At the end of April, my old friend Carol and I made a trip down the coast to The Sylvia Beach Hotel. and how glad I was to arrive there after a long absence. How had almost four years slipped by between visits when it is my favourite place in the world?
Usually when I go there with a friend, we stay the first night in the E.B. White room….but not only was that room booked, but it had been redecorated as the new john Steinbeck room. As before, it’s an excellent room for two friends who want twin beds.
Next time, we do hope to get the Steinbeck room. It looks comfier than where we stayed on our first night, good old Oscar Wilde room with its crowded single and trundle bed arrangement. Maybe a little crowded for two adults, but we had a good time, the room journals made excellent reading and I was reminded how on one of my first SBH visits, in 1991 or 2, Robert and I had stayed in that room. I had put my address and a stamp in the room diary next to the entry of a woman who frequented the SBH, always wrote in the diaries and always brought a teddy bear, and we thus struck up a mail correspondence that lasted for a couple of years.
Another room where I had stayed years before had been Edgar Allan Poe…a dark and purposely gloomy room which had recently been replaced by Amy Tan. Her room was, we were told, not quite finished yet, but in April 2012 it looked this this:
If I am correct and she is now where Poe’s raven and pendulum once resided, it’s a remarkable transformation.
Of course, I had to check out every detail of the new JK Rowling room and took photos with my iPhone so I could sent them immediately to my good friend and avid Harry Potter fan, Mary.
The bathroom of the Rowling room has a painting of Moaning Myrtle. I also had to check out the new toilet in the Suess room; it has live fish living in the tank. I would dearly like to have one of these…The fish tank, that is, not the painting of Moaning Myrtle.
Another new room since my last visit was the Shakespeare room, and the previous visit had seen the opening of the Tolkien room. Something about the new rooms makes me a little sad. My favourite part of the Sylvia Beach hotel is the room journals, and what happens to the years’ worth of room journals when an author is replaced? I was told that they are sometimes moved up to the library. I hoped to find a wealth of journals up there since I intended to spend my portion of the two day stay reading journals, while Carol went out to explore the town.
I was fortunate to get, for the whole afternoon and into the evening, the best seat in the house, in the library attic by the big, warm, rattling pipes with a view to the north.
I did not find all the “lost rooms” journals in the library. Oh, where have they gone? Did the previous room designers take them home? It seems a shame to have them unavailable. But I did find a goodly stack from the EB White room and some strays from Poe. I will share some of my favourites bits in my next entry.
Meanwhile, we had dinner at the Tables of Content, played Two Truths and a Lie (a game which one is encouraged to play at dinner) with a rather self absorbed but interesting couple (maybe they were self absorbed because they were so interesting: retired teachers who had married in midlife and now traveled the world together), and the next night checked into the large and comfy Mark Twain room.
We couldn’t have the cats in the room this time, but Shelly slept on a chair in the hall right outside the Colette room (also near the door to Mark Twain). The fluffy orange charmer, Dickens, whom I remembered so well from 2008 had gone to a private home because he had ceased to be an excellent hotel cat.
From reading the journals in the Twain room, I learned about a charming feature. You can just see in the above photo, to the left of the fireplace, a little cubby under the window seat. In it, there is a container where guests leave a little treat for the next guest, and indeed, I did find some chocolate in there (and put a replacement chocolate in when we checked out!).
That is just one of the good stories I gleaned from the journals. See next entry….