February Stop in Arizona
Opened in 1927
We arrived at the corner of Aspen and San Francisco, on a blustery Wednesday afternoon. I was surprised to see the downtown streets and sidewalks looking so lively.
The lobby was as intriguing as I'd remembered. The space was empty at 4 pm, but the sound of clinking glasses and cheerful chatter drifted in from Rendezvous, the hotel's coffee shop/bar, on the corner of the building.
The opposite end of the lobby showed 2 sets of stairs. One headed up to guest rooms and a sitting space. The down staircase, lead to the hotel's original cocktail lounge.
Besides the painted beams and tiles, I was most in love with the arches. Above the staircase, there was a small painting inside an arched alcove. Between the lobby and Rendezvous Bar, there was a glassed in arch, filled with liquor bottles.
We walked through archways to go up the stairs and through an arched opening to enter an extra lounge area on the lobby level.
The elevator even had an arched entrance. Hotel Monte Vista was the first to install a self-service elevator in Arizona. Luckily it has been updated, but mostly we took the stairs.
Our hall on the second floor had some jazzy chandeliers and classic, exposed pipes. We were across the hall from the Bob Hope Suite. If I'd only done my research ahead of booking, I could have requested a celebrity named room. The bartender told us later that she'd never been in the Debbie Reynold's room, but she heard it was a nauseating bubble gum color. I would have loved that.
For about $75.00 we were able to get a fine room overlooking San Francisco Street.
A double set of windows let in some light and caused our walls to shimmer a bit. Gotta love some shimmery walls!
The Cocktail Lounge
At the southwest end of the building we found the cocktail lounge, right where it opened during prohibition. Evidently the popular speakeasy was shut down in 1931, but came back to life a couple years later. There are also some underground tunnels that were involved in the bootleg history.
Bogey & Candy Machines
I love historic hotel bars, especially when I can picture some of the past famous guests enjoying them. There were many famous guests, thanks to Flagstaff's scenic location for movies. Humphrey Bogart was one of the hotel's most famous guests. It is rumored that one scene from Casablanca was shot here.
Pool Hall or Ballroom?
Don and I tried to experience a little of the historic cocktail lounge, but we didn't stay long. The classic bar counter was filled up and the spacious, once-a-ballroom-area, was crowded with pool playing, locals. (this photo was taken earlier) We wimped out and headed for the slightly more subdued Redezvous bar, upstairs. .
In the Day
This is a peek through the hallway window to Rendezvous, during the day. The light coming through the windows made the corner, coffee shop/bar warm and inviting, with temps in the teens.
At night, the atmosphere at Rendezvous was friendly and upbeat. It seemed like the staff behind the bar, actually enjoyed their work. Don and I were lucky to get 2 seats at the bar, where Liz served us and amused us with her booming laugh and her own cocktail creations.
We also enjoyed an interesting chat with Paul, who sat beside me. His work with the Forestry Service was actually interesting enough. But I especially liked his stories about growing up next to Buddy Holly's family in Lubbock. In fact his mom ended up marrying Buddy's brother, in later years.
Night at the Hotel
It was so darn cold, that Don and I lost interest in wandering around in search of dinner. When we found out the hotel had an walkway to a Thai restaurant right next door, we were thrilled. No coats needed and the food was amazingly good. Plus, we got to experience a meal, where the original hotel coffee house once sat.
It also helped that our stay was on a weeknight, which helped cut down on bar noise. In the morning we enjoyed our complimentary coffee in Rendezvous, before heading out on the road.
What's Notable? Hotel Monte Vista is reasonably priced gem in the center of an interesting city, just off of Historic 66. I'm guessing in summer, it's packed with travelers. However, I don't think we met or even saw another hotel guest in the charming hotel, with 73 rooms. We seemed to be the only travelers, in a happening place, filled with locals. Maybe they should go back to the original name, "The Community Hotel". That was the hotel's name when it opened, because the townspeople had contributed to its existence.
Grand Canyon 2015
Built in 1935
The Lodge sits at the top of Bright Angel Trail Head, overlooking the Grand Canyon. It was constructed nearly 30 years after El Tovar was built. Back in 1905, wealthy tourists began traveling by train to vacation at the exclusive El Tovar resort. But the automobile opened the west to more than just rich tourists. There became a need for more modestly priced lodging. Bright Angel was the answer.
Designed by a Woman
There was a welcoming, laid back feel to the lobby. So many western lodges have made me think of Lincoln Logs... which is a fun thing. But these smooth brown logs, just made me downright hungry. Toostie Rolls! That's all I could think of.
I haven't researched enough to know if these were the original colors, painted on the doors and shutters. But I love the colors!
The geometric designs, bold colors and Native American symbols were probably my favorite part of the building.
There was something just whimsical and primitive about the shapes and colors... especially against all the earth, log and stone.
This is actually the back of the building, but it faces the canyon. So really this is the side where people spend most of their time, wandering along the rim and watching the sunset towards the left and the sunrise towards the right... or the sunset in the reflection of the glass.
Unlike El Tovar, there are no guest rooms in the lodge. Scattered nearby, there are a few cabin buildings that house about 90 lodging units. We were in the Powell House with its orange door and blue framed windows. Before even entering, we were excited to find a parking space right in front of the door. This was a treat after many lodge stays with distant parking lots.
We also had no stairs once we got inside. No hikes down long hallways and up and down stairs!
Our room was in the stone section of the building. You can see our wonderful corner window, surrounded in pine trees.
Well, there was a little hall to walk down, but it was cute. Knotty pine, western style rugs, loggy trim! Our room #6141, was on the left at the end. The door with shutter/slats made me wonder about noise or privacy. But once we opened the door we found our own little hall with 2 more doors to our guest room and bathroom.
Open and Airy
There was nothing fancy here, but it was so comfy and airy, with light walls and beams and lots of windows.
Mixing New and Old
It was updated just enough. I liked the porcelain doorknobs and iron hinges. The furniture was obviously not from the thirties, but the style was close enough.
The windows were a huge plus. There were at least 6, including the bathroom window. Something about screens and wooden windows gave the room a summer camp or sleeping porch feel. I love that! And the bathroom was spotless and updated nicely. They even had the good sense to keep the original wooden mirror with its handy lower nook.
Bright Angel's Western Saloon
Our bartender was far too busy (or maybe just unfriendly) to be available for all the questions I wanted to ask about the old saloon. The bar itself had a lot of history, with old photos and even iron horseshoes under layers of shellack.
The place was empty when we first entered, so I got a good look at the fabulous murals. The yellowed images, behind glaring glass were quite entertaining! One whole wall was devoted to scenes of Hopi life, cooking, dancing, celebrating!
Behind the Bar
We had a good view of one colorful image behind a row or beer bottles. I loved the cowboy with hat and scarf, clinking his glass above the head of the guy... who'd had one too many. And then there was the tourist woman riding her canyon mule!
And what whacky tourist scenes! I loved the goofy tourists wandering along the canyon wall, with binoculars and cameras. I have no idea when these were painted!
But the saloon, was the most fun once Barry Brenner sat down in the corner with his four guitars and began filling the place with music. He sported a cowboy cool beard and a hat to match and a voice that fit his "Blues Roots Music" well. It was impossible to get bored as he moved from guitar to guitar (his girls) and changed his sound from honky tonk to ragtime to country. He only comes to perform (from California) twice a year. So we lucked out.
No table cloths or bow-ties in this cafe, but it was just what we needed. We walked through the main dining room, towards the cozy booths in the back.
We were handed a menu with the same design from when Bright Angel first opened! This "Coffee Shop" had been one of Fred Harvey's famous eateries and the menu cover was classic!
The Harvey House restaurants and hotels were known for good food and service, but sometimes old recipes don't hold up. I was intrigued to see they still served up the original recipe of the Harvey House salad. The sunflower seeds, cucumber and slivers of carrot and beets gave the salad a good crunch. The lemon dressing made the little feast taste like desert! And the lace doily gave the whole thing a vintage touch! Good beef stroganoff, too! .
Best Meal from Bright Angel
More memorable than our dinner in the cafe, was the hotdog meal we had on the edge of the canyon. The lodge had a handy snack shop where you could purchase hot dogs, coffee or ice cream. We grabbed hotdogs and chips and hiked up a ways for a little picnic. That was the best view I ever had, while eating a hotdog!
There was just such a delightful feel to the place with all the colors and the whimsical art murals, that it brought out the kid in me. Of course hotdogs and tootsie roll logs and honky-tonk music can bring out a little youth in all of us!
A Harvey House Grand Resort in 1905
I've been curious about the history of The Harvey House Hotels since I saw Judy Garland in "The Harvey Girls". This was one of Fred Harvey's grander plans.
El Tovar in September
Mr. Harvey died before he got to see this 4-story hotel completed. That made me feel extra lucky, when Don and I arrived last fall. It was also lucky that Fred Harvey had sons and grandsons who were able to oversee the limestone and pine construction. If he'd had daughters, would they have helped with construction plans? Or would they have been Harvey Girls, waiting on tables in crisp, white aprons?
Near the Rim
The Harvey Hotels were always built near the railroad, to accommodate travelers. El Tovar was also built near the railroad, but it was situated just 20 feet from the Canyon's south rim. The roof is barely visible in the upper right of this photo.
The rear of the hotel shows the long, shingled roof and fancy tower and turret. The only way you can get this view is by looking across a bit of the canyon.
Ahh! The Porches!
fiddling with parasols, while they rocked. I wonder if the porch ever had this many empty rockers during the summer months, 100 years ago?
Porch on the North
I will always remember our conversation. He was about 65 and was seated in a wheelchair. He shook his head and seemed surprisingly good humored as he talked about the complications of maneuvering his wheelchair in their cramped historic guest room. His wife quietly shared with me that he'd been unable to walk since he was hit by a drunk driver 15 years earlier. I sat on that swing a while after they left and reminded myself, "Beth, you have no right to complain... about anything...ever!"
The log interior was dim but cozy, with all the peeled log walls and posts, varnished dark brown. The structure brought me back to bored summer afternoons trying to construct log cabins out of toothpicks and Elmer's glue. I somehow thought my cabins would look sort of like this. They never did.
Time for the Newspaper
This old lodge took us back in time, with the furnishings and decor. But the lack of wifi and bad cell service did an even better job. It's odd to see so many people sitting around reading books and newspapers... and talking with each other!
The Red Carpet
This carpeted stairway to the Mezzanine Lounge looked pretty grand... and a bit odd. There were rustic log beams, a plush velvety carpet, a Swiss inspired cutout railing, a very serious portrait and an awesome wooden box for mailing your postcards!
I liked the second floor lounge for two reasons. For one, I was a guest and I got to march right up those red stairs, past the sign that announced, "hotel guests only". Of course no one was checking for keys or ID, but 3 years ago, Don and I were "non-guests" and obeyed the bold sign. When we were visited the canyon back then, we peeked in the hotel and dreamed about returning someday as guests.
Second Reason... The View!
I loved the circular hole in the floor of the mezzanine. I love being able gaze downward for a little nonchalant people-watching! However, there wasn't much going on, so I enjoyed the close up view of the buffalo and a few other critters!
To the Room
The colorful wall art, with Native American images was a nice touch. By the time we headed to our "basement quarters" to find room 6402, the walls and floor had become less decorated.
I'll say cozy, instead of tiny. I swore I wouldn't complain. There were no real hints of the old hotel down in this renovated section. It was clean and the bathroom was attractive with retro tile work, but I do kind of like the authentic old stuff.
A Tight Squeeze
When we entered our room, the wardrobe doors were open to reveal an actual TV, which is something most National Park Lodges don't offer. It was pretty comical moving our few bags into the room. Even with the wardrobe doors closed, I could barely walk to the other side of the bed. It made me pretty glad I wasn't in a wheelchair.
Dining at El Tovar
The restaurant was a nice combination of cozy and elegant. There were no Harvey Girls in long aprons, but there were black bow ties, which the women used to wear. The linens, log beams and stone fireplace made the atmosphere rustic, yet classy.
By the Fire!
Cookbook Encounter with Tom!
Our waiter, Tom was the best. Not only was he an expert on the hotel's history, but he was more than happy to take a look at the old Ford Motor Cookbook, which I had dragged to dinner. It turns out Tom has been collecting hotel memorabilia for 35 years, since he became employed by the hotel. He actually knew about the vintage cookbook, which featured El Tovar, with a recipe for Beef Stroganoff. Tom has also written his own book or two. He happily posed with me and the book... then explained to us what was going on, when the whole dining room began to gasp!
Excitement Up High
While we were chatting with Tom, we suddenly became aware that diners were laughing and sort of shrieking... and staring upward. A cute little ringtail cat (which is not part of the cat family) was darting in and out of the beams. Tom assured us, it was no big deal. "The ringtails just like the sugar packets..." He said the hotel has someone who handles trapping the little guys and transporting them elsewhere.
Around the Hotel
And obviously, there was the canyon... right there. We had to share the sunset with other tourists... but not too many. I think the tour buses were gone by then.
I ran out to the wall to take photos at sunset and sunrise. Sometimes the wall was crowded with tourists and sometimes empty. I loved that pretty little wall that separated the tourist world from nature. From that wall, we could see a mile across to the other side! Wow!
We got to experience a hotel that was once only available to the wealthy.
Back in the day, only the rich could afford the journey or the cost of a stay at El Tovar. Travelers from the east probably felt very special as they enjoyed the rustic and ritzy lodge in such an isolated part of the country. Today there's nothing elite about the place... except the price. Tourists wander through the hotel and stop in the gift shop or enjoy a few minutes on a rocker. I love knowing that families in vans and senior groups in tour buses can all enjoy a piece of this lodge history. But I will always remember the fun of being a guest at sunrise and sunset. At those times, I could imagine the setting as it was 100+ years ago, when so few could make it to this magical and isolated place!
The North Rim
Perched on Rock
This was our first view of the lodge. We parked and walked out to Bright Angel Point and headed back to see this view. What an impressive sight! It looked like the rocky canyon just grew some windows and a rooftop!
A Windy Walkway
The walkway where I stood to take the photo was pretty exciting. The wind was whipping at my camera, forcing me to wear the strap around my neck like a good tourist. We headed out to see the canyon view, which was stunning... and then as we turned around, it was the image of that amazing building that lured us back.
During our fall road trip, Don and I sort of became experts on lodge terraces and porches. By the time we had reached the lodge we had already been impressed by some pretty good ones. But this view, the chairs and the surrounding stonework made the terrace on the east side, hard to beat. Especially in the morning when we had it to ourselves. But why didn't they give us a fire in that gigantic fireplace?
The West Side
On the other side of the building we had to fight for chairs at sunset. Don and I caught some good ones earlier, with a little coffee to warm us up.
Sharing the Sunset
It was just September, but the air was chilly by the time the sun dropped. But who could complain? The jackets started to zip and cameras clicked... and everyone stared west. No one seemed to notice the second sunset that was happening, in the lodge windows!
The Lodge's Simple Side
To glance at the lodge's north side, you would never imagine the stunning limestone and log image on the other side. This view of the building looked like a really nice Boy Scout Camp, not an entrance to arguably the best view in the U.S.
It started to get cozy the moment we walked through the doors. Leather furniture and woven rugs warmed up the walls and floors.
the lighting fixtures were especially intriguing. We got a seat near the window in the Sun Room, after dark. The window reflection did an odd trick with the image of the oddly shaped light. Its shape was repeated (in the glass) ... out into the night!
Brighty of the Grand Canyon
This is the Sun Room, when there was no sun shining. It looked pretty much the way it did when the lodge was built in 1927-28. There was a fire that damaged most of the lodge, but they were able to rebuild using much of the original stone in 1937-38. It was pretty peaceful when we sat on the big couches after a late dinner. So peaceful that a lot of people were falling asleep.
From the upper lobby we spotted the Sun Room when we first checked in. You could see the canyon through the massive glass windows. This was our 5th National Park lodge on our road trip and the first that had lounge seating set up in rows, as if the windows were movie screens. At sunset tourists became part of the movie scene, as they gathered at the windows.
Our Lincoln Log Cabin
There has never been actual lodging in the lodge, but there have always been cabins. Our "Western Cabin" was just steps from the lodge entrance and the sight of it with rounded logs, stone fireplace and cozy porch, just made me grin.
There was a spacious feel with 4 windows and the raised, log-beamed ceiling. The wood furniture was quaint, the 2 queen beds were cozy soft, the curtains on iron rods fit the scene. And the sweet fireplace even had a heart shaped stone!
The Darn Door
After many failed attempts we found ourselves on the cabin porch talking with a lodge manager, I will call Ms. Grinch. She had a similar smile and she played down our problem, the way The Grinch did when Cindy Lou Who was concerned about her Christmas tree being taken away. Ms. G. grinned and gave me her cheery solution. "We have no other rooms and we can't make your key work. So just give a call to maintenance when you need to go in or out."
A Little Fussing
She didn't really say this, but her attitude spoke, "Aren't we glad we have a nice little cabin now? Let's not be complainers. Ba-bye!" Don and I had some drinks on our Old Hickory rockers before heading back to the the lodge for dinner.
Earlier I peeked into the dining room as they were setting tables. What an incredible view, with windows overlooking the canyon to the west and south.
Dark by Dinner
The dining room began filling up before sunset and by the time of our 8:45 reservations, the windows were dark. But our table at the south end had a great view of the whole room and we had the special treat of being served by Maria, who had served us dinner at Big Bend National Park lodge in Texas, 8 months earlier. We gave her a big surprise by remembering (mostly thanks to Don's memory) and then we enjoyed a good feast of Bison Meatloaf, potatoes and snap peas!
We woke early after a good night's sleep, despite the sounds of gusting winds and scampering squirrels on the roof. We headed out to Bright Angel Point before the sun rose and had some spectacular views.
Back to the Lodge
As the sun rose higher, we warmed up on the terrace. Then it was time to find out about breakfast. I was pretty sure Ms. Grinch assumed our new cabin assignment had cancelled out our free breakfast.
If I hadn't been so irritated by the Ms. G's fake smile, I wouldn't have worried about getting a free breakfast. She wasn't on duty yet, so I had to go through about 4 staff members before someone printed out a voucher. Our Eggs Benedict and omelet wasn't really worth the $27.00 we should have paid. But the view and our gracious waiter made our breakfast perfect. We tipped him well.
I may have nagged about that silly manager in my way too long write up, but she'll be forgotten and it's the breathtaking view that I'll remember! Our hikes and meals and lodge lounging all included this stunning scenery. And when we headed back to our comfy little storybook cabin, those were the images that were in my head... when it hit the pillow!
Bisbee, Arizona in May 2014
A Desert Trailer Park
When we arrived at this retro retreat just outside the old mining town of Bisbee, all was very quiet. Luckily there was a note with instructions for us, taped to the screened door of the office.
and campground for weary auto travelers on the famous Highway 80.
Ghost Trailer Park
There was no one at Dot's Diner and no one in the phone booth. There was no one watching movies on the Astroturf which wasn't a surprise.
We crunched along the gravel pathways, peeking at all 9 vintage trailers. There was a festive 1947 Tiki Bus with Polynesian flare. I liked the 1957 "Airfloat" with the picket fence.
Our 38-Foot Chris Craft Yacht
Our wonderful little get-away awaited us under a shady roof, tucked beside a dense wall of rustling bamboo. "Harbie" the chipmunk captain held a bouquet of flowers and two frowning tiki carvings greeted at the pathway.
When Don opened the doors with green stained glass, the swing music grew louder, coming from a vintage radio. Nice touch from our mystery hosts.
Packed with Style
What a treat! Now only would we be sleeping on a yacht, but the whole interior was saturated with fun props, art and ship memorabilia! The swooping leopard skin chairs and 1940's "buffet" felt very Hollywood. Everything else was delightfully nautical from lamps to framed art.
I get so childishly giddy over themed accommodations that I often pack my own costumes. I didn't need to here. They had a couple of captains hats as well as sailor caps at the ready!
Down a few steps at the center of the boat was the fully equipped galley. The china had little anchors, the vintage coffee pot was ready to go. There was even a small refrigerator with a complimentary bottle of champagne.
The dining area was cozy with a wonderful map covered table. There was a nice wooden ship with a clock and yet another little mascot to welcome us aboard. This topless little sea nymph was also keeping guard over her shell collection.
Don is a foot taller than me and could not stand up in our bathroom. But he was at least feeling at home seeing a bottle of Old Spice and even a golden razor! The porthole looked out at the waving bamboo. We had no shower, but there was an option for that down at the washhouse.
Starting the Evening
The weather was perfect and we were eager to settle into the evening on our ship. First we hiked to the gazebo in search of ice and met a small gathering at the picnic table. (So we were not alone) They were an odd, but friendly bunch, wearing mostly vintage clothes. A man wearing a 1940's suit insisted we use some of their ice. We chatted as he reached for the half melted bag of ice. His eyebrows raised to learn we were in the yacht. "Did you know it's haunted?" As he poured ice into my container I had to point out to him that the leaky bag was drenching his wingtip shoe. He was unfazed... and Don and I determined they were all ghosts as we headed back to our boat.
Drinks on the Dock
We decided to save champagne for another day and enjoyed some tiki cocktails instead. We made use of the dock seating first and had a good time chuckling over collections of old cruise brochures. We read through the captain's log, which was really a guest book and laughed at the write ups from past visitors. These people all seemed like us... having a silly old time.
New Area to Enjoy
Next we moved to the open area at the rear of the boat. There was a nice rolling cocktail cart and a padded bench. We flipped through quite the collection of albums, all island themed... from Don Ho to Harry Belafonte's Calypso.
Don put "Hawaii Calls" on the turntable and we tried out a few dance moves. Our dance skills are pretty lame, so we're lucky we didn't break a lamp or any limbs. After a few amusing minutes we turned to more low key activities.
Books and Games
We were determined to make use of every space and every goody that these fine owners had enthusiastically collected. I can't believe we didn't get to meet them. I love the passion they have for this place. And I love that they trusted us to enjoy without destroying them!
There was so much to enjoy from the old radio to the Sunken Treasure game. The reading material was pretty tempting. If we'd had a couple days I could have read "A Girl in Every Port" or "Sails and Whales".
Dinner in the Galley
Our light dinner of bread, fruit and cheese, on our anchor plates... on the map table, was perfect! We played a game or 2 and headed off to bed with a balmy breeze blowing through the portholes.
Luckily we had no ghost happenings in the night. It was a little eerie, I'll admit. It was the night before the full moon and the winds picked up, rustling the bamboo dramatically. And the creepy thing I didn't mention earlier, is that on the other side of the bamboo, just steps away from our boat, was an old cemetery. Now if that wasn't the perfect set-up for a ghost encounter, I don't know what would be.
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!