First Covid Hotel Adventure
After months of hunkering down at home, Don and I decided to plan a trip to see our kids in August.
Adding to the Notable Night list was not the goal. We cared more about safety than adventure, on our drive from Texas to Oregon. Our stop at La Fonda gave us both.
A Quiet Friday
We arrived on a Friday afternoon and found the lovely, tourist town eerily quiet.
We were able to easily to park on the street across from the Pueblo style building.
Two years ago when we toured the hotel, we saw no signs about masks and there were no containers of hand sanitizer. But I was happy to see both, on this visit.
We had chosen to stay at La Fonda, because we'd read positive reviews about how the hotel was handling the pandemic.
How Much Risk?
This was the final hotel stop on our drive back home. All our other hotel stays had been with clean, safe and boring Marriotts. Was it risky to stay at a charming, historic hotel?
Lack of guests made it feel very safe... and sad. This beautiful lobby should have been bustling on a Friday.
Harvey House History
Without guests, it was easier to picture the hotel in 1925, when the famous hotelier, Fred Harvey began operating one of his Harvey House Hotels.
I loved picturing this cozy space, in the Roaring Twenties, when La Fonda first opened. If any flappers (in skimpy short dresses) visited, they might have needed the warmth of a cozy fireplace.
Our hotel adventures have always involved lots of exploring. But these are different times. Don and I are incredibly cautious. It suddenly felt strange to be wandering in my mask...
But, there was no one in sight, so I felt safe. I took in all the details in the stairwell... the tiles and stained glass.
The stairs at the east entrance had intriguing murals.
I don't know the history, but I loved the simple figures and pueblo buildings.
Stairs & Windows
I traveled up the stairs from the lobby and found some colorful, hand-painted windows.
The mezzanine floor had a great view of "La Plazuela", which has been cleverly turned into a temporary art gallery.
This is the same view, 2 years ago.
I took the photo early, before the restaurant opened. It was an indoor space, but felt like a courtyard. I so hoped that we could eat here on our next visit. Not this time.
Art in the Halls
We were given a first floor room, which meant no elevators. Yay! One more way to avoid contact with others.
I loved studying the curious art in the hallway. The porthole didn't open. I tried. I wisely, did not try to open the painted door. I left the fire extinguisher alone.
I loved the hefty door to our room. Look at the curious, angular accents surrounding the door.
The room was cozy and quiet, just like the whole hotel.
The colorful headboard and heavenly bedding was a perfect combo.
The bathroom had a sleek, sliding door and a colorful bit of art in the shower.
The furniture had a classic southwest lodge feel. I'm not sure if any was original, but it fit the theme. The cabinet stored the modern fridge and coffeemaker.
This sweet space, gave us a little extra room to spread out.
Our first floor room was raised just enough, to give us a nice view. There was a market across the street and some interesting clouds. Beyond the market we could see Loretto Chapel and a wedding party, all dressed in masks. Interesting and sort of sad to watch.
A couple years ago, Don and I visited the Tower Bar and had drinks at sunset. We had good memories of sitting in that row of chairs, looking out over Santa Fe.
I'm not even sure if the bar was still operating, but we decided to avoid it. Instead we checked out La Terraza, for dinner.
We peeked in and met Alysia, who was waiting tables. She greeted us in her mask and gloves and put us right at ease.
She invited us to look around, before making reservations for later.
In all our months of caution, Don and I had not dined anywhere, inside or out. We hadn't even been tempted.
But, the staff and atmosphere at La Terraza had made us excited for the first time.
Everyone on duty wore masks and gloves. We were handed disposable menus. We kept masks on to order, then waited for our sparkling wine.
Our table couldn't have been any more isolated! We had a perfect view of St. Francis and the bells chimed at 7:15, right after we sat down.
Cheers to First Pandemic Restaurant Dining
We decided we needed to offer a toast to our first meal out in nearly a half year.
It felt odd. We kept looking around to see how other diners were handling the experience. Were people placing their masks on the table? Were they putting masks on when they stood up? No one looked like it was their first "dine out" experience.
When I stood to take the photo of Don, a man at a nearby (well actually not all the near) noticed and stood up. "Oh allow me!" He reached out for my photo and offered to take our photo.
It was all so fast. I reached out to hand over my phone. He suddenly apologized for not putting on his mask. He took the photo and we all laughed awkwardly. I sat down and reached for my travel hand sanitizer. I guess we broke some rules there, but oh well. We got a photo of our big night.
Rain & Food
Just before our food arrived the wind began to gust and the clouds let loose. Our umbrella didn't quite do the trick. But we were able to sit under the roof of the open air room.
My Huitlacoche Tamal was quite amazing. Don's Enchiladas del Norte was spicy hot! The food was delicious and I was extra impressed with the gracious staff... from the woman who cleaned our table to the manager who seated us!
After dinner, Don and I spent some time wandering bit. We knew we would need to leave before daylight the next day.
We've stayed in Santa Fe before, but never this close to the town center. What a wonderful treat to visit St. Francis on a quiet, balmy night. We had it all to ourselves.
A lot of people come to Santa Fe, just for the shopping. That wasn't something we were up for, but before turning in we enjoyed a little window shopping.
This shop window was at our hotel. Don was the first to notice it. We both burst out laughing. Don pointed to her and told me, "Girl, this is how you do Santa Fe!"
We have wanted to stay at La Fonda for many years. The pandemic prices made it possible for us. It wasn't the experience we dreamed of long ago, but I would say it was better. I will always remember that our stay at this wonderful and safe hotel, gave me a little bit of hope. If Covid is with us for 10 more months or 10 more years, at least I know there is a way to escape a bit, even if it requires wearing a mask.
Our short stay was a piece of pandemic heaven.
Open at Last!
After years of waiting, the Hotel Castaneda finally opened! Don and I had a chance to stay this past June, before the renovation was complete!
We learned about this historic hotel 6 years ago, when staying at La Posada, in Winslow, AZ. Both Posada & Castaneda were old Harvey House hotels, rescued by a couple, with incredible vision, talent... and money.
The Plaza, in Las Vegas 2017
Two years ago, Don and I stayed for the first time in Las Vegas, NM. On that visit, we enjoyed yet another hotel that had been renovated by the same couple, Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion.
The Victorian beauty was located in the heart of the old city, across from historic Plaza Park. We were excited to check on progress of the third hotel renovation.
Castaneda in 2017
We hopped in the car and drove a mile to the once busy Railroad District, to peek at the next project. I took this photo. It looked like renovation had not begun.
The once grand, hotel was overdue for a redo. It had been sitting mostly vacant, for 70 years! How could this "Little Las Vegas" town possibly support two hotel projects? Would this ever really get renovated?
Casteneda in 2019
Two years later we found out! We arrived on a June afternoon, a couple weeks after the hotel opened. We felt pretty lucky to have booked one of the few finished rooms. The 121-year-old Mission Revival style building looked a lot more welcoming!
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!
Unfortunately, the hotel's restaurant was 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!
Morning was quiet, warm and sunny.
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.
1898 - 1948
In 1898, this Mission style hotel set the trend for other hotels and buildings in the Southwest. What a grand place it was... for only 50 years.
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
By 11:30, Don and I were checked out and on the road. We left feeling delighted with our stay.
It had not been that long since we'd first heard about the hotel, that would someday be renovated!
We stayed at another Harvey House Hotel and that is a big deal! There were once 84 Harvey Houses and now there are a handful. La Posada and Castaneda are the only 2, that were abandoned and later reopened! I can't believe we have now stayed at both.
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
Don and I don't usually have spa resorts on our "Must Try!" hotel list. But after our daughter told us about her stay at Ojo Caliente, we were curious.
Her description of the historic hotel and the healing mineral pools was intriguing. We decided to book a night for our road trip in May.
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
I ended up canceling our reservation, so we could continue chatting with a wonderful young couple, about photography... weddings...Cuba... Africa...
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.
Don and I have stayed at plenty of historic hotels. This time, we stayed at one of the oldest natural health resorts in the United States.
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.
While she checked me in, I noticed a lovely wooden display case, opposite the desk. The openings held ornately carved, chess pieces. I inquired and was told that Gary Goodman had created a new function for the hotel's original key slots. "Mr. Goodman loves chess." She added.
"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
Don found us a Victorian hotel, for our overnight in Silver City. I'm always up for a nice little historic hotel.
However, when I looked up his choice online, I also discovered The Murray, which was practically next door. Such a dilemma! Victorian, built in the 1880's or Streamline Moderne, built in 1938? We've stayed in a lot of Victorian hotels. We switched!
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.
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!
Don and I made use of the fine, round mirror before we stepped out on the town.
The cell quality does not properly show off my cowboy print shirt or Don's cacti fabric. The hefty, dated TV showed up very well behind me!
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!
Easy, Comfortable and Reasonably Priced... Historic Hotel! That's my takeaway. For less than 90 dollars, we stayed in a in a comfy hotel that allowed me to imagine living in the 1930's.
I'm not sure where the hotel is headed in the future. We need more people to support hotels like this, so The Murray can continue the renovation process! 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!
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!