel bar was locked, so I couldn't get a peek. But we at least got to experience the dining space.
I think we were the only hotel guests. We had the pick of all tables in two rooms. The soft jazz music was lovely.
The outdoor areas looked pleasant. We sipped our coffee and enjoyed the view. The breakfast options were not a bit exciting, but from everything I've heard, the restaurant itself is worth a trip to Bartlesville. Next time!
Don and I had to take off before the first tour at 11. It seemed sinful to leave without seeing the upper floors, with Harold Price's penthouse and the corporate offices.
I'm a little confused about the timing, but Phillips basically did not end up using the building for much more than storage. These unsafe stairs were evidently one of the reasons.
One Last Look
We checked out at 10, knowing we'd have to come back another time... for a tour and a meal and visit to the art gallery that we had also missed. But we took one last look from the outside.
Maybe we can return in the spring of 2020 when the nearby park is completed. We can do all we missed, plus have a picnic with a view of the 221-foot tree!
The obvious, is that we stayed in a masterpiece created by Frank Lloyd Wright.
...be open to observing and exploring and learning about all that was created by a man in his 80's!
This was a pretty amazing stay for about $145. in 2019! You don't have to be rich either!
A Night in Berkeley
While visiting the San Francisco Bay area in October, Don and I decided to spend a night in Berkeley.
Neither of us had ever visited the city, which is home to University of California's oldest campus. It sounded fun.
I kind of shy away from the word CLUB. It makes me think of exclusive country clubs... places that aren't welcoming to all. But this had once been a club for women in the twenties! I had to read on!
Before booking, I read about the building and the woman who designed it. It was intriguing and reasonably priced! Don was game to stay, even though it had once been a club... that was not so welcoming to men... at least until 1962. Thanks Don!
I headed in while Don parked. Street parking! That was a treat, since the night before we'd paid 76 dollars, to valet park at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel.
Designed by Julia Morgan
As I approached the building, I only knew a few things.
I was surprised to learn that Morgan was also connected to The Fairmont, which was the hotel we had stayed in, the night before.
The Fairmont & The Earthquake
During our SF stay, Don and I learned a lot about the 1906 earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco. We learned that our lavish hotel, on top of Nob Hill survived the initial earthquake, but not the fires that followed.
How crazy that Don and I spent two nights in a row, in hotels that were created or improved by Julia Morgan.
Back at The Berkeley
So, as Don unloaded the car, I headed towards our sturdy, massive, building. It looked like we would be staying in some kind of Italian Palazzo-Fortress, if there is such a thing. I was ready to learn more.
Too bad we didn't have a teeny tiny earthquake during our stay... just for the ultimate test.
As I approached the entrance, I could see the concrete flowers and embellishments around the door. Molded? I guess you don't carve concrete? I know so little.
Was this the entrance? Was this actually a hotel? I saw no obvious signs. I felt hesitant walking towards the door, since I couldn't remember if I'd gotten confirmation, when booking.
I glanced at the windows. The columns and arches reminded me of a fairytale castle. The doors with their diamond-paned leaded glass, were mighty impressive... and locked. I buzzed a buzzer and heard a voice. "May I help you?"
I heard a click and worked with two hands to open the heavy door.
This was my first glimpse at the interior! Wow! I hoped this wasn't a flubbed reservation, because I really wanted to stay in this building. It looked like a church and I've never spent the night in a church.
To the right of the entrance was a desk, where I spotted two women looking over paperwork. This is the only photo I took that includes a peek at that space.
The women who quietly worked behind the desk reminded me of librarians or nuns or professors. I felt like I should whisper when I inquired about our reservations.
We Are Guests
Whew, I was helped by a very kind woman who found our reservations. This was indeed our hotel.
However, this lovely Gothic building offered much more than hotel rooms. Locals can become City Club members and use the numerous lounge and meetings spaces... or the amazing pool, which was down this hall.
I was in awe of the vaulted ceilings and the wrought-iron chandeliers. I was very much in love with the sweet bear-like creatures who were perched here and there, when I walked up the stairs.
We were glad we didn't have to hike the stairs with our bags up to our 5th floor room.
However the old elevators were a little slow and wonky. Luckily they got us to the floor and the clanky noise didn't bother us in our room... which was next to the elevators.
We peeked down the hallways before stepping into our room.
There are now 38 hotel rooms, but I had the feeling we were the only guests. I wondered about the women who used to stay here in the 30's and 40's.
Our corner room was simple and basic. The door almost bonked the corner of the queen bed, when we opened.
There was no TV, but we had some appealing artwork and great windows for our entertainment. I'm not being at all sarcastic. It was peaceful and cozy.
I liked the old radiators and the wicker chair for lounging or reading. The desk was very sweet. I wish it could have inspired me to write a letter... or a novel.
Love the Bathroom
If I had been staying a month, I might have hoped for a little more bathroom luxury. But we were staying one night. I actually loved this oddly shaped bathroom. I felt like I was in a film noir movie scene, when I brushed my teeth.
The floor and tub tile was retro fun. The curtain around the trough-like tub, meant Don got his shower and I got to soak. The wooden medicine cabinet was handy with its little shelf. The frosted, metal-framed window opened up, to a view of the campus!
But, we actually spent little time in the room.
It was time to get out and explore the City Club Building.
It was late on a Monday afternoon and all seemed very quiet.
Don and I searched for a good place to relax a bit before dinner. The library was nice, but there were a couple of men quietly studying their laptops. We moved on.
We found a piano and maybe I should have played! This Women's Club was after all, created to give women a place for social, cultural and recreational activity.
I was the most excited about seeing the pool, designed by Julia Morgan, over 90 years ago.
The 75-foot pool was empty, when we peeked at it from the viewing deck. I wonder if there were any swimmers at 5 am when it opened? I didn't check.
Later, we found a different door that took us to the pool deck, where we could see the beautiful arches and columns reflected in the water.
All To Ourselves
With no swimmers, the water was smooth enough to study the tile work. It was tempting to grab our suits and make use. But I saw a sign that said something about swim caps. Really?
We explored the locker rooms since no one was around. Don wandered through the men's area and I went through the women's. It looked like there were a few "men's" dressing rooms, spilling over into the women's area. Hmm?
There were some outside areas that we could have enjoyed, but the sun was getting low.
From the stairs, I peeked out one of the diamond panes and saw a little bas-relief panel on the wall. Surprises everywhere!
While wandering upstairs, we saw some activity, through the door to the auditorium. A very gracious man invited us in to look around.
He told us they were setting up an event. He shared a little history and encouraged us to peek out at the covered terrace/walkway. He gave us some suggestions for exploring the campus, later. Nice guy!
We continued to wander and wonder. I wasn't sure how this room was used today, but it was fun imagining it, when the Club opened in the thirties. Did women gather for lectures or musical performances? Were there once tables for reading and research?
The Women's Club Movement was much more than a social club. Women gathered to engage in recreation as well as education. They joined to get involved in civic activities and to rebuild their personal lives.
Morgan's Bar and Lounge
The hotel's bar looked classy, with dark wood bar and spacious seating. We were so disappointed it was closed on Monday.
We have learned so many wonderful tidbits from locals, in hotel bars. Being a block from Berkeley's campus and being associated with the City Club, we could have met some very interesting people here.
Since the bar was closed, we decided to make ourselves drinks in the room and carry them to one of the sitting rooms.
There were lots of game options. I spotted Scrabble and a chess board, nearby.
Books and Art
But I was more drawn to the art and books. The walls held an exhibit by Risa Lenore. Beneath each painting was the "forgotten snapshot" that inspired the art. Oh how I love that idea!
Then we both flipped through some nearby books. I took a photo of one book, with plans to put it on my Christmas list. What a beautiful (and informative) book!
Before dinner, we wandered the campus on a balmy Monday night. We were impressed to see so many students out and about. Clusters of activity... dance, Taekwondo, drumming, yoga.
As advised earlier, we wandered to Hearst Gymnasium, one of Julia Morgan's designs. It was spooky on the outside, but inside it was bright and active. Open doors revealed ballet and tango classes, karate and EMS training classes.
It was clearly Berkeley 2019. It was not 1929 or 1969! We wandered a few more blocks for a Chinese feast, then back to sleep well, at The Club!
We woke to sunshine, through our 3 windows. We dressed and headed early to Julia's Restaurant, for our complimentary breakfast.
It was extra nice having the breakfast option, since the restaurant had been closed the night before.
The simple buffet was not memorable, but the setting was perfect. There was an ornate fireplace and mirror, at one end. A wall of windows, looked out to a terrace, with potted flowers.
What a fun bit of news! RBG had been speaking at an auditorium, just a block away! It's too bad she couldn't have stopped by the historic Women's Club, afterwards... to mingle with the spirits of Julia Morgan and all the women from long ago... who would have fainted with joy to know that someday we would have a woman on the Supreme Court!
We had so many fun surprises! We spent a night in a concrete castle that happened to be a club.
Our stay exceeded expectations!
40th Anniversary at The Fairmont!
On October 20th, Don and I drove to the top of Nob Hill to celebrate our 40th anniversary!
I didn't allow myself to dwell on that too much, when we headed from our rental car into the land of luxury!
The enormous lobby was as magnificent as we remembered. Don and I briefly visited the hotel 3 years ago and put it on our "must stay here" list.
I remembered the swirling marble columns. They almost looked edible, like chocolate-caramel cheesecake!
The gilded ceiling detail made me think of empty frames.
I wanted some high scaffolding so I could pretend to be Michelangelo. What could I have painted inside those golden shapes?
We checked in at the desk and I asked a few questions. I was sad when I discovered the key boxes were just for show. I really wanted to use a brass key with a gold tassel.
I made sure to ask about the hours for the famed Tonga Room, that Don and I visited in 2016. Our desk clerk was excited to tell us the tropical bar/restaurant was open at 5, with live music at 8. Yay! Luckily we had packed the proper clothes for Tiki Time!
There is something like 55,000 square feet of "function space" at the Fairmont. That doesn't include the restaurants. The place is big... 591 guest rooms & suites! We got a little lost just looking for the proper elevator. But wandering is very fun at The Fairmont.
We took in lots of details in the lobby. The glass vases on the center table were lovely.
Earthquake of 1906
I wandered early the next morning to take photos without people. It's easier to imagine the past with no guests on cell phones. The palms in their decorative containers, looked very vintage Hollywood to me!
I tried to imagine what this space looked like in 1906, when the great earthquake hit San Francisco. The hotel had just been completed, but it took another year of repair before they opened. The building survived the earthquake, but the fires that followed, damaged the interior.
I have always loved a grand staircase! Looking upward, I wondered about the famous people who have walked down the marble stairs.
Nearly 20 presidents have stayed at the Fairmont. Nearly all from President Taft to President Obama, have been guests. They probably used a secret elevator.
There have been more celebrities than presidents though. I heard that Frank Sinatra always requested the same room on the second floor, so he didn't have to use the elevator. Imagine meeting him on the stairs!
I couldn't resist climbing! How often do you get to walk up marble steps and slide your hand over such a sleek railing. No one during our visit seemed to be using the stairs, so I felt like a little kid alone on the landing, spying down on my parents' party.
Statues and Mirrors
I wouldn't want to live in a palace with such decadence, but I loved being a guest for a night. I had to pause to study the marble lion and gold mirror. There are some surprises in that mirror frame, when you look closely.
The hotel's interior made a dramatic change in 1945. Dorothy Draper was the most famous interior designer of the time and she was called in for a major facelift. She brought in her "Modern Baroque" and transformed the hotel with her bold red fabrics and black lacquer. It wasn't until 1999, that they removed her red carpet that covered the marble lobby floors.
The Venetian Room
We only had a quick peek in the Venetian Room. Evidently Ms. Draper's remodeling of this grand ballroom was really what got the hotel out of its slump in 1947. It became quite the dinner club.
Many big names performed on the stage, from Nat "King" Cole to Tina Turner. Tony Bennet first sang "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in this room. (Or so I was told) There was a statue of him out in front, that was installed for his 90th birthday in 2016. It was a sweet looking image, surrounded by grass and flowers. But why didn't the artist have Tony's mouth open, just a bit? I wanted to see him sing.
I love a good circus theme, so I was pretty curious about this fabulous Art Deco Bar.
There were 9 colorful murals, painted by the famed Bruton sisters, in 1933. This was years before Ms. Draper did her decorating thing!
This whimsical space with all its curves and colors, was the first bar to open in San Francisco after the repeal of Prohibition. Sadly it was not open to us, during our stay.
Women of The Fairmont
The murals in the Cirque Bar were created by two sisters, but I wonder if the bar allowed women when it first opened. Hmm? Another set of sisters was involved in the hotel even earlier. Virginia and Tessie Fair had the hotel built to honor their wealthy father, after he died. James Graham Fair had owned the property perched high over San Francisco. The "mont" after the family name, refers to the hotel's mountain-like location. I've been to a few Fairmont hotels and never knew the name history.
After the earthquake of 1906, architect/engineer Julia Morgan was hired to help tackle the issues of the heavily damaged interior. Her expertise with reinforced concrete came in very handy. Cheers to all the women of Fairmont!
Finding Our Room
We could have booked a room in the 23-story tower, that was added in 1961. The views are spectacular from most of those rooms.
But Don and I always prefer the historical experience (and sometimes the price) of staying in original rooms. We headed up to the third floor and down a hall, with some nice black and white photographs. When we stepped into our room 332, a classy photo image greeted us in the entry.
The room itself wasn't grand or over the top, but it was large and nicely updated, with more photos of San Fran scenes. Love it! The bathroom wasn't memorable, but I appreciated having a tub.
The bed, pillows and linens were comfy soft. There were good lamps and tables and a large TV. The colors were calm. No signs of Dorothy Draper.
There was a surprise Anniversary treat, waiting on a plate! The "N" was a chewy brownie and the chocolate covered strawberries were juicy-sweet. Luckily our comp snack made the "room bar" goodies less tempting. Don laughed when he picked up the tiny Pringles container. "Seven dollars?"
We didn't have a Tower Room with a view of The Bay, but we had a great view of the rooftop "Square" below.
The view was like a picture and I loved looking at it, through the original wood-framed window. The thick window was the only thing in the room that reminded me that our hotel was over a century old.
In the evening and morning, we enjoyed a little time exploring the rooftop garden that we could see from our room. Green grass, flowers, palms, trickling fountain... and an herb garden and honey beehives.
The garden gave us a good place to check out the architecture of the old hotel. We never figured out which room was ours. It did make us wonder about the rooms with terraces!
More Views From Square
When I walked to the railing of the garden, I found the best view.
What fun watching cable cars going up and down Powell Street, just below. And there was Coit Tower and the Bay! That view inspired us to do some walking the next day.
Evening at Fairmont!
By 5:00, we were in our tiki clothes and on our way to the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar!
We headed down the elevator to find the basement lounge which opened in 1945, when the hotel's pool was cleverly transformed into a Polynesian lagoon.
Here's a photo from 3 years ago, when Don and I sipped tiki cocktails and grinned at the floating band boat. We laughed each time a thunderstorm rumbled down on the water!
No Tonga Time for Us!
On the evening of our anniversary, we headed past some vintage displays and moved towards the glowing space. Then we were stopped by a man who announced, "We are closed for an event. Sorry." My jaw dropped. The man didn't really seem to care that we'd been told at the desk that it opened at 5. He wasn't impressed that it was our 40th anniversary and we'd come from Houston. He certainly didn't get the significance, when I told him I'd bought my flamingo dress online just for this night! But he did take our photo and yes we smiled.
It would have been easier to take the news, if the doors had been closed. But we were able to see the Microsoft "event people" sitting around on laptops, using the space like an airport lounge. In fact Microsoft was using almost every event space in the hotel. I'm still trying not to be mad at Microsoft.
But, there was no time for sulking. We headed up another grand staircase.
The marble stairs brought us up to the Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar.
When we visited 3 years ago, a piano player performed under the middle of 3 domes.
There was no piano music at 5:30 on our anniversary night, but the 3-domed space was lovely. Plus it was open. We can't take things like that for granted. In fact the whole Laurel Court space was closed down for 6 decades.
We made a quick costume change, (I just grabbed a sweater) and returned to the lounge where we made a toast to ourselves with French 75s! We thought about dining in the rounded room with ionic columns and murals... but we decided to move on.
Off to Explore!
We celebrated the fact we were staying in the one of the best locations in San Francisco and we took off walking.
We had a drink at the top of Sir Francis Drake Hotel and we had a ridiculously fun, retro bite at Sears Fine Food!
Then we headed towards our hotel, but made a stop just across the street, at the Mark Hopkins. Drinks at "Top of the Mark" and then back to The Fairmont, where the flags welcomed us back.
Morning at Fairmont
The next morning, we woke to lovely weather. We enjoyed our comfy hotel until late morning, then took advantage of our location once again. The hotel held our bags and allowed us to keep our car in valet until 4!
We headed off, walking DOWN Powell Street towards Fisherman's Wharf... with detours to Grace Cathedral and Chinatown. We ate lobster rolls and rode the cable car up to Nob Hill. One more perk of our hotel... All cable car lines meet at the top of Nob Hill, near the hotel.
We had a great 24 hour stay at The Fairmont. Besides the glitches (due to Microsoft's takeover) the hotel was lovely and we were treated well.
There's so much we did not see or sample, but we had a ball... without making use of any of the numerous, ballrooms! We didn't stay in a lavish suite, or even explore the Tower. We didn't get pampered in the spa and we didn't even wine and dine properly. We might have had a little more royal treatment if we'd spent more, but we left happy and full of memories and knowledge!
Did I mention those international flags on the porte-cochere? In 1945 The Fairmont hosted meetings that led to the creation of the United Nations! Wow! I love hotels with history!
Sweet Hotel in a Tiny Town
In October, Don and I spent one night in a cozy historic hotel, that was once called the Temperance House.
I imagine the town had plenty of saloons and hotels back in the day. Our sweet 2-story hotel overlooking the Pacific, was probably the only one that didn't smell like liquor.
141 Years Later
When we pulled into town last month, the sweet yellow structure looked like a building from an old Western movie set... except for those cars.
Today Mendocino has only about 900 residents, but tourism keeps things busy. Since it was October, we were able to pull up right in front. I think it's a different story in the summer, when there are more tourists than parking spaces.
Fifties to the Seventies
By mid-century, the dying lumber industry caused the town to shrink. Loggers were replaced by artists... at least that's what I heard.
Jennifer didn't say anything about the old hotel, but it was nearly a century old by the time she visited the town.
It was fairly quiet in the parlor when we arrived around 4. We stepped inside to see some of the renovations that took place in 1975 when the rundown property was purchased, by R.O. Peterson.
I glanced up at the stained glass above us as we headed towards the desk. I'm guessing that was added in the seventies. I wish I could have found some before and after photos.
Don got us checked us in, through the window of the lovely Victorian lobby desk. The staff was friendly and not nearly as formal as the decor surrounding us.
I peeked in the bar, knowing it would be crowded later. I liked the little gremlin holding up the back bar. Obvious there was nothing original here, since The Temperance House served no liquor.
The polished steel fireplace was my favorite. It wasn't original to the hotel, but I believe it was over 200 years old.
A storm was predicted, so Don and I grabbed two chairs right in front of the fire. I was hoping for some real weather drama, but we only had a light rain.
The restaurant was all prepared and ready for guests at 5. It was Friday, so we expected some crowds.
We were warned by a head waiter (or someone who seemed to be in charge) to arrive before 8 if we wanted to be served. He explained that October was not their busy season, so they close when there's no business. We kept that warning in mind.
Tables by the Window
We decided to go for the less formal dining tables, in the parlor.
We grabbed a table by a window, although it was dark by then. My clam chowder was yummy and huge. Don's crab cakes were good, but tiny.
The hotel website was a little confusing, since they described rooms in the original hotel and luxury Garden Suites in a different area.
We of course chose the oldest part of the hotel and yes, it did feel old! Our room #9 was in the back, at the end of a long and narrow hall. The warped floor was covered in worn carpet and creaked a bit on our journey.
I'm pretty sure we had the smallest room in the hotel. The flowered bed spread was faded and the satiny shams and dust ruffle had tear or two. But we did have a bathroom, behind two grand doors! (Some of the rooms had shared baths in the hall)
Beside our tall window, sat the only chair in the room. I tried to sit once and the thing scared me with its sway. I let it hold my sweater instead.
The window looked out to the back of the property. I was sorry that it had been painted closed. But luckily the weather was decent and our room wasn't too stuffy. I think heating and cooling issues are common.
We could access the back porch through a door in the hall. Somewhere back in all the garden growth, was the additional guest housing. Since rain was starting up, we didn't make good use of the garden.
I wondered about the wooden water towers that were scattered all over the small town. There's history to these towers, I'm sure.
From the rear, we could see the hotel's large tower and the curious shape of the old building.
The Front Balcony
I was a little jealous of the rooms that looked out on the front balcony.
However there was access to the balcony for all guests. Maybe I wouldn't have wanted a room, with guests sitting right outside my window.
Checking it Out
Don and I always make good use of hotel porches and verandas.
We had hoped to have a glass of wine in the evening, on this one.
But the evening rain prevented that. Instead, we took our coffee out to the porch in the morning.
What an amazing view!
Our very favorite hotel memories include stays where we enjoyed the hotel AND its surroundings. In the morning, Don and I made good use of the area around our hotel!
It's easy to see why movies have been filmed here! How is it possible that we simply walked out the hotel door and saw all this, on a morning stroll?
This hotel stay was not about the hotel room.
Our memory of this hotel will be about the cozy fireplace in the parlor and the view from the upper porch AND the peaceful walk the next morning. Good memory for $143!
Storybook Hotel in a Storybook Village
Don and I take turns finding hotels, when planning our road trips.
Then I looked on the website and saw the immaculate two-story hotel, with all its trim.
On Main Street Since 1890
It was hard to believe the hotel was nearly 130 years old. It almost looked like something created for Disney World's Main Street.
The solid structure, known as the Russ Building, originally housed the Ferndale Bank on the first floor. The second floor held single rooms, suites, water closets and fireplaces. The Stick Style Eastlake Victorian, was built of Redwood on a brick foundation.
Decorated Bay Windows
The elaborate Italianate detail surrounding the windows, was stunning.
The hexagonal window was the most impressive. I found a photo from 1891, that showed a tower, extending up from that corner window. No cone shape above the window now, but still amazing!
Finding the Door
The double doors on the corner had a sign that sent us to a side entrance.
We followed the iron, hitching post horses and found a door leading to an entry, between lobby and restaurant.
In the entry, we found a friendly statue of a champion mule, named Loretta Jones. Loretta evidently once belonged to the current owner. I kind of liked her, with her festive leaf necklace. I greeted her every time we passed.
We found the check-in desk in the back of Silva's Jewelry Store. That seemed odd at first, since it seemed like a grand hotel, should have a grand lobby.
But it made more sense when I remembered this area had been a bank before it was a hotel. It made even more sense when I learned that the current owners were gemologists long before they were hotel owners. They fell in love with the old hotel years ago and made Ferndale their new home.
We checked in and carried our bags past my horse friend and up a stairway. The second story held about 15 rooms.
A skylight brightened the dramatic landing with all its dark woodowork.
I'm not sure what was behind the double doors at the end of the hall.
Maybe it was the fancy corner suite, with the fabulous bay window.
Room #210 - The Olivia
Our room actually had 2 doors. The first was near the cuckoo clock. It had some elaborate woodwork around the transom, but no number and no door knob.
The next door was the entrance to our guest room... which had once been 2 rooms. When the second story was renovated, rooms were all expanded. Now, every other door opens to a room.
I had already peeked on the website to see our room, but I was still pleasantly surprised.
The room was much larger and fresher and comfier than I expected.
I'm all for authentic furniture, but it's a treat to have a luxurious king bed, instead of an antique standard. The red velvet couch was much more comfortable than it looked. The 14 foot ceilings removed any gloom, that an old hotel might offer.
Books or TV?
I had to laugh at the tiny TV on the cabinet across from the bed. I think they should have hidden that little modern reminder, inside the cabinet.
As always, I was delighted that we had two bedside tables with lamps. That's common in chain hotels, but not expected in historic ones. I'd rather read a book than watch a tiny TV. The hotel was very quiet, so I appreciated the floor fan, which had a nice hum for sleeping.
Two Bathroom Pics
I always keep bathroom expectations low in old hotels. But, we had a decent sized bathroom with a window that went practically from floor to ceiling.
I liked the bathroom so much I had to take 2 photos. I especially liked the little pair of marble top tables... for our own stuff. It was nice having a tub and ample fluffy towels. If we'd needed a flashlight, there was one attached to the nightlight. If we'd needed a plunger (yikes) there was one nicely hidden inside a cloth bag, tied with a ribbon. Classy! No sarcasm there.
I do love windows and we had a few. It was nice having a view of the pretty town and sky, in the evening and morning.
Best of all, the window let me study the intricate trim up close. Were those Christmas lights, outlining the building? I should have stepped out after dark to have a peek.
It was dark soon after we checked in. There might have been some dining options in the small town, but we checked out the hotel's cozy tavern.
We sat at the old leather-top bar and took in the festive fall decor on the back bar. I was happy to see no fake cobwebs. We've stayed at too many old hotels in October and I get tired of that.
Don and I celebrated with a Martini and Cosmo, made by our bartender named Brandy. We figured she gets enough comments about her perfect bartender name, so we talked about other things.
I spotted a nearby couple drinking coffee and decided they must be the owners. The place wasn't busy, so I headed over to the table beneath the beautiful ships and inquired. I was right, and Lowell said I made his day, when I raved about the hotel.
We watched a few people come and go through the doorway to the Dining Room. "VI" was the name of the restaurant. It took me a while to realize those weren't Roman numerals, but initials.
There was a cozy area around a fireplace and a large space filled with dining tables. But we decided to stay put in the tavern.
Baby Spinach and Sliders
Our meal was just right. My salad had squash, strawberries, walnuts, raspberry vinaigrette and Humboldt Fog cheese. Brandy had to explain that Humboldt was the county we were in... which gets a lot of ocean fog.
Don had pulled pork sliders. He happens to love pickles, so he was extra impressed. I loved the green apple coleslaw.
Before bed, we helped ourselves to coffee in the second floor sitting area. Decaf options meant I slept well in our luxurious bed, with humming fan.
In the morning, we got up early and walked around the charming town... or should I call it a village? There are over 200 Victorian buildings and a cemetery that climbs up a steep hill, on the edge of town. It was the perfect morning walk.
Breakfast was included with our stay, so took a window seat in the VI Restaurant. What huge windows!
Our eggs, bacon and potatoes were served by a sweet young "Texan" named Katie. We were delighted to share some Texas stories, mostly about her hometown of Bastrop. She had gone to school with our favorite young, talented blues musicians, The Peterson Brothers. Oh how I love surprise conversations when we're traveling. I wish she could have pulled up a chair.
Our stay at The Victorian was a package deal. I feel like we experienced the hotel and town, all together. The combination was just lovely, but it was it too perfect? I wondered, "What's the catch?"
During our morning walk, I kept an eye out for flaws. However, I didn't spot any tacky t-shirt shops or glitzy, ritzy, overpriced gift shops. I saw locals greeting one another on the sidewalk. I saw a resident or two in their yards. I even saw the pharmacist from Rexall Drugs, strolling down the walk with a mug of coffee in one hand and a dog leash in the other. He said "Good Morning!" with a big smile.
Okay, this hotel and town made me happy. I think we need to move!
Since 1925 in Southern Oregon
Recently, Don and I had our first visit to Ashland and its historic hotel in the heart of downtown. The hotel is now Ashland Springs, but you can see the letters on the glass above the marquee. In 1925 was called Lithia Hotel.
They also enjoyed the therapeutic Lithia Spring Waters of Ashland.
Lithia Springs Hotel
At nine stories, the Lithia Hotel was the tallest building between Portland and San Francisco.
It looked like a big city hotel, minus the traffic and valet parking headaches. We headed around to the back, where we found ample free parking for guests.
You don't get free parking in big cities.
From the Back
From where we parked, the back of the building looked very dramatic in the afternoon sun. Not many hotels have such impressive backsides!
I grabbed my suitcase and took a peek over a fence, where I spotted a lovely courtyard, below. I read later, that the garden area once held a swimming pool, that was added in 1960, when the hotel became the Marc Antony... with its British theme.
It was about 3 when we headed into the sun-filled lobby.
While Don checked in, I took advantage of the quiet space and snapped photos.
I'm glad the owners who bought 20 years ago, did away with the British theme. There was still a formality, with the stained glass and the chandelier, but it felt relaxed.
There were lots of little things that made the lobby feel more homey.
The fireplace was cozy and there were some pieces of furniture and decor that added some fun. My favorite piece was the oval, marble top table in the center of the lobby. I kind of liked the oddly shaped pumpkin and the purple arrangement, too!
The British theme left years ago, but a new focus took over. I think the current Nature theme, is tied to the old hotel's connection with nature and the healing Lithia Springs waters.
There were little "wonders of nature!" everywhere you looked. There was a bold looking eagle on the front desk and nature prints on the wall. There was a whole case of bird eggs, nests and a stuffed bird.
The elevator even offered a nature lesson as we traveled upward.
I had a good time studying the elevator walls, which were covered with dried leaves and plants. That's a first!
I didn't get a photo of our door, which I often do. But I did capture an image of the curious thing, mounted on our door. I thought it was a brass door knocker, until I saw another door with a note clamped down, by the tiny hand. How handy! Another first!
Our room was cute as can be. It wasn't huge, but it was probably larger than the original rooms. Lithia Springs Hotel opened with 100 rooms in 1923. Now there are 70.
Lamps and Prints
The nature theme continued on our wall, with pretty framed herb art. I appreciated having 2 tables and 2 lamps in our tiny room.
I liked the soft colors and the French style bed cover. There was a surprise up by the pillows.
The gift was a little cloth pouch tied with ribbon. The note said it was "Lavender Bath Tea" and it smelled heavenly. It was made for hanging in the shower, or putting in a drawer. Much nicer and healthier than a pillow chocolate.
The rooms were small and every corner was put to use. The corner with the chair and lamp was so squished, it was sort of amusing. But I liked the nature themed lampshade and the view beyond the buildings was pretty.
The small bathroom had been remodeled with newer pedestal sink and corner shower. The original floor tile was nice.
After checking out our room, Don and I made a dash up to the Mezzanine to enjoy the complimentary tea time.
There wasn't too much going on, but we were happy to serve ourselves some tea and grab a cookie. We chose a table overlooking the lobby and did a little people watching.
Enjoying the Town
We may have missed Ashland's Shakespeare Festival season, (by one day) but we were just in time to see gorgeous fall colors!
Walking through Lithia Park in the late afternoon sun, was heavenly. Tasting the bubbling mineral water from the public fountains was not heavenly! It was stinky and foamy. Honestly, I almost threw up from laughing and gagging at the same time!
We peeked in the hotel's restaurant earlier. The multi-layered space was inviting.
The tables with cozy wicker and pillows, seemed very appealing.
But Don and I kept it simple by sitting at the bar. We ordered martinis and a scrumptious artisan cheese board. Our kind bartender gave us lots of extra bread, when I raved about it!
I stepped out early to check on the morning. I often do that to try to snap a hotel photo, free of cars and people.
There were no cars, but there was a truck. It was October and they seemed to be putting up Christmas lights already! I also noticed something I hadn't, the day before. Look at the sweet water fountain for pups. Yikes I hope it's not that bubbly stuff!
A complimentary breakfast was served upstairs and all the hotel guests seemed to arrive at the same time. Don and I were amused to see the room filled with people, all our age or older.
The crowded room had one table left and it had a sweet pumpkin and nice view. But we decided we needed to get away from all those old people... who kept reminding us of ourselves. We found a quiet sitting area, near the garden patio.
It was a bit too chilly for sitting outside, but we enjoyed the view through the glass. It was a lovely place to relax, before getting back on the road.
Our hotel stay was filled with lots of classy touches, without a huge price tag.
But I will always remember the peaceful feel of our hotel (except at busy breakfast) and the ease of strolling in and out, to explore the park and town.
More Snowy Than Scary at This Oregon Lodge
There was nothing spooky about the big lodge when we approached this past October.
The icy parking lot was kind of scary though. We weren't expecting snow in October.
Two Years Ago
I remember approaching the lodge 2 years ago, when we stopped for lunch on a trip. I was so excited to see the building that was depicted in exterior scenes, of the thriller, The Shining.
It was cool and sunny that day, but there was no snow. It was a little hard to imagine those frightening scenes that took place outside The Grand Overlook Hotel.
There was snow when we visited last month, but it was still too sunny, to be eerie.
We were at nearly 6,000 feet and it was in the thirties. The wind was whipping at our faces and the flags up on the viewing deck were flapping away.
The sun was working on the icicles and the wind was doing a job on the 750-pound "snow goose" weathervane!
Entrance to the Head House
I grinned as we climbed the steps to the iconic stone entrance. It wasn't really the movie connection that I was excited about. To me, it's the lodge's connection with WPA that made the place exceptional! There was so much to see.
The carved panel in the huge door was just one artistic contribution made by hundreds of artisans, involved in the construction of Timberline. I couldn't wait to take it all in.
Starting at the Bottom
We checked in at the desk, on the lower level, then had a look at some of the displays about the hotel's construction period, from 1936 to 1938.
80 years ago, skiers must have been pretty excited when the grand lodge opened. They would have lounged on these "snowshoe chairs" in front of the fires. The curling andirons were impressive... made from recycled railroad rails!
The hexagonal fireplace continued up through 2 more levels. The "first floor" had ample sitting space around the fireplaces and near the windows. The upper floor had dining and bar tables, near the Ram's Head Bar.
Lunch With View
On our summer visit, Don and I had lunch on the circular balcony near the bar. We had a stunning view of Mount Hood, with just enough snow for some August snowboarders.
Mount Hood In October
This time, we stepped out the back door and I posed very quickly for a photo with a much whiter, Mount Hood. I look pretty relaxed here, but I was gritting my teeth and telling Don to hurry. It was freezing!
Our room wasn't quite ready, so we did some wandering before settling in.
We checked out some of the murals and mosaics that were created by artisans over 80 years ago.
Doors and Windows
It's amazing to look at the completed hotel and to realize this was all created during the Great Depression. Hundreds of skilled and unskilled laborers, craftsmen and artists worked for nearly 2 years.
On our first visit, I made Don pose so I could show the amazing size of this door. This time, I studied the ironwork. The door knocker looked like something out of a haunted fairytale.
Some of the whimsical door and window shapes just made me smile. Don and I remembered the cute, pointy door from before. We were sad the little tavern was not open this time.
Not only did the lodge project provide jobs, but it made use of recycled materials.
These wonderful carved newel posts (new term for me) were made from discarded utility poles. There were 19 different ones in the hotel and all of them had been smoothed and shined by appreciative guests. Just how many hands in 80 years?
We didn't make good enough use of the Barlow Room, but it was one of my favorites.
This room made me feel like I was stepping right into the movie, Sun Valley Serenade. I wanted to wear a cute little Sonja Henie sweater outfit and play some pingpong... on the wooden table!
We didn't hang out and play games, but I was happy just studying the sweet details that surrounded me.
The linoleum mural panels had a dreamlike quality. They gave me the same feeling I get, when I pick up an old worn, but loved family Christmas ornament.
Our room was down a hall, with cozy paneling and another marvelously shaped door at the end.
We even had a wooden Privacy sign. Much better than those plastic things.
We had 3 doors, including the closet and bathroom. All had intriguing locks and handles.
Our little room had lots of cozy wood and a cute retro phone. The window faced the front, so no view of Mount Hood for us.
There was a sweet little desk if we needed to write letters. There was indeed stationary in the desk, next to an ice scraper for the car! We didn't end up needing that or the tiny (sinfully out of place) TV.
Clean and Comfy
The queen bed was surprisingly comfy. I liked the wool blanket accent.
The bathroom wasn't huge, but the pretty tile was spotless and the towels were thick and soft.
View of Mount Jefferson
Our room view would have been a little better if we'd been on the floor above.
We could see Mount Jefferson from our room, so I'll say that counts as a view! These photos I have to say, were not taken from our room.
The best view of Mount Jefferson was from the stone terrace on the second floor. I checked on the view a few times in the evening and morning.
It was a little too chilly for more than picture taking. But it was fun seeing the flags. Evidently, the flags represent the countries of the international staff.
Where to Sit?
In the evening, Don and I wandered a bit, in search of cozy seating. We passed on the chairs, with woven rawhide seats.
There were a number of cute little nooks with couches or writing tables.
By the Fire
Seats by the fire were in demand, but there were 3 fires burning, so we lucked out.
I didn't get a photo of the fire tender and his cart of wood and tools. It's practically a full time job keeping the fires going.
For a while Don and I sipped wine and enjoyed a few snacks, while watching people coming and going.
These interesting chairs had built in side tables, which were pretty handy!
Morning at Timberline
Morning came early, since we had some kind of pacing, floor-walker above us from 5 am on. (Another good reason to book an upper room) But I was happy to get up at dawn and explore a little.
Long before 7, there was a table set up for coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The fires were burning and a few little girls dressed in p.j.s were having a wonderful time with their Teddy Bears.
I was pleased to meet 3-year-old Heidi. who posed with me briefly.
Heidi was lounging behind the front desk when I first spotted her. The young man working the desk said he remembered when she first came to the lodge 3 years ago. "She was as big as her head is now. She stepped out into the snow and disappeared!"
Breakfast in the Cascade Dining Room
Heidi wasn't allowed in the dining room, but Don and I headed in happily.
We had forgotten that we had booked a room & breakfast package. It was a nice surprise.
We didn't sit next to the fire, because there wasn't one. We were told the winds were blowing in the wrong direction and it would be too smoky if a fire was lit. We did have a great table by the window, though. More views of Mount Jefferson!
Sometimes breakfast buffets are a disappointment, but we had some fun options.
The Glacier Freeze Smoothie was an exciting way to start the day. The tricky salami slicer was a little scary for me! We ate well, then enjoyed a late check out and more fireplace lounging!
Don and I have stayed at many state and national park lodges. This one ranks pretty high for coziness... which is what attracts us to lodges.
Besides being warm and cozy with all its stone and timber, the lodge staff was also warm and welcoming. I'm still unclear about the ownership of Timberline, but it felt like things were run well.
Mostly, I will remember the views and the amazing WPA creations that filled the lodge. I have a feeling we will be back!
On the Plaza, in Sonoma
I remember spotting the Swiss Hotel a couple years ago. It was right across from the historic Plaza in Sonoma.
Or maybe the folks dining at the cafe tables on the porch, made me hungry.
I chatted with a friendly gentleman and his pup. The place seemed very inviting.
On that pretty fall day 2 years ago, Don and I were lured in for lunch.
There were two entrances. We went through the doors, with martini silhouettes, under the windows. We eventually found the lovely garden patio and feasted on pulled pork sandwiches and spinach salads!
This past October, Don and I returned to the Swiss Hotel.
This time we had reservations for one of the 5 rooms. I was excited to spend a night in the building that had been home to Don Salvadore Vallejo, in the mid 1800's.
From Home to Hotel
The words on the sign stated, " Swiss Hotel Since 1909", but the Vallejo home became a stagecoach stop and hotel, long before that.
The hotel had at least a couple names, but it was called "Swiss Hotel" by the time the Masstelotto family bought it in 1923. The 4th generation is running it today.
Jenny checked us in at 3. She was very helpful, giving us hints on everything from wineries to parking.
Jenny let us know where the continental breakfast would be served. She said there were trays available if we wanted to enjoy eating on the veranda. She was very cheery, yet professional. I wondered if she was family.
While Don finished up, I peeked around the lobby at old photos. There was a lone dining table in the front window, near an antique phone and clock.
There was a cute little sitting area near the doorway to the dining room. I remembered from before, seeing that curious, square window/door between rooms.
I also took a look in the dining room, which looked welcoming with white cloths and roses.
While looking at some of the old photos, I was approached by Dawn, who was delighted that I was impressed with the history. She also graciously handed me a fancy little flashlight. "Just in case." She told me, without a hint of worry to her voice. She explained that there was a chance Pacific, Gas & Electric would be turning off power in the night. Fire concerns... yikes.
Up to Room 2
We headed for the hall where I spotted more photo covered walls... and an antique phone booth. I love phone booths.
Our room was in the opposite direction. We passed through a doorway which took us to another hall.
Was this a newer wing that had been added onto the back? Rats. I always prefer staying in the oldest part. But I was pleased, when we turned the key and walked into our own little entry, with 3 doorways.
Our 3-room suite with its convenient vanity and contemporary art, felt more 1980's than early 1900's. But the space felt cozy-retro with angled ceilings and slanted floors.
The sitting room was a nice surprise with windows overlooking the garden patio. It was charming in a simple down home, grandma's guest room way. I loved the grapevines that were trying to grow in the bedroom window!
Chat at the Bar
The bar was occupied by all locals when we arrived at 5. After a couple of days in touristy Napa and Sonoma, it was fun to be surrounded by people who knew one another, but were open to outsiders like us.
Don and our bartender talked World Series for a while. When I asked friendly guy (so wish I remembered his name) where he was from, he pointed to a photo on the wall of his mom. He said he grew up in Sonoma and his mom worked at the bar. He had good memories of coming over after school for burgers.
Ghastly Photos and Ghostly Occupants
A couple at one of the tables asked if we were staying at the hotel. The woman offered to take our picture. My creepy (drunken) expression does not match my pleasant, relaxed memory.
After taking our photo, the woman asked if we were staying in Room 5, which is evidently the most haunted. She said she'd had a friendly ghost encounter in the restroom once. "Some think the ghost is Freddy." She said as she pointed to a photo of Freddy the cook, in 1945.
Cozy Bar Vibe
On the wall, I spotted a photo of the old bar and compared it to one I took 2 years ago. It looks like little has changed in 4 generations.
I was so delighted that the small gathering of folks made us feel at home. Sometimes Don and I feel intrusive, when we sit at a bar with regulars.
Regulars and Celebrities
I had a good time checking out some of the people photos that covered the walls. There were quite a few famous faces, like President Kennedy. Not sure how may actually visited the bar.
My favorite photos were of the local celebrities. There were images of townspeople in aprons, in overalls... by a barber pole. I would love to know the stories behind these people!
Above the double doors, there were more faces smiling down!
Don and I walked under those faces and took a peek through those doors to check for open tables. The cafe tables near the sidewalk were all full.
To the Veranda
So we headed to the porch upstairs, with it's long planks of redwood. Were those actual holes, patched with metal?
The wind was beginning to pick up, as the sun lowered. There was an eerie feel in the air. We had heard from people in the bar that the schools had decided to close, in anticipation of the power outage.
I was still a little confused about how this was going to help prevent the spread of the fires. We sat there on the porch, wondering... and remembering our lunch at the Swiss Hotel 2 years ago. The devastating fires of 2017, started up as soon as we returned home to Texas.
By the time we headed back down to the sidewalk tables, it was dark. The tables were still full, but it was entertaining hearing all the local chatter.
We just got one and shared it like we were at the malt shop! It was smaller than we expected for $12. but plenty potent. Yum!
We headed up for bed, wondering if we would need our flashlight at some point. Our phones were charged and we were checking out in the morning. So no real worries.
I woke after midnight when our room suddenly got quiet. The clock was no longer glowing. In the early morning I used the flashlight/lantern to get dressed and tiptoed downstairs. There were actually candles lighting the hallway and one, flickering inside the phone booth.
All Well So Far
I wandered around the Plaza and all was quiet. When I returned Dawn was busy getting the continental breakfast ready. She apologized that she couldn't make coffee.
Don and I skipped showers and checked out early, to get on the road before traffic got worse. Cars were already backed up at non-functioning traffic lights. We felt lucky that the power glitch had only slightly inconvenienced us.
Fire concerns will always be a part of our Swiss Hotel memories. It wasn't long after we left Sonoma that the Kincaid Fire began spreading and destroying hundreds of homes and buildings.
Mostly I'll remember the homey feel of our historic hotel, bar and restaurant. Our hosts and servers were all gracious and welcoming, despite the worries they may have had. The locals were also friendly and entertaining. The building itself was charming with all its history and the location was hard to beat!
Hope to return!
The Doc's California Resort!
Our recent visit to Calistoga was part of a reunion with our kids and spouses. I was happy that "The Kids" were game to give Dr. W's a try!
The cute town was laid back and comfortable and more reasonably priced, than the towns of Napa or Sonoma. I doubt they have Harvest Hoedown BBQ celebrations in those wine country towns.
It was around 6, when we headed into the modern looking building, covered in vines. Our group of 6 filled up the little lobby.
I studied the old photos on the lobby walls and asked a few questions.
The gracious woman who checked us in, had been working at the hotel for 20 years.
She pointed out an old black and white photo and shared a little history about Doc and Edy Wilkinson, who opened the resort in 1952. She said the Wilkinson's son and daughter just recently sold the resort.
I was sorry we missed the chance to actually meet members of the original family. I wonder how old the W. Kids were in 1962, when the lodge was spiffed up, with a second level. The vintage photo looks similar to my photo... minus the towering sign and palms.
Off to the Rooms
We were given our keys and headed through the courtyard to the stairs.
The courtyard was a pretty handy gathering place. The next morning we sat at the tables and studied our phones, discussing strategies for caravanning to wineries.
Our 3 rooms were on the upper level. Don and I rolled our bags towards Room 34. I felt like I should be lugging the red, youth-sized American Tourister suitcase I owned as a child.
I would have really fit the scene, had I been toting my mom's old marbled-beige, Samsonite cosmetic case. I remember lots of motels like this from when I was a kid, but I remember no suitcases with wheels!
Bargain in Napa Valley
Our room was not the most deluxe or updated, but it's what I asked for.
For less than $150. we had a room within walking distance of wineries and restaurants, in a charming Napa Valley town.
I have no pics of the kids' rooms, but they were slightly more renovated. However, the youngins didn't have the awesome exposed brick that we had. Our host tried to put us in a room with less worn carpet and hidden brick, but Don and I always go for the vintage.
No Tub 'O Mud
Our bathroom was far from luxurious, but we did have bathrobes and a coffee maker and a wine opener. (wise) There was no tub for soaking... in mud or water.
Besides the location, our group was excited about enjoying what Wilkinson's is known for. Nearly 7 decades ago, Doc and Edy started making good use of the area's geothermal hot spring waters and the ancient volcanic ash.
The signs gave us some ideas about options... mud, steam, mineral, massage, therapy, baths and COLONICS! Yikes.
Most in our group were up for about anything on the sign, besides the colon treatment. A mud bath experience would have been a highlight for me, but our time was limited. We decided to all head for the mineral pools, which was included in our stay.
There were 2 outdoor pools, which looked a tiny bit less inviting in person. Just a bit worn.
Following the Rules
We headed for the indoor pool and had it mostly to ourselves. We could have misbehaved with some singing, or comical water ballet...
However, the wall of rules was a bit intimidating. Some of the info was reassuring, though. There were phone numbers for the ambulance and the pool operator. We had a choice of 2 physicians that we could call. Luckily, no mishaps.
The weather was lovely in the evening. It was such a treat walking out the door and heading down a couple blocks to dinner.
No driving and no parking. We dined outside near the river, with live music. Then we strolled on back to our lil motel. So easy.
It looked peaceful at the old Spa Resort, but I'm not convinced it looked 3 times as good as our quirky little place. Maybe next time we'll splurge and stay there.
Bye Dr. W
I made it back in time to join the others for breakfast at a nearby diner.
Then we said good-bye to our Hot Springs Motel with its fabulous sign. We were off to the wineries.
I'm glad we stayed.
And what a treat that the old sign still glows at night! Next time... Mud Baths!
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!