40th Anniversary at The Fairmont!
On October 20th, Don and I drove to the top of Nob Hill to celebrate our 40th anniversary!
I didn't allow myself to dwell on that too much, when we headed from our rental car into the land of luxury!
The enormous lobby was as magnificent as we remembered. Don and I briefly visited the hotel 3 years ago and put it on our "must stay here" list.
I remembered the swirling marble columns. They almost looked edible, like chocolate-caramel cheesecake!
The gilded ceiling detail made me think of empty frames.
I wanted some high scaffolding so I could pretend to be Michelangelo. What could I have painted inside those golden shapes?
We checked in at the desk and I asked a few questions. I was sad when I discovered the key boxes were just for show. I really wanted to use a brass key with a gold tassel.
I made sure to ask about the hours for the famed Tonga Room, that Don and I visited in 2016. Our desk clerk was excited to tell us the tropical bar/restaurant was open at 5, with live music at 8. Yay! Luckily we had packed the proper clothes for Tiki Time!
There is something like 55,000 square feet of "function space" at the Fairmont. That doesn't include the restaurants. The place is big... 591 guest rooms & suites! We got a little lost just looking for the proper elevator. But wandering is very fun at The Fairmont.
We took in lots of details in the lobby. The glass vases on the center table were lovely.
Earthquake of 1906
I wandered early the next morning to take photos without people. It's easier to imagine the past with no guests on cell phones. The palms in their decorative containers, looked very vintage Hollywood to me!
I tried to imagine what this space looked like in 1906, when the great earthquake hit San Francisco. The hotel had just been completed, but it took another year of repair before they opened. The building survived the earthquake, but the fires that followed, damaged the interior.
I have always loved a grand staircase! Looking upward, I wondered about the famous people who have walked down the marble stairs.
Nearly 20 presidents have stayed at the Fairmont. Nearly all from President Taft to President Obama, have been guests. They probably used a secret elevator.
There have been more celebrities than presidents though. I heard that Frank Sinatra always requested the same room on the second floor, so he didn't have to use the elevator. Imagine meeting him on the stairs!
I couldn't resist climbing! How often do you get to walk up marble steps and slide your hand over such a sleek railing. No one during our visit seemed to be using the stairs, so I felt like a little kid alone on the landing, spying down on my parents' party.
Statues and Mirrors
I wouldn't want to live in a palace with such decadence, but I loved being a guest for a night. I had to pause to study the marble lion and gold mirror. There are some surprises in that mirror frame, when you look closely.
The hotel's interior made a dramatic change in 1945. Dorothy Draper was the most famous interior designer of the time and she was called in for a major facelift. She brought in her "Modern Baroque" and transformed the hotel with her bold red fabrics and black lacquer. It wasn't until 1999, that they removed her red carpet that covered the marble lobby floors.
The Venetian Room
We only had a quick peek in the Venetian Room. Evidently Ms. Draper's remodeling of this grand ballroom was really what got the hotel out of its slump in 1947. It became quite the dinner club.
Many big names performed on the stage, from Nat "King" Cole to Tina Turner. Tony Bennet first sang "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in this room. (Or so I was told) There was a statue of him out in front, that was installed for his 90th birthday in 2016. It was a sweet looking image, surrounded by grass and flowers. But why didn't the artist have Tony's mouth open, just a bit? I wanted to see him sing.
I love a good circus theme, so I was pretty curious about this fabulous Art Deco Bar.
There were 9 colorful murals, painted by the famed Bruton sisters, in 1933. This was years before Ms. Draper did her decorating thing!
This whimsical space with all its curves and colors, was the first bar to open in San Francisco after the repeal of Prohibition. Sadly it was not open to us, during our stay.
Women of The Fairmont
The murals in the Cirque Bar were created by two sisters, but I wonder if the bar allowed women when it first opened. Hmm? Another set of sisters was involved in the hotel even earlier. Virginia and Tessie Fair had the hotel built to honor their wealthy father, after he died. James Graham Fair had owned the property perched high over San Francisco. The "mont" after the family name, refers to the hotel's mountain-like location. I've been to a few Fairmont hotels and never knew the name history.
After the earthquake of 1906, architect/engineer Julia Morgan was hired to help tackle the issues of the heavily damaged interior. Her expertise with reinforced concrete came in very handy. Cheers to all the women of Fairmont!
Finding Our Room
We could have booked a room in the 23-story tower, that was added in 1961. The views are spectacular from most of those rooms.
But Don and I always prefer the historical experience (and sometimes the price) of staying in original rooms. We headed up to the third floor and down a hall, with some nice black and white photographs. When we stepped into our room 332, a classy photo image greeted us in the entry.
The room itself wasn't grand or over the top, but it was large and nicely updated, with more photos of San Fran scenes. Love it! The bathroom wasn't memorable, but I appreciated having a tub.
The bed, pillows and linens were comfy soft. There were good lamps and tables and a large TV. The colors were calm. No signs of Dorothy Draper.
There was a surprise Anniversary treat, waiting on a plate! The "N" was a chewy brownie and the chocolate covered strawberries were juicy-sweet. Luckily our comp snack made the "room bar" goodies less tempting. Don laughed when he picked up the tiny Pringles container. "Seven dollars?"
We didn't have a Tower Room with a view of The Bay, but we had a great view of the rooftop "Square" below.
The view was like a picture and I loved looking at it, through the original wood-framed window. The thick window was the only thing in the room that reminded me that our hotel was over a century old.
In the evening and morning, we enjoyed a little time exploring the rooftop garden that we could see from our room. Green grass, flowers, palms, trickling fountain... and an herb garden and honey beehives.
The garden gave us a good place to check out the architecture of the old hotel. We never figured out which room was ours. It did make us wonder about the rooms with terraces!
More Views From Square
When I walked to the railing of the garden, I found the best view.
What fun watching cable cars going up and down Powell Street, just below. And there was Coit Tower and the Bay! That view inspired us to do some walking the next day.
Evening at Fairmont!
By 5:00, we were in our tiki clothes and on our way to the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar!
We headed down the elevator to find the basement lounge which opened in 1945, when the hotel's pool was cleverly transformed into a Polynesian lagoon.
Here's a photo from 3 years ago, when Don and I sipped tiki cocktails and grinned at the floating band boat. We laughed each time a thunderstorm rumbled down on the water!
No Tonga Time for Us!
On the evening of our anniversary, we headed past some vintage displays and moved towards the glowing space. Then we were stopped by a man who announced, "We are closed for an event. Sorry." My jaw dropped. The man didn't really seem to care that we'd been told at the desk that it opened at 5. He wasn't impressed that it was our 40th anniversary and we'd come from Houston. He certainly didn't get the significance, when I told him I'd bought my flamingo dress online just for this night! But he did take our photo and yes we smiled.
It would have been easier to take the news, if the doors had been closed. But we were able to see the Microsoft "event people" sitting around on laptops, using the space like an airport lounge. In fact Microsoft was using almost every event space in the hotel. I'm still trying not to be mad at Microsoft.
But, there was no time for sulking. We headed up another grand staircase.
The marble stairs brought us up to the Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar.
When we visited 3 years ago, a piano player performed under the middle of 3 domes.
There was no piano music at 5:30 on our anniversary night, but the 3-domed space was lovely. Plus it was open. We can't take things like that for granted. In fact the whole Laurel Court space was closed down for 6 decades.
We made a quick costume change, (I just grabbed a sweater) and returned to the lounge where we made a toast to ourselves with French 75s! We thought about dining in the rounded room with ionic columns and murals... but we decided to move on.
Off to Explore!
We celebrated the fact we were staying in the one of the best locations in San Francisco and we took off walking.
We had a drink at the top of Sir Francis Drake Hotel and we had a ridiculously fun, retro bite at Sears Fine Food!
Then we headed towards our hotel, but made a stop just across the street, at the Mark Hopkins. Drinks at "Top of the Mark" and then back to The Fairmont, where the flags welcomed us back.
Morning at Fairmont
The next morning, we woke to lovely weather. We enjoyed our comfy hotel until late morning, then took advantage of our location once again. The hotel held our bags and allowed us to keep our car in valet until 4!
We headed off, walking DOWN Powell Street towards Fisherman's Wharf... with detours to Grace Cathedral and Chinatown. We ate lobster rolls and rode the cable car up to Nob Hill. One more perk of our hotel... All cable car lines meet at the top of Nob Hill, near the hotel.
We had a great 24 hour stay at The Fairmont. Besides the glitches (due to Microsoft's takeover) the hotel was lovely and we were treated well.
There's so much we did not see or sample, but we had a ball... without making use of any of the numerous, ballrooms! We didn't stay in a lavish suite, or even explore the Tower. We didn't get pampered in the spa and we didn't even wine and dine properly. We might have had a little more royal treatment if we'd spent more, but we left happy and full of memories and knowledge!
Did I mention those international flags on the porte-cochere? In 1945 The Fairmont hosted meetings that led to the creation of the United Nations! Wow! I love hotels with history!
Sweet Hotel in a Tiny Town
In October, Don and I spent one night in a cozy historic hotel, that was once called the Temperance House.
I imagine the town had plenty of saloons and hotels back in the day. Our sweet 2-story hotel overlooking the Pacific, was probably the only one that didn't smell like liquor.
141 Years Later
When we pulled into town last month, the sweet yellow structure looked like a building from an old Western movie set... except for those cars.
Today Mendocino has only about 900 residents, but tourism keeps things busy. Since it was October, we were able to pull up right in front. I think it's a different story in the summer, when there are more tourists than parking spaces.
Fifties to the Seventies
By mid-century, the dying lumber industry caused the town to shrink. Loggers were replaced by artists... at least that's what I heard.
Jennifer didn't say anything about the old hotel, but it was nearly a century old by the time she visited the town.
It was fairly quiet in the parlor when we arrived around 4. We stepped inside to see some of the renovations that took place in 1975 when the rundown property was purchased, by R.O. Peterson.
I glanced up at the stained glass above us as we headed towards the desk. I'm guessing that was added in the seventies. I wish I could have found some before and after photos.
Don got us checked us in, through the window of the lovely Victorian lobby desk. The staff was friendly and not nearly as formal as the decor surrounding us.
I peeked in the bar, knowing it would be crowded later. I liked the little gremlin holding up the back bar. Obvious there was nothing original here, since The Temperance House served no liquor.
The polished steel fireplace was my favorite. It wasn't original to the hotel, but I believe it was over 200 years old.
A storm was predicted, so Don and I grabbed two chairs right in front of the fire. I was hoping for some real weather drama, but we only had a light rain.
The restaurant was all prepared and ready for guests at 5. It was Friday, so we expected some crowds.
We were warned by a head waiter (or someone who seemed to be in charge) to arrive before 8 if we wanted to be served. He explained that October was not their busy season, so they close when there's no business. We kept that warning in mind.
Tables by the Window
We decided to go for the less formal dining tables, in the parlor.
We grabbed a table by a window, although it was dark by then. My clam chowder was yummy and huge. Don's crab cakes were good, but tiny.
The hotel website was a little confusing, since they described rooms in the original hotel and luxury Garden Suites in a different area.
We of course chose the oldest part of the hotel and yes, it did feel old! Our room #9 was in the back, at the end of a long and narrow hall. The warped floor was covered in worn carpet and creaked a bit on our journey.
I'm pretty sure we had the smallest room in the hotel. The flowered bed spread was faded and the satiny shams and dust ruffle had tear or two. But we did have a bathroom, behind two grand doors! (Some of the rooms had shared baths in the hall)
Beside our tall window, sat the only chair in the room. I tried to sit once and the thing scared me with its sway. I let it hold my sweater instead.
The window looked out to the back of the property. I was sorry that it had been painted closed. But luckily the weather was decent and our room wasn't too stuffy. I think heating and cooling issues are common.
We could access the back porch through a door in the hall. Somewhere back in all the garden growth, was the additional guest housing. Since rain was starting up, we didn't make good use of the garden.
I wondered about the wooden water towers that were scattered all over the small town. There's history to these towers, I'm sure.
From the rear, we could see the hotel's large tower and the curious shape of the old building.
The Front Balcony
I was a little jealous of the rooms that looked out on the front balcony.
However there was access to the balcony for all guests. Maybe I wouldn't have wanted a room, with guests sitting right outside my window.
Checking it Out
Don and I always make good use of hotel porches and verandas.
We had hoped to have a glass of wine in the evening, on this one.
But the evening rain prevented that. Instead, we took our coffee out to the porch in the morning.
What an amazing view!
Our very favorite hotel memories include stays where we enjoyed the hotel AND its surroundings. In the morning, Don and I made good use of the area around our hotel!
It's easy to see why movies have been filmed here! How is it possible that we simply walked out the hotel door and saw all this, on a morning stroll?
This hotel stay was not about the hotel room.
Our memory of this hotel will be about the cozy fireplace in the parlor and the view from the upper porch AND the peaceful walk the next morning. Good memory for $143!
Storybook Hotel in a Storybook Village
Don and I take turns finding hotels, when planning our road trips.
Then I looked on the website and saw the immaculate two-story hotel, with all its trim.
On Main Street Since 1890
It was hard to believe the hotel was nearly 130 years old. It almost looked like something created for Disney World's Main Street.
The solid structure, known as the Russ Building, originally housed the Ferndale Bank on the first floor. The second floor held single rooms, suites, water closets and fireplaces. The Stick Style Eastlake Victorian, was built of Redwood on a brick foundation.
Decorated Bay Windows
The elaborate Italianate detail surrounding the windows, was stunning.
The hexagonal window was the most impressive. I found a photo from 1891, that showed a tower, extending up from that corner window. No cone shape above the window now, but still amazing!
Finding the Door
The double doors on the corner had a sign that sent us to a side entrance.
We followed the iron, hitching post horses and found a door leading to an entry, between lobby and restaurant.
In the entry, we found a friendly statue of a champion mule, named Loretta Jones. Loretta evidently once belonged to the current owner. I kind of liked her, with her festive leaf necklace. I greeted her every time we passed.
We found the check-in desk in the back of Silva's Jewelry Store. That seemed odd at first, since it seemed like a grand hotel, should have a grand lobby.
But it made more sense when I remembered this area had been a bank before it was a hotel. It made even more sense when I learned that the current owners were gemologists long before they were hotel owners. They fell in love with the old hotel years ago and made Ferndale their new home.
We checked in and carried our bags past my horse friend and up a stairway. The second story held about 15 rooms.
A skylight brightened the dramatic landing with all its dark woodowork.
I'm not sure what was behind the double doors at the end of the hall.
Maybe it was the fancy corner suite, with the fabulous bay window.
Room #210 - The Olivia
Our room actually had 2 doors. The first was near the cuckoo clock. It had some elaborate woodwork around the transom, but no number and no door knob.
The next door was the entrance to our guest room... which had once been 2 rooms. When the second story was renovated, rooms were all expanded. Now, every other door opens to a room.
I had already peeked on the website to see our room, but I was still pleasantly surprised.
The room was much larger and fresher and comfier than I expected.
I'm all for authentic furniture, but it's a treat to have a luxurious king bed, instead of an antique standard. The red velvet couch was much more comfortable than it looked. The 14 foot ceilings removed any gloom, that an old hotel might offer.
Books or TV?
I had to laugh at the tiny TV on the cabinet across from the bed. I think they should have hidden that little modern reminder, inside the cabinet.
As always, I was delighted that we had two bedside tables with lamps. That's common in chain hotels, but not expected in historic ones. I'd rather read a book than watch a tiny TV. The hotel was very quiet, so I appreciated the floor fan, which had a nice hum for sleeping.
Two Bathroom Pics
I always keep bathroom expectations low in old hotels. But, we had a decent sized bathroom with a window that went practically from floor to ceiling.
I liked the bathroom so much I had to take 2 photos. I especially liked the little pair of marble top tables... for our own stuff. It was nice having a tub and ample fluffy towels. If we'd needed a flashlight, there was one attached to the nightlight. If we'd needed a plunger (yikes) there was one nicely hidden inside a cloth bag, tied with a ribbon. Classy! No sarcasm there.
I do love windows and we had a few. It was nice having a view of the pretty town and sky, in the evening and morning.
Best of all, the window let me study the intricate trim up close. Were those Christmas lights, outlining the building? I should have stepped out after dark to have a peek.
It was dark soon after we checked in. There might have been some dining options in the small town, but we checked out the hotel's cozy tavern.
We sat at the old leather-top bar and took in the festive fall decor on the back bar. I was happy to see no fake cobwebs. We've stayed at too many old hotels in October and I get tired of that.
Don and I celebrated with a Martini and Cosmo, made by our bartender named Brandy. We figured she gets enough comments about her perfect bartender name, so we talked about other things.
I spotted a nearby couple drinking coffee and decided they must be the owners. The place wasn't busy, so I headed over to the table beneath the beautiful ships and inquired. I was right, and Lowell said I made his day, when I raved about the hotel.
We watched a few people come and go through the doorway to the Dining Room. "VI" was the name of the restaurant. It took me a while to realize those weren't Roman numerals, but initials.
There was a cozy area around a fireplace and a large space filled with dining tables. But we decided to stay put in the tavern.
Baby Spinach and Sliders
Our meal was just right. My salad had squash, strawberries, walnuts, raspberry vinaigrette and Humboldt Fog cheese. Brandy had to explain that Humboldt was the county we were in... which gets a lot of ocean fog.
Don had pulled pork sliders. He happens to love pickles, so he was extra impressed. I loved the green apple coleslaw.
Before bed, we helped ourselves to coffee in the second floor sitting area. Decaf options meant I slept well in our luxurious bed, with humming fan.
In the morning, we got up early and walked around the charming town... or should I call it a village? There are over 200 Victorian buildings and a cemetery that climbs up a steep hill, on the edge of town. It was the perfect morning walk.
Breakfast was included with our stay, so took a window seat in the VI Restaurant. What huge windows!
Our eggs, bacon and potatoes were served by a sweet young "Texan" named Katie. We were delighted to share some Texas stories, mostly about her hometown of Bastrop. She had gone to school with our favorite young, talented blues musicians, The Peterson Brothers. Oh how I love surprise conversations when we're traveling. I wish she could have pulled up a chair.
Our stay at The Victorian was a package deal. I feel like we experienced the hotel and town, all together. The combination was just lovely, but it was it too perfect? I wondered, "What's the catch?"
During our morning walk, I kept an eye out for flaws. However, I didn't spot any tacky t-shirt shops or glitzy, ritzy, overpriced gift shops. I saw locals greeting one another on the sidewalk. I saw a resident or two in their yards. I even saw the pharmacist from Rexall Drugs, strolling down the walk with a mug of coffee in one hand and a dog leash in the other. He said "Good Morning!" with a big smile.
Okay, this hotel and town made me happy. I think we need to move!
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.
More Snowy Than Scary at This Oregon Lodge
There was nothing spooky about the big lodge when we approached this past October.
The icy parking lot was kind of scary though. We weren't expecting snow in October.
Two Years Ago
I remember approaching the lodge 2 years ago, when we stopped for lunch on a trip. I was so excited to see the building that was depicted in exterior scenes, of the thriller, The Shining.
It was cool and sunny that day, but there was no snow. It was a little hard to imagine those frightening scenes that took place outside The Grand Overlook Hotel.
There was snow when we visited last month, but it was still too sunny, to be eerie.
We were at nearly 6,000 feet and it was in the thirties. The wind was whipping at our faces and the flags up on the viewing deck were flapping away.
The sun was working on the icicles and the wind was doing a job on the 750-pound "snow goose" weathervane!
Entrance to the Head House
I grinned as we climbed the steps to the iconic stone entrance. It wasn't really the movie connection that I was excited about. To me, it's the lodge's connection with WPA that made the place exceptional! There was so much to see.
The carved panel in the huge door was just one artistic contribution made by hundreds of artisans, involved in the construction of Timberline. I couldn't wait to take it all in.
Starting at the Bottom
We checked in at the desk, on the lower level, then had a look at some of the displays about the hotel's construction period, from 1936 to 1938.
80 years ago, skiers must have been pretty excited when the grand lodge opened. They would have lounged on these "snowshoe chairs" in front of the fires. The curling andirons were impressive... made from recycled railroad rails!
The hexagonal fireplace continued up through 2 more levels. The "first floor" had ample sitting space around the fireplaces and near the windows. The upper floor had dining and bar tables, near the Ram's Head Bar.
Lunch With View
On our summer visit, Don and I had lunch on the circular balcony near the bar. We had a stunning view of Mount Hood, with just enough snow for some August snowboarders.
Mount Hood In October
This time, we stepped out the back door and I posed very quickly for a photo with a much whiter, Mount Hood. I look pretty relaxed here, but I was gritting my teeth and telling Don to hurry. It was freezing!
Our room wasn't quite ready, so we did some wandering before settling in.
We checked out some of the murals and mosaics that were created by artisans over 80 years ago.
Doors and Windows
It's amazing to look at the completed hotel and to realize this was all created during the Great Depression. Hundreds of skilled and unskilled laborers, craftsmen and artists worked for nearly 2 years.
On our first visit, I made Don pose so I could show the amazing size of this door. This time, I studied the ironwork. The door knocker looked like something out of a haunted fairytale.
Some of the whimsical door and window shapes just made me smile. Don and I remembered the cute, pointy door from before. We were sad the little tavern was not open this time.
Not only did the lodge project provide jobs, but it made use of recycled materials.
These wonderful carved newel posts (new term for me) were made from discarded utility poles. There were 19 different ones in the hotel and all of them had been smoothed and shined by appreciative guests. Just how many hands in 80 years?
We didn't make good enough use of the Barlow Room, but it was one of my favorites.
This room made me feel like I was stepping right into the movie, Sun Valley Serenade. I wanted to wear a cute little Sonja Henie sweater outfit and play some pingpong... on the wooden table!
We didn't hang out and play games, but I was happy just studying the sweet details that surrounded me.
The linoleum mural panels had a dreamlike quality. They gave me the same feeling I get, when I pick up an old worn, but loved family Christmas ornament.
Our room was down a hall, with cozy paneling and another marvelously shaped door at the end.
We even had a wooden Privacy sign. Much better than those plastic things.
We had 3 doors, including the closet and bathroom. All had intriguing locks and handles.
Our little room had lots of cozy wood and a cute retro phone. The window faced the front, so no view of Mount Hood for us.
There was a sweet little desk if we needed to write letters. There was indeed stationary in the desk, next to an ice scraper for the car! We didn't end up needing that or the tiny (sinfully out of place) TV.
Clean and Comfy
The queen bed was surprisingly comfy. I liked the wool blanket accent.
The bathroom wasn't huge, but the pretty tile was spotless and the towels were thick and soft.
View of Mount Jefferson
Our room view would have been a little better if we'd been on the floor above.
We could see Mount Jefferson from our room, so I'll say that counts as a view! These photos I have to say, were not taken from our room.
The best view of Mount Jefferson was from the stone terrace on the second floor. I checked on the view a few times in the evening and morning.
It was a little too chilly for more than picture taking. But it was fun seeing the flags. Evidently, the flags represent the countries of the international staff.
Where to Sit?
In the evening, Don and I wandered a bit, in search of cozy seating. We passed on the chairs, with woven rawhide seats.
There were a number of cute little nooks with couches or writing tables.
By the Fire
Seats by the fire were in demand, but there were 3 fires burning, so we lucked out.
I didn't get a photo of the fire tender and his cart of wood and tools. It's practically a full time job keeping the fires going.
For a while Don and I sipped wine and enjoyed a few snacks, while watching people coming and going.
These interesting chairs had built in side tables, which were pretty handy!
Morning at Timberline
Morning came early, since we had some kind of pacing, floor-walker above us from 5 am on. (Another good reason to book an upper room) But I was happy to get up at dawn and explore a little.
Long before 7, there was a table set up for coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The fires were burning and a few little girls dressed in p.j.s were having a wonderful time with their Teddy Bears.
I was pleased to meet 3-year-old Heidi. who posed with me briefly.
Heidi was lounging behind the front desk when I first spotted her. The young man working the desk said he remembered when she first came to the lodge 3 years ago. "She was as big as her head is now. She stepped out into the snow and disappeared!"
Breakfast in the Cascade Dining Room
Heidi wasn't allowed in the dining room, but Don and I headed in happily.
We had forgotten that we had booked a room & breakfast package. It was a nice surprise.
We didn't sit next to the fire, because there wasn't one. We were told the winds were blowing in the wrong direction and it would be too smoky if a fire was lit. We did have a great table by the window, though. More views of Mount Jefferson!
Sometimes breakfast buffets are a disappointment, but we had some fun options.
The Glacier Freeze Smoothie was an exciting way to start the day. The tricky salami slicer was a little scary for me! We ate well, then enjoyed a late check out and more fireplace lounging!
Don and I have stayed at many state and national park lodges. This one ranks pretty high for coziness... which is what attracts us to lodges.
Besides being warm and cozy with all its stone and timber, the lodge staff was also warm and welcoming. I'm still unclear about the ownership of Timberline, but it felt like things were run well.
Mostly, I will remember the views and the amazing WPA creations that filled the lodge. I have a feeling we will be back!
On the Plaza, in Sonoma
I remember spotting the Swiss Hotel a couple years ago. It was right across from the historic Plaza in Sonoma.
Or maybe the folks dining at the cafe tables on the porch, made me hungry.
I chatted with a friendly gentleman and his pup. The place seemed very inviting.
On that pretty fall day 2 years ago, Don and I were lured in for lunch.
There were two entrances. We went through the doors, with martini silhouettes, under the windows. We eventually found the lovely garden patio and feasted on pulled pork sandwiches and spinach salads!
This past October, Don and I returned to the Swiss Hotel.
This time we had reservations for one of the 5 rooms. I was excited to spend a night in the building that had been home to Don Salvadore Vallejo, in the mid 1800's.
From Home to Hotel
The words on the sign stated, " Swiss Hotel Since 1909", but the Vallejo home became a stagecoach stop and hotel, long before that.
The hotel had at least a couple names, but it was called "Swiss Hotel" by the time the Masstelotto family bought it in 1923. The 4th generation is running it today.
Jenny checked us in at 3. She was very helpful, giving us hints on everything from wineries to parking.
Jenny let us know where the continental breakfast would be served. She said there were trays available if we wanted to enjoy eating on the veranda. She was very cheery, yet professional. I wondered if she was family.
While Don finished up, I peeked around the lobby at old photos. There was a lone dining table in the front window, near an antique phone and clock.
There was a cute little sitting area near the doorway to the dining room. I remembered from before, seeing that curious, square window/door between rooms.
I also took a look in the dining room, which looked welcoming with white cloths and roses.
While looking at some of the old photos, I was approached by Dawn, who was delighted that I was impressed with the history. She also graciously handed me a fancy little flashlight. "Just in case." She told me, without a hint of worry to her voice. She explained that there was a chance Pacific, Gas & Electric would be turning off power in the night. Fire concerns... yikes.
Up to Room 2
We headed for the hall where I spotted more photo covered walls... and an antique phone booth. I love phone booths.
Our room was in the opposite direction. We passed through a doorway which took us to another hall.
Was this a newer wing that had been added onto the back? Rats. I always prefer staying in the oldest part. But I was pleased, when we turned the key and walked into our own little entry, with 3 doorways.
Our 3-room suite with its convenient vanity and contemporary art, felt more 1980's than early 1900's. But the space felt cozy-retro with angled ceilings and slanted floors.
The sitting room was a nice surprise with windows overlooking the garden patio. It was charming in a simple down home, grandma's guest room way. I loved the grapevines that were trying to grow in the bedroom window!
Chat at the Bar
The bar was occupied by all locals when we arrived at 5. After a couple of days in touristy Napa and Sonoma, it was fun to be surrounded by people who knew one another, but were open to outsiders like us.
Don and our bartender talked World Series for a while. When I asked friendly guy (so wish I remembered his name) where he was from, he pointed to a photo on the wall of his mom. He said he grew up in Sonoma and his mom worked at the bar. He had good memories of coming over after school for burgers.
Ghastly Photos and Ghostly Occupants
A couple at one of the tables asked if we were staying at the hotel. The woman offered to take our picture. My creepy (drunken) expression does not match my pleasant, relaxed memory.
After taking our photo, the woman asked if we were staying in Room 5, which is evidently the most haunted. She said she'd had a friendly ghost encounter in the restroom once. "Some think the ghost is Freddy." She said as she pointed to a photo of Freddy the cook, in 1945.
Cozy Bar Vibe
On the wall, I spotted a photo of the old bar and compared it to one I took 2 years ago. It looks like little has changed in 4 generations.
I was so delighted that the small gathering of folks made us feel at home. Sometimes Don and I feel intrusive, when we sit at a bar with regulars.
Regulars and Celebrities
I had a good time checking out some of the people photos that covered the walls. There were quite a few famous faces, like President Kennedy. Not sure how may actually visited the bar.
My favorite photos were of the local celebrities. There were images of townspeople in aprons, in overalls... by a barber pole. I would love to know the stories behind these people!
Above the double doors, there were more faces smiling down!
Don and I walked under those faces and took a peek through those doors to check for open tables. The cafe tables near the sidewalk were all full.
To the Veranda
So we headed to the porch upstairs, with it's long planks of redwood. Were those actual holes, patched with metal?
The wind was beginning to pick up, as the sun lowered. There was an eerie feel in the air. We had heard from people in the bar that the schools had decided to close, in anticipation of the power outage.
I was still a little confused about how this was going to help prevent the spread of the fires. We sat there on the porch, wondering... and remembering our lunch at the Swiss Hotel 2 years ago. The devastating fires of 2017, started up as soon as we returned home to Texas.
By the time we headed back down to the sidewalk tables, it was dark. The tables were still full, but it was entertaining hearing all the local chatter.
We just got one and shared it like we were at the malt shop! It was smaller than we expected for $12. but plenty potent. Yum!
We headed up for bed, wondering if we would need our flashlight at some point. Our phones were charged and we were checking out in the morning. So no real worries.
I woke after midnight when our room suddenly got quiet. The clock was no longer glowing. In the early morning I used the flashlight/lantern to get dressed and tiptoed downstairs. There were actually candles lighting the hallway and one, flickering inside the phone booth.
All Well So Far
I wandered around the Plaza and all was quiet. When I returned Dawn was busy getting the continental breakfast ready. She apologized that she couldn't make coffee.
Don and I skipped showers and checked out early, to get on the road before traffic got worse. Cars were already backed up at non-functioning traffic lights. We felt lucky that the power glitch had only slightly inconvenienced us.
Fire concerns will always be a part of our Swiss Hotel memories. It wasn't long after we left Sonoma that the Kincaid Fire began spreading and destroying hundreds of homes and buildings.
Mostly I'll remember the homey feel of our historic hotel, bar and restaurant. Our hosts and servers were all gracious and welcoming, despite the worries they may have had. The locals were also friendly and entertaining. The building itself was charming with all its history and the location was hard to beat!
Hope to return!
The Doc's California Resort!
Our recent visit to Calistoga was part of a reunion with our kids and spouses. I was happy that "The Kids" were game to give Dr. W's a try!
The cute town was laid back and comfortable and more reasonably priced, than the towns of Napa or Sonoma. I doubt they have Harvest Hoedown BBQ celebrations in those wine country towns.
It was around 6, when we headed into the modern looking building, covered in vines. Our group of 6 filled up the little lobby.
I studied the old photos on the lobby walls and asked a few questions.
The gracious woman who checked us in, had been working at the hotel for 20 years.
She pointed out an old black and white photo and shared a little history about Doc and Edy Wilkinson, who opened the resort in 1952. She said the Wilkinson's son and daughter just recently sold the resort.
I was sorry we missed the chance to actually meet members of the original family. I wonder how old the W. Kids were in 1962, when the lodge was spiffed up, with a second level. The vintage photo looks similar to my photo... minus the towering sign and palms.
Off to the Rooms
We were given our keys and headed through the courtyard to the stairs.
The courtyard was a pretty handy gathering place. The next morning we sat at the tables and studied our phones, discussing strategies for caravanning to wineries.
Our 3 rooms were on the upper level. Don and I rolled our bags towards Room 34. I felt like I should be lugging the red, youth-sized American Tourister suitcase I owned as a child.
I would have really fit the scene, had I been toting my mom's old marbled-beige, Samsonite cosmetic case. I remember lots of motels like this from when I was a kid, but I remember no suitcases with wheels!
Bargain in Napa Valley
Our room was not the most deluxe or updated, but it's what I asked for.
For less than $150. we had a room within walking distance of wineries and restaurants, in a charming Napa Valley town.
I have no pics of the kids' rooms, but they were slightly more renovated. However, the youngins didn't have the awesome exposed brick that we had. Our host tried to put us in a room with less worn carpet and hidden brick, but Don and I always go for the vintage.
No Tub 'O Mud
Our bathroom was far from luxurious, but we did have bathrobes and a coffee maker and a wine opener. (wise) There was no tub for soaking... in mud or water.
Besides the location, our group was excited about enjoying what Wilkinson's is known for. Nearly 7 decades ago, Doc and Edy started making good use of the area's geothermal hot spring waters and the ancient volcanic ash.
The signs gave us some ideas about options... mud, steam, mineral, massage, therapy, baths and COLONICS! Yikes.
Most in our group were up for about anything on the sign, besides the colon treatment. A mud bath experience would have been a highlight for me, but our time was limited. We decided to all head for the mineral pools, which was included in our stay.
There were 2 outdoor pools, which looked a tiny bit less inviting in person. Just a bit worn.
Following the Rules
We headed for the indoor pool and had it mostly to ourselves. We could have misbehaved with some singing, or comical water ballet...
However, the wall of rules was a bit intimidating. Some of the info was reassuring, though. There were phone numbers for the ambulance and the pool operator. We had a choice of 2 physicians that we could call. Luckily, no mishaps.
The weather was lovely in the evening. It was such a treat walking out the door and heading down a couple blocks to dinner.
No driving and no parking. We dined outside near the river, with live music. Then we strolled on back to our lil motel. So easy.
It looked peaceful at the old Spa Resort, but I'm not convinced it looked 3 times as good as our quirky little place. Maybe next time we'll splurge and stay there.
Bye Dr. W
I made it back in time to join the others for breakfast at a nearby diner.
Then we said good-bye to our Hot Springs Motel with its fabulous sign. We were off to the wineries.
I'm glad we stayed.
And what a treat that the old sign still glows at night! Next time... Mud Baths!
Sweet Hotel in a Sweet Town
Built in 1860's
We pulled up on a late Wednesday afternoon, in July. The place looked even more intriguing than the internet photos!
A New Greek Revival Look
In 1923 a new owner took over and made the hotel even grander. George W. Maher was brought in to help with a new look.
Sadly he died in nearby Douglas, just a few years after the renovation. Seems like every time I do a little research I find a sad story. Maher evidently took his own life, due to struggles with health.
Back to Our Visit!
We arrived around 6:00 and grabbed a parking space right on the street! I was extra excited because our 2-day stay was going to be shared with my sister and sister-in-law! I kept fingers crossed as we headed in. I hoped Jennifer and Kate would be okay with our hotel pick.
As soon as we opened the door, I was relieved. It felt like we'd stepped into a cozy home. There was a set of stairs straight ahead and a wood paneled living room to the left.
To the right was a reception desk and another sitting area. So far so good!
Down the Hall
Lots of Carved Wood
I'm sure there were some good stories behind these fine pieces, especially the one with the curious carving of The Last Supper. Maybe these were in the original furniture store. Who knows?
Our room was lovely. There was no musty smell, which should almost be expected, with a hotel that is a century and a half old!
Maybe we were staying in a newer part. I hope not, since I usually ask for the most historic rooms. But the room was comfortable and classy, with antiques and fireplace.
The Tiffany style lamp certainly fit the era. There were a few framed prints, that I wouldn't have minded owning!
Ahhh for the Bathroom!
Even some of the very nicest historic hotels, have cramped bathrooms. I could have lived in this spacious and luxurious room!
The separate shower was large, the separate sinks were a bonus and the tub (with complimentary bath salts) was heavenly. I've never used a tub with a built in step!
After checking out the room, I wandered a bit. I found the back stairs near the breakfast room.
I took a trip up the stairs to the second floor and peeked in a few open doors... before coming down the stairs in front. The upper rooms that I saw were nice, with good views. But, it was a treat not having to hike up and down, during our 2-day stay.
The glassed in porch was set up for the daily complimentary breakfast. The next morning, Kate and Jennifer grabbed us a perfect table, at 8 am.
We had a nice view of the nearby park, while we sipped our coffee in flowered cups. Well, half of us chose the dainty ones, with saucers. I like having a cup or mug choice.
At the dresser, we helped ourselves to fruit, salads, olives and breads. Then our blueberry French toast and bacon arrived! (The next day was quiche)
As we lingered over coffee, a woman wandered in and we began to chat. She turned out to be the owner, Catherine Simon. She relaxed against a table and entertained us with her dry wit for a while. Pretty fun hearing about her nearly 30 years running the hotel... the fun of hosting her own family reunions... Kate told her she was the kind of relative everyone wants! Catherine answered, "You've got that right!"
Enjoying the Shared Space
In the back of the hotel, we found more sitting areas. There were wine glasses available and some fresh cookies. There was a player piano, that we didn't use and a TV that luckily wasn't on.
The first night, we chatted near the wood burning fireplace... which would be nice in winter. It felt like we were in our own home, hanging out. Except that we had to hush our voices occasionally, since rooms were nearby.
Lounging Near the Pool
The second evening, the air was balmy and we sat out on the lounge chairs near the pool. At one point, I headed inside with my plastic cup to get some wine from the room.
On my way to the room, I stopped to chat with some guests in the hall. Then, I waved to Catherine, who was heading down our way... just in time for my faux pas.
"Oh no! Oh I'm sorry! Oh I can't believe I did this! Oh... and why did my key even work?!" I just stood their rambling while they stared. Then they assured me it was fine and I thanked them for not throwing anything at me. I started to leave and the gracious, older man asked, "So what room are you in?" I hated to admit we were neighbors and I was staying next door. He smiled slightly, "Well, I guess we'll be paying you a visit, at 3 in the morning." There was a wink in his voice and I know he was kidding... but that comment sort of terrified me.
I had no more embarrassing moments that evening. In the morning I tiptoed out, trying to be a quiet neighbor. I went on a run, heading past the park. Who needs a hotel fitness room, when you've got Saugatuck sidewalks! I looked back at the long hotel, on that peaceful morning.
I asked Catherine later, how you get up to the roof balcony. She smiled, like she was sharing a secret. She said that was where she lived and then she described her oasis on the 3rd floor. I wish we'd gotten an invitation.
In our two days, we never used our car once and that was a huge part of what made our hotel stay wonderful. My morning run let me peek at the quiet town, without people.
On the River
Saugatuck was also charming, when it was filled with people. We took the ferry over the Kalamazoo River, we shopped and dined and watched the crowds gather for music in the park. What an idyllic setting! We couldn't have asked for a better location.
Our 15-room hotel was the perfect size. It sat on a quiet street, in a town of less than 1,000... also a perfect size.
I felt like she was my mother shooing me outside to go play. Was that annoying? Not at all. I just wanted Catherine to adopt us, so we could be invited to the next family reunion.
A Fun or Funny?
I assured him that it would be an entertaining overnight. "It could be fun... or it might just be funny."
Historic... and Touristy
I had good, but vague memories of the little German town. However, the images I saw on the internet made "Michigan's Little Bavaria" look like a German theme park. Just how hokey would it be?
Then I decided, even if the town was jammed with tourists and dripping in corny German decor, it could be fun and memorable. Besides, Frankenmuth was more than a stage set. There was real history. The town was founded in 1845, by 15 German-Lutheran missionaries.
July 4th Weekend
We arrived on Friday, over 4th of July weekend. That could have been asking for trouble, right there. But, we were ready to take on the whole Bavarian Inn & Frankenmuth Experience.
Bavarian Inn's Confusing History
When we spotted The Inn from Main Street, it looked like it covered the whole block. It actually looked pretty festive, with all the colorful flowers.
My photo just shows part of the rambling complex. Surprisingly, the right portion of building goes back to 1888. It was built as a hotel by the Fischers, the family that began the all you can eat fried chicken trend, in Frankenmuth. The hotel didn't have a Bavarian motif at all.
In 1950, the Zehnder family bought the Fischer Hotel. William (Tiny) Zehnder Jr. and his wife Dorothy ran the place. Tiny (I so love that name) died over a decade ago, but Dorothy at 97, still can be found helping out in the restaurant's kitchen!
Zehnder's Famous Chicken Dinners?
This Zehnder family is confusing! It took a while to get this all figured out.
Today both places serve fried chicken and German food... and are run independently, by different parts of the Zehnder fam. That's just strange. Two competing businesses across from each other... in a town of less than 5,000... both owned and run by the same family that immigrated in the 1800's! Whew!
Then and Now
After a hearty lunch, Don and I headed across the street to the Bavarian Inn. We walked through the beer garden, through the door in the 50-foot Glockenspiel tower. This was part of the Old World expansion that Tiny added in 1959.
Lost in the Inn
Across the River
Outside, we found a carriage driver, who pointed out the Bavarian Inn Lodge, across the Cass River. She told us we could walk over the covered bridge. Okay, maybe this was Disney World! The sight of the complex, on 7 acres of land... was comical.
Holz Bruecke from 1979
The bridge (like the hotel) was not old. But it was pretty.
We followed a buggy across the bridge and met a couple who asked if we'd take their photo. They had just become engaged. We had a fun chat and then the groom-to-be asked Don, "You've been married 40 years? What's your secret?" Don answered with a grin. "Be a good listener." Sweet.
Hiking to the Lodge
We headed down the road, laughing at ourselves. These buildings looked like a fairytale village! What were we getting into? And why were we leaving our car way behind?
We passed a giant birdcage, with peacocks. We watched a few kids roll down the hill, on a nearby lawn.
When we got past the huge parking lot, there was a colorful lineup of buildings. Of course my photo from early morning, looks peaceful. At 2:00 pm, there were toddling tots and crying babies in strollers, old folks with walkers and smokers on benches.
But the flowers were pretty. And I was happily amused by the painted stucco, in the shady, garden area.
It was about 90 degrees, which felt pretty warm after our hike. We were glad the lobby entrance was in the first building.
Lots to Look At
I shouldn't be a travel snob. I shouldn't make fun. But it was hard not to laugh when I took in some of the decor, as we stood in the snaking, check in line.
My neck hurt from staring upward, at the upside down Christmas tree (decorated in spring colors) and the German dolls and wooden oxen yoke, deer heads and pastel umbrellas. What a display!
Where Do We Go?
I should have listened when we were given directions to our room. It was a confusing maze through all the buildings. It would have been easier if we'd just walked outside and headed past the Banquet/Conference Center...
We could have just parked down by the "Tower Entrance". But instead we wandered inside, turning down many wrong halls and dodging families with all their pool gear. Were we the only guests with no children?
Don and I grinned and shushed each other, every time we read the special reminder signs! Then at last, we found our room!
I wish I'd taken some photos of all the cleaning carts and rollaway beds and folding cribs, that clogged the hall. But I must say, the staff couldn't have been friendlier. They cheerily apologized every time we stepped around their carts.
We stepped into our room and chuckled just a bit. The size was fantastic. We had no complaints about that.
The bathroom and furniture were a bit dated, but all was clean. We'd seen photos on the website, so it was no surprise. However the balcony door and windows bothered me. There seemed sort of industrial and odd. But at least I knew there was a balcony, with a river view, just outside them. We'd paid extra for that perk.
When we opened the door and realized we had a shared balcony, I suddenly was less enthused. I hadn't pictured us sharing the balcony space with other families. Plus, we suddenly had no privacy in our room, when the curtains were open. Oh well.
The view of the trees and garden and river was nice. It was all pretty peaceful out there... just a few muffled squeals, now and then. That was off to the left, coming from the kids inside the tower, sliding down the enclosed water slides. Funny.
There was another odd thing about our room.
The wall decor made me think we had accidentally stepped into someone's personally decorated timeshare room. I'm fine with some dated decor and slightly musty carpet. Don and I would stay only at Marriotts, if we had those concerns. But there were so many framed photos?
At Home With the Claramunts
It took a while to get it... but our room was named for the Claramunt Family. There were pictures of Morrall and Nancy and their 3 kids all over the room. There were even family Baptismal certificates on the wall. Why?
Okay, I'm sure the Claramunts are outstanding folks. But it was strange being surrounded by them. And why are those frames not centered over the couch?
So I guess we weren't the only ones who lucked out with a family focused guest room. As it turns out, every one of the 360 guest rooms, is named for a local family or person in the community. Gee, if only I'd seen the list of all the room names, earlier. I could have requested to stay in the room that says MEYER on the door. That's my maiden name, from my German great grandfather. Next time?
After taking in the wonders of our room, we set off to explore.
Don and I peeked around at some of the pool excitement, but really we had no urge to participate. There were 4 indoor pools, plus putt putt, ping pong and pool, as in billiards... gift shops, arcades. There was lots to delight the families.
Where's the Beer?
In the evening we hiked back across the bridge, in search of a little German beer. We headed into the original building where the Fischers once got in a little trouble for selling beer, during prohibition. Evidently the Zehnders did as well, across the street!
The street entrance took us into a waiting area, for two of the dining rooms. There were no crowds waiting, like there had been at lunch. We weren't hungry yet, but I was curious. I peered through the glass into Tiny's Room. That must be used for special events.
I peeked into the Family Crest Dining Room and I became less hungry. I just wasn't ready to eat another big meal in a big banquet room... even if the staff was dressed in festive lederhosen!
Beer and Pretzel!
Instead, I chose to be amused by a pouting mannequin, wearing his lederhosen. He was sitting at a small bar, I sat beside him and posed with an empty mug. Don posed with pretzel and beer. Both were good and we were happy.
So we spent the evening in the building where the whole Frankenmuth fried chicken thing started, about a century ago and we didn't end up eating! That is sinful. We could have eaten a German feast as well. But we just weren't hungry after our big lunch.
By the time we were hungry, the dining rooms were clearing out. Some of the rooms weren't even in use, which seems crazy. It was a Friday night in July!
Back to the Lodge
We found some life back at the lodge. The crowd at Lorelie's Lounge was a mix of locals and tourists. The live music was pretty decent and our server, Holly kept us happy with popcorn!
She assured us, the 10:00 Schnitzelbank Sing-a-long was a must. Don knows some German, so he was able to sing along, with the help of our napkin. What a hoot! They even had a real schnitzelbank work bench on display near the stage. I only wish we'd been able to do a little German polka dancing.
We slept well in our king bed, which actually came with both soft and hard pillows. Extra points for that. I woke early and threw on my running shoes.
One of the nicest parts of the stay, was getting up early before the heat and crowds. I had the most lovely run, over the bridge and into town. I even stopped to play the little instrument, beside the sidewalk.
Back on the Porch
After a quick shower, Don and I made coffee and pulled out some pastries, we'd brought with us. I was determined to use that shared balcony before we left. Luckily our neighbors seemed to be sleeping. It was pretty pleasant and quiet.
We packed up, said good bye to the Claramunt Clan. We were soon on our way.
Yes there was some hokey stuff and our room was not the most luxurious. But Don and I really enjoyed exploring and lounging and figuring out the odd Zehnder history. I don't know that we'll go out of our way to stay again in the future, but I'm mighty glad we stayed this time!
July 4th in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Even Longer Ago
Even longer ago, I was a high school student, living in Ann Arbor. I remember this hotel, with its formal, almost European appearance.
Don also lived in Ann Arbor then. He was a student at U of M, but we didn't meet until a few years later, in St. Louis.
My Dad worked at U of M and it seemed like my parents were always meeting up with special guests for drinks or dinner, at the Bell Tower. It sounded like a ritzy place. Was it?
Dad's office was just around the corner from the hotel. I have fond memories of wandering around that familiar area. I didn't exactly hang out at the Bell Tower Hotel, but I wondered about it. I imagined important people staying there... like Arthur Miller or Leonard Bernstein. I'm not sure that they ever did.
When we arrived on July 4th, the street had just opened up, after a morning parade. We lucked out and got ourselves some free holiday parking, right in front.
I took a good look at the 3-story stone facade, with flags and window boxes. I'm not sure what they were thinking in 1967, when they added that oddball 4-story structure, with balconies. I'm pretty sure the angled building on the left, wasn't there before.
I don't actually remember what the lobby looked like, when I first peeked in, as a teenager. But it probably had the same, proper English-looking decor.
She didn't know, but happily looked for a history printout, that she recalled seeing once. She couldn't find it, but offered to do a Google search. That was actually very sweet of her. I thanked her for offering, but I'd already tried and failed to come up with anything. We finished checking in and carried our bags 5 steps up, to the elevator.
Burton Memorial Tower
I had hoped we could get a room with a view of Burton Tower, across the street. Since we were staying at the Bell Tower Hotel, it seemed fitting, to look out and see the 83 year old tower, that houses a grand carillon! But those rooms were higher in price. I settled for a photo, from the window near the elevator.
There also weren't any parents with high school or college students. I'm sure the atmosphere will change, when campus is busy in the fall.
Our room was tiny and clean. Very tiny. But it was our choice to pick a room with the lowest rate. The decor was slightly updated since our last visit, but it looked a little worn.
The maid left the TV on in the bathroom, or we never would have known it was there. Out of 230 Notable Nights, this is only the second time we've had a TV built into our mirror. Not needed, but fun!
In past write ups, I've complained a lot about trendy bathrooms that use glass in their doors. Our nice, but small bathroom had a frosted glass window, in the door. Why? That little detail means... If you want to get up early and shower, you have to share your bathroom light, with the late sleeper. Oh well. It really wasn't a problem, this time.
The best part of our stay, was the location! Besides hearing beautiful sounds from over 50 bells, in the limestone tower, we were just steps away from campus.
We wandered in the evening and morning, spotting familiar buildings and a few we didn't recognize. We saw Heidi's first dorm and Don's old dorm... The Power Center where my dad directed plays... Hill Auditorium, where I watched my brother graduate from law school... And in the evening we joined my dear high school friend, Lorie, for some July 4th festivities on the lawn.
I was disappointed that our hotel no longer had a restaurant at all. I wanted to sit in the dining room/bar, where my parents once sipped Manhattans...
But our hotel was within easy walking distance of Main Street and State Street, with lots of food options. We wandered later that night and found some pizza and beer, which hit the spot.
Seeing the old theaters lit up, brought back memories. I remember an organist performing before the movie started, at The Michigan. I remember cringing over "Jaws" at the State Theatre!
On Friday morning, Don raced down to put money in the meter by 8:00. Then we headed through the lobby, to the area where our complimentary breakfast was waiting.
In 2004, this area had been the Escoffier restaurant. I actually found the brochure from our last stay and had a good time comparing! We didn't have a chance to dine in that dark and formal room 15 years ago. But in 2019 we enjoyed a little breakfast. The bright modern look was an odd, but refreshing contrast to the rest of the hotel.
I wasn't hungry enough to sample all the hot and cold options, but I got the perfect amount for me. I was thrilled to grab a complimentary New York Times and the coffee was extra good. It was a nice end, to our easy stay.
It was such a treat spotting places and buildings, that triggered memories. And how crazy that Don and I each had stories to share from the same years... when we both lived in Ann Arbor and didn't know each other.
So, we explored, we remembered and we discovered! That's notable. There's also a notable fact I learned about that sweet clock tower. But I won't share, because it just makes me sad. Too much knowledge is not always a good thing.
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!