By Marie Sherlock
I don’t know about you but, in my world, it’s been a rough couple of years. I won’t go into great detail but, suffice it to say, I’m part of the majority of Americans who are (understatement alert!) incredibly uneasy and anxious about the country’s current leadership.
One of the symptoms of that constant state of disquietude is that I am worn out, exhausted, enervated. I need a martini! I need a medical degree that would convince the Canadian government to allow me to emigrate! I NEED A BREAK!
If you fall into the “I need a vacation!” category – for whatever reason – have I got a spot for you! Sylvia Beach Hotel (SBH) in Newport, Oregon is a refuge of unparalleled anxiety-reducing amenities. From the SBH website: “There are no telephones, TVs, or WiFi in rooms at Sylvia Beach Hotel. The allure is beach quiet – gathering one’s thoughts, writing, reading, and savoring the wonder of ocean and sky. Unplug, unwind, and sleep with your favorite author.”
Wait. Er, “sleep with your favorite author”? Yes, you can, in a way, do just that. SBH is, as its tagline proclaims, “Truly a hotel for booklovers,” and each room is named for an author – from Hemingway and Jane Austen to J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss! – and decorated accordingly. SBH is a great spot for booklovers, deep thinkers and just folks who want to get away from it all in a quiet, beach front, reflective location.
The hotel – built in 1913 but re-opened after a huge remodel in 1987 – is named after Sylvia Beach, an American supporter of writers and poets born in 1887 who spent most of her life in Paris and was fast friends with Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. She opened a bookstore and lending library named Shakespeare and Company in 1919 in Paris and kept it open until the Nazi occupation during World War II. She was a Can Do Woman, an inspiration – and we sure as hell need that right now.
Here are eight great reasons to take refuge at Sylvia Beach Hotel (and soon!):
#1. Balm for Your Soul
On a recent visit, I sat in the hotel’s heavenly library (which takes up the oceanfront side of the top floor), drinking complimentary coffee (with REAL half & half), mesmerized by the surf on Nye Beach. I’d chosen a comfortable armchair next to a fireplace, surrounded by books, books, books. A large orange tabby (named Shelley) allowed me to pet him. I had my book with me but, at that moment, I was just taking deep breaths and focusing on the waves. My heart rate slowed, my mind cleared…
#2. It’s Unique
This is not the Best Western – and thank heavens for that! Each room is unique, quirky, delightful – as is the dining room, the library and the carefully curated gift shop. The pure creativity on display may subconsciously open your mind to new thoughts and paradigms. If that conclusion is too New Age-y for you, just enjoy exploring it all!
(Note: Although SBH is certainly not the only hotel for booklovers in the world, it is routinely listed as one of the top 10 internationally. Since it’s a 2 and 1/2 hour drive from my home in Portland, it’s my go-to retreat. AND it’s on the blessedly beautiful Oregon Coast. More about that later…)
#3. The Library
SBH probably could have created four or more rooms from this humongous space on the top floor – but, THANKFULLY, it is devoted to the library, ocean viewing area and communal kitchen. There are hundreds of books, comfy couches and chairs, and expansive views of Nye Beach. In the evening – around 9 pm – warm spiced wine is available in the kitchen (it’s complimentary as well). (See reason #1 too!)
#4. No High-Brow Literature Police Will Confiscate Your Grisham Novel
If you didn’t major in English Literature (I didn’t!), relax. You might think that with rooms devoted to Oscar Wilde, Melville, Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson and Colette, the conversation around the breakfast (or dinner) table would be pretty rarefied (even snooty). But SBH’s inhabitants and staff are pretty low-key. I saw one man reading a James Patterson novel and felt better about my Ann Patchett. 🙂 It’s really okay to read WHATEVER. (They’ve got a room devoted to Dr. Seuss, for crying out loud :).
#5. The Hotel Cat
Fair warning for those who are allergic: there is a hotel cat. His name is Shelley, he’s a large orange/brown tabby and he’s adorable. For some reason, he was waiting outside my room each morning. Sweet…
#6. The People You Meet
The dining room (a delightful full breakfast is included in your room cost!) boasts large, seats-6-or-8-people tables. This is by design: You MUST sit next to folks you don’t know – and you WILL get to know them, at least a little bit. On a recent visit, I met travelers from Texas, New York, Newberg and, well, Portland. Everyone was friendly, interesting and open. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling to meet folks from near and far and learn new things from them – and tell them stuff they never knew. The magic of community will be reinforced during your visit, and your recently-tested faith in humanity will be restored.
#7. Nye Beach
SBH is the crowning jewel of Newport’s Nye Beach neighborhood. And a delightful area it is. There are numerous boutiques, pubs, cafes, a used book shop and a marvelous bakery (Panini). There is an arts center and several galleries, featuring local artists. And the Performing Arts Center is three blocks away. Take in some reasonably priced culture during your stay!
#8. A Lot of Bang for Your Buck
You won’t find groupons or living social deals for SBH, but their regular rates are uber reasonable, when considering their many amenities. My recent visit cost $200 (tax included). It included lodging for two for two nights, sumptuous breakfasts each morning, free coffee (and wine at night!), unlimited petting of Shelley the cat, unrestricted access to the library – and a huge dose of serenity. A bargain at twice the price…
The 411: Visit the Sylvia Beach Hotel website for more information.