Open at Last!
We learned about this historic hotel 6 years ago, when staying at La Posada, in Winslow, AZ. Both were Harvey House hotels, rescued by a couple, with incredible vision, talent... and money.
The Plaza, in Las Vegas
The Victorian beauty was located in the heart of the old city, across from historic Plaza Park
Castaneda in 2017
From The Plaza, we drove a mile to the once busy Railroad District, to peek at the next project. I took this photo before renovation had begun. The once grand, hotel was overdue for a redo. It had been sitting mostly vacant, for 70 years!
Las Vegas in 2019
We caught a glimpse of the trackside hotel, coming into Las Vegas. Don and I were feeling extra lucky that we'd been able to book one of the few, newly renovated rooms. The hotel had only been open a couple weeks.
One Hundred and Twenty-One Years Old
On that June afternoon, we arrived and parked right in front of the old Mission Revival style building. There wasn't a chainlink fence this time. A ramp and new windows had been added. The arched lettering looked the same. I was glad.
The lobby was open and bright and the staff was welcoming.
Fresh paint and polished wood, made the sitting areas inviting. I especially liked the cluster of Mission style chairs, near the tall bookcase. I should have spent a little more time in that corner.
Our Host, Sean
We recognized Sean, in his vintage vest and bowtie. He had been our host 2 years ago at the Plaza Hotel. He'd been helpful answering questions then and he was equally knowledgable about the Castaneda.
Renovation of the old ballroom was still underway. Sean gave us a fun tour of the large space. He was full of information and enthusiasm, showing us the old steam table that will be used again, when the restaurant opens.
The freshly painted walls, white woodwork, molded ceiling and fixtures, were pretty much ready. The original Terrazzo floors, just needed a quick shine!
After getting our key, we headed up to the second floor guest rooms.
I of course had to pause for the view. I headed on up, wondering about all the guests who have once stayed.
Sleeping at a Harvey House Hotel
Fred Harvey's hospitality empire included restaurants, hotels, gift shops and touring cars. Castaneda was Harvey's first trackside hotel.
In 1898, there were 40 guest rooms on the second floor of the hotel.
Did Teddy Sleep Here?
Theodore Roosevelt is Castaneda's most famous guest. He held his first Rough Riders Reunion here.
It was too peaceful on the second floor landing, to imagine those rough and rowdy guests! But maybe they just celebrated here. I also heard they stayed at The Plaza Hotel. History is confusing.
Today guests have twice as much space in their guest rooms, than when those first train traveling guests stayed. During this past year, each room was enlarged and bathrooms were added.
Eventually all the glass transoms will have painted animal designs. We didn't stay in the "Owl Room", but I loved the colorful, stained glass look.
Room 204... The Squirrel Room
Owner and artist, Tina Mion had not yet painted a squirrel on our transom, but our room had other painted accents.
The queen headboards were painted black, with southwestern designs. The bedside lamps were equally impressive. They looked like they probably served some kind of beverage at one time!
I loved having windows, that we could actually open up, to let in the fresh air.
We had a view of the old station and the train tracks behind. Luckily the trains weren't frequent enough to bother us.
There was lots of space, for the large antique pieces. The vanity in the room wasn't exactly an antique, but it was pretty handy.
We were happy to have an attached bathroom, since guests once shared baths, down the hall.
The shower setup was interesting, behind sort of a partition. We evidently got the accessible room, which made the bathroom nearly too large. Not exactly something to complain about!
The hotel's restaurant may have been under construction, but the Castaneda Bar was open for the evening.
The mural above the bar, was one of the surprises that came with restoration. Evidently, no one knew the mural was hiding under layers of plaster, until work began.
We were told that this room with the mural, had once been a dive bar, called Nasty Casty, owned by a woman who lived upstairs. The roof was so worn that the snow used to come through the ceiling. There's a chilly thought.
Don and I took a seat at the bar, which had once been the dining counter. There were no more Harvey Girl servers in black and white uniforms, but our bartender, Andrew, was much more entertaining. His double handed martini shaking skills were amazing.
Besides shaking, Andrew also had a talent for making beautiful drinks that tasted quite good!
Chatting with Locals and Travelers
Sometimes when traveling, we hit the jackpot for people encounters. We couldn't have asked for nicer people, that evening. A middle-aged, cowboy-hat-wearing man from Gallup, sat next to Don. He and his wife were delightful. They were headed to Grinnell, Iowa, for a Quaker Conference. That was a fun connection, since I grew up in Grinnell.
Next to me was Jose, a friendly local, who talked about growing up in Las Vegas and selling newspapers and shining shoes, at the train station next door. I loved hearing his stories about being an extra in movies, that were filmed in Las Vegas. I need to watch Crazy Heart again and look for him!
Luckily, Castaneda had food truck dining options. We were able to get a delicious chicken sandwich and onion rings, served to us on the porch... which was a little more crowded at night, than in the morning, when I took this photo.
We slept well in our hotel, by the tracks. If there were trains, I didn't hear them. The old Railroad Avenue Historic District was also quiet. Things might be different in years ahead, if the hotel triggers more renovation. This could become a hopping area!
It was such a treat to be one of the few guests and step out to enjoy the early morning light on the porch.
View From the Tracks
Don and I were able to walk out by the tracks to get a view of the whole building. The hotel actually faces the tracks, not the street.
This is the view, that Santa Fe Railway passengers had when they arrived, way over 100 years ago. Fred Harvey had already opened lunch counters and services to rail passengers. Now travelers could come in and have a meal and stay a night or two.
I love a road trip, but it's a shame that auto travel took the focus away from train travel and railroad districts. Castaneda was forced to close in 1948.
From our side of the u-shaped veranda, I peeked across the courtyard at the work, still in progress.
I am so thrilled that we didn't have to wait until all work was complete, to stay at the hotel. I liked seeing the wheelbarrows, stacks of brick and tools propped against the tree. I liked seeing the boards on the porch and the huge freezer, waiting for a home.
Seeing a line up of pastel bathtubs made me grin. I wonder if they will be refurbished and put back in some of the rooms?
Sean had told us about the hard work that went into making the porch, wheelchair accessible. When rebuilding the brick floor, they made sure to show off those vintage materials, with their printed words, facing up! It was fun to spot a few... Trinidad and Coffeyville!
Coffee and Books and Photo-time
After roaming a bit, Don and I settled down with some coffee and some history books, featuring the Harvey Girls.
We had some fun, reading and posing for photos and waiting for trains. We didn't see one that morning, but we had fun planning a future Amtrak trip between Winslow and Las Vegas!
Before heading up to pack, we took some time to enjoy the street side of the hotel.
Earlier I had noticed the beautiful Rawlings Building with its pressed tin front. The building had once housed the Harvey Girls who worked at our hotel. What a good sign, that it's now being restored.
Excitement on Railroad Avenue
By 11 a.m. the quiet street became a little more lively. We could hear the rumble of motors first, then voices and laughter. We stepped out in time to see about 10 nifty cars, lining up and slowly moving down the road. They were headed for Plaza Park, for some kind of festival. What a hoot! We stood and watched, our own little parade!
Off We Go
It's also a big deal, that we got to experience a little of the restoration in progress. I will fondly remember the fresh paint AND wheelbarrows. I will also remember feeling satisfied, just enjoying the property. Although there is plenty to explore in and around the historic town, we stayed put and enjoyed the history of our hotel!
Historic Hot Springs in New Mexico
Oasis in Northern New Mexico
We arrived on a cool and windy afternoon. We let the air blow us right through the entrance!
As we headed down the path, I wondered about the Pueblo ruins that I heard still remained above the property. Pueblo tribal communities flocked to these sacred waters, long before the tourists did.
A stone walkway took us by the historic building that housed the restaurant and original hotel. There were a number of newer options for overnight accommodations, but the historic inn was the most authentic... and cheapest.
We headed towards the lobby and gift shop, to see about checking in. The wind whipped at my hair and blouse.
The gusts added a comical flavor to our arrival, but I sobered up before heading in. I had read earlier that the resort had some kind of Quiet Zone policy. I got serious and used a half whisper to inquire about our room. The man behind the desk looked at me oddly... I grinned and continued in a normal voice.
Our room wasn't quite ready, so we headed back, to check out the historic building. I tired to imagine the stucco structure, in 1917. I'll bet there was less landscaping and more dust.
A long porch covered the front of the building. I wish we could have made use of the rockers or a porch swing. Verandas and porches always a delight me, but the wind and dust did not.
The Artesian Restaurant
We peeked into the restaurant, at the end of the building. I took a photo of the cozy fireplace, but refrained from snapping pictures of the guests, who were seated at the wine bar. I had expected to see spa guests wandering in robes, but I hadn't pictured robed guests at the the bar. That amused me.
Taking The Waters!
As soon as we were able to check in, we changed into suits, wrapped up in the hotel robes and headed for the healing waters! It was 3 pm and there were nearly a dozen pools to be experienced! It was time to Take the Waters... which I can't say without laughing.
This is the courtyard scene that met us, after we walked through the lobby. However my photo doesn't show all the people I saw, walking and lounging... and whispering. I held off with my intrusive camera and took most of my pics in the early morning.
This pool was the only one large enough and cool enough, to actually swim a stroke or two. But the air wasn't warm enough to tempt me. I skipped this one.
Lithium, Sodium, Arsenic, Iron and Soda
The Ojo Caliente Springs are known for their unusual and rare mineral combinations. Each pool had its own special mix of minerals. The temperatures varied as well, so it seemed like Don and I should have had some special plan for Taking The Waters. But we didn't have a clue. We just headed for the first pool we could find, that wasn't too crowded or intimidating.
This pool was nice and warm. The iron-rich water bubbled up from a pebbled floor. We gave it a few minutes to be sure we'd gotten our iron benefits... to our blood and immune systems.
Lithia or Lithium?
I believe this one was the Lithia Spring... or do we say Lithium? Don and I joined 8 others, all quietly allowing the minerals to aid digestion and relieve depression. I'm glad there were no quizzes with all this info.
This little house held the Soda "Steam" Pool. It was the most memorable. Don and I read the sign, Silent Relaxation and decided we were ready to take on the challenge of soaking without even whispering.
We joined about 6 others in the little rock building. One woman was reading a book while she soaked. Another woman was doing some kind of exotic stretching. 2 young women stood in the pool, staring into their cell phones. "Oh come on!" I thought.
The sounds of the water lapping and echoing were indeed soothing, but I also felt like a kid, on the verge of laughing in church. Especially when I saw Don, floating on his back... drifting towards a meditating soaker. I couldn't alert him fast enough. The two had a surprise encounter and the quiet was broken with some muffled laughter.
So Many Pools
Each pool had its own vibe. The sunny pools beside the rock cliffs, seemed to be the most welcoming.
The Arsenic Pool (not pictured) seemed to be filled with the most serious soakers. One woman was clutching her head like she had a migraine. I'm not sure if the waters helped her head, but at least the arsenic was good for her arthritis, stomach ulcers and skin conditions. I just relaxed for a while and thought about Cary Grant and those hilarious little ladies in, Arsenic and Old Lace.
We found this bowl-shaped pool in a covered space, up some stairs. The small, circular shape, encouraged guests to acknowledge one another.
When the drain suddenly made a long and loud, burping noise, we strangers suddenly became grinning friends. Don quietly responded to the sound with, "Excuse me." Suddenly there was laughter and a quick debate about whether laughter was admitted in the whisper zone.
Don wasn't up for the getting dirty, but I headed into the mud bath area and climbed into a pool of murky water. After sitting a while, I realized I was in the rinse-off pool. I eventually climbed out and headed over to the mud faucets, that I failed to see earlier.
First, I slathered some of that watery mud onto my legs and arms and then I baked in the sun. The toxins were supposedly releasing from my pores as the clay dried. But it was chilly, so I didn't bake long, before I headed to the warm pool. I finished it all with a little sprinkle-bucket-shower. So fun!
Before heading to the real showers, Don and I peeked around at all the peaceful, resting spots. I didn't see anyone making use of the labyrinth.
A few people lounged on the Adirondack chairs, waiting for the sun to pop out from behind clouds. (It was all blue skies in the morning!)
If I'd had a warm cup of tea or cocoa, I would have gone for one of the rocking chairs... later in the evening when a fire was crackling.
We headed by the potted flowers, to the locker rooms... leaving wet footprints behind.
Old Bath House From 1868
Before reaching the Ladies Locker Room, I was tempted to turn in at the old Bath House. I could smell the heavenly scented products that were being used for luxurious spa treatments, inside. I skipped the pampering and continued on, for my free shower.
The steamy shower and dressing area, seemed to be occupied with day guests. Most overnight guests have their own shower, but Don and I were in one of the historic rooms. I showered, then headed back to our shower-less room, in my robe.
Back at the Inn
On the way back to the inn, I paused to check out the old phone booth. The vintage booth amused me, with its "tin can" hanging, where the phone should be.
It was nice having a room right down the hall from the dining/bar area. If we hadn't dampened our robes, we could have kept them on and conveniently strolled down to dinner.
I liked our old door. We hardly needed a lock at all, but I had some fun with the old chain lock. I decided not to play with the metal bar that opened the transom, above the door. I love hints of the past.
Our little room was quiet and comfy. Our window looked out towards the porch. Maybe it was good that the weather didn't lure crowds to the area outside our window.
Reading Lamps and Robes
We were glad to at least have a half bath with our room. The robes and towels and linens were all soft and comfy. Since there was no TV, we were especially appreciative of the good reading lights.
All was peaceful in our little room, until we stepped on the squeaky floor! The noise was ridiculous... like a sound you'd hear in a "3 Stooges" movie! I was so glad there wasn't a second story, above us!
Dinner at 7
The restaurant looked inviting when we had a peek in the afternoon. The food reviews were great, so we made sure to have reservations.
Clothes at the Bar
We headed to the bar first. Luckily we were dressed, since we spotted no robes. No one was whispering, either. Jeremy was our welcoming bartender. He made me a refreshing, prickly pear margarita, with wine. Before long, everyone was chatting around the bar, as if we were in someone's living room.
Socializing into the Evening
We ordered mouthwatering fish tacos and Caesar salad from the bar menu. After eating, we continued conversing outside, around a fragrant pinyon fire pit, with other interesting folks. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to have a social ending to our quiet afternoon, in the soaking pools.
I may have chuckled about "taking the waters" and all the whispering. But really I was so impressed with our legendary oasis! It's too bad we had to rush back on the road the next morning. I was just beginning to learn how to relax and enjoy!
Conrad Hilton's 4th Hotel
Don and I avoid chain hotels, but not this one! The Hotel Andaluz was Conrad Hilton's 4th hotel, when it opened in 1939. The 10-story, 160-room hotel was considered the first high rise hotel in New Mexico.
I was excited when we approached this hotel, last May. I knew this could be the nicest stay on our road trip. We'd driven from Silver City that morning, with a stop for lunch in San Antonio, NM. Oddly enough, tiny San Antonio is where Conrad Hilton was born. We'd eaten lunch at a bar that his father had owned. Now we would stay in a hotel where C. Hilton had honeymooned with Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1942.
Our Albuquerque hotel had some similarities to the hotel where we'd stayed the night before, in Silver City. The Murray Hotel (built a year earlier) was sort of a mini version, with its lower building connected to the tower of guest rooms. I'm still learning to appreciate the history of this boring, high rise look. At least the plain, earth-tone stucco on the Andaluz tower, had some decorative brick.
Both of the Andaluz entrances had original murals from the 1930's. The arches and wood beams and glowing light fixtures added some fun drama.
While Don parked, I tried to figure out how to check in. I walked past the colorful, hoop dance mural and found a small room, with a woman at a desk. I half-wondered if I would be interviewed before I got my key.
"Nice!" I replied, as if I knew that Mr. Goodman was the current owner, who bought the hotel in 2008 and brought it back to its glory days.
My ignorance made me want to know more history. I asked about a brochure, or info sheet... but was reminded that the Andaluz is a green hotel... evidently the most sustainable historic hotel in the U.S. So no paper write ups for me.
Not far from the Reception Room, there was a cozy library with some actual books and a few historic photos. I could have done some old fashioned research, but I was excited about exploring.
After checking in, I quickly began my exploring mission. I knew the empty lobby would be less quiet, after 5. A huge conference was being held on the second level and it was also a Friday...
The arched openings along the wall, were the most exciting lobby feature. Years ago, small shops were set up in some of them.
There were 6 curtained casbahs, each begging for a cozy gathering of characters! Each had its own festive decor. One held a framed mosaic of glass tile, with trickling water. Another held carved doors and candles. There was one at the end, that had closed curtains and a sign that tempted me to peek...
Obsessed with the Fountain
Besides those exotic casbahs, my other favorite feature was the fountain.
I kept snapping photos, but none captured the wonderful bird statue in the center. One photo shows the Spanish tile on the side. The other angle shows an orange fish, swimming round and round.
And of course I had to go up to the mezzanine and take a photo, looking down on the fountain. I was tempted to toss a coin. I didn't.
I found a beautiful stairway off the side hall. The rounded railing was so smooth and slick it invited me to take a ride... or a bite. I felt like Gretel, in the witch's candy house. The frosted, marshmallow structure, looked as delicious as the licorice hand rail!
I found the ornate elevators behind another edible-looking, artistic structure! My camera skills just weren't able to capture the colorful mix of Spanish antique furniture and modern see-through art! It really was lovely.
The area near the elevators looked like a museum, where we should not touch. Heading into the classic elevator, I felt like a kid sneaking through a door, when the guards weren't looking. But the elevator was clearly functional and for our use. Inside the ornate doors, there was a colorful tapestry, behind glass.
Our room was on the 7th floor and I kept fingers crossed for a good view.
We booked the most reasonable room we could get. It wasn't huge, but it was nicely updated.
Gazing Out the Window
Before I peeked through the blinds, I noticed the couple, in the framed photo next to the window. They seemed to gaze out, along with me. She looked downward, like she was a little disappointed with the view. He seemed to be looking out, insisting the view was fine. "Come on now. There's a mountain, way out there."
I was obviously in a playful mood, when I took in all the details of this beautiful hotel. The artwork above the bed, fit my mood! It took me a moment to realize the art was created with pencils. I wonder how many people have slept here and not noticed?
I loved the tricky archway. Was that a Spanish detail? The tiny reading lamps were handy.
There's probably a name for the "shoe protector" thing at the foot of the bed. Whatever the name, it was an unusual one, with weighted bars at both ends.
Large TV & Small Bath
The room was narrow, but the wall TV was nice and large. The bathroom was small, with a retro sink that held no bath products. I'm starting to get used to green hotels that use refillable containers. But this is the first hotel that has given us complimentary, reusable water bottles. Nice touch.
By 6, Don and I were ready to check out Ibiza, the rooftop lounge.
The roof-top lounge was actually on the roof of the lower building, not the tower. But the open air options were wonderful. We could sit out by the wall and watch the people below, or lounge inside, with a breeze coming in open doors.
The hotel's restaurant, Mas Tapas y Vino, looked out of a movie set. If we'd dined, I would have asked for a table next to the rabbit... who looked like he had some boxing skills! The food reviews were excellent, but the prices were high. We headed off to explore the area.
We made good use of the hotel's location and did a little exploring on Central Avenue. The colorful street was once Route 66, so there was much to see.
At one point, we wandered a little out of the comfort zone, searching for a Speakeasy we'd heard about. After a couple wrong turns, the secret bar was found. We ended the evening with some great JC's NYPD pizza, right next door to the hotel.
In the morning we grabbed some complimentary coffee in the lobby bar. It was hard to decide where to enjoy our morning brew. Don settled into a chair, near some beautiful beaded artwork.
I headed into the casbah that had been curtained off the night before. Evidently the exotic plants in this special space, are on a very specific schedule with their greenhouse lamps! I felt honored to spend a few moments enjoying the colorful wall-garden!
I will remember this beautifully restored hotel because of all the wonderful surprises. We needed much more than a night to discover them all! This little pair of donkeys was one of the many tiny surprises I found. They were part of one of the hall murals.
I feel like we just scratched the surface of what this hotel is all about. I feel the same way about the city of Albuquerque. Both the city and hotel made me curious. I hope to come back and learn a little more!
Art Deco Hotel in Historic Downtown
A Fine Entrance
It was blustery and cool, when we arrived, late May. Luckily we could park in front on Broadway, just past the mint green curb.
I absolutely loved the Art Deco entrance, with its rounded sign and glass block. The long, one-story, corner building seemed much more intriguing than the 5-story "tower" that held the guest rooms. However the tower is what gave The Murray a spotlight, back in 1938. It was and still is, the tallest building in town.
The renovated building reopened in 2012. The nearly 80-year-old hotel looked fresh, with some bright colors and art. I liked the porthole windows with stained glass, on both sides of the door.
The main lobby area was up a few steps. The space was lit by a large skylight, which was part of the original hotel design. Above one couch was a portrait of W.D. Murray, the man behind the hotel.
Horse in the Lobby
The lobby walls were decorated with lots of impressive local art, but the framed photos caught my attention the most. I loved this image of Mr. Murray's granddaughter (and horse) in the hotel lobby, before it opened in 1938.
We checked in at the corner "office" with our very welcoming host. What a bonus to be to be greeted by someone who actually cared about the history of the place. Mr. Cave seemed pleased that we had questions. He took us around the hotel, pointing out original details to the old structure... like the rounded steps, leading to the stairwell.
In the lobby, he pointed to a blocked off door, behind the bookcase. "That was once the entrance to the hotel coffee shop."
Out on the sidewalk later, we found the other entrance, with faded lettering, above a colorful door.
Branding Iron Saloon
Mr. C. took us into an area that had once been the Copper Lounge. In 1960, the hotel's bar changed from a mining theme to a western one. A fabulous mural still remained, despite issues with vandalism, after the hotel closed down. The cattle branding designs represented all the ranches in the county. Evidently, the saloon and dining room got lots of use on weekends, when ranch families came to town.
The Ballroom was added in 1948 along with an expansion to the tower. The space looked pretty quiet when we peeked in, but there are stories of dance bands and balls. The area was even used for a scene in a movie. The floor looked nice, but I'm guessing it wasn't the original dance floor "on springs" that I read about.
I believe this area between the ballroom and lobby, was nicknamed The Martha Room, for Mr. Murray's sister. Breakfast was served under the shiny ceiling, in the morning.
In the evening, we grabbed some complimentary coffee and spotted a few locals taking a dance class, in the ballroom.
Then and Now
On every floor, we found historic photos of The Murray and Silver City. I had some fun studying the vintage photo and comparing it with my own image. You can see there are more rooms on the back of the tower, now.
Even though Don and I booked the cheapest room, we got a decent sized corner room with 3 closets, 3 comfy chairs and 3 windows, with marble windowsills.
There was a fridge and desk, with a retro phone. The giant porthole mirror went along with the moderne style. The big, fat Sony TV went along with a different era. It actually worked well, though.
Love the Bath
The bathroom was just plain fun. The floor to ceiling, glass block, let in lots of light. The yellowish tile and earthy, mosaic floor tile was pretty darn sweet. The sink didn't offer up any storage space, but it looked the part!
One of the perks of our hotel, was walking out the door and wandering town. We hit a good antique store, a brewery and a Mexican restaurant in the evening. In the morning we enjoyed walking the path along the Big Ditch, which was once the town's Main Street... before it was washed away in 1895. That's some amazing history there!
I hope to come back someday and have a beer at the Branding Iron. I'd also like to walk through that sea-green door and enjoy a mug of coffee... along with my newspaper!
Old Santa Fe, New Mexico
Our cozy B & B was perfectly nestled in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by evergreens. The porches and gardens made me want to spend a week, but we only had a night.
From the Back
The sweet adobe complex, was once a farm house and stables, built during the Spanish Colonial rule, over 200 years ago.
Facing the street, we found a walled in garden and porch. The July weather was heavenly and we walked right into the office, through an open door. No bugs and no heat! We're not used to open windows and doors in Texas.
Our host, Amanda was delightfully chatty, with tons of tips about experiencing Santa Fe. It was fun hearing her impressions of moving to Santa Fe as a young teen.
She gave us a great tour, starting with the sitting room in the main house. She laughed about how very different the space looked in the 1980's, when the property was sold. It had many things over the years, but before its new owners, it had been a commune.
Curves and Angles
We headed down the hallway, through the arched opening. Amanda pointed to the doorway to show us how thick the walls were.
New and Old
There was a nice mix of old and new. The fresh paint, light fixtures and framed photography brightened the narrow hallway. The old rugs and worn wood floors felt cozy. Amanda showed us the rings to the trapdoors in the floor.
The Carriage House
We walked out to the garden and Amanda pointed to the building on the right. It had been the carriage house, two centuries ago.
Peaceful and Shady
The garden was quiet, except for a trickling fountain. I tried to imagine the grounds as a farm, long ago. Could that tall tree have been there? The main house would have only been one story, then. What else would have been different?
Our room was near the back. I was disappointed that our door was so new, but the artwork above, was fun. When we opened the door I was perfectly delighted.
Bright and Whimsical
I think we got the most playful room at the inn. The colorful yellow walls were filled with curves and nooks and crannies.
Dolls and a Madonna
I almost squealed at the kiva fireplace, decorated with colorful Mexican dolls. There was even an alcove for a Madonna statue. Amanda seemed excited that I was enthused. "I love you!" She sort of laughed. "Some people call this the creepy doll room. Not everyone appreciates it." I assured her that I did...even if those dolls did keep their eyes, eerily open all night long!
On the other side of the bed, there was another window, to let in more light. There were also two skylights. The corner held the room's sink, with lovely blue tile and large mirror.
Some guests might feel like they were staying the night in a convent, with all the Madonnas, but we were in Santa Fe afterall. You don't come to Old Santa Fe, if you don't like the beauty of old churches and religious statues.
When Amanda left, we continued to delight over every light fixture and decorative accent. I'm a foot shorter than Don, so it took me a while to realize we were actually staying in a pretty small space. I was so distracted by the colors and designs.
Walls and Windows
Our tiny bathroom felt less claustrophobic, thanks to the high ceiling and skylight. However, showering was comical. I was reminded of a cruise ship memory.
I'm pretty sure we had booked one of the cheapest and smallest rooms, so we weren't complaining. I was more than happy to put up with a small space, because of all the other perks. The painted windows near the kiva sitting area, were my favorite!
Cookies and Hot Drinks!
Our Windows at Night
When we returned late after dinner and found colored lights in the garden, I sighed. I ran back outside after turning on our lights, to see our painted windows, glowing!
Morning in Santa Fe
One of the biggest treats about our inn, was the location. Early the next morning I headed out on a little run, with my cell phone. How beautiful Old Santa Fe looked in the quiet, early morning.
A Bright Breakfast
Then into the colorful breakfast room, with bright table cloths and yet another painted kiva fireplace.
Breakfast is Served
We grabbed our own coffee and relaxed into the peaceful setting. Unlike some B & B breakfasts, we had our own table and I wasn't really in the mood for chattiness anyway. But when I looked around, there were some interesting looking travelers. I was curious about the other guests... and I don't always feel that way.
Food and Decor
We enjoyed the perfect breakfast of egg and English muffin sandwich, with western potatoes and fruit. Just the right amount. We talked a bit... and I stared a bit. So many little treasures to amuse me!
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
The Newer Lodge
We drove up a quarter mile from the sign and found this curious lodge sitting on top of the slope. Originally a log constructed lodge was built in 1899 to house loggers, I guess. By 1908 a fancier lodge was built, mostly for travelers coming to escape the Texas heat. That one burned in a fire and the current lodge was built in 1911.
What To Do?
The weather was cool and gloomy when we arrived, so no one was making use of those options. But there were a number of guests unloading golf clubs. I don't care much about golf anymore, so I would rather go back to 1911, when there was dancing in the pavilion and tennis courts and bowling and burro rides for the kids.
The small lobby desk was bustling just inside the door. So was the gathering room with the copper-lidded fireplace and stuffed beasts, above and beside the hearth.
The crowds dispersed (off to the golf course) and I could manage a few photos without men in sweaters, greeting one another with loud voices and handshakes. Nice guys, I'm sure. I just hate it when I feel like we're crashing someone's private party. There seemed to be a lot of groups.
Finding Our Room
The decor in the lobby area reminded me too much of a Texas Ranch House. I was excited to head for our room and see some proof that our hotel was over 100 years old. We passed the gift shop (which had some fun stuff, actually) and I was delighted by the set of windows with layers and layers of shiny varnish.
Up, Then Down
I had to stop and just stare at the worn wood on a few steps down to a lower hall. Could one ever come close to calculating the number of shoes that have worn down that wood?
Stairs and a Window
We paused in the hallway, which was filled with wonderful history and news clippings and then made the hike up the red stairs to the second floor. It's nice they had a landing with a pretty window, in case you need to disguise your exhaustion by pondering over the pretty glass design. I wasn't quite used to the altitude, so I was huffing and puffing.
There wasn't anything too special about the hall, but we were down at the end on the left. It wasn't exactly the hall from "The Shining", but there was a resident ghost named Rebecca. So I kept an eye out.
Surrounded in Pine
A Very Cozy Room
We are used to small rooms, small beds and baths. If you like historic hotels, you expect it. But since we were not in a huge touristy area, I thought $154. was a little high for a room of this size, that hadn't been renovated in some time.
A Fine Bar
Rueben was a delight as he served us at the "certified" Brunswick bar. Supposedly the carved bar once belonged to Al Capone. There were some other characters seated nearby and we chatted with many. There was a young man who seemed homesick and giddy when he learned we had a son who shared his name. There was a curious, but bossy older woman with amazing stories of her grandmother, the concert pianist and her father who cured the poor... but when she began to rant on about how her father tried to throw LBJ in jail for corruption... Don and I decided it was time to go explore the tower!
Tower at Sunset
Rueben encouraged us to get the key from Kelly at the front desk and hike up for the view. I raced up the stairs, scared I'd miss sunset and practically had a heart attack. I hadn't noticed the altitude until I stopped at the first level. I gasped and laughed at the leather "recovery chairs" that seemed to be put there for people like me.
Just in Time!
We paused not too long, before continuing up to the last level.
The funny shaped windows gave us a better view, over the trees to the mountains beyond. And straight up we could see the light from the cupola windows. There was also a sign, reminding us to refrain from carving our names into the wood wall. Which is pretty funny because when Judy Garland visited long ago, she carved her name, as well as another special guest, Clark Gable!
I couldn't believe no one else was racing up the stairs to take in the view with us. What a perfect sight. I still could not believe I was seeing this view, in New Mexico!
A Dinner View
Earlier, I had peeked into the dining room to see what the seating options were. From looking at old photos, I could tell that this dining area by the windows, had once been the porch. What a wonderful view.
The Original Dining Room
We made reservations for 8:00, in hopes that the dining groups and families would be finished up by then. It was quiet when we walked through this room, but the piano player was still performing... on the platform between rooms.
First off, the salad & bread was heavenly. My Veggie Pasta Alfredo, with thick noodles and green chiles was pure comfort. Don's pecan crusted salmon with asparagus and rice, tasted as good as it looked. And our young server Leigh had sweet stories of raising her small daughters in the Cloudcroft world... which sounded sort of like fictional, Mayberry.
Cold and Sunny
We slept well despite the fact Kelly at the desk had apologized the night before, "Oh, I'm afraid your room doesn't have heat, but I can get you a space heater and more blankets!" It got down in the thirties, but we were fine. We hiked in the morning and ended up sitting in the back of the hotel as the day began to warm.
Coffee and Coats
There was complimentary coffee in the morning and we took it out by the pool and watched a cute family playing catch on the lawn. We were still full from dinner, so we shared a day-old muffin, before packing and moving on down the road.
As we headed down the drive, I felt like I hadn't had time to figure this place out. It felt like a retreat/resort that families or golfing buddies return to year after year. Not that everyone knew each other, but I felt like we were the only first-timers. Mostly I'll remember the isolation of this odd building up on the hilltop. If the weather had been more ideal I would have really craved a porch!
For our one night in Albuquerque, Don and I were excited to stay in the historic Nob Hill area, in a retro motel with an awesome orange sign!
As we headed towards the Nob Hill area on the old Route 66, we enjoyed quite a festive display of old motel signs. We hoped our motel would not be as creepy as the ones we passed.
There It Was!
We spotted it on the left. The sign with the cartoonish jalopy and the words "Sleep Is Our Business" was hard to miss. This was going to be one of those "Stay before it's gone!" places. The HiWay House chain, was started by construction magnate, Del Webb in 1956. The chain was never as popular as Howard Johnson's or Holiday Inn, but they were scattered over the western states. Now there are just a couple of these Colonial Style Motor Hotels (with goofy orange signs) left!
Experiencing the Retro
At a glance, the 2-story motel, with alternating pinkish-orange and blue doors had a fun throwback feel. But as we drove into the parking lot, the place looked a little wearier than the images on the website. There was an outdoor area with a grill and some plants. But judging from all the full ashtrays, I think it was just a smoking lounge.
When I was a kid, a pool was all that mattered. This motel had one, but I wasn't tempted. As I glanced at the pool, my eyes followed the stairs upward, to some chairs and a table that had been pulled out of the motel room. The door to the room was wide open (at that moment) and the middle-aged couple enjoying a few smokes and beers on the porch, appeared to be living there. I began to wonder if the Airstream parked in the lot was inhabited as well. In fact, maybe all the "guests" were long term.
On the other side of the parking lot, we spotted the hotel office. I headed over, but found the door locked. I pressed the buzzer and waited. Then I realized who our hosts were. The woman who had been lounging on the porch perch above the pool, headed down to unlock the office door. "You need a room?" The woman spoke firmly, with (I guess) an Eastern European accent. I wanted to take a picture of her as she frowned down at her desk, as if the act of searching for our reservation, was a huge inconvenience. But I didn't dare. I snapped a cell pic of the Li'l Snack machine instead... as if I could somehow capture her reflection in the glass. ( Not sure why I felt I needed some photo to capture this awkward memory) Finally, she reached into a wooden slot and handed me the key to room 105.
Grand in Its Day
I've certainly seen worse. The room was dated, but spacious. There was a fridge and microwave and a coffeemaker... with no coffee. And there was also an odor. Don and I argued a bit, since he thought it was some strong cleaning product and I was pretty sure the product was trying to mask the smell of vomit.
Are We Staying?
We left the door wide open as we examined the room. Nobody was making us stay, although I couldn't picture our frowning host giving us a refund, too easily. So I looked around and admired a few items. "Awesome lamp!" I exclaimed. I'm sure I saw one of those swag lamps in a Dean Martin movie once... with cigarette smoke swirling in its glow. And what an impressive set of controls just over the bed. Heating, cooling, volume and music? No Magic Fingers, though.
More Windows and Space
Behind the partition was a dressing area, with a carpeted bench for suitcase storage. You don't see that luxury anymore. We opened the back window to get a little cross ventilation and noticed a nearby Pilates studio behind us. They had nice music, which floated through the window, along with fresh air.
I'm pretty sure the tub and sink were original from when the motel opened in 1958. And what a hoot to open the shower curtain and see the logo from the sign, decorating the wall tile. You just have to laugh at the idea of sharing the shower with this proper little husband & wife in their red car!
Okay We'll Stay
Don and I have weathered a few bad ones with all our oddball overnights. So after we looked around, I was a little surprised to hear Don ask, "So do we stay?" I had to laugh. "Unless we are in some kind of danger, we can make it work." So Don settled in and made a phone call, while I headed back to the office for ice.
A Blurry Memory
"So, I guess this motel has some history!" I said, trying to open up some conversation while the man scooped my ice. He was busy, inspecting my ice... then discarding it and scooping up some more. (yikes) The woman behind the counter answered without looking up. "1959." That was the end of the history conversation. I gave up and thanked them for the ice, although I wanted to say, "Well, the website says, 1958!!"
Enjoying Nob Hill
I had to laugh with Don about Mr. and Mrs. Norman Bates. Although that's an insult to Norman, since he at least smiled. But we decided to stay, since the surrounding area had some fun places in walking distance. We refused the adjoining Korean BBQ place, that had once been the motel's coffee house. It's under separate ownership, but we wanted to get a little further away. Next door there was an old Texaco, converted into a bar/restaurant. It looked sort of fun.
Across Route 66
And across the road there were a number of popular looking places, with colorful signs and good aromas. We heard some pleasant sounding live music from one direction and some siren sounds coming from the other way. It's an intriguing area, what can I say.
We didn't see mice, but there was a hole under the sink, with evidence that mice had visited. I was eager to have a reason to speak to our host one more time. I was going to be friendly, and just inform her of the problem. I figured I was giving her one more chance to be a good host... to be apologetic. Maybe she was a morning person and she'd leave me with a better impression. So I rang the buzzer. And I rang it again and again. No one ever came. The door above was closed and the chairs were empty. I dropped the key in the box, just as an young arguing couple stomped by on the sidewalk. I so was happy to be leaving.
I will remember this as the retro motel stay, where we never felt welcome! We gave it the "happy traveler try" and there were no rewards for our efforts!
This motel has such potential. The Nob Hill area is "coming back" with music and good food and this worn, old motel is right in the middle of it. It perplexes me that no one has swooped in to renovate this place. There are many Baby Boomer Travelers would spend decent money to stay in a well renovated boutique motel with reminders of travel life in the 1950's and '60's. Someone needs to come to the rescue! It won't be me. .. I'm still irritated.
Farmington, New Mexico
First we met up with our host, Gayle at her home in Farmington. She gave us a walky-talky and we followed her truck on a paved road for 10 minutes. Then the fun began. We were lucky our non-Jeep made it to the top of the dusty mesa. We parked next to the pipe/chimney, showing that we were on top of the cave.
The Hike Down
No rolling suitcases for this overnight. We actually had to sign papers that we were up for all the risks involved in staying in our cave hotel. I was glad for the railing that guided us down the rocky pathway to the opening.
Up and Down Hike
Better Than a Cave
During my rugged college camping years, I slept in caves a few times. They were damp and clammy, with more than a few bat and mud encounters. It was a treat to have bathrobes as an option, instead of coveralls.
Quite the Bathroom
him enough room for a replica Kiva. This must have been an inspiration from the Pueblo Dwellings not too far away in Mesa Verde. If only temps had been cooler, we could have lit a fire in the corner fireplace.
Instead of snuggling up for a fire, we got to go out and enjoy the warm evening while the animals feasted. Gayle made sure to show us where the nibbles were stored for the critters. Sadly we saw no ring-tailed cats, but lots of squirrels and chippers.
Happy Hour Sunset
We had our own food and drink, but Gayle said the fridge was stocked for our use. We climbed up the steps from the cave opening and out onto the flat rock.
Once again, I could see why we signed those papers. The little chain railing would not keep us from stumbling over the edge... if we happened to have one too many.
We woke to a beautiful morning with the moon still visible. We watched the hummers and a few more critters before heading up to the top of the mesa.
Not only did we have the cave to ourselves, but the whole mesa as well. What a treat to get up and hike the mesa after a restful overnight, underneath!
Tucumcari, New Mexico
More Than a Sign
There's a lot more than a cool sign at Blue Swallow. There's a tidy pink stucco office with a glass block fountain nearby.
We were welcomed by Cameron Mueller who runs the motel with his wife... at least until the end of their 5 week run. Then Cameron's parents come on duty. He said he didn't know how his mom and dad used to run the place on their own. He stood behind the original desk where an earlier owner, Mrs. Redmond used to check in guests... even when she was in a wheelchair 1998.
Mrs. Redman's Influence
Lillian Redman started making the property homey when she and her husband purchased the property in 1958. Today, there are still welcoming places to sit... and hang your laundry. The Redmans updated with the current neon sign, which used the modern term "motel" instead of motor court. They stuck it out, even when I-40 opened and fewer travelers drove Rt. 66. Lillian always offered guests a copy of her benediction to Travelers (with lots of words about peace and rest) and if guests didn't have enough money, she allowed them to pay with whatever they could.
Our Room, Number 11
We had a few colorful chairs near our little blue door and our awning covered window and porch step! We also had a garage tucked in between our room and the next. It was a tight squeeze, though. And cars were so much bigger then!
Conveniences of Home!
We dreamed about this nearby laundry room a couple weeks later. On day one of our 4-week trip we had not accumulated laundry.
The garage on the right was ours. The garages with blue doors had been converted to the laundry and storage rooms. You gotta love a motel with garages!
Colors and Shells
This section of the L-shaped motel, shows the original colors and a newer neon sign. There are shells in the texture of the entire motel stucco, but the multi-colored paint job in this area, spotlights the very fine seashells!
I love it that the interior decor is pretty consistent with the motel design. The bed was a bit too Western for me, but I loved the Chenille spread!
Love the Lamps!
I really don't know if any of these lamps are original, but they are just so darn fun that I don't care! The phone was the real deal.
Black and White!
I'm happy to put up with a little inconvenience when enjoying some real vintage. I love the old sink that required a plug, if you want to mix hot and cold to wash your face! And who needs a bathroom fan when you have nifty shower window for steam control! The best part was that it was all vintage AND clean! There was even a stamp of approval on the folded end of the toilet paper roll!
I made Don pose with the old Ponitac before we walked down to dinner. There were numerous neon signs decorating the dark sky by the time we made it to Del's for dinner.
What's Most Notable?
The Blue Swallow was all about embracing that time. Luxurious? Not at all. Comfy? Very!
I always love a colorful and welcoming sign!
I especially loved seeing this sign when we arrived in Taos, since the "NO" was not lit. Don and I didn't have reservations because we had expected to stay in an historic 4-room hotel in Creede, CO. Wild fires ended up closing the only highway to get to our little Colorado town, so we headed for Taos.
I'm surprised we got a room at all. The 2-lane road in front of the Inn was bumper to bumper with traffic and many of the rooms were already being given out to firefighters...who looked exhausted.
Only in the early morning could I get a good look at the cute building without cars. This wonderful little inn has a curious history. In the late 1800's Dr. Thomas "Doc" Martin and his wife bought the adobe house you see on the left. He was the first doctor in the county and he and his wife became popular and well respected in the community. After Doc's death his wife used their home and other nearby adobe houses to create the Inn in the late 1930's.
The Lobby area was hopping in the evening. Locals and guests gathered in numerous cozy seating areas to enjoy the live music. The lobby was once a courtyard in the center of a gathering of adobe homes. After Doc died, his wife enclosed the courtyard and connected the buildings to create the inn. The well is now a fountain with wooden pillars rising up to a stained glass cupola.
The thick, white adobe walls were nicely accented with colorful paintings and woven rugs. The fireplace corner was in demand in the evening. The only time I found it empty was when I grabbed an early morning coffee.
Live music plays at the Inn every night and there is never a cover. Inn guests and locals enjoy a variety of artists who play jazz, bluegrass, flamenco and folk. This group with sax, bass, keyboard and percussion squeezed into a tiny space near the hall entrance. People seated on the outdoor patio and in the adjoining restaurant were able to enjoy the festive vibe, as well.
We ended up staying two nights and our second night was in the Sandoval House. One of the perks about the place is they have a wide range in prices. You can stay in a room for anywhere from $79. to about $275. That means the guests are a little more varied, which to me is a good thing.
The courtyards and green spaces were nice. We took wine and snacks out to a quiet table one evening. We got to watch the firefighters returning from their shifts. We were actually beginning to smell smoke in the air, since the fires were no longer just in Colorado. I would have liked to have heard some stories from the firefighters, but they looked too weary to be bothered with questions.
Our first night was in the main building, which is a little nicer, but also a little noisier. It was fun to just walk a few steps from our room to dinner or to the Adobe Bar for music.
Too bad we weren't allowed to use the fireplace. But it looked cute.
The award winning Doc Martin restaurant, which is connected to the lobby, was the original home of the Martins.
In the daylight you can see the wooden ceiling and colorful chairs and art. At night I wish I would have gotten a photo of our waiter. He was quite festive in his black vest and bowler hat.
Food and Drink!
We had to sample some "cowboy Buddha" margaritas to go with our grilled rattlesnake and jackrabbit appetizer. The house special of corn-beer battered chile rellenos with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese was perfection! I would say our meal was the highlight of our stay!
We will always remember the cozy, casual feel of this inn. The colorful mix of visitors and locals made for some good people watching. Almost anyone you noticed looked like they might have an interesting story to tell. Oddly enough, with so many curious folks around we did not have any real people encounters in the inn itself. That's unusual for us. The staff was welcoming, but the guests seemed to keep to themselves. All in all, the location, charm and history was excellent. But we lacked a good "connection" to seal the deal. Return? Sure, we'd like to.
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!