Monday, January 12, 2009

Take a deep breath...

The Sylvia Beach Hotel is far and away my favorite Pacific Northwest haven when I’m in need of a respite from fast-paces and rat-races. The hotel sits on a 45 foot bluff directly above Nye beach in Newport, Oregon (about a two and a half hour drive from Portland), and overlooks an especially picturesque coastal panorama, which includes the state’s tallest lighthouse at Yaquina Head.

The owner, Portland resident Goody Cable, says that time seems to slow there. And it does. I often don’t realize how quickly I’ve been moving, until I allow myself to go to a place like this, where I’m able to take a few steps back and breathe for a while. Sylvia Beach is designed as a quintessential readers retreat, so make sure to bring a book (or stop by another one of my favorites, the Cannon Beach Book Company, on your drive there to pick up some new material). There are two public phones available, but other than that, modern technology is kept at a minimum. There are no televisions, no radios and no wi-fi connections in any of the rooms. If you want to experience the hotel the in the way it was intended, I would suggest leaving the laptop at home and keeping the cell turned off.

From a designer’s perspective, the rooms are both whimsical and highly imaginative. Each one is unique, with name and décor based on a specific novelist or poet. There are three price ranges available, starting with “Novels”, four rooms which are all fabulous in their own right, but are the only options that don’t offer an ocean view. Thirteen “Best Sellers” compose the next tier of rooms. You can finish up your manuscript at the functional desk furnished in Hemingway, relax in the calming ambiance of Jane Austen, celebrate your inner child with Dr. Seuss, or channel Blanche Dubois in gauzy Tennessee Williams. If you’re feeling melancholic or macabre, check out the Edgar Allen Poe themed boudoir, complete with black wallpaper, a pendulum hanging over the curtained bed, and a stuffed raven on the mantle. To really treat yourself though, try one of the “Classics”. These three rooms are the largest the hotel offers, and are all equipped with fireplaces and private oceanfront decks. Mark Twain is a Southern-style, masculine retreat; Agatha Christie is plush and inviting (and has clues from her many novels hidden throughout the room). Colette (which was the nom de plume of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) is probably the most romantic retreat that Silvia Beach offers, based on French provincial style, with lush tulle draping the walls and an idyllic window chaise facing the water. The last time I stayed there, my roommate was a fuzzy little fellow, aptly named Dickens, who showed up at my door five minutes after I arrived and sat in my lap for three days while I read. I found it particularly endearing because of Colette’s known fondness for cats, which is a predilection included in the room decor (it should be noted, that although there are a number of “regulars” of the feline persuasion who occasionally stroll through the lobby and gift shop, this isn’t, strictly speaking, a pet-friendly hotel). All of the rooms furnish some – if not all – of the namesake author’s works, as well as journals overflowing with the ruminations of past guests and blank pages for you to fill, if you so choose.

Prices range from $70 to $193 a night for double occupancy (single is $10 less), which is about the best deal you’ll find for a beachfront hotel anywhere along the Oregon Coast, even in places like the Ramada and Red Lion. They also have a hostel-style bunk room with sleeping space for eight on the top floor, which (last I was there) was $35 a night to stay in, and included the gourmet breakfast. These beds aren’t advertised on the website, and, as far as I know, are on a first come, first serve basis. They’re such a well-kept secret that your chances are probably pretty good on finding space, depending on how many people you’re travelling with. Although there’s no marked age limit in their policies, the management does suggest that the hotel isn’t an appropriate place for very young children, as most of the guests are there to relax and enjoy an uncommonly quiet vacation.

Sharing the third floor with the bunk room is a windowed, oceanfront library, complete with the requisite squishy arm chairs, floor cushions and jigsaw puzzles. Tea, coffee, cider and cocoa are always available, and hot spiced wine is served each night at 10:00.

The restaurant, Table of Contents, is on the bottom floor, right on the bluff. Breakfast is included in your room price and is truly superb, with a rotating menu of hot dishes (think savory crepes, apricot pancakes and Italian frittatas) and a large selection of fruits, breads, pastries and hot and cold beverages. Their dinners are served in courses around tables of eight and are a fusion of all the best parts of Pacific Northwest cuisine. The menu changes nightly, so you never quite know what to expect, but trust me, it’s always fantastic. If you happen to be passing through the area, but don’t have the time to stay awhile, the restaurant is open to the public as well. Dinner isn’t included in the room price as a guest, but in my opinion is well worth the added expense.

If you live in or happen to be visiting Portland, Goody Cable also owns the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, a dessert restaurant in an old Victorian on SE 12th and Alder. Stop by sometime to sip the excellent espresso and listen to the live classical music they offer there nightly.

Happy reading.

(photos by Lashier)

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm...I'm jonesin'! Let's go! You make it sound like I'm there :)