Quick Visit to Astoria
Don and I decided to add a night in Astoria, on our Oregon trip. We liked the retro look of the 5-story, craftsman-style Elliott, but the price and location was good too.
We could book a room for $149, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. Actually $169. for a weekend night.
We were excited to stay in the old port city of Astoria. The town is known for being the oldest settlement west of the Rockies. Astoria was already 113 years old, when Hotel Elliott was built.
Luckily they used strong building materials in 1924. Two years before Hotel Elliott opened, the Astoria Fire of 1922 destroyed 30 blocks of mostly wood constructed buildings. I don't know what stood on this block before.
There were no Model Ts, when we arrived around 5. But the entrance canopy and neon letters, looked inviting. I'm not sure when that feature was added.
I liked the odd narrow door, next to the one with the "HE" logo. I'm sure the slim door just allowed for a wider opening. But, it was more fun to imagine the skinny door being used by thin children!
"Grid of Vault Tiles"
These little girls might have fit through the skinny door just fine. They are pictured here, standing outside Hotel Elliott, in the 1940's. The curious thing about this photo, is the thing that the girls are standing on. The photo I took of the entrance, shows the same grid of glass tiles, built into the sidewalk. We spotted many of these in Astoria and they actually had a purpose.
When created years ago, the glass tiles allowed sunlight into the underground basement areas. Clever! In the photo with the girls, the grid looks smooth and sturdy. My closeup photo, shows crumbled and missing glass. The city is working on preserving these grids.
Like many historic hotels, the Elliott had a dark period. For some time, the hotel was used as a flop house. That was before it was rescued and given a 4-million dollar makeover, two decades ago.
I assumed the "Wonderful Beds" slogan was a fun gimmick, added for the reopening in 2003. But when I saw those words embedded into marble floor of the elevator, I realized that must have been the hotel's claim from the very beginning.
A Swift Check In
The lobby was quiet and tidy when we arrived around 5. I didn't really need a livelier vibe, but our quick and efficient check in, didn't seem to open up to casual banter. I should have just been brave and chatty... "I see a brass spittoon on the floor! When was that last used?" Or I could have asked, "Do tell me, what is so wonderful about the beds?"
But I didn't have the energy to come up with questions and those particular questions wouldn't not have gone over well! I was actually just ready to see our room. We'd had some snowy road closures, that doubled our long drive that day. We got our key and headed for the elevator.
Across from the stairs and elevator, there was a comfy leather couch. Moments before, a woman had been sitting there reading. Suddenly she was gone. Should I grab it? It looked very cozy next to the gas fire.
Or should we stop and play chess, before someone else thinks that's a good idea? I waste a lot of energy, questioning how best to enjoy our hotel adventures!
Instead of sitting down, we just lingered long enough to study the framed photo over the mantel. It showed the lobby from years ago. The counter and spittoon looked just the same!
The photo also showed a deer head and a clock and wood cabinet for holding keys and mail. The black and white image also showed a wall, where the opening to the wine bar & breakfast room is today.
Halls & Walls
The old elevator was a little slow reaching us and a little slow delivering us to floor 3. We were glad for the handy stairs on other trips up and down. I like a set of stairs that isn't enclosed in a dark hall. It gave us lots of peeks at the other halls, when we climbed the stairs.
The halls weren't terribly exciting, but I new one of the floors had the Presidential Suite. I wish I could have peeked the grand suite, to see the baby grand piano and spiral staircase!
Our room 308 was at the end of the hall. I was glad to see that renovations hadn't removed the old transoms above the doors.
I liked the Art Deco designs, on the lower part of the wall. New or old?
Queen Guest Room
There was nothing fancy about our Queen Room. It was the cheapest room available. But I will say the bed and bedding was actually Wonderful!
I appreciated having two windows, but wished we had a view of the Columbia River... instead of a parking lot.
Fishing and Canning
On the wall opposite the windows, we had a fun display vintage photos. The black and white images gave a little peek into what Astoria was all about, more than a century ago.
There are no more canneries today, but there were close to 40 around in the 1800s. Salmon was the fish that initially made Astoria rich, but that's a mighty fine "man-sized" halibut, in the photo!
Our room wasn't huge or ritzy, but it had all we needed. We made use of the fridge and microwave. The TV and coffee maker were nice to have. I do appreciate a ceiling fan!
The bathroom had a tub and soft towels AND heated floors. I was happy with that, since the weather was chilly.
In the Neighborhood
We'd planned on arriving much earlier and exploring the city. There was little time for that by the time we got checked in. But there was quite a bit to see, just on our street.
The beautiful Liberty Theatre was just steps away. It opened as a Vaudeville House in 1925. Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington performed there. On the evening of our stay, there was a "Fisher Poets Gathering" at the theatre. The notice near the door explained... A celebration of the fishing industry in poetry, prose and song. I regret that we didn't go for that. When else will we have that opportunity?
But we were hungry. We hadn't eaten porte than a car snack, since breakfast. Plus there was something very tempting, directly across the street! T Paul's Supper Club definitely made our stay at the Elliott more memorable.
We didn't actually sit at the table under the tiki hut, but we could have. We arrived just in time for a very fun "Snappy Hour" with fabulous appetizers and drinks! Cheers for a warm and welcoming Supper Club experience!
Wine or Coffee?
We had hoped to have a glass of wine at our hotel's Wine Bar, when we returned. It was a Friday and they were supposed to serve until 9. Sadly the bar was empty. It probably was open, but didn't have customers. What a shame. Where was everyone?
Instead we enjoyed the same space in the morning, with coffee and o.j. Again, the place seemed to be unusually quiet.
We helped ourselves to coffee and some complimentary hot & cold breakfast options.
Don and I took a seat at a nice window table. We talked quietly about our plans for getting back early to Portland. Our kids had been snowed in and we could stop for groceries... we practically whispered, but I felt like our voices were obnoxiously loud, in the quiet room.
Some other couples had arrived, but everyone stared at newspapers and no one spoke. The man that tried to clear our table (before we were done) didn't even speak. It seemed like Don and I were the only non-sleepy people in the room. I was rested and sort of craving a chatty people encounter at the Elliott.
After we finished up, I took a couple photos and wondered about some of the interesting light fixtures. Were some original? I didn't ask the quiet staff.
I really liked this sunburst mirror. But when I snapped the photo, a nearby couple looked annoyed. Was everyone in the hotel grumpy?
I was in the elevator when I finally spoke with an employee who seemed enthused about the hotel. She was was just what I needed. She invited me to look and the finished basement with the pool table and exposed brick. It was a pretty cute space!
I was so busy looking at the pool table I forgot to look up to see the grids. I should have asked her! I think she would have loved to have shared some info.
Then she told me to be sure to see the Rooftop Deck & Garden. It had been locked the evening before, due to icy weather, but she had just opened it.
I headed up! The first thing I spotted when I opened the door, was the Astoria-Megler Bridge! There was a 360 degree view, but my eyes were drawn to the 21,474 foot bridge, connecting Oregon and Washington, over the Columbia River!
The air was cold, but the skies were blue. I so wished we weren't feeling rushed. There was a gas fire pit and we could have grabbed our coats and coffee and enjoyed the morning view.
A Quick Cold Walk
Instead of sitting in the cold wind on the roof, we decided to head off. towards the equally windy waterfront. We walked past Shanghaied Tattoo, where NO BOOZE, BREW, DRUGS... ANIMALS, WHINERS or PROBLEMS are allowed.
We only had about 30 minutes to explore before hitting the road. We headed towards the Columbia River and wandered down the worn wood plank walkway.
Quick Views of Astoria
We walked past a fun mural painted, on an old building. It helped me imagine the people living and working here years ago. We looked out over the river, where we could see the wood pilings, that once held the canneries.
5,000 ships still travel the Columbia River yearly, but no canneries remain open today.
We headed back to the hotel, passing the Liberty Theatre. We'll check it out next time.
We vowed to come back another time and tour the historic Flavel House, or at least walk up in the hills where there are about 300 Victorian houses still standing! The town reminds me of a miniature San Francisco!
We stayed in a nicely renovated, reasonably priced hotel in a wonderfully historic port city.
We clearly did not make full use of the hotel or the curious city! I wish we'd spoken to some more people or we'd made better use of the roof or explored the basement some more. I wish we'd sat by the fire or given the wine bar a try. I'm sure during the warmer months the stay would feel very different, with more energy and maybe more enthused travelers. Maybe we'll try it another time!
This charming Queen Anne-style duplex has been sitting high above the Oregon coast, for nearly 130 years.
The picket fence and porch looked welcoming when Don and I arrived, last February. The "Closed to Public" sign did not, but it made me grin.... Yay! We have reservations for a night!
It was snowing when we pulled up at 3:30. We were lucky to have made it out of Portland that morning. They'd had their second biggest snowfall in history.
There was just a dusting on the coast, but the sight of the lighthouse on the hill looked extra dramatic.
Don and I were eager to finally see inside the Keeper's House. We were introduced to Heceta Lighthouse decades ago, by my sister and sister in law, who live 2 hours away. I remember pulling off the highway to take a photo, before we got close. The lighthouse and keeper's house seemed so far apart.
Our kids were all young when we visited that summer and spent a day at the beach. The cousins played in the sand near the Cape Creek Bridge. I think Scott is looking towards the lighthouse in this photo.
2023 Visit with Kate & Jennifer
It's been 27 years. The kids are grown and we parents are now grandparents. In February, we 4 had a different kind of lighthouse adventure. Kate, Jennifer, Don and I spent a night in the Keeper's House!
This is the only photo of the four of us, enjoying our less than 24 hour visit. We pretty much never stopped smiling, during our whole stay. And I never stopped taking photos. So, I'm indulging in way more "photo dumping" than usual. Smaller photos can be clicked to enlarge.
Less than two years ago Don and I traveled the Oregon coast and snapped scenic photos. Far away... then closer...
When we stopped near the beach, the red-roofed house was easy to spot, against the green backdrop. We stopped at the beach on this visit, also. My snowy image looks colorless.
First to Arrive
After a beautiful (but often tricky) day of driving, we arrived and parked behind the house. I tried the buzzer at the side door, but there was no answer.
I walked towards the front and looked out over the lawn, where the Head Keeper's house once stood.
I climbed the porch and tried both doors. This had once been a duplex for 2 assistant keepers and their families.
Eventually Brooke heard the buzzer and rushed to let us in. She apologized that she'd been in the basement. Brooke welcomed us into the warm kitchen and let us know that the fridge and dishes and stove were all available to us.
She took us through the dining area, where breakfast would be served. The long table stretched through a wall opening, that wasn't there when the house was used by two families.
Music in the House
As we followed Brooke to the back staircase, I glanced into the 2 parlors, filled with antiques and old photographs. The beautiful burled upright piano was covered in frames.
The shelves on the pump organ held toys and treasures. It looked so much like the antique organ that my sister and I grew up with. (Scary Halloween music was my specialty!) I thought about the families who lived here and how music would have helped with the isolation they must have felt.
Up the Stairs
The divided home had 2 sets of stairs, each leading to 3 guest rooms.
I paused halfway up, to look through the window, with its frame of colorful glass. I spotted Cape Creek Bridge.
It's been less than 2 years ago since Don and I stopped and studied the classic arch bridge. It's been carrying cars over Cape Creek, since 1932.
There was no Route 101 back when the lighthouse and keeper's houses were built. They had to wait over 3 decades for good road access.
Mariner's Room II
Brooke showed us to our room at the top of the stairs. Months before, I had studied the website, trying to choose the best of the 6 rooms. Did we want a view of the lighthouse to the north, or a more dramatic view of ocean?
We usually go for the cheapest, but we paid more to have one of the two rooms, facing south over the ocean. The view was stunning and the room was cozy with fresh flowers and our very own ship's wheel!
We also had the luxury of an attached bathroom. It was small, but only 2 of the guest rooms have connected bathrooms.
Jennifer and Kate chose the Lightkeeper's Room. They had a view of the lighthouse and an impressive tub. They had to step into the hall to reach it, but it was for their own use. Some rooms share a bath.
The View 129 Years Ago
As I enjoyed the blustery ocean scene, I wondered who might have studied this view, in 1884. That was the year they began building the houses.
Before U.S. Highway 101 was built, the families living in this house must have felt so cut off from the world. I hope at least the families who lived here, got along.
For decades, there was only a single lane road and many supplies came by boat. I imagine the lighthouse kids were extra excited when they spotted a boat out on the horizon!
In the Parlor
Around 4, Don and I headed downstairs to check out the parlors, while we waited for Jennifer and Kate. The parlor beneath our room had more seating, so we settled in and read some scrapbooks.
There were fireplaces in both parlors and we were invited to use them. I love a fireplace, even if it's burning pressed logs!
Wine & Cheese Hour
By 4:30, Jennifer and Kate had arrived and we were settled in with a complimentary Happy Hour.
Brooke served us wine and 2 plates of meat, cheese and fruit. Music played softly in the background. Perfect.
There wasn't much hope of a sunset with all the clouds, but we headed out just before 6 to enjoy some sky drama. Looking south, there was steam rising above the bridge. The trees looked frosty above.
We bundled up and and headed on the pathway towards the glowing light.
Dusk at the Lighthouse
On a summer night, we would have grabbed the flashlights in our rooms and visited the lighthouse after dark. But our visit at dusk was ideal, on a winter night.
It was amazing to see the glowing Fresnel lens, with no one else around but us. The sky grew darker and we headed up a path, that took us above the lighthouse.
The beam of light was hypnotic as I watched it shine on the ocean, then the trees...then our faces!
As we wandered back down towards the house, the mix of snow and light became more entertaining.
The snow made the moving light sparkle! How could we have been so lucky, to have a snowy lighthouse adventure?
It was hard to leave that magical place. I was almost ready to get our food and drink and have an icy picnic. But the glowing house looked so inviting.
Seeing the house across the "yard" it was fun to imagine earlier days, when there were 2 houses and maybe 3 families. Did the families celebrate holidays together or separately? Did the kids have schoolwork and chores?
We returned to the illuminated porch. I could see our lit window on the right. Who slept in that room once?
It felt good to get inside the warm house. We headed to the fridge to pull out our champagne and feasting foods! We toasted and ate and gabbed, until we heard the sound of some late arrivals. We no longer had the house to ourselves, but the couple seemed nice. They declined our offer of wine before heading upstairs.
We settled back into the comfy, green room. Jennifer and I eventually headed up (different staircases) to change into our jammies and robes. Extra comfy for game playing! Cards Against Humanity got sillier, the longer we played. We had to whisper and laugh silently, after 10 pm. That's very hard for certain sisters.
We left the curtains wide open to wake us. I peeked out at 6:42 to see this beautiful scene.
The water was a little calmer and I saw a light on the horizon. I imagined a boat bringing food and supplies...
Clear and Cold
An hour and a half later, the window was still icy, but the sun looked warm.
I opened the window and stuck my head out over the red roof. I could see the bridge to the south and the flagpole to the north. The lighthouse was just a pinch out of view.
At 8:30 we gathered at the long lace-covered table, set for 6, with fresh flowers.
We settled in with our coffee and got to know the very nice couple that had arrived late. I didn't ask if they'd heard our muffled laughter the night before.
Barbara was our server for the 7-course breakfast. We began with fresh fruit and cranberry bread.
The portions and pace was actually perfect. Barbara never rushed, but the courses just kept coming. Frozen mango Lassi was like dessert! The small crab cake with capers had a delicious sauce. Then there was an egg soufflé with sausage, followed by a sort of angel food cake with berries! Did I leave something out?
At one point I looked out the window behind me and saw Chef Arianna, snipping something from the snow covered garden. Minutes later, she delivered the last course, of fruit and cheese. She laughed that we'd seen her getting some fennel.
During our 1.5 hours at the table, the grandfather clock must have chimed 6 times. We shared lots of stories with our table-mates. Jennifer shared that she'd actually stayed in the Keeper's House 30+ years ago. She was attending a writer's workshop and guests slept in bunkbeds, not lovely guest rooms.
Tony told about the eruption of Mount St. Helen's. He'd viewed the skies from his office window, in Portland. As we shared and talked, I saw the blue skies out the window. I wanted time to slow down. I hated that we had to leave soon.
My best hotel memories involve great porches! I was eager to get outside and enjoy at least a moment of that wraparound porch. On my way out, I passed a photo of 3 men, sitting on the same porch. During WWII, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol guarded the beaches and lived in bunkers on the property.
Jennifer and Kate had wisely packed binoculars. They actually spotted a whale before I got out there!
The Keeper's House had lots of porch blankets available for guests. I made use for a short time, then pulled myself up from the Adirondack chair and headed inside.
Brooke was back on duty at 10:30, to offer a history talk in the north parlor. After spending the night and wondering about the people who lived and worked here, it was nice to have Brooke's knowledge.
I loved seeing the 1907 photo of Keeper, Frank and his bride Jenny. The first marriage of many at Heceta.
The 30 minute talk was just perfect for our schedule. But, I still needed one more night, to hang out and study old photos and imagine the work that went on, to keep the property running. And I needed more porch time.
One More Hike Up
Don and I had a long drive ahead, but we joined Jennifer and Kate for one last dash up the hill before leaving.
The lighthouse looked completely different, on a sunny morning.
We had hoped to tour the lighthouse at 11, but it was late opening that day.
Instead, Jennifer and I hiked up once again and this time we went a little further up.
We took photos of the view... and each other. Jennifer looks much more impressive, shooting with her Nikon.
I was just happy to be alive, since I had a couple slow-motion slapstick moments, slipping on the steep muddy path. My sister had to rescue me twice, while we both laughed hysterically. I'm pretty sure the people standing below near the lighthouse, enjoyed the show.
This is my only photo from the visit, that shows both the lighthouse and the house. The Lighthouse and The Keeper's House... that's what this stay was all about!
I really can't believe we slept in a house, where lighthouse keepers once slept. I can't believe we got to enjoy 2 hikes up to the lighthouse. One in the snowy evening and one in the sunny morning. And then there's that ocean...!
The really notable part of our stay was that we enjoyed a special place, with special family. I wish we could have rented the whole place and enjoyed it with our kids. Maybe someday!
Of course I'll never forget the view from our comfortable, cozy room! I'll remember that the morning feast was heavenly and the staff was gracious and friendly! But I think my fondest memory will be of the evening we spent sharing and laughing in the green parlor... inside the white & red Keeper's House! Cheers to a shared Notable Night!
The McMenamins Hotel Chain
Don and I usually avoid chain hotels, but we make exceptions for this "family chain".
This past summer, we had our 6th stay at a hotel owned by the McMenamin brothers. This one was less quirky than the others. It had a golf theme.
Old or New?
Most of the McMenamin hotels are located in refurbished, historic buildings. Most of the hotels on my 90 Nights blog, are historic or unusual.
This hotel in Gearhart, Oregon wasn't old, but it was unusual. Plus it had a lot of history behind it.
An Overnight with Family!
It was towards the end of August, when "Pop and Grammaloon" traveled to the coastal community of Gearhart, with our grand baby and her parents. We found the Cape Cod-style hotel sitting conveniently beside the highway, across from the Pacific Ocean!
The old-looking hotel was actually constructed around 2001, on the spot of the original 1926 golf clubhouse. Around 2018, The McMenamin Bros bought the newish building, which held a pub and pro shop. (I believe) They added hotel rooms on the third floor and all the other festive stuff they're known for!
We weren't able to check in early, so we had some time to kill. We could have borrowed some of the hotel bikes and explored. Cute bikes!
Or we could have taken a seat on the bench in front. Old! That bench looked like it had been sitting there much longer than the hotel.
If we'd had clubs, we could have killed time on the golf course, behind the Gearhart Hotel. Scary! It's been a quarter century since I've held a club.
This course has been attracting golfers since 1892. Gearhart Golf Links is one of the oldest golf courses west of the Mississippi.
Time at Beach
But, we hadn't come to the hotel for golfing or biking or bench-sitting. We came because it was near a beach. A century ago, travelers could come to this seaside hotel and enjoy both grass and sand. The original hotel from 1912, offered a beach on one side and golf course on the other.
The beach was much closer then. Guests could easily wander down from the porch and sit or stroll on the sand. They could even enjoy the ocean breeze as they rode in a horse drawn buggy. If guests didn't like the salty sea water, they could swim in the indoor pool. Sadly this hotel burned down in 1913.
The Last of the Oldies?
The hotel was rebuilt, but it lasted less that two years, before it met the same fate.
I'm guessing this old image shows the third hotel, built in 1922. Look at the grass and the stairs leading down to the water! Nice! This one lasted into the 1970's, but was razed to make way for condos.
Today's hotel sits with its face to the highway and rear to the golf course. The ocean view is sadly blocked by newer buildings.
Luckily the Pacific was just a short walk away. And that's what we did with our spare time!
Down to the Beach
We crossed the street and headed down a pathway towards the ocean.
After passing a cluster of buildings we continued on a sandy path. I spotted a few familiar benches, oddly distant from the beach. The dunes must have shifted a lot over the years.
Before long we reached the sand and Charlie (at 18 months) saw her first ocean!
We had to travel south a bit to reach the car free zone. Then we practically had the beach to ourselves. Charlie couldn't have been happier!
By 3:30, we were able to check in. Our 2 rooms were located in a newer building, that was even closer to the highway.
We'd hoped for a room with a view of the golf course, but we ended up on the west side of the building. However, we were happy to discover that we could indeed see a bit of the ocean, from our dormer windows!
Annex from Behind
I usually shy away from the annex of anything. When I hear the word, I picture additions that aren't as good. But this building looked pretty sweet when I viewed it across the putting green. It looked classy... even though part of it was a golf cart garage.
The building wasn't old, but the chimneys and shingled exterior reminded me of an old seaside hotel in New England.
We got our keys and headed in a door facing the highway. There was no lobby and no elevator, but right away we recognized the unique McMenanmin decor!
There was a small sitting area, which offered complimentary coffee in the morning. The warm knotty pine and colorful art reminded us that we were in one of the 12 unique, McMenamin hotels!
Up We Go
We headed up the stairs, lugging a portable crib/playpen. Fingers crossed that our rooms would work well for a toddler.
At the top of the stairs we found more colorful art and light fixtures.
Another hallway in the Annex had a whimsical glow. Although I will admit, my eyes had a hard time adjusting in the dim space.
Colorful lights danced around at one end of the hall. A golfer and his putter almost glowed in the dark, from a large piece of art.
The McMenimin Bros really know how to embrace a theme. The halls in the Annex and the main hotel were filled with artwork, created to fit the golf theme of the hotel.
I recognized some of the art styles and artists from other hotels where we've stayed. Such clever images, tied into the history of Gearhart!
I was curious to see what name would be on our door. Usually McMenamin hotel rooms are named for people, but ours had a word that I didn't recognize.
Evidently our room was named for some kind of golf club. There was a nice framed explanation on the wall. But long writeup was from 1887. It made no sense to me. Maybe the design of our headboard gave a clue.
The shape of our knotty pine room, made me feel like we were staying in a comfy attic space, in some grandma's old house. Although neither of my grandma's ever had such a stylish headboards.
The room wasn't fancy, but it was luxurious compared to some of the classic McMenamin hotel rooms. We actually had a TV and our bathroom wasn't down the hall.
Cute and Cozy
Our Cleek Room was conveniently located next door to "the kids". They had the same cute alcove with chairs and table. They dragged their chairs over to our room, later in the evening.
The bathroom with shower wasn't huge, but no complaints. We've done the "shared bath" thing at a few of these whimsical hotels.
After we got settled, I headed off to figure out the options for the afternoon. It wasn't even 4 pm, but we were ready to celebrate. We only had one night at Gearhart.
There was a dining terrace overlooking the golf course and lots of seating on the lawn.
There was a raised deck as well, with good views of distant mountains, as well as the course.
Sand Trap Pub
I headed up the stairs to check out the inside options. The Sand Trap Pub offered a full bar as well as the usual McMenamin brand beers and wines.
There were few people inside, on that beautiful afternoon.
Quite a few people were seated on the raised deck. (photo from morning)
It was tempting to grab a table under and umbrella. I love a hotel porch, especially when there's a view!
Here's a porch pic from long ago. These gentlemen were facing the camera, but the ocean was directly to their right. What a heavenly porch view!
After a text or 2 to the others, we agreed to gather on the lawn.
I headed down the outside stairs and grabbed a table.
Pot Bunker Bar
Not far from our table in the grass, we found the Pot Bunker Bar. The cozy little pub space, beneath the porch was convenient. We could order and serve ourselves.
The fireplace was hardly needed, but it made things cozy. I thought I spotted a fire poker below the mantel. Of course not. That was a putter.
Another small room off the Pot Bunker, had a shuffleboard table...
...and a collection of historic photos. I snapped a couple photos of photos and hurried out to join the others.
This image doesn't capture just how nice the air felt that afternoon. The Oregon coast can be windy and chilly. We were soaking in the afternoon rays, feeling incredibly lucky.
We sipped and gabbed and took in the view. It was entertaining to watch a crew of two, prepping fires in the fire pits and putting out lawn games for the evening.
In the past 2 years, we've learned not to take any of our trips or gatherings for granted. The pandemic has made trip planning more worrisome. but it's also made us more grateful.
Heidi and I toasted to Charlie's first beach visit. She couldn't have been a happier little beach baby! We also cheered to pulling off this little trip without any covid intrusions! So many friends and family members have dealt with ruined plans, during this summer of 2022!
The dining room was buzzing at 6, but we were seated after a short wait. Again the fire in the fireplace wasn't needed, but I appreciate the staff for keeping the hotel inviting!
Our server (who was also a mom) had lots of tricks up her sleeve to delight Charlie. Actually Charlie's biggest delight was tasting (and loving) Caesar Salad for the first time. Our meal was even more enjoyable, knowing we were just steps away from the Annex.
Cards in the Room
Charlie didn't exactly fall asleep easily, but she rested quietly and we 4 played cards.
There was something so simple and satisfying about playing cards in that little alcove. These are the little things I'll remember about our overnight adventure.
There was no rush in the morning, but we were all up and out early.
We wandered with coffee, trying to decide where to sit. The deck had soft chairs and a rocker or two!
We chose the tables on the grass again. Just too easy. We ordered breakfast at the Pot Bunker Bar and enjoyed lingering.
A Walk in the Grass
The course was quiet on a Monday morning. We thought about letting Charlie have her first walk on a putting green...
...but she was happy enough to just feel the regular lawn under her feet. So many simple pleasures for this little girl.
We spent a night at a hotel with a golf theme. That sounds like a resort, not a McMenamins Hotel. This hotel was definitely the most "regular" of all the McMenamins hotels that we've enjoyed. There were no secret passageways or movie theaters. There was no winery or distillery. The hotel had not once been an asylum or grade school. There was a history, but not a creepy or odd or over the top history.
Our stay was not full of wild and whimsical distraction. And that's part of what made it so nice. Our visit was not about the hotel really, it was about being with family in a place where we could easily enjoy each other... and enjoy a little taste of the beach. Perfect for us!
The Sylvia Beach Hotel calls itself, an Oceanfront Bed & Breakfast for Booklovers.
That's pretty inviting and so is this sign!
On a Cliff
The 108-year-old hotel sits high on a bluff, overlooking Nye Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
When the hotel first opened in 1913, it was called the New Cliff House. It stood where the original Cliff House (a boarding house) once stood. In 1921, the hotel changed hands and became Hotel Gilmore. It became popular with honeymooners.
The old seaside hotel was rundown by the late 1970's.
Hotel Gilmore became more of a rooming house, with communal baths and some very curious characters... so I read.
When Don and I arrived last July, the historic hotel was in good shape. The green shingles and colorful flowers looked inviting, along with a blue sky.
I was excited to see the place that my sister raved about, years ago. She first learned of it, when our mother sent her an article from the New York Times. I wished that Mom had been with us. She never got to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
For the past three decades, the hotel has been attracting bookworms! The current owners bought the rundown Gilmore in the 1980's.
They named their new buisness after Sylvia Beach, who was a person not a beach. Back in the 1920's and '30's, Ms. Beach owned Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore in Paris.
Little Free Library
Today the hotel has 21, author themed rooms. But before we checked out the inside, we saw the library outside.
The little green book-holding house, looked mighty sweet rising up from the flowerbed. There were about 100 times more books, inside the big green hotel!
It was about 3, when Don and I stepped into the cozy lobby. I noticed an armoire to my left. The note on the door, invited guests to borrow a hat or jacket if needed. Temps were chilly, so it was tempting... but these pandemic times made me less inclined.
We checked in with Janet, who welcomed us behind plexiglass. (a hint of the times) Across from the lobby counter, I chuckled at the large piece of art, titled Find Me Between the Covers.
Sitting With the Authors
Next, I had a seat below another large, literary themed piece of art. No social distancing with this crowd!
I recognized Twain and Hemingway, but felt a little embarrassed that so many faces were not familiar. I hoped there would be no quizzes to find out if I was worthy of being a guest.
Books From My Youth
I felt comforted to see a few displays that took me back to my youth. The blue and yellow poster, featured my favorite book character from when I was 6. Oh, I "simply adored" Eloise, and her adventures at the Plaza Hotel!
In the dining room, I loved the giant books mounted on the wall. I was about 11, when I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I saw the book cover and remembered how Francie savored her library books and lemon drops, while sitting on her fire escape!
There were so many themed pieces of art that were fun and playful. The painting of the big green hotel, was a hoot! Authors' faces peered out of windows! The (not all familiar) faces didn't intimidate, they amused me!
I could have studied the framed shadow box for days! The little room with its miniature writer's desk, delighted me!
The hotel had no elevator, so we got a little exercise on the way to our room. Don didn't need to read the sign that warned, "Attention! Tall People..." He's learned to watch his head in old hotels.
Not far from the stairs, we spotted the Mark Twain room. The hanging knotted rope, had something to do with measuring river depth... just like Mark Twain's name. I had some fun Googling that.
Collette and Seuss
We passed the Collette Room. I had to look her up, to learn that she'd written "Gigi". I've never read, but loved the movie.
I had no problem recognizing the author associated with the blue room. Sweet Seuss and Cat in the Hat!
The Shakespeare Room!
I was excited to see the room we booked. No problem recognizing William Shakespeare's face on the door!
I was mighty pleased when we stepped inside. We didn't have a TV or WIFI. No coffee maker or phone. But we had a throne and a crown and swords! Surely that's a first for us!
Comedy or Tragedy?
I'm guessing every play from Hamlet to Midsummer Night's Dream, was represented in some way.
Some of the eerie and dramatic props, were obviously associated with Shakespeare's tragedies. But mostly the room made me smile and chuckle. So many discoveries!
Even the window drapes seemed theatrical. They were thick and red and parted like the curtains on a stage.
Both windows looked out on a roof and garden. No ocean view for us, in the Shakespeare Room. But the price was $165. (135 in winter) That's pretty good for a hotel on a beach, that comes with history and breakfast.
Curtains Behind the Bed
There were more curtains behind the bed. They revealed a stage in a frame! Very curious!
The bed itself was quite a thing! Would this be Juliet's bed? Red velvet bedding and white fabric wrapped around the top. I wish I knew more about the individuals who took on the fun, of decorating each of the hotel rooms! I heard that many locals have been involved over the years.
In the past decade, Don and I have stayed in many old hotels filled with antiques. I grew up in a house full of antiques and I've always appreciated them.
But the pieces of furniture in the room hardly got noticed, because of all the curiosities that covered them!
At first glance, I thought the goodies that decorated the room, were for sale.
There were tags attached to statues and bottles and figures. But when I put on my glasses to have a look, I realized the tags gave clues. Clues that I couldn't understand.
I believe the clues were meant to help me figure out which play went with each prop. Except I'm not a Shakespeare scholar. Even though I grew up with a dad who directed and a mom who wrote... and I've even played some of these roles a million years ago... I needed more guidance!
Example a good clue I'd like: "This item is from a play about 2 lovers... one of which was named Romeo."
Again, there were no tests. I was happy to just enjoy my surroundings! The mirror above the dresser was charming!
I enjoyed a little comic relief when I laid eyes on the fairies from Midsummer Night's Dream. And there was Bottom, with his donkey head! I love donkeys!
I stretched out on the bed with a book for a while. It would have been a sin, to have stayed in this hotel and not done a little reading. But I was so distracted! I couldn't keep my eyes on the book. I spotted the floral wreath crown on the bedpost. Then there was a king's crown balanced on the throne. Hmmm? Should Don and I put costumes on and perform?
Then I noticed the Kleenex box, below the bedside table. Shakespeare was begging me to take a tissue from his mouth! I was restless.
Should I write?
On the little writing table, I was inspired by the quill pen. Should I write a sonnet?
Or should I write a play? Comedy or Tragedy? I did neither and I have a good excuse. No ink in that container.
Originally, the rooms only had sinks. The communal bathrooms were down the hall.
I washed up and dried my hands with a towel, beneath the sign saying "Out! Out damned spot!" Okay, I know that one. Lady Macbeth.
To Pee or Not to Pee...
I was glad to see a little humor, in a frame above the toilet. I was also very happy to count 7 Shakespeare-related portraits in the bathroom.
Actually, I was just glad to have a bathroom period. I guess the bathrooms were added 30+ years ago.
Since we didn't have an ocean view, I went in search of one. I found chairs on a porch and patio, but the gusting wind was unbearable.
Instead, I took a seat in the comfy chair and looked out the glass doors.
Then I put the hood up on my sweatshirt and hiked down to the beach. The sand blasted me in the face and I watched the sand dunes change shape. Entertaining!
After a numbing few minutes, I headed back inside. It was happy hour time and Don and I needed to find a place to enjoy our wine. We headed to the library on the third floor. There was a fireplace and wood was available for anyone interested. Maybe.
There were chairs set up, facing out the window. But the glass was coated with a layer of salty-sea-air film. And 2 young women were asleep on the couch behind. (that was sort of annoying) We headed upstairs to the loft.
A set of stairs took us from the third floor to a walkway, filled with cozy seating and books. I should have given the beanbag chair a try. It was held up on a very odd wooden holder!
The loft also was good for spying on people in the library below. But it's not that entertaining watching people read or sleep.
Puzzles and Games
The library and loft wasn't just for reading. The coffee room had a table with a couple puzzles in progress. There were shelves packed with games and a table with coffee and tea.
The hotel politely discourages cell phones and computers in the common areas. However, they do encourage guests to interact over games and discussions. They even offer complimentary hot mulled caret in the library at 9 pm. We missed that, I'm afraid.
Before heading down from the loft, I paused to look at this enormous dictionary. It made me miss my mom. Mom was good at all games that involved words.
She adored books and she was very good at the Dictionary Game, which was a game my brother made up. She would have loved the Sylvia Beach hotel!
Don and I finally found a place to settle in, with our wine and reading. I wish the hotel cat had found us and curled up for a bit. We never saw the furry friend we'd heard about.
Instead of reading a book, I opened up the box on the table and skimmed through a huge collection of news articles, with literary themes. Once again, I was reminded of Mom. Oh how she loved to snip articles from the New York Times and then mail them to her kids! She always knew what would be of interest!
Table of Contents!
I was excited about our dinner at the hotel's basement restaurant. Right before 7 we dashed downstairs where other guests had gathered in the lobby.
At 7, we heard the dinner bell and our tiny crowd headed to the basement. I was a little anxious about our dinner. I knew the hotel served at community tables and there's always a worry that you'll sit with dull or intimidating strangers. There's also that pandemic thing. Don and I have traveled so carefully, why would we choose to dine with strangers?
In minutes, the guests were all seated at assigned tables. I smiled to realize we'd lucked out with a corner table, with the best ocean view!
In just a matter of minutes, it was clear that we'd also lucked out with the best mix of guests. The 6 at our table began talking at once and our 4 course meal flew by. We passed homemade bread and platters of salad and ate the entrees.
Our Happy Bunch
What a special evening, sharing a table with these wonderful folks. Our conversations went in a million directions and I loved every moment. I sort of missed the setting sun and some of the delicious flavors in our meal, but I'll always remember the stories that were shared.
I'm a rule follower, but I just ignored the reminder I'd seen when we entered. "No Technology Please" Luckily, our gracious server was happy to snap our photo with my cell phone. She also allowed us to linger long after dessert.
Don and I slept well in the quiet hotel. We headed back to the Table of Contents dining room for breakfast. I wondered if we would see our dinner friends. Would we be as talkative over coffee, as we were over wine?
We did end up up sharing the table, with a couple from the night before! The caffeine didn't even have a chance to kick in and we were talking a mile a minute. Our converstaion picked up where we'd left off. Then we began asking new questions of each other. How had the pandemic changed us? Which parents did we take after? We talked about our childhoods and making friends now, in the digital age. Who talks like this at 9 am? It was wonderful.
After a year of isolating and only visiting family, it was a refreshing treat to get to know strangers. Vaccinated strangers, with so much in common.
I was afraid our stay at the Sylvia Beach, might be intimidating or stuffy. At first I felt like we needed to whisper. I worried that the whole hotel would be filled with bookish intellectuals.
But our 1-night stay, felt playful and full of little surprises. I loved the history and I loved the location, even though we hardly made use.
If we come again, I'd like to stay in the Mark Twain room and meet the cat and try to enjoy more of the beach. Maybe we could stay long enough that I could actually get absorbed in a book!
North Bend, OR
This colorful place, was our little home away from home, for one night in July.
The 5-room motel, is in Oregon's Coos Bay County. It sits right on Route 101.
Don and I made reservations a month before. It looked like the perfect stop on our travels south, along the Oregon coast. When we crossed the McCullough Bridge we knew we were 1/4 mile from the inn. But, I was a little too delighted by the retro welcome sign.
I failed as navigator and Don drove right past the cute little motel.
We went around the block and slowly pulled in. We were early, so there were no problems finding a parking spot. If only we'd been driving a Tesla, we could have charged up, for free.
Near the office, I noticed there was bike parking also. (and bikes for borrowing!)
We headed for the office door, hoping our room might be ready early. I was eager to meet Rik. I felt like I already knew him, after our 30 minute conversation when I made reservations in June.
Itty Bitty Office
We buzzed and it took Rik a moment to answer. This is Rik's home too, so we felt a little bad arriving before check in time. But Rik greeted with an enthused elbow bump. (unclear how much was pandemic and how much was an injury that had to do with a torpedo... a long story)
Rik talked a mile a minute, just like he had a month before on the phone. He was overjoyed that we were so giddy about renting the Tiki Cha Cha Room. "You will just love it, my Angels!" He told us he had a turntable with music waiting for us. Don showed Rik his favorite Exotica Tiki Music playlist on his phone.
Itty Bitty History
I studied the small office/shop. There were tiki mugs and tee-shirts. There were lots of local goodies for sale from soaps to coffee. And there were framed portraits!
I loved knowing that Rik had a spotlight, on the original owners. It was fun to learn that the inn opened as "Itty Bitty Motor Inn" back in 1950. Kitty (in photo) had wanted a bigger name. (Trade Winds, I believe) Kitty's family teased that name was too big and it should be Kitty's Itty Bitty... When Rik bought the biz in 2015, the inn had another name, but he brought back that wonderful name.
Signs and Murals
I haven't had luck finding old photos of the motel, in the 50's. I wonder if they had a neon sign. Today's colorful sign and arrow looks retro, but not mid-century.
The murals are fun. You can see chickens painted on the roof of the VW van. Rik has no pet bears, but he referred to his chickens a lot.
"Tonight, I'm going to watch some B-rated movies and play Bingo and hang out with my chickens ..."
I thought it was just playful babble, but he really does have chickens.
#1 The Tiki Cha Cha Room
Out of the 5 themed rooms, 2 of them were Tiki-themed.
I chose Room #1, from photos I saw on the internet.
Don and I stepped inside and placed our shoes (as instructed) on the towel that Rik had left by the door. That could seem odd to some, but it was also a reminder of how clean Rik keeps his rooms.
I loved the little entry way with microwave and fridge and bar. Then we stepped through the bamboo to see the room.
There it was! The bamboo design, painted on the ceiling!
It was that fine bamboo ceiling that made me grin, when I searched the website photos.
There was also a creative bamboo touch on the wall, behind the beds.
Room #1 was the only guest room with 2 beds. The extra single bed came in handy for bag holding. And I might mention, there were rainbow/unicorn sheets underneath the comforters!
We didn't get a chance to see the Star Trek Room, Oregon Trail Room or the 70's Room. But I'm convinced our room had more bonus decor than the others.
Look at the mosaic, fruit bowl art! And how about those swooping diamond shapes, holding the clock and "candles"!
This table held more fun stuff. The lamp and nut/candy dish were classic. The tiki figure and rotary phone were 60's vintage. The Growler bottle was all about 2021! And that's a photo of Rik up there, reminding us to borrow that growler and get it filled with beer.
Again, the Tiki Cha Cha Room was fresh and clean. That's always extra appreciated, when you step into the bathroom. It was an extra treat to find locally made oatmeal soaps.
The retro tile and clamshell toilet lid, made me smile. And those were some fine wooden accent-treasures, on the wall.
I liked the divider wall, which opened into the micro/fridge area.
There was a built in bookcase and I found a book or two that intrigued me.
The bar/ counter, was handy. It held tiki glasses and a candy dish, offering a couple tootsie roll pops. Rik brought us some freshly ground coffee and we enjoyed a cup later.
Rik was very excited to share some of his favorite albums. The Exotica music was ready to go, when we walked in.
Don and I turned on the music and the room filled with flutes, drums and jungle sounds. We put on some tropical shirts.
Ready to Go!
Don has about 10 tiki shirts, but he packed one of his tamer shirts.
I left my flamingo dress back in Texas and went for a flowered shirt.
Off to See Rik
Rik heard we'd packed festive shirts and insisted we stop by the office, with our shirts and empty glasses. He had a few options on tap. Don went for a Mocha Stout and I had Cranberry Hard Cider. Thanks Rik!
We spent about 30 minutes gabbing in the office. Rik told us some pretty hysterical stories about a few famous guests who have enjoyed stays at the Itty Bitty. It's hard to picture celebs like Woody Harrelson and Kurt Russel choosing a place like this. But Rik has created a one of a kind getaway. He's also pretty good at keeping things secret when celebrities stay. It was fun to learn that Itty Bitty was rated #1, of the Top 10 budget hotels on Yelp!
Tips from Rik
I wish I'd had a tape recorder while we talked. I needed to take notes. Rik's enthusiasm was infectious. Whatever he suggested, we felt excited to try. Maybe because he called us "My Darlings" and "My Angels" a lot. He was much younger than us, but he seemed like a persuasive, favorite uncle.
We took Rik's suggestion and headed for Chuck's Seafood to order some of the fresh and odd seafood options. He sent us off with a cutting board and knife.
We did what he said. We bought octopus jerky and oysters sticks and all the good fresh fish that the locals buy. "You need to take it to the beach with a bottle of wine!" It was a fun, Rik-led adventure.
Rik also told us about The Liberty Pub, which was in walking distance. He said it was a local favorite, especially on Wednesdays, for the Irish Music. He raved. So we went that night. Good food and good music!
And a month earlier when I booked, Rik and I swapped motel stories over the phone, for a half hour. I was excited to tell Rik we had booked one of his recommendations. The Curly Redwood! Oh I love an enthused inn host, with tons of good ideas.
Our memory of the Itty Bitty, will be such a combination of our sweet Tiki Room and our sweet and curious host.
We weren't the coolest and hippest of Itty Bitty guests. We won't make it into Rik's stories. But I know he appreciated, that we appreciated... his place and him!
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!