Western USA destination informationhotels, resorts, lodging, innsfeatured attractions and activities for Western USA visitors, tourists and vacationscontact informationWestern USA Visitor home page
western usa destinations - washington, oregon, california, arizona, colorado, nevada, hawaii
 Washington

Oregon

California

New Mexico

Arizona

Colorado

Nevada

Utah

Hawaii


western usa travel, tourist and visitor information guide
Sometimes the place where you stay is enough reason to go anywhere.

by Paul Gerald

Eight of us were waiting for dinner at the Sylvia Beach Hotel one evening, and we were comparing notes on our rooms. That should be your first sign that the Sylvia Beach is not your typical hotel. Other signs should be that we could hear the waves crashing against the sandy beach just outside the windows, somebody said they had seen gray whales from their room that afternoon, and we were eating king salmon that had been caught out in the ocean that morning.

The Agatha Christie room and its clues.
If the Sylvia Beach Hotel were in Des Moines, I'd go stay there. But it's on the Oregon coast, so its location only adds to its attractiveness. This hotel, you see, isn't just a place to stay. It's a place to go to, and there's an important difference. The Sylvia Beach is a testament to a particular lifestyle, one that most of us need a vacation to indulge in: sleep in a wonderful room, eat well, walk along the ocean, and most of all, relax with a good book.

Consider the conversation we were having about our rooms. The mother-daughter pair from Portland were in the Edgar Allan Poe room, up on the third floor. It has a double bed, an ocean view, a raven over the door, and a guillotine hanging over the bed. The sisters from California were in the Agatha Christie room, one of the “Classics,” with a deck and fireplace and queen bed. (The other classic is Mark Twain.) They had spent part of the day finding clues in their room. We were in the Herman Melville, with the only king-sized bed in the place, paintings of whaling ships all over the walls, a convex portal mirror that made shaving interesting, and a sloping floor that gave the impression of being at sea. Most guests also had a story to share of being visited by the hotel's cat, Jersey.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the Sylvia Beach is of, by, and for book-lovers. All of its 20 rooms are named for authors and decorated in appropriate styles. In the lobby of the third floor is a library that extends up into the attic. Beanbags and couches and recliner chairs support, at all times of the day and night, people with books. At 10 each night they serve hot wine, and soon after that the furniture supports sleeping people with books somewhere nearby. This is a vacation, after all.

The hotel is in a building that went up between 1910 and 1913. At that time it was Oregon's honeymoon capital, the New Cliff House. Now it's on the National Register of Historic Places. It's named not for any shorelines around there but for the owner of Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore in Paris in the 1920s and '30s, one Sylvia Beach. She was a friend and supporter of many writers in those days and is credited as being the person most responsible for the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses.

The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon.
Back down in the restaurant – it's all family-style seating in the, yes, Tables of Content restaurant – we were considering whether or not to play The Game. Apparently it's something of a tradition: You tell the others seated at the table three things about yourself, one of which is a lie, and they try to guess which it is. We hadn't had enough wine to get into it, unfortunately, so for once I have no lies to report.

In some ways, the town of Newport is an afterthought to a stay at the hotel – assuming you're already in Oregon, which everyone should be once in their lives. But the Oregon coast is a magnificent thing, and Newport is the biggest city on it. The beaches are wide, sandy, and white, and state law prohibits building or doing anything that impedes the progress of pedestrians along them. Only Ma Nature gets in the way of your walking the coast from Washington to California: It's tough to get past the cliffs being bashed by frothy waves, the rivers that support salmon and steelhead trout, the mountains, and the thick rainforests that come right down to the surf. Tough to get past them, lovely to be among them.

In Newport you can get a charter fishing boat and go after salmon, snapper, or halibut. You can also hop on a whale-watching boat and watch the local gray whales feeding, a sight that is virtually guaranteed in the summer. There's a fantastic aquarium there which is currently home to Keiko, the killer whale better known as the star of the movie Free Willy. This fall Keiko will be flown to a special pen in Iceland, where he was captured, in an effort to get him back in touch with his original pod and, yes, free him.

We did some of that tourist stuff, but most of my memories are of the Sylvia Beach. Late at night, after we had sampled the wine in the library and been soothed by the wave-sound, I retired with one of the six copies of Moby Dick in our room. You can't beat the opening line to that one: “Call me Ishmael.” The first thing Ishmael did, in the 20 pages I read before drifting off, was check into a sullen hotel and nearly get killed by his roommate. I was sipping hot wine in a king-sized bed with non-lethal company.

Ishmael was headed for a higher adventure than I was, but I was perfectly happy with my surroundings.

Rates for the Sylvia Beach Hotel run from $63 to $152. For more information, call 541-265-5428. For travel to Newport, Oregon, call 800-262-7844.

Helpful Travel Info

Travel Articles

Maps

Visitor Guides

Sign Up for Specials

Photo Albums

Driving Distances