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!
While traveling 3 years ago, Don and I took a peek at the Eureka Inn. Our son had tipped us off about the place. He knows how much we love historic (and quirky) hotels.
It was October 2018, when we stopped in, while traveling. Don and I were definitely intrigued by the 4-story Tudor hotel, but we couldn't stay. We had reservations elsewhere.
On that October day, we stepped inside to see if we should put the hotel on the list, for future travel adventures.
One look at the lobby lounge area and I knew we'd come back. Maybe we'd come in winter and read a book by the fireplace. Or maybe we'd arrive to see someone playing the grand piano.
But the hotel seemed so large and empty. Was this going to be one of those hotels on our list, that closes down before we ever get to experience it?
Just in case, we decided to check out the Palm Lounge, at the end of the hall past the lobby desk. We've learned a lot about hotels by visiting their bars or restaurants. We could have a mini-experience, before taking off.
Cocktail Lounge Experience
We wandered the lobby, until the lounge doors opened at 5. I hoped we'd step inside and find a bartender in a bowtie, or at least Frank Sinatra crooning on a juke box. Instead, we found a frazzled young bartender, who seemed surprised to see us.
She wasn't quite ready for guests. She had a lot of setting up to do. We made it easy and ordered wine & beer. Then we found a table near a brick wall and a glowing flamingo lamp, where we couldn't feel her stressed energy.
We were the only guests in the Palm Lounge. I have a feeling our experience would have been a little more comfortable, if there had been other guests, or if the lights had been dimmer. We thought things might get lively, when a guy arrived to play piano. But he looked really disappointed to see us, like he'd planned on hanging out with the bartender for a while. When he started playing, I couldn't tell if he was practicing or performing. We finished our drinks and politely left a tip on our way out.
The awkward Palm Lounge visit, only made us more curious about Eureka Inn. What was the story with this sort of forgotten hotel, in the town of Eureka?
So, Don and I made reservations for a night, this past July. The 99-year-old, stucco & timber hotel looked even bigger than I remembered, when we pulled up. The hotel filled the whole block.
When Eureka Inn opened in 1922 it wasn't quite as large. 50 guest rooms were added in 1925.
What a grand place it was, with over 100 rooms. This hotel was considered premier lodging for travelers between Portland and San Francisco. In 1933, they added a cocktail lounge for Ladies and Gentlemen. Was it called Palm Lounge, back then?
Vacancies and Renovations
Like most old hotels, Eureka Inn has had some struggles over the years.
The hotel fell on hard times in the late fifties. It was vacant from 1993 to 2010.
After new ownership and renovations, the hotel opened again, in 2010. That means we first visited, it was just 8 years after reopening. Hmmm? Why had it seemed so quiet then? Would there be more guests during our stay in July?
As we walked with our bags toward the hotel, I admired the white stucco and green trim. The hotel's original colors! I also noticed there were no cars or guests at 4:30. But then again, it was the unpredictable pandemic summer of 2021.
All to Ourselves
I guess I wasn't surprised to find the hotel as empty as before. That was actually fine with me.
Being cautious pandemic travelers, I didn't want to see the lobby crowded with guests. In fact there wasn't a single person in the spacious lobby area.
We headed with our bags to the front desk. I tried to be enthused with a few questions, for the weary looking young woman who checked us in.
I also tried to hide my huge disappointment when she told me the hotel's Palm Lounge and Britstol Rose Cafe were closed, due to lack of staff. Man, I really wanted to eat in that dining room with the high ceilings and beams!
Up We Go
So we took our key and headed for the elevator. The older elevator with its paneled doors, was no longer in use. I was tempted to take a ride.
But Humphrey Bogart glared from his portrait, like an elevator guard. I think Walt Disney was actually egging me on, to give it a try. (I just love old elevators!) But, we were good guests and took the newer one, which was not all that new.
The doors on the third floor had been updated just a bit. I wonder how long ago, they filled in the old transoms with wood? Now and then, we find an old hotel with transoms that still open for airflow.
Our room was a decent size, but had sort of budget hotel decor feel. I appreciate historic hotels and I try not to criticize, but I expected a little more, since Wyndham has taken this one over.
The wallpaper looked a little like contact paper and the framed art was oddly placed in the room. The bathroom door hit the toilet and the updated vanity and tub, was not very impressive.
But maybe I was just crabby because I wanted to enjoy the cafe and lounge. The "fainting couch" was comfy and I loved being able to open the windows and look down on the pool & courtyard.
After making a few snide remarks about our room, I was over it. I was truly happy to be in this curious place and I was ready to explore. Don hung out on the lounge chair and I hit the lobby. First I stopped at the mailbox and thought about mailing my postcards. Then I realized, the postcards could stay in that box forever.
I also thought about playing operator, with the old switchboard. Or is that even what that is? I loved finding these old relics from the past.
I remembered admiring all the framed portraits on our first visit. So many famous guests have visited over the years. Four of those guests surrounded this door to the ballroom.
Just like the doors to the cafe and lounge, the ballroom doors were locked. I hate it when I can't sneak into special rooms. So instead, I paused and said hello to Nancy, Shirley, Ladybird and Steven Spielberg.
The hotel may have disappointed me with their room decor, but they did a nice job sharing their history, in the common areas.
I found numerous corners and hallways, holding displays of hotel memorabilia. There were old menus and pieces of dining china. I loved studying the old photographs and comparing to now.
The Grand Parlor
It was interesting to study this image with the midcentury modern decor. I recognized the wall, with the ballroom doors. No Shirley Temple or Mrs. Reagan, peering from frames.
There was much less furniture back in the day. Hey! Is that Ladybird Johnson near the fireplace?
Grand Parlor Today
Today, the large area is jam packed with furniture. It looks like the hotel is expecting lots of guests.
The flat cathedral ceiling and polished redwood beams, look the same as the old photos. And that massive fireplace, with the painting above! What is the story of that piece of art?
Across and Above
Across from the fireplace, I was excited to look up and see even more seating, on the second floor mezzanine. What was all that gold anyway? It looked like gold foil. Do we call that faux gold leaf? There was a lot of it.
The Palm Lounge was closed, but Don and I always travel with wine. We had lots of seating options for our own happy hour.
After I finished exploring I went back to the room to get Don and wine.
We carried our blue travel glasses and looked for a good spot. Window seat, with view of pool? Maybe.
The weather was lovely, so we peeked outside to see about seating on the patio. Nope, that wasn't quite right.
We did spot our room though. Up in the corner to the right of the chimney.
Next, we climbed the stairs to the mezzanine level.
There was seating along the railing, looking down on the Grand Parlor.
A good start. Don sat in a comfy green chair with a famous director looking down on him. We kept an eye on the space below. I am not kidding when I say we had the place to ourselves.
Beneath the Presidents
After a while we decided the Grand Parlor needed us. We headed down and sampled some spots. I felt like Goldilocks, testing some of the furniture for comfort.
These green chairs were fine, but the presidents (although smiling) were too intimidating.
Sitting Near the Fire
There was no fire in July, but we decided to take the couch directly in front of the brick fireplace.
I clicked the timer on the camera and we posed on that slick, baby blue couch. If we had accidentally spilled wine, I think it would have wiped right off. That was some interesting furniture!
A few more guests finally arrived. We heard them check in and get the same disappointing news we got, about the closed cafe and bar. I was grateful to have some wine and a husband who loves exploring as much as I do.
We looked down a few more halls and I found this display about a movie that was filmed in the hotel. "An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn" We took note and watched this movie on Netflix, 2 weeks later. Very odd! Lots of fun, recognizing parts of the hotel in the movie.
More Famous People
I'm pretty sure we didn't see every single framed portrait. I wish I could see a list of all the famous guests who have stayed... Winston Churchill, Truman Capote, Mickey Mantle, Ringo Starr, Robert Kennedy...
I posed with Shirley Temple and wondered if she had taken the same road trip that Don and I were on. 2 Nights before, we'd stayed at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Oregon, where Shirley had also been a guest.
Don and I could have walked a block or two and found some dinner. But we were also becoming more realistic during our pandemic travels. Short staffed hotels and restaurants can be frustrating. We decided to do the pizza thing.
So I called in a pizza delivery. Even though the old phones are just for show, I stepped into a booth to make my call. Then, Don and I studied a few more portraits, (like good old Winston) and headed up to enjoy our pizza feast.
We slept well in the quiet hotel. In the morning we found coffee and bags with donuts in the lobby.
We had expected nothing, so that was nice. We brought our "breakfast" upstairs and caught up on news... on a very blurry TV. We were bombarded with news about surging cases of Covid. It was a reminder to be patient and smart with our travels.
Heading out of town we drove down by the water and the Old Town area. It looked sort of inviting in the morning. I felt a little perplexed as we drove on. The town and hotel have so much potential. Is it just the pandemic that makes them seem sort of forgotten or under appreciated? I do appreciate the old place.
I'll remember our hotel, with fond memories. The staff seemed worn and some of the most recent updates were odd. But there was so much character in that building! In fact so many character and celebs have visited that hotel in 99 years, that I'm beginning to understand why there were so many chairs and couches! Maybe all these old presidents and movie stars come back in the wee hours to share stories with each other. There's enough seating for all! Hmm? Next time, I'm bringing a Ouija Board!
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 not only exceeded expectations, it took me on a little journey back to childhood.
In some odd way, our explorations reminded me of a day when I was about 9. My friend and I rode our bikes to downtown Grinnell, Iowa. We parked our bikes outside of my Catholic church and we tiptoed inside the unlocked doors. We explored and whispered and wondered and absorbed, the peaceful and spiritual space. I love it when a hotel stay, transports me back, to a special time in my memory!
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!