A Night at the Depot
I sort of moaned and chuckled, when I took this photo of the L & N Depot, built in 1912. There was no way to get a picture without that ridiculous wall of windows behind.
Don and I have stayed at a few train station hotels. We love the history and we also like the train sounds, that often come with a stay. We decided to go for a night at the Pensacola Grand Hotel, even though we knew we wouldn't be staying in the historic station itself.
We spotted the modern building, as we approached the heart of the old city. The depot was squeezed in, between the towering hotel and a tangle of raised highway. I laughed.
Nearly a Century Ago
The setting for the station was very different, a century ago. The Louisville & Nashville passenger depot was a hopping place, with a lovely park nearby. The park is gone, but at least the ocean hasn't moved.
An Odd Connection
When we arrived on a Thursday afternoon, the brick and stucco station looked lovely. The connected hotel (once a Crown Plaza Hotel) looked less charming, but the price was cheaper than the Holiday Inn Express.
We parked on the street for free and headed towards the entrance. I studied the green doors, imagining the people who passed through, until the depot's closing in 1979.
Once inside, I was relieved to see glimpses of the past.
The original floors were covered with wood and numerous tile designs. I loved the snowflake design best.
I spotted marble baseboards and white marble, framing a sweet pair of stained glass windows.
Stepping into the Future
To check in, we had to pass out of the old station and into the modern hotel lobby. I looked back towards the doorway and realized that is where passengers once stepped outside, towards the tracks.
The threshold tile was a reminder of the past depot. The antique clock above the doors, was brought in during the renovation years.
At check in I asked if we could have a room with a view. The very serious check in woman insisted, "Oh you're going to like your room."
I knew from reviews that rooms were dated, so I didn't expect luxury. However the size of the room, plus our view, kept us happy.
Highways, RR Tracks and Ocean
We didn't fret over the old Mr. Coffee maker and the "vintage" TV. We had a ball with our corner room, which was basically all floor to ceiling windows! I was totally entertained looking towards the ocean. I was like a little kid watching cars and trucks and trains, below.
Luckily our 15-story hotel had an elevator, but I loved the stairs in the 2-story station best. I found more marble and dark wood.
I shouldn't be a hotel snob, but I did sort of roll my eyes when I saw the fountain and library, at the north end of the new building.
I love a hotel library, but this one did not lure me to sit a spell. I had no desire to sit on one of those parlor chairs and read any of their encyclopedia sets! Library of Rejected Books?
Dine & Drink
The Lobby Bar looked curious, but it was closed.
Restaurant 1912 and Cavu Club
It was early when Don and I started thinking about dinner. We had 2 options in the train station. The restaurant looked too quiet and formal, when the doors opened at 5. The bar looked more welcoming.
As we entered, the beautiful stained glass over the bar caught my eye. I hate bar TVs, so I was happy to realize the blue and white glow, was really an illuminated Navy symbol of some kind. In corner filled with Navy Aviation photography, a jeweled ceiling dome glowed.
Don and I had a nice chat with our very friendly bartender, while we split a mighty good club sandwich. It was a cozy atmosphere, but the antiques weren't original to the station and the Navy focus was more about airplanes than trains. I wanted more train focus!
Morning at the Station
Honestly, my expectations had been low. I knew we weren't going to have the "old hotel" experience that we love, while staying at modern hotel with dated decor. But Don and I enjoyed the station and our sprawling room with the views. I finally got to see my vintage train depot photos to help me imagine the past. It was a great stay for $116.
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!