Thursday, June 24, 2010

A virtual dream trip from one who's staying put for a while

I was thinking how much I'd like for you to see a little bit about the Sylvia Beach Hotel at Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The inn's named after Sylvia Beach, a mentor of Lost Generation writers, who owned the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company. I have loved the hotel for years and think of it as my home away from home. In fact, if it is even your second visit there, the staff will check you in with a "welcome home" greeting.
It's on pilgrimage lists for folks who also can't wait to see the famous world's largest independent Powell's Books, just about two hours away in Portland, Oregon. The inn's also in some of those "101 things to do before you die" type of guides. Rooms are typically booked months if not a year in advance. I try to make my next couple of reservations as I'm leaving, ensuring that I'll squeeze in a retreat a few times a year. But there are also usually folks from all over the world who luck out with a walk-in after a cancellation.

Each room in the hotel is dedicated to an author, poet or playwright. From Austen to Wilde as it were.

I think I've stayed in nearly every room. Except Poe. It's a little on the creepy side for sleeping. The photo above is of Tennessee Williams' room... named appropriately "Stella." Dreamy, isn't it?

Shakespeare's headboard.

The writing desk in Shakespeare. As far as I know every room has a spot for writing. No phones or televisions though.

This is my daughters' favorite room. Dr. Seuss. Other children's writers represented at the hotel include Robert Louis Stevenson. His room was occupied on my last visit so I couldn't skulk in for a photo. It's gorgeous though ... a big four-poster bed of tree trunks twined with vines.

More Dr. Seuss. Maybe the least "restful" room in the hotel, it's also one of the most fun.

My favorite parts of the Sylvia Beach Hotel are the library and the dining room. The library occupies the western end of the third floor as well as the attic above, where chimneys from the other floors snake between bookcases like an illustration from Dr. Seuss. On foggy days the library is nearly silent even when writers and guests are sprawled in every easy chair. You may hear the scratch of a pen, the sigh of wonder at a truly great sentence read and re-read, or the crackling of the fire. On sunny days the Pacific view is astounding. The doors to the balcony are open and the background noise is the hush of incoming and outgoing tides.
The library has "no cell phone" signs posted among portraits of authors. Sometimes rowdy book groups or family reunions gather in the library, but that's a different and happier sort of noise altogether than the city-centric, twenty-first-century convention of cell phone addiction. (My tiny soapbox moment, brought to you by a decade in real estate.)
The library also has a small kitchenette for making tea and storing snacks. Every evening at 9 or 10 the hotel serves mulled wine in this area. It's so yummy and spicy and warm and it's gone in moments, usually to savvy guests who've been camped out waiting for the carafes to arrive. Not that I'd know anything about that.
One fantastic reason to miss the late-night mulled wine in the library is to still be seated in the Tables of Content restaurant in the basement dining room. Not only is the food local, gourmet and amazing, but it's served by "Mother," family style in at least five courses, and seating is carefully assigned so lone travelers and couples and groups are all accommodated.
And then... at dinner... love it or hate it, the diners play a game called "two truths and a lie." Each guest has the opportunity to tell two true things and one fib about themselves. Then the fellow diners ask three questions apiece of the storyteller to try to ascertain which is the lie. The hilarity of this game cannot be overstated, even for a natural introvert like me. I am always so inspired by peoples' creativity, and generosity, and friendliness.
Breakfast also occurs in the dining room, and is included with the room rate. It's a hot breakfast that I can easily linger over for a couple of hours, either visiting with a guest met the evening before or reading or watching the waves from the plate glass wall of ocean-facing windows.
It's easy to be alone at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. It's easy to be in a group or with your husband. It's easy to be quiet or sociable, to read or walk along the sand. The hotel's own website claims that the inn will either embrace or repel a person. (And to be truthful I have met a few people at breakfast who felt out of sorts with the Bohemian atmosphere and lack of modern amenities.)
I read that even today, Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris exchanges beds for a few hours' work from aspiring young writers. I do think the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, lives up to its namesake's vision of celebrating the written word and the people who create it as well as those who crave it.

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