First Pandemic Cancellation
Back in Spring of 2020, Don and I had to cancel our reservations at The Mission Inn. It was the beginning of the pandemic and like most people, it was a time of halting activities and plans. This was our first pandemic cancelation.
Nearly 20 months later, I called once again, to book a room.
This new year started up with new pandemic worries. The Omicron variant was surging and it wasn't an ideal time to vacation.
But, Don and I were traveling 2,500 miles home, after a family gathering. We had to stay somewhere. The Mission Inn in Riverside, was on our route.
First Visit in 2014
While on a road trip In 2014, Don and I discovered The Mission Inn. We stopped and had lunch on one of the charming patios. It felt like we'd taken a quick trip to Europe!
8 years later, we headed towards the historic hotel again.
Sunny in January
By the third day of January, we were far away from snowy Oregon. Sunshine and palm trees greeted us, when we arrived at Mission Inn. We pulled up near a pair of giant nutcrackers!
The tropical grounds were a welcome sight. We handed our keys and luggage over to the valet guy and headed past the soldiers. We walked beneath the Campanario, with dangling bells. There are a lot of bells at Mission Inn!
I love visiting hotels in early January, when the crowds are gone, but the decorations are still around.
We passed lot of red, green and gold, on the walkway. We also passed a few cannons and giant bells. The Miller family (original owners) were big collectors. At one time there were 800 bells, collected from all over the world. This Nanjing bell stood over 6 feet!
With no bags to lug, we were free to wander a bit before checking in. I felt like we were on a secret hunt, every time I spotted a tucked away treasure. St. Francis looked out from a shrine beside the walkway...
...a little fountain creature perched himself on some tile, near the pool. I wondered about the stories behind each of the treasures. I want to be that person who owns a hotel and travels the world shopping for hotel decor!
We took a quick peek at the pool and it looked absolutely heavenly. I didn't spot one person, which made it seem even more inviting.
The air was balmy and the pool water was a tempting temp. But, we had no swimsuits. Next time!
It was 3:00, when we headed inside.
The lobby was empty of people, but packed with more holiday decor! It was fun to picture the lobby space, when the hotel first opened. In 1903, Mission Inn catered to the wealthy, but it was decorated in a more comfy-cozy style. Instead of formal marble and chandeliers, there were Navajo rugs and Arts & Crafts furniture.
Before reaching the desk, I noticed a large sign reminding us to wear masks. It made me wonder about how the hotel handled the Spanish Flu epidemic. Did the hotel have to close down?
I couldn't find any historic info on the hotel and the 1918 epidemic. I wonder if anyone wore masks in the hotel back then? Everyone we saw during our stay, graciously wore a mask.
If we'd come a week earlier, I'm sure we would have had to wait our turn to pose with the fireplace or Christmas tree. The annual Festival of Lights display, usually attracts big crowds.
Don did the proper pandemic pose, with his pink KN95 mask. I was more vain and removed mine, for a photo near the tree.
Gingerbread & Presidents
After getting our key we wandered the empty lobby. If I'd been a kid I would have parked myself in front of the gingerbread house display... or maybe I would have quietly crawled over the fence.
But I am an adult, so I sort of wanted to enjoy a drink in the Presidential Lounge. But the gates were closed. No sneaking gingerbread or cocktails, for me. However I was able to study the portraits of all presidents, who have visited Mission Inn. The Nixons actually married in the hotel.
There are many more interesting past guests, besides presidents. In the old Hollywood era, stars like Clark Gable and Bette Davis enjoyed getaways here. Ms. Davis was married at Mission Inn. Not to Mr. Gable.
I saw a photo of Betty White, posing with the current owners. That was a sweet thing to see, since Betty died just 3 days before we arrived. There are lists of other important visitors. Booker T. Washington, Amelia Earhart, Hellen Keller... too many to name.
After checking in, we were eager to find our room and call for our luggage. The elevator was impressive, with shiny doors and colorful tiles, but we didn't need it. We had no bags.
We decided to take the stairs. I took a long pause on the dramatic stairway and enjoyed the view of the lobby below.
Our first floor room was located in the Rotunda Wing of the hotel. At least I think. There are 4 wings and it's very confusing. The halls were peaceful and... holy. We turned left at the stained glass window.
We headed past a number of ornate church pews along the walls. I felt like I should pause and pray. Or at least whisper.
Our King Deluxe Room was at the end of the hall. Deluxe rooms pretty much mean Basic, these days. As we often do, we booked the cheapest.
It was a nice surprise to open the door see such a large, corner room. That meant 3 windows! I love windows and I loved the beams in the ceiling, too!
The set up was a little odd. Were we supposed to sit on the edge of the bed to watch TV? Some of the furniture was a little dated and worn, but we were totally content. The room was comfy and huge.
Yippee For Windows!
I was excited to see that our windows actually opened! We could let in air! We could sit and play checkers, while keeping an eye out on the plaza below. There were no chess pieces, but there was also no time for chess.
At night, the windows offered entertaining views. There were colorful lights and some colorful characters, out on the pedestrian plaza. I was glad it was a Monday, or it could have been noisy.
Wicker, Iron & Parrots
Our roomy bathroom had some intriguing decor. The wicker shelves looked like something my Aunt Ruth once used to display her African violets.
The wrought iron made me feel like I was back in Texas. I was amused by the parrots, waiting for me in the shower.
Parrots have been a thing at Mission Inn, since Frank Miller's ownership in the early 1900's. We noticed a pair in a big cage, when we visited in 2014. They must have been wintering elsewhere, during this stay.
Mr. Miller loved his colorful birds, but the birds didn't love Albert Einstein when he once visited the hotel. I read that he suffered a little bird bite.
Full City Block
Before the afternoon got any later, I dashed outside to get some photos. I headed out the side entrance on Orange Street and turned left, wandering along the Cloister Wing, which was added in 1910.
I turned the corner at 6th Street and saw a few nutcrackers, staring down from balconies.
A little further down, I spotted giant candlesticks. Somehow, in the daylight, the decorations felt a little tired and out of place.
Skybridge & Annex
Heading down 6th Street, I studied the rear of the hotel complex. There was something eerie about Skybridge that connected the hotel with the Mission Inn Annex, across the street. Maybe it just reminded me of the Bridge of Sighs, in Venice. Did the Skybridge have a sad story, too?
I read later that the annex was where hotel staff once lived. They traveled over the bridge to get to work. The words painted around the top window read, "Good Head and Nimble Hand Are Good as Gold in Any Land" Curious.
This image shows the final wing that was completed in 1931. At the top, you can barely see a colorful, tile-covered dome.
There's a tree on the right that I'm wondering about. Are those Christmas lights or oranges? Oranges would make sense. It was the citrus farming industry that boomed and brought wealth to this area in the late 1800's.
From 6th, I turned onto Main Street, which is now a pedestrian mall. I counted at least 7 ornate balconies. Were there guest rooms, that had access to these? I expected to see Juliet step out on one. Or at least some Shakespearean character.
By the time I strolled down Main Street, I was totally baffled by the eclectic complex. Until Frank Miller's death in 1935, he continuously expanded and transformed his hotel. He opened his hotel in 1903, with a theme that was inspired by the California Missions and then he continued over the decades, incorporating all the styles he loved... Spanish Gothic, Mission Revival, Moorish Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Renaissance Revival, Mediterranean Revival... It's ming boggling.
It took me a while to get around the whole block. I rushed back inside to catch my favorite part of the hotel, before the sun dropped any lower.
I headed up the staircase and found an exit to the courtyard. I stepped outside and looked back at the building. Fabulous! Red tiles and blue doors and windows!
I'd like to steal this piece of the hotel, for my own cottage! Frank Miller must have really loved curves and arches and so do I. He also must have been a little crazy, with his endless collecting and transforming. But, his obsession works for me.
The enclosed courtyard looked magical in the early evening. I looked across at the Spanish Wing that Miller added in 1914. He wanted it to look like the inner court of a castle. It still does, except for the glass roofs and patio heaters. (added for pandemic dining?)
Directly across, I studied the Anton Clock and the display window, below. There were 3 other figures, featured on the rotating display.
The sun was glowing on the top buildings, across the courtyard. To the right of the Carmel Tower, I could see mountains.
To the left of the tower, I noticed a different kind of brickwork and lots of turrets. I learned later that I was looking at Author's Row. There were 6 suites. 5 named for authors.
View From Author's Row
I didn't see any signs telling me to KEEP OUT, so I kept wandering and absorbing the view. The sun was casting a nice spotlight on the Bougainvillea and the arches across the way. Moorish... I think!
I was curious about the dome the seemed to be resting on a raised patio, below. Was I looking at the Garden of the Bells? I could see some bells hanging under arches.
Hollow Tile Brick
Near Author's Row, I got a closer look at the interesting brickwork.
I read later that this was called "hollow tile brick". It was a nice contrast to all the concrete structures. It looked very quilt-like, or better yet, edible! The tile work on the walkway looked yummy too. Tasty Carmel & Chocolate flavored Chiclets!
Towers and Turrets
I wandered high enough to get a good view of the bell tower, but I had no idea how to get to it.
Instead I studied the brick patterns and the pointed turret.
Just past Author's Row, I found a lovely oasis, that made me want to grab some wine and book.
I have no idea if I was supposed to be on this patio. It might have been a private terrace, reserved for the guests staying in the nearby suites. Nobody was shooing me away, so I enjoyed a few moments. This might have been where the tennis and skating happened, a century ago?
St. Francis Chapel
Before heading back to join Don for the evening, I paused to look down at the entrance to St.Francis Chapel. I could see a tiny bit of the chapel's dome and it jogged my memory. I had photos of 2 domes we saw on our visit in 2014. Where the heck were those domes? It was suddenly clear that it was impossible to see everything.
The church with its square and fountain, made me think of Assisi. That's the little Italian city where my brother once educated me on flying buttresses! I wanted to see inside the church, but I couldn't find stairs to get down. It was time to go find Don instead.
Don and I decided to check out the lounge, just off the lobby. We haven't exactly been venturing to bars during the pandemic, but the spacious lounge was quiet and calm on a Monday evening. We couldn't resist.
I recognized the pillars and beams from an old photo of the hotel's dining room.
We ordered martinis and sat at our table, feeling like we had taken a trip back in time.
...back to a day long when there was no pandemic. It was hard to forget for very long, with those fine pandemic pink masks sitting on our table!
It felt decadent sipping cocktails, in the California Lounge. It would have been even more luxurious to have eaten in the Mission Restaurant.
What a beautiful space with vaulted ceilings, colorful tiles and white table cloths.
Duane's Prime Steaks
Steaks sounded pretty wonderful, too. But Duane's was closed on Monday. My photo is from 2014.
Instead we decided to order some appetizers and stay put. We'll come again and enjoy a feast, when there's no surging covid variant and when we are traveling with nicer clothes.
Off to Explore!
Besides, we couldn't linger forever when there was more exploring to do. First Don and wandered inside.
This cute little space held one of my favorite doors. I've never seen a hinge quite like that!
More Curious Doors!
I love storybook doors and we found some good ones. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Of course we had to pose with them... for scale purposes!
Along with interesting doors, we found cute little stairways.
These stairs reminded me more of Dr. Seuss illustrations. Or better yet, a Dr. Seuss' (non-animated) movie from the 1950's called, "5,000 Fingers of Dr. T". That movie is more like a fever dream, than a children's movie.
As we explored I kept thinking this maze of halls and levels reminded me of something familiar. It was a friend of mine who told me later that the Mission Inn seemed like an Escher painting. Wow was she ever right.
Don and I literally got lost a number of times.
Festival of Lights
The hotel's Festival of Lights was due to close in a couple nights. No crowds and no lines! The doorman took our photo, so we felt like real tourists.
We watched a little boy pose with a towering nutcracker. We only saw a handful of people.
Around the Block
Then we headed around the block.
The lights were pretty, but I won't say they were spectacular.
I had read that the hotel put up 4 or 5 million lights each year. I also heard they had cut down just as they did last year, due to the pandemic.
There were a few vendors selling balloons and food, on Main Street. A musician was packing up his guitar. In pre-pandemic years, there are horse carriages and hot chocolate booths and live music.
As we reached the corner of Main and Mission, I Iooked up through the illuminated tree and spotted our room. I was glad it was a fairly quiet night. Below our room, I noticed the Mission Inn Museum. Next time, I'm going there to have my questions answered.
Wandering Up High
Before heading back to our room, we climbed some of the exterior stairs for a view of the lights below.
The chapel and Artio, looked lovely. I spotted a nativity scene that I hadn't seen before.
The courtyard looked especially dramatic with all the tiny pinkish-red lights!
I loved looking down on both dining areas and imagining the people I would have seen 100 years ago. Guests often came for weeks or months. There were garden swings and sitting areas, where visitors read or visited throughout the day. No one-nighters, running around, like us.
This was one of those visits where I left feeling like I had only experienced a fraction of what the hotel had to offer. It was downright frustrating to NOT see the open air Rotunda or the inside of the chapel. I wish we could have lounged at the pool or dined on a patio. But we got a lot of bang for our buck. Less than $200 and I felt like I'd been on a quick vacation.
Visually, this hotel is off the charts. It's hard for people like me to relax, because I'm anxious to see and discover every nook and cranny. The whole block is a maze, inside and out. The history of the hotel is equally baffling.
It was a great ending to a wonderful holiday! I vote for a spring or fall return!
Christmas in California
Don and I never expected to spend Christmas Eve 2021, in a Victorian mansion, in California!
We had expected to be in our Texas home, with our 2 kids, their spouses and our grandchild. But last minute panic over omicron and air travel, forced us to change plans. On December 22, Don and I threw clothes and gifts in the car and headed for Oregon.
Snow forced us to adjust our route on the third day. It added time, but it also landed us in the sweet town of Ferndale, on Christmas Eve. It felt like we'd stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting when we arrived at 7 pm.
The Victorian buildings were outlined in lights. We could spot the town's claim to fame, at the end of Main Street. The Tallest Decorated Living Christmas Tree! Don pulled over so I could get a quick pic. It's hard to tell, but the giant Spruce is over 150 feet tall. The town has decorated the tree since the 1930's.
After I got my photo, it was time to find our B&B. I had booked it just 2 hours before. The Gingerbread Mansion was glowing, on that dark & drizzly night! I wondered how the mansion looked in 1899, when the Ring Family moved into the newly built home.
As we headed toward the festive porch, I pictured Dr. Ring and his family celebrating inside. I'm not sure how many Christmas Eves they shared, but there were 10 Ring children in all.
Our rushed travel was all about destination, so we'd expected to be in chain hotel the night before Christmas. It felt like we were getting an early Christmas gift, when we headed inside the storybook mansion.
The doors opened to an entry hall. It was quiet and warm and cozy.
No children flying down the banister. I would have welcomed that sight!
To our left of the entry was a parlor, with a lit tree in the window.
To our right was another parlor, with a decorated mantle and Christmas stockings.
Our host Angel, heard us enter and came to greet. We were wearing masks and appreciated hers. I didn't need to explain that we were traveling with extra caution and that we were determined to have a Covid-Free Family Christmas. We'd already talked on the phone earlier and she knew our situation. Angel was wonderful. Her name matched her perfectly.
Angle gave us a quick tour of the quiet inn. I lost count of all the sitting areas.
Even though Don and I have stayed in a lot of Victorian hotels, I'm always amused by all the patterns! So many florals, stripes and colors in the carpet and wallpaper and ceiling.
We wandered back through more rooms, to Angel's office and checked in. I quickly snapped photos of cabinets and doorways.
We were only able to see a handful of rooms... out of 32. What activities happened in these rooms?
We told Angel we wanted a basic room. Why pay for anything extra when we had so little time to enjoy.
She walked us up to the second floor and said she'd picked a room for us, with a wood burning fireplace.
I could have probably learned a lot more history about the mansion, if I'd had more time to take in all the framed photos and scrapbooks here and there.
We rarely arrive at hotels after dark. It was killing me to not do my usual exploring. There were doors at both ends of the hall, with balconies that I never got to enjoy!
Strawberry Hill Room
Our room had a its own little sign.
I never found out why it was called Strawberry Hill.
The door opened to a hallway, covered in patterned paper.
We followed the patterned carpet to our cozy, corner room.
I had to grin at the wooden steps leading to the bed. I was delighted to see we had lots of windows... but it was pitch dark out there. I have no idea what our view might have been.
Angel said she would deliver some ice to our room and she pointed out the pressed log in the fireplace. An easy way to get a real fire, without the work!
I was a little curious about the brass bar, covering a portion of the windows. Ballet barre? Time for pliés?
When I pulled the sheer curtains aside I noticed a giant crack in the wall. I guess that bar had a bigger job to do, than supporting dancers. Angel had mentioned that they'd had some earthquake damage recently. Was this from a less recent quake?
Angel offered us a little wine, even though we'd missed the evening wine/tea hour.
She delivered it to the parlor with a tree and fire. Perfect!
Angel left us to enjoy and we took a photo with the camera timer. Don't want to forget Christmas Eve 2021!
Out We Go
We debated about dinner. It was 8 pm on Christmas Eve, in a tiny town.
Only a couple restaurants were serving and no DoorDash options. We weren't up for dine-in, so we decided to just get out and walk in the misty, cool night.
The drizzle stopped and we wandered and pondered and wondered and meandered.
Cheese Feast & Fire
Then we stopped to grab food from the car on our way back in.
Don started the paper log fire in about 2 seconds. I grabbed robes from the closet and we had a Christmas Eve feast, of cheese and crackers and nuts.
Just about perfect!
5 AM on Christmas
We slept well despite waking to sirens at some point in the night. Luckily our fire was out by then and we weren't the cause. At 5 am, I woke again and couldn't go back to sleep. Just like when I was a kid on Christmas morning.
There were no Santa gifts to peek at, so I gave myself an indulgent gift. I tiptoed into the bathroom and made a predawn bubble bath.
Don was up and showered before long and then it was time to set up our Rapid Test Lab!
We had a day of driving ahead and then we would be with our kids in Portland for Christmas night. It was a nerve-racking 10 minutes, waiting on results. What exactly would we do if we saw the positive pink line? We softly cheered when we saw the negative results!
We tiptoed down the stairs, not knowing how many other guests were even sleeping at the inn on Christmas morning.
We had told Angel we'd be departing before the complimentary breakfast. I hated missing out on some of the experience.
That would have been odd to have shared Christmas breakfast with strangers. Luckily there was coffee ready and we took some with us.
Good-bye House and Hospital
We loaded the car and I took a peek in back. The sun was up enough to glimpse at the garden.
I could see some of the building that was added in 1920. Dr. Ring built a less ornate addition, to serve as a public hospital. I didn't have time to even figure out where I room was.
The garden looked lush for a winter morning. I wondered briefly about all the people who have lived in this house with all the turrets and gables and spindles and balconies! The mansion became a Rest Home and later apartments over the years. How about the people who stayed in the hospital part. There must be some good (and maybe eerie) stories somewhere.
We were welcomed in on Christmas Eve, by an Angel! How about that!
We had expected to stay in some kind of Comfort Suites. I had expected to pout about it... just a little. Instead we had a Surprise Storybook Notable Night! Merry Christmas!
The Curly in Crescent City, California!
Even though Crescent City is on the coast, there's not a whole lot to see there. I never thought there would be a Notable Night option, in the small town.
Don and I have passed through Crescent City a few times, while traveling 101, between CA and OR. I guess we just flew right past the Curly Redwood Lodge, without noticing.
I learned about the 1950's motel last spring, when I called to reserve a room at another motel. I spoke to Rik at the Itty Bitty Inn, in North Bend, OR. We had an entertaining converstaion about our shared appreciation for vintage motels.
Rik's motel is awesome by the way. (#263 of Notable Nights) And Rik is awesome, for giving us the scoop on Curly Lodge. He loved the place!
On the Redwood Highway
I was excited about our stay at the retro motel, last July.
Don and I enjoyed the scenic drive up the Redwood Highway. We had reservations, so I was paying attention, as we neared the south end of town. I spotted the faded billboard and thought it might be from the 50's, until I noticed WI-FI, written in the corner.
I was delighted that we'd arrived before check in, so we could see the motel without cars. The exterior looked mighty spotless, with all the spiffy covered parking spots.
The north side of the horseshoe-shaped motel looked pretty fabulous, with its zigzag design. The picture windows were neatly line up, with opened drapes and centered lamps. Should have gotten a better photo!
We pulled up beside a red car, near the lobby.
That was my first good look at the smooth curly redwood exterior. I'd never heard of curly redwood, until my chat with Rik. It's a kind of redwood, with swirly-curly grain, rather than straight.
At 2:30, the lobby door was locked. There was a sign on the door reminding us to wear masks. We pulled our masks up and rang the buzzer. I like a cautious motel host.
Jay greeted us moments later and welcomed us into the immaculate lobby. More curly redwood and awesome mid-century decor!
What's the Story?
We've stayed at some unusual motels over the years, but this one really needs a bigger spotlight! It was built in 1957, using the 57,000 "board feet" of lumber, that came from this single curly redwood.
Above, we see Lucie and Tom Wyllie, posing with the tree they had cut down near the Klamath River, in 1952.
I was pretty giddy when I spotted the all the wavy wood, in the office desk.
This beautiful wood was used in panelling, posts and doors, throughout the motel, inside and out. All solid. No veneers!
I Spy Curly
Jay seemed a little surprised by my enthusiasm, but he eagerly turned on lights and closed some doors, to help enhance my photos. I loved the curly redwood mailbox on the desk... and then I spied the wastebasket.
Jay said a lot of the curly redwood pieces have walked off over the years. I think the guest rooms once had redwood wastebaskets, (like the office) until people decided they liked the wooden treasures, a little too much.
The office also had a lot of framed art, displayed on the paneled walls. The art of course featured redwood trees.
There were also a couple of amazing curly redwood tables... if you can zoom in and see the detail.
Jay probably wondered why we lingered so long in the office. But this was not your usual mid-century motel lobby. I needed to study the wood frame, with the illustration of a curly redwood. The tree was a timeline, showing all the history that took place during its life!
And I had to stop and grin at the retro pen holder, with the Covid announcement, which reminded me it wasn't 1957 anymore. Jay said they used to have those in the rooms also, but people walked off with them. Shoot, I'd love to buy that thing!
Off to the Room
We got our room key and Jay headed back upstairs to the family's home, above the lobby. We stepped outside and noticed a set of stairs beside a wall of curly boards.
I wondered if those were the stairs I read about? 11 people were killed when a Tsunami devastated Crescent City, in 1964. I heard that a fisherman escaping the rush of water, ran up some stairs at this motel. From the second level, he watched water and debris slam the lower half.
Can't believe the wood survived, along with the man!
We told Jay we were eager for a first level room, with wonderfully retro, covered parking. Some rooms like 12, were along a flat section without the tricky staggered doors or parking spots.
Jay said he'd give us one of the best. Ours room was towards the end of the U. Those rooms had their own parking, between flower planters. The doors opened to the side!
Out of 36 rooms, our room #1, was almost at the end. We backed in and enjoyed the thrill of no elevators, no lugging of bags. Easy as can be!
Silky Smooth at 64 Years!
How can this wood look so spotless after 64 years! The motel is my exact age and I wish I had such smooth and glossy skin!
I don't know what kind of maintenance goes into this wood, but the new owners, along with all those going back to the Wyllies in 1957, did something right. This is a damp, foggy, coastal town with more than 1 Tsunami in its history! This wood must take some special care.
The wide angle makes this photo a little warped, but it really was a great sized room!
I was so happy to see that most of the room hadn't been altered over time!
This little sitting area took me right back to some of the houses my family used to rent in the 1960's! That angled table, was just out of this world! The lamp looked right out of... "I Dream of Jeanie"!
I love vintage everything... but the new mattress and linens were appreciated.
Rik had raved about the curly redwood motel, with its spacious rooms and glorious wood paneling. The doors and wall in the desk area, showed the wood off well.
Rik reminded us to peek in the closet to see the original "no-steal" hangars, with words stamped on the metal ring. He thought it was pretty fun that there was a patent pending on that design, back in 1957!
Love the Lamp!
I was sad for Don that he had no beside table. Sorry, but I got the table and clock, because I always claim dibs, when older hotels have only one. He is very kind.
We both got to use the hanging lamp, though! Man I love that little push button thingy, above the pillows!
We had no tub, but the shower was pretty awesome.
If you look at the photo of the table near the picture window, you'll see this same mod shape! I call it the chopped off triangle look.
We've had better hotel views, but I was happy as can be with this one from our picture window! I even love the term picture window.
We could keep an eye on the rental car and watch cars pass by on the 101, Redwood Highway. We could also see two planters with orange flowers and of course the Curly Lodge sign.
Whenever we check into a hotel, I rush out to explore with my camera and search for a good happy hour spot.
There was a large span of grass inside the "U", with 4 Adirondack chairs just waiting for us. Fingers crossed that no other arrivals would claim!
You can see some sun glowing on my face. That was lucky, since Crescent City is known for having some gloomy, foggy weather. It felt lovely.
One More Pic
I put the camera timer on for this shot, to show off the zigzag building behind us!
We enjoyed our early evening, listening to sounds... a little car traffic, distant sea lions barking and the eerie sound of a fog horn, every 10 seconds or so!
At Sun Set
Here is an image of the motel/lodge with both lit signs.
This funny little motel turned out to be a comfortable stay, with some fun stuff right across the highway.
The location of our motel turned out to be better than we realized!
The crescent shaped beach, was just a short walk across the highway! The town might not have a sweet historic downtown, (destroyed in 1964) but there was some fun stuff across the road, near the water.
Taking Our Time
It was nice to have time to wander across the road and explore. We meandered the harbor and dined at the seafood cafe right across the street.
It was wonderful to leave the car under the carport and explore on foot. We even spotted Jay, walking with his kids. (I think) What an interesting little world, when you give it a chance.
For less than $100. we had a comfy, relaxed stay in a motel right across from the Pacific Ocean. We were also just minutes away from the Redwood National and State Parks!
I'll remember enjoying our drinks and popcorn, sitting on the lawn with the pretty weather. I enjoyed learning more about the crazy history of this place. And I got to know a little bit more about Crescent City. I have a little more respect for this small town, that sometimes gets called Tsunami City.
I'm so glad Rik shared his knowledge and I'm so glad Jay and his family are caring for this special place now. I hope the lodge can handle another 64 years, for visitors traveling the Redwood Highway!
On our "coastal road trip" in July, Don and I veered inland, to stay at The Benbow Inn.
On an internet hotel search, the curious name caught my eye. The photos looked pretty magical. We went above our usual $ amount and booked a night.
Old Resort in the Redwoods
I liked the idea of an isolated old time resort, built in the California Redwoods.
Knowing the hotel opened nearly a century ago, I was excited to arrive and find the Benbow Inn, still surrounded by trees.
The Benbow name comes from the family that opened the resort and ran it, until 1962, It was built to attract travelers on the newly opened Redwood Highway. The 9 Benbow siblings were a well known in the area in the twenties. Dam construction... power company... this family had a lot of projects. And money.
The fam hired popular Bay area architect, Andrew Farr. Farr designed the wilderness retreat, on 1,290 acres. It's surprising to me that he used such a blend of architecture. I would think he might have used more stone and less timber... due to his bad luck years earlier.
Remains of Wolf House
I first heard of Andrew Farr about 4 years ago, when visiting the home of novelist, Jack London in Sonoma County.
Farr designed the 26-room, rustic mansion for the writer and his wife. It was named Wolf House. In 1913, the newly completed home burned to the ground, before the Londons moved in. Just over a decade later, Farr designed the Benbow Hotel. No fires at Benbow, as far as I know.
It was about 2:30 when Don and I arrived. I snapped a few pics from the garden. This photo looks pretty nice, despite the cloudy day.
In person, the grass and plants looked a little weary. There were just a couple cars parked near the entrance. We headed towards the double doors on the right, in the newer section, which was added in the '90's.
I felt a wave of disappointment when we stepped into the "new" lobby. I hid my reaction and greeted the woman at the desk with a cheery comment about the nice day. She seemed worn out and complained of the hot weather. But she let us check in early, so no judging.
The lobby wasn't worth a click of my camera. I peeked in the room behind and it looked a little better, with some old furniture and books. But the ceiling was low and there was no historic appeal. It felt like a new addition, which it was.
After getting our key, we headed into the original part of the building and I felt relief.
The large sitting/parlor area had some nice woodwork. Best of all it was open and airy, with large windows on both sides of the room.
Rugs and Tables
There were lots of tables and sitting areas and a large fireplace on one wall.
This space made it easier to imagine the hotel, when the Benbows first opened 95 years ago.
Chess and Puzzles
Back when the hotel was in its hey day, there was golf, canoeing and horseback riding and fishing.
Today I didn't see signs of outside activity, but there were lots of games and at least 9 jigsaw puzzles, in progress.
We saw no hotel cats, but we saw these birds.
I was fooled for a moment. They weren't real, but I liked the odd cage in the parlor. It amused me.
Up We Go
We started to catch the elevator in the lobby, but decided not to share the ride with others. We're Covid cautious travelers. But also, there was no room for us. A man was maneuvering a cart filled with sherry decanters onto the elevator. We headed for the stairs.
I liked the old stairs, in the old building. I'm not sure why I was so turned off by the lobby.
Halfway up the stairs, there was an odd display.
What was this stuff? Were those candle holders from a cathedral? What was with those branches, shooting up from cloth? Was this creepy or curious? Once again, I was amused.
A Creepy Hall
Don and I had sort of a hard time finding our room. When we finally did, it was at the end of this hall, stuffed with mattresses and a rollaway. A work room was across from ours, with its door wide open.
I found it a little creepy and curious that our room was tucked back with the work room and mattresses. I did not find it amusing.
We returned to the lobby and very politely, asked for a different room. It took forever, but we were given a new key.
I liked the art on our door and I liked the old glass door knob.
Deluxe Queen with a Smell
Again, Don and I appreciate old. We put up with creaks and smells. In fact we usually embrace them. But this room smelled like rancid grease. We opened the windows.
The decor was fine. Nothing memorable. At least there were 2 comfy chairs. We could have paid more for a "luxury room", but this was above our budget already, at nearly $300.
The seclusion and elegance of this hotel, attracted the Hollywood elite, back in the day.
Spencer Tracey and Clark Gable were once guests. They might have enjoyed one of the suites with a fireplace. I don't think they would have been overly excited with our room.
Other Important Guests
Eleanor Roosevelt and Hebert Hoover also stayed at The Benbow. Eleanor would have looked just right, on one of those pinkish chairs.
The desk was a little too small for President Hoover. He might have taken a nip of the sherry, though.
I look like I drank a whole bottle, in this pic. So this is what the cart of sherry decanters was all about. The are delivered daily to each room, with only 2 glasses worth of sherry.
I did more posing than drinking. I was more intrigued looking out the window.
If there had been no tent, we could have seen the Eel River. The tent was set up to accommodate more guests for outside dining.
I didn't like having an obstructed view, but I was glad to know the hotel was trying hard to be safe during these pandemic times. They only took dinner reservations for hotel guests.
This actually looks more festive in my photos, than in person.
I did like the colorful retro blue. (which might have been 1990's retro) Lighting was a little dim, but I did like the funny wall nooks, near the sink.
I always have to do a little wandering, after check in. I love peeking around before things get crowded. But were things going to get crowded?
I worried that guests weren't coming. There was something a little sad looking about the place, without guests.
The Terrace Area
I wandered around the terrace area, between the hotel and river. The rounded stairs led to the prettier end of the building. The lower level may have held some of the more luxurious guest rooms. Not sure.
Above the stonework, I could see the windows of the dining room. We made sure to get reservations for later.
I wanted to step back and get a full look at the hotel, but the tents made that impossible. I liked the crooked tree.
The Eel River
Below the terrace, there was a lawn leading to the Eel River. I crossed the lawn and then the bridge. I finally was a good distance away to see the full hotel. This time, the trees blocked my view.
The next day was sunny, when I took a photo of the old bridge from the terrace. Sadly there was only a trickle of water because of the dry summer. No fishing or canoeing on The Eel.
On the front of the hotel, I found a porch that had a view of the garden. (and the nearby campgrounds) This porch needed people.
I returned to our room and made some coffee. Don and I took our books and computer to the porch.
We had it to ourselves! How I love a hotel with a porch!
The air was perfect. We hung out a while, keeping an eye on the parking lot. Guests were beginning to arrive. And a musician or two!
The Cocktail Lounge
This is how the hotel bar looked before 5.
The place filled up later. Poor bartender had to work hard to keep up with orders.
I was glad I got a good look at the fireplace before it was busy in the lounge. The elaborate screen and the mantel decor, was picture worthy. Although I cut off the heads of the dogs, in the framed portraits!
At 6, Don and I got drinks from the bar, but carried them to the terrace.
We watched 2 musicians setting up. Then we watched the musicians pack up, when it started to drizzle. I thought they would just move over a bit and perform under the tent. But they continued to pack away their instruments.
Watching the Rain
We took our drinks to the porch and wondered why no one else did the same.
I loved that porch! A light rain fell for a while. We watched the musicians drive away. We stayed dry.
When I checked on reservations earlier, I peeked in the dining room.
I noticed a couple tables already had guests. Furry guests.
I'm not sure what was with the bears, but I appreciate the humor.
No one likes to eat in an empty restaurant. Maybe the bears made the dining room feel more alive?
We really did enjoy our meal. We chose to sit inside, since the wind had picked up on the terrace.
My Caesar salad was an absolute hit, with moist chicken, fat anchovies and a crispy wafer of parmesan. Pandemic dining has been iffy, but the staff was efficient and the food was quite good at this hotel. No complaints.
The rains fizzled. It would have been nice to open windows and hear some thunder and enjoy a real storm.
We wandered just enough to see the lights on the porch a little later. No TVs in the historic building, so it was peaceful. Made good use of robes and books.
The sun surprised us in the morning. Lots of blue sky!
Our stay came with breakfast. The pandemic protocol gave us a few options, which we picked up in the lounge and enjoyed on the terrace. The cool and sunny morning made me wish we could stay long enough to enjoy some nearby trails.
I'm glad The Benbow is still open. I know all hotels have struggled with the pandemic, especially the historic ones. I just hope the staff and the wearier parts of the hotel, can get a little lift. There was a bit of an odd mood in the place.
But, I'm glad we stayed. I loved the neon sign and the porch. I loved the carved wood in some of the mantels and woodwork. I didn't adore our room, but the pretty window made the room brighter. I loved the trees and hills that surrounded and I love knowing there are 95 years of stories behind this place.
Actually I would have loved the whole place just fine, if it had been priced lower. I think I had just raised my expectations too high.
Delightful! In Petaluma, California
This 140-year-old, Parisian style hotel, was full of surprises! Don discovered the place 4 years ago and loved it. He booked it for us, this past July.
I think I had the proper response when we pulled up to the front. "Wow! This is totally charming! So much cuter than the website photos!" I was ready for a trip to Paris!
We arrived at 2:15, on a Monday. Don drove us around to the curious parking lot in back. We were early, so there were no other cars during our parking adventure.
We pulled in, next to the little blue and white sign. The figureinabed image, was very European! Then Don headed under the carport, (made of solar panels) and aimed for one of the yellow chains, hanging on the blue fence. This kept the parking orderly, for later when more cars arrived.
Toddler Near the Airstream!
"Watch out!" I warned Don, when I spotted a small child on the pavement, near a pair of Airstreams. (We could have booked one of those fun trailers!)
I alerted Don when that I spotted another toddler! Or was it the same one? They seemed to be popping up, like Munchkins in Oz.
Dad and Kiddos
Actually the tiny twins were not in danger. Their very serious looking, young dad, was the third Munchkin to appear. He herded them up, then greeted us near the blue picket fence.
The Dad/host seemed to be the only one in charge at that moment. We offered to come back later, since we'd arrived early. But he motioned for us to come along. He guided us past another Airstream and a Bocce Ball court. We followed him and his toddler twins, in a side door.
As soon as we stepped inside, I could not wipe the silly smile off my face! Don had set this stay up because he knew I'd love it. I swear this hotel was made for me.
I'd gotten excited weeks earlier, when I saw the photos on the hotel's website. But when I saw the bold mix of classy antiques and whimsical curiosities, I was blown away! School desks, chandeliers, mannequins...! The website needs to be updated. This was way cooler!
Dining & Music Room?
I followed our host, while glancing into the room off to the left. I tripped over my feet as took in all the fun decor. What a table! What was with those large, colorful framed prints?
I saw a piano and another antique instrument, with keys. I love old instruments. What warm and worn, wooden floors and such modern lighting!
Don and the Tots
There was so much to take in, but I had to make sure I didn't trip over the kiddos either. Oh my, they were so incredibly adorable, trying to keep up with their daddy.
The little girl followed our host into the office, but her brother was a little slower, since he was busy dragging an orange cone over to Don. Such a good helper!
Cafe and Front Entrance
We followed into the office, but I kept peering out, towards the front of the building. I could see the cafe tables, where we'd have breakfast in the morning.
There was light coming in through the front door entrance, near a huge framed smiling face. Oh, I couldn't wait to explore.
While we checked in, Daddy scooped up the kids and placed them in a double stroller. At one point the little boy stood and nearly tipped the stroller, trying to get to something breakable. I quickly distracted with a game. I used to be good at that. But it was hard to compete with the playful surroundings.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be 18 months old, running around this magical place, with all the bright colors... and all the antique toys! What a crazy collection of gnomes! Then I wondered about being a parent in a place like this! Whew! Exhausting.
To the Stairs
Our host grabbed our key and gave us a quick tour. Then he headed briskly towards the front door, with the little ones toddling behind.
I spotted the narrow, curling staircase, near the front door. I wondered how the tots would handle that.
The dad didn't skip a beat. He scooped up a twin in each arm and zipped up those stairs.
I held that slick white railing and huffed my way up. I wasn't even carrying luggage. (which was tricky later)
I reached the second floor, just in time to see the trio at our door!
I'm afraid I didn't write down our host's name. It was French though. He showed us a few things in the room and asked if we had questions. I mostly wanted to ask about the cute kids and if he was an owner... but we'd taken enough of his time.
Our welcoming committee left moments later and I grinned at our room! Was that a purple chalk board? I'm not sure. I didn't find chalk.
Yes, the room was small, but it worked perfectly for us. The little lamps and tables were fun and functional. The quaint cafe chairs & table, felt like Paris.
The TV was almost too large for the space, but I won't complain. I appreciated the reminder sign, to keep volume down in later hours.
I made sure we got our goose turned on. I heard that every room had one.
I took a good look at the pillow and smiled. "Let's do!"
French Words & Colors
Our room had at least 3 large framed prints. They totally amused me. I could have practiced my French with the print, Signaux De Danger.
I loved the blue doors and the red accents here and there. The colors and words of France, were everywhere. Even our "privacy sign" on the door was in French.
A sliding blue door, opened to the bathroom. The little sink and grand mirror felt European. The bath products were attractive, in blue bottles. The hairdryer even managed to look cute, hanging in a tasteful bag.
I loved the retro tile floor and the mini claw footed, red tub and surprise skylight!
I found a tinier surprise on the roll of toilet paper. A cupcake sticker!
There were surprise duckies in the bottom of the tub. I used just little of the bottled bubble bath, in the smallish tub. Very cute!
Narrow Halls, Big Art
After admiring the room a bit, I took off to explore! The upstairs had a couple narrow halls. I believe there are over a dozen guest rooms, but not totally sure.
The halls and many of the spaces were filled with the most intriguing vintage prints!
I wanted to study each one for hours.
It turns out that these posters were really used for studies. Children used them in French schools, in the 1950's. They were tools for observation, vocabulary... problem solving. I love that kind of learning!
Connected to The Metro
I always love the exploring part of our hotel stays. As I wandered the colorful rooms of The Metro, I felt like I was connected to every whimsical item. Every curious displayed item! Out of all 265 hotels that I've blogged about, The Metro Hotel pleases the kid side of me, more than any other.
I grew up with antique furniture and toys. I played school with my sibs, using the antique school desks, in our family room. These desks reminded me.
French Guignol Puppet Theatre
I was fascinated by these two puppet theaters, displayed on the wall.
I did a little Googling and learned that Guignol puppet shows weren't intended for kids originally. There's some fun history there!
I love how hotel adventures lead to eager researching. And I love how this hotel's treasures, reminded me of the treasures I grew up with.
Seeing these Guignol faces made me think about the Punch & Judy bookends that were in my childhood home. And the Sicilian puppet, that our family bought in Italy and now hangs from my mantel. I wish I could have met the owner, because we have similar taste in treasures.
I stepped out to see what I missed outside. I studied the building at different angles. It was built in the 1870's. Oh how I wish there were photos of the family and home, back then. What place!
I had to smile when I spotted the sweet critter-combo near the gate. The chicken in French flag colors, seemed unaware of the little black cat below.
During my exploration, I hunted down the best spot for a glass of wine. Don and I always bring a little wine and to "celebrate" our hotels.
There were tables on the front and side patio. That could have been a good place for our evening toast.
Tea for Two
I looked around inside, for a cozy place to sit and sip.
I loved these two pairs of chairs. But really they didn't look too comfy. Maybe better for sitting up properly, with a cup of tea.
The cafe was empty and there was coffee. We decided to just go for a little cup of caffeine and venture out later for a drink.
Drink & Dining Options Within Walking Distance
If it hadn't been a Monday, a little Peruvian food at Quinuia, would have been lovely. The green painted restaurant, was on the property and it looked wonderful, when I peeked in the windows. Closed on Monday.
We ended up having dinner at McNear's, in the old 1886 building.
Before that we wandered on foot and found a good brewery and some fun scenery. All was in walking distance from the hotel. That is a huge perk.
By 9:30, our hotel was quiet.
The lighting was so pretty from the street. I think I heard the twins in one of the rooms, when I stepped inside. Do they live here? Who is the actual owner? I heard that a French woman bought the hotel in 2010 and that she's passionate about filling the place with the treasures, she finds on trips home to Paris. Oh how I would have loved meeting her.
In the morning I expected to find the cafe, as quiet as the hotel felt at night. But guests had come out of the woodwork and filled the tables in 2 rooms.
A sweet woman greeted from behind her red mask. I spotted a cooked eggs and sweet breads, set out near the gnomes.
There was a Nespresso maker for fancier coffee, as well a drip coffee. The woman was very busy cooking up crepes on a sizzling grill.
We found Nutella, jam, fresh berries, whipped cream and butter for our crepes. Then we found a nice table, near an amusing old highchair holding a lunch box. Oh my eyes were so busy!
I was sorry that check out was so easy. There was a little wooden box near the front door for our keys.
I said good bye to our bell hop. I really wanted to say good bye to those sweet twins. They were no where to be seen.
What a sweet Parisian boutique B&B experience! No corny Americana stuff. (Then again, Airstreams & flamingos...) But I really did feel like I had taken a quick trip to Europe. And that was a treat, since I'm not doing that until the pandemic is over.
I loved the exterior, with all the blues and reds, and its 140-year-old charm. But the interior was perfection to me. There was quirky, whimsical charm in every corner. But this place did not have random "old stuff" hanging from the ceiling or spilling off shelves. No dusty old thrift store junk. Every piece fit perfectly and I'm pretty sure every item had a story. I love my own treasures and I appreciate a place that shares theirs!
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!