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. There were questions and pondering about how the pandemic changed us which parents we took 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 being isolated and only visiting family, it was a refreshing treat to get to know strangers!
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!
On the third day of our West Coast Road Trip, Don and I spent the night on a paddlewheel riverboat.
The Newport Belle was docked in the South Beach Marina, in Yaquina Bay.
The 97-foot boat looked like something you'd see on the Mississippi, 100 years ago.
The 3-story boat was built as a floating B&B, in 1993. Originally it did travel on the Coquille River, but now it stays put in the harbor.
Don and I used to live in St. Louis, so we've seen many paddlewheel riverboats over the years. We've dined in a couple, on the Mississippi. And we slept in one, on the Sacramento River.
The Newport Belle just like the others, had the paddles in the stern of the boat.
Above the Paddles
The stern of the boat had an enclosed sundeck.
The floor to ceiling glass, gave us stunning views of the Yaquina Bay and Bridge. If we'd been moving, it would have been fun to watch the paddlewheel turning, below.
Bow of the Boat
The front of the boat faced the east. There was a nice little sitting area on the second level.
You can see the how close we were to shore. We parked in an assigned area, then rolled our bags past some fishermen cleaning their daily catch. We continued over the ramp, that took us right to the boat.
The sun deck was bright in the morning and offered a view of the nearly full moon, at night.
The B&B offered 5 rooms. An upper room would have had slightly better views.
But it was a treat to roll right onto the boat and find our door just steps from the dock.
There was no need for "checking in" since we had a code. We stepped right in and grinned at our beautifully renovated room.
The bed (with memory foam mattress & pillows) looked heavenly. The white wood ceiling and wainscotting looked fresh and clean.
The view of the fishing boats and Yaquina Bridge was a nice surprise.
I grinned out the window, then turned to take in the rest of the room.
As I took in the sweet space, "Martini Music" played on satellite TV. What a nice TV, by the way.
The Beachy-Boat theme was carried right into the bathroom. Gotta love a shell nightlight!
The bathroom was a decent size for a boat and the newly renovated space felt fresh and fun.
I love a theme and our floating hotel had an obvious one. There were seahorse lamps and anchor coasters.
I loved the sea turtle mugs and octopus pillows. The table with bottled water and Keurig coffee was handy. And below the glass table, we found books related to boats.
Life Jacket Props
I spotted the life jackets above the "closet" and chuckled. What a clever decorator prop! Then I realized these were probably required, even if our boat wasn't going anywhere.
I love dressing with the theme, when staying at a fun hotel. I could have packed a sailor cap for this stay, but didn't need to. I just popped on the orange jacket and posed for a photo, outside our door.
Finding Happy Hour
Just before arriving at 4:30, I spoke with the owner Paige, on the phone. She gave me parking instructions and reminded me that Happy Hour was at 5.
We didn't want to miss, so up we went to the second floor. We entered the "Main Parlor" and walked towards the stern.
Drinks with a View
Three other couples had already arrived. We were invited to join them in the enclosed sundeck, or we could have found a table in the parlor area.
These Covid Travel Days are tricky, but this felt safe and spaced out. The door was propped open with a fan. Plus this was a great bunch and we had good conversations about being vaccinated. Yay for that!
Owners Paige and Randy took good care of us. We were handed a drink menu and our own platter of cheese and meats.
I kind of loved the little bar counter behind us, with the pennies under the glass!
Randy and Paige treated us like guests in their home. They jumped up to refill drinks, then joined us with their own.
Randy and Paige told us how they purchased the boat right before the pandemic and threw themselves into renovations. What an adventure and now they live on the third floor, with a view like this every day.
Wandering the Marina
By 6:30, our group broke up. Some headed for dinner, but Don and I needed to explore.
We wandered up and down the docks, studying the boats. I was surprised to see the "Life Jacket Loaner Station" nearby. What a nice thought.
Some Odd Ones
I dreamed of taking off in one of the sailboats.
I studied the commercial fishing boats and I especially wondered about this very odd, wooden boat. What stories might that boat have to tell?
Don and I could have driven into Newport for dinner, but we didn't want to leave the boat. We only had one night.
We headed up to the Main Salon, which was available to all guests. We brought a few more nibbles and drinks and lounged near the wood burning stove... which would be nice in the winter.
Books and Art
We checked out this fine colorful fish and some of the other artwork and knickknacks.
There were lots of books and we found one about the Delta King, the boat we stayed on, in Sacramento.
We would have missed the sunset if a couple playing Cribbage in the sundeck room, hadn't alerted us.
I ran up to get a picture or two, through the glass.
Then I stepped out to the tiny walkway and got the best view of the sinking sun. Finally the sun was down and the old Yaquina Bridge from 1934, looked very impressive.
Glowing Green and Purple
Whenever we spend a night at a notable hotel, I make a point of getting a nighttime photo.
Sometimes there's a fun neon sign or a spotlight. But the Newport Belle had the best nighttime costume of all! Glowing colors!
After taking photos of the Newport Belle, I turned and caught the moon, glowing above the boats.
When we headed inside we had another lighting surprise. The lights behind the headboard were glowing and changing color!
I hadn't even noticed the lights before, but in the darkened room they came alive. How fun is that? I was sad to turn them off, but I knew that glow would make me too giddy for sleep. I turned on the mounted fan and slept well with the hum.
In the morning we headed upstairs, for our 3-course breakfast.
There were lots of options for seating, which was nice. We chose a table beside the window and began with juice and coffee.
The first course was yogurt, with toasted pistachio and apricots poached in cardamon and local honey. Then came a big warm slice of blueberry coffee cake.
My expression looks a little embarrased about my waffle choice. It came with bananas and big fat walnuts, plus 2 slices of bacon!
Don went for the breakfast burrito with bacon and avocado. We swapped plates and sampled each others. What a decadent feast!
Relaxing Until Checkout
After breakfast, we had a nice chat with Randy and Paige. They were an amazing team and we couldn't thank them enough.
We should have walked off breakfast, but we did some sitting instead! What a lazy, relaxing morning!
We stayed on a boat that felt luxurious and comfy for less than $200. ( I do see some higher rates now) And that included happy hour and our 3-course breakfast.
There was a nice balance between socializing and privacy. We enjoyed sharing the boat and happy hour, with others. The conversations were enjoyable. But we also felt like we had the boat to ourselves when we went our separate ways. Perfect!
Best of all, we had a view of boats and water, without being trapped on a boat! No seasickness and no claustrophobia! I would do this again!
Hood River, Oregon
In mid July, Don and I spent a night at this duck-loving, magical place.
Historic Hotel & Highway
On a Sunday afternoon, we left Portland and traveled on I-84, following the path of the first scenic highway built in the U.S.
In less than an hour we pulled up to this 100-year-old, Mission style hotel. It was built just after the Historic Columbia River Highway was completed.
The hotel looked familiar!
I'd never visited before, but I had a picture in my head. It came from page 231 of this book.
1950 & 2021
I recognized the roofline and tower, along with the shutters and fire escape.
The hotel was about 30 years old, when the cookbook came out in 1950.
I snapped a photo to compare. Little had changed with the building, in 71 years. However, the gardens seemed more lush. My view of the hotel and the stone bridge was a little obscured by growth.
We arrived at 3 pm and the parking lot was quiet.
We headed towards the entrance and I wondered where all the tourists were, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Towers and Flowers
I eyed the tower, wondering about its use. I had heard that years ago, the hotel staff used the tower to keep an eye on the river. They could spot steamships bringing guests, then gage their time for prepping rooms.
I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous flower baskets all around the entrance. What a welcome greeting at the door.
The lobby was as quiet as the parking lot.
The space felt more old-homey, than impressive-ritzy. I snapped some quick pics of the slick, painted columns and beams.
Across from the lobby, I spotted the same beams in Valentino Bar. I read later that these "wooden" features were actually created with plaster, by 5 artisans. Odd.
After checking in, I enjoyed a fine elevator adventure, thanks to Chris the operator. I asked Chris to pause a moment, so I could get photos of the curious paneled doors and the golden gate. Then I rolled my bags into the little space.
When I asked to take a photo of the funny handle that triggered the lift, Chris insisted I learn how to drive the thing. He asked for my cell phone and took photos of me, trying to guide us properly. I could see the wall through the gate and attempted to stop us at the "3" painted on the wall. Good enough. I only had to step up a bit to get off. Thanks Chris! That was memorable!
There wasn't room for Don in the elevator. He missed all the fun when he took the stairs.
Here is the sort of eerie stairwell. I wish I'd had time (and nerve) for a tower adventure. If I'd been a little braver, I could have climbed around that gate, to sneak up in the tower.
Don beat me to our room, at the end of the hall. Just look at that outer door, with slats and little brass handle! You don't get those at Best Westerns.
The hotel's most recent renovation was about 10 years ago. I'm glad they didn't go overboard and remove all the extra doors.
Cheers for a spacious, corner room with extra windows! It was a nice surprise, since we booked the cheapest.
The windows were also handy for getting some air. Old hotels sometimes smell... like old hotels. Air is good!
We probably should have paid more for a river view room. But our front window gave us a nice view of landscaped gardens and paths.
Our side window gave us a tiny glimpse of the river, through the trees. We could also see mountains and the newer villas, next door.
2 of Everything
The extra space was a treat, since old hotel rooms can often feel cramped.
Sometimes Don and I fight over the one bedside table and lamp. Yay for having our own tables and our own comfy chairs. We even had our own full length mirrors, which could have come in handy... if we'd wanted to admire ourselves at the same time.
Did I Mention the Bed?
I will let the photos do the telling. What a crazy bed!
Don was impressed with the 4 chains attached to the ceiling. "It's earthquake ready!" he announced. For a split second I hoped it was a hanging bed. No. But at least I felt safe knowing the canopy would not land on us in the night.
Doorknobs and Wallpaper
As I said, they did not go overboard when they renovated.
That works for me. I love old wallpaper and glass doorknobs. I love guessing how many layers of paint cover the woodwork. 100 years of stories in this room!
Bed Themed Bathroom
The bathroom had sort of an odd mix of old and new. I was mostly drawn to the framed prints.
It looked like they had taken the crazy-bed theme, right into the bathroom. There were 2 framed prints titled, "Louis XVI Bed".
Wandering in Back
I was eager to get out and wander in the late afternoon.
The back of the hotel was as pretty as the front.
The hotel sits high on a cliff overlooking the Columbia River.
The water was lovely to look at and the kite surfers were entertaining. No photos, but there were tons of them, further down the river.
There were some pretty viewing areas along the stone pathways.
I wouldn't recommend flip-flops, climbing up the rugged stairs.
I would however recommend a hat. It's very windy walking above the river, as you can see from my hairdo.
One of the nicest viewing spots, was found right outside the hotel's bar. Valentino Lounge & Terrace was named for the famous actor who supposedly used the hotel as a hideaway. That must have been when the hotel first opened, since Rudolph died in 1926.
At 3:30 in the afternoon the patio was quiet and shady. Rudy could have had a cocktail here without being noticed.
The flowers, view and fresh air, made the patio very inviting.
We returned at 5 and found a perfect table. Our bartender/server was quite confident that she could whip up a Sazerac, so I went for that.
I think she had more confidence than skills. But then again, it's stupid to order a Sazerac, anywhere besides New Orleans.
Besides, the view was lovely and we were just happy to be served. Traveling in the summer of 2021 has required patience. Hotels and restaurants have had a hard time finding workers.
Off to the Gardens
After a drink, Don and I set off to wander the grounds in the front of the hotel.
The stonework was as intriguing as the trees and plants.
Columbia Gorge Hotel in 1921
There was actually a lot more decorative stone, back when the hotel opened 100 years ago.
The hotel was built by Simon Benson, who was involved with the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway at the time. Benson tore down the Wah-Gwin-Gwin Hotel which had been on the property since 1904. He kept the trails and gardens for the new hotel.
Benson hired stone masons who had come from Italy to work on the construction of the scenic highway.
The walls and bridges on the hotel property, looked like some we'd seen on our scenic drive.
The grounds in front of the hotel were lovely. The perfect setting for an old folks home.
That's what the hotel became for about a quarter century. The isolated resort struggled for years after the depression and had to close its doors in 1952. It became a hotel once again in the late seventies.
I spotted a few fun areas on the grounds. Bocce Ball and Horseshoes!
I wonder if the aged folks enjoyed those activities? No one else seemed to be making use, on the day we wandered.
Don and I seemed to be the only guests exploring.
We didn't even see any animals. I wish I'd spotted a few squirrels or ducks, nibbling at these curious little feeder boxes.
I adore bridges, so I was glad to see a few different kinds.
There were many places to cross over Phelps Mill Creek, which wound around the property.
Wah Gwin Gwin Waterfall
The bridge with the most entertaining view, was the wooden bridge looking down over the Wah Gwin Gwin Waterfall.
The 208-foot fall of water, is also called Lullaby Falls. I wonder how it got that name.
Don and I spent some time wandering through the rose garden.
A warm breeze carried lots of lovely smells.
The best way to celebrate any interesting hotel, is to find a nice porch or outdoor area to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Before dinner, Don and I grabbed 2 glasses of wine and headed for the gardens. The evening light was pretty, but the benches didn't look very comfy.
The garden was peaceful, except for the sound of nearby I-84. The interstate has replaced much of the old scenic highway, which was surely more quiet in 1921.
By the River
We finally chose 2 Adirondack chairs looking out over the river.
The sun was warm, but the view was perfect. Yay for my tiny tripod and camera timer! Cheers to the Columbia! Roll on!
Simon's Cliff House
I love the name of the hotel's restaurant. Simon Benson would love knowing that he hasn't been forgotten. Mostly, I love the reminder that our hotel was on a cliff.
The main dining room looked pretty huge when I peeked in, hours before dinner. Too formal and spread out.
Dining with a View
There was also a smaller dining room, with a wall of windows. Much more inviting!
A Toast to Past Guests
We arrived for dinner at 7:30 and lucked out with a perfect table beside the window. We made a toast to the hotel's 100th birthday. I'm so glad it's still here, after being forced to close down a couple times in the past. So glad the hotel survived the pandemic as well.
We also toasted to the famous people who have stayed before us. A few presidents from FDR to Hoover... Burt Reynolds and Tom Cruise... and even Shirley Temple as a young girl. I should have ordered a Shirley Temple!
Gabriel and the Book
Our waiter Gabriel took good care of us. I asked him if they still served "Columbia River Salmon A La Gorge". He seemed a little confused by my question.
Then I showed him our old cookbook and the recipe. He was reasonably amused by the aged book and recipe. I'm sad now to realize, the hotel closed 2 years after this book came out.
Don and I enjoyed some local wine with our view.
I ordered duck, at Gabriel's recommendation.
Don had salmon, with a different recipe than the book. My photo is distorted. The veggies were not twice as big as the fish. All was good.
I loved our window. I felt like we were on some kind of a riverboat.
There's something soothing about looking out over moving water.
The people-watching was fun, too. A few more came out at sunset. I recognized a couple from the dining room, strolling by. They had come over to our table earlier, wanting to see our cookbook. (They'd overheard our cookbook converstaion) I love how that magical little cookbook draws people together!
Before long, I felt like I was in Hitchcock's Rear Window. I was Jimmy Stewart, watching out the window, studying suspicious characters and behaviors. I never did figure out what the 2 policeman were up to. Very curious and mysterious.
We finished dinner at 9 and strolled along the pathways a bit.
We slept well in our corner room. The chains did their job, so no crazy falling canopy stories. In the morning we enjoyed complimentary coffee from the lobby and walked the gardens before checking out.
The view of the Columbia River was stunning and walking paths were heavenly. I loved the stonework and how the building looked, sitting between the river and gardens.
My main regret is that we didn't take the time to drive across the river and find a view of the hotel. Next time!
Since 1925 in Southern Oregon
Recently, Don and I had our first visit to Ashland and its historic hotel in the heart of downtown. The hotel is now Ashland Springs, but you can see the letters on the glass above the marquee. In 1925 was called Lithia Hotel.
They also enjoyed the therapeutic Lithia Spring Waters of Ashland.
Lithia Springs Hotel
At nine stories, the Lithia Hotel was the tallest building between Portland and San Francisco.
It looked like a big city hotel, minus the traffic and valet parking headaches. We headed around to the back, where we found ample free parking for guests.
You don't get free parking in big cities.
From the Back
From where we parked, the back of the building looked very dramatic in the afternoon sun. Not many hotels have such impressive backsides!
I grabbed my suitcase and took a peek over a fence, where I spotted a lovely courtyard, below. I read later, that the garden area once held a swimming pool, that was added in 1960, when the hotel became the Marc Antony... with its British theme.
It was about 3 when we headed into the sun-filled lobby.
While Don checked in, I took advantage of the quiet space and snapped photos.
I'm glad the owners who bought 20 years ago, did away with the British theme. There was still a formality, with the stained glass and the chandelier, but it felt relaxed.
There were lots of little things that made the lobby feel more homey.
The fireplace was cozy and there were some pieces of furniture and decor that added some fun. My favorite piece was the oval, marble top table in the center of the lobby. I kind of liked the oddly shaped pumpkin and the purple arrangement, too!
The British theme left years ago, but a new focus took over. I think the current Nature theme, is tied to the old hotel's connection with nature and the healing Lithia Springs waters.
There were little "wonders of nature!" everywhere you looked. There was a bold looking eagle on the front desk and nature prints on the wall. There was a whole case of bird eggs, nests and a stuffed bird.
The elevator even offered a nature lesson as we traveled upward.
I had a good time studying the elevator walls, which were covered with dried leaves and plants. That's a first!
I didn't get a photo of our door, which I often do. But I did capture an image of the curious thing, mounted on our door. I thought it was a brass door knocker, until I saw another door with a note clamped down, by the tiny hand. How handy! Another first!
Our room was cute as can be. It wasn't huge, but it was probably larger than the original rooms. Lithia Springs Hotel opened with 100 rooms in 1923. Now there are 70.
Lamps and Prints
The nature theme continued on our wall, with pretty framed herb art. I appreciated having 2 tables and 2 lamps in our tiny room.
I liked the soft colors and the French style bed cover. There was a surprise up by the pillows.
The gift was a little cloth pouch tied with ribbon. The note said it was "Lavender Bath Tea" and it smelled heavenly. It was made for hanging in the shower, or putting in a drawer. Much nicer and healthier than a pillow chocolate.
The rooms were small and every corner was put to use. The corner with the chair and lamp was so squished, it was sort of amusing. But I liked the nature themed lampshade and the view beyond the buildings was pretty.
The small bathroom had been remodeled with newer pedestal sink and corner shower. The original floor tile was nice.
After checking out our room, Don and I made a dash up to the Mezzanine to enjoy the complimentary tea time.
There wasn't too much going on, but we were happy to serve ourselves some tea and grab a cookie. We chose a table overlooking the lobby and did a little people watching.
Enjoying the Town
We may have missed Ashland's Shakespeare Festival season, (by one day) but we were just in time to see gorgeous fall colors!
Walking through Lithia Park in the late afternoon sun, was heavenly. Tasting the bubbling mineral water from the public fountains was not heavenly! It was stinky and foamy. Honestly, I almost threw up from laughing and gagging at the same time!
We peeked in the hotel's restaurant earlier. The multi-layered space was inviting.
The tables with cozy wicker and pillows, seemed very appealing.
But Don and I kept it simple by sitting at the bar. We ordered martinis and a scrumptious artisan cheese board. Our kind bartender gave us lots of extra bread, when I raved about it!
I stepped out early to check on the morning. I often do that to try to snap a hotel photo, free of cars and people.
There were no cars, but there was a truck. It was October and they seemed to be putting up Christmas lights already! I also noticed something I hadn't, the day before. Look at the sweet water fountain for pups. Yikes I hope it's not that bubbly stuff!
A complimentary breakfast was served upstairs and all the hotel guests seemed to arrive at the same time. Don and I were amused to see the room filled with people, all our age or older.
The crowded room had one table left and it had a sweet pumpkin and nice view. But we decided we needed to get away from all those old people... who kept reminding us of ourselves. We found a quiet sitting area, near the garden patio.
It was a bit too chilly for sitting outside, but we enjoyed the view through the glass. It was a lovely place to relax, before getting back on the road.
Our hotel stay was filled with lots of classy touches, without a huge price tag.
But I will always remember the peaceful feel of our hotel (except at busy breakfast) and the ease of strolling in and out, to explore the park and town.
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!