Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Riverside Mission Inn

If your idea of a romantic getaway is a Motel-6 and dinner at Dennys don't go to the Riverside Mission Inn.

The town itself must have been named as some developer's hallucination. There's no river within fifty miles as far I know. The Inn is an extension of that hallucination. It started out as a couple of adobes built around 1870. By the end of the 19th century it covered an entire block with over 300,000 sq. ft. of enclosed space. It now has 239 rooms.

The Riverside Mission Inn became a destination for presidents since Benjamin Harrison in 1890. McKinley, Roosevelt and Hoover followed. When they built a special chair for Wm. Howard Taft's visit he was insulted. That extra-wide piece of furniture remains in the lobby.

The architecture might be described as early Mish-Mash. It combines California Mission with Moorish, a touch of Italianate, a drizzle of Spanish and even a pinch of Japanese. It's an assemblage of styles. It's a hoot. It's magical. The flying buttresses, bell tower, archways, mosaics, domes and a sky bridge transport one back to a time and place that probably never was.

Our room was a hexagonal, palatial chamber with arches up to a fifty foot ceiling. The balcony looked down on a tiled rotunda. Were we in the Alhambra or Florence, Barcelona or Istambul? All of the above.

We were bedded in a place where past luminaries had slept. To name a few; Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Redford, Newman, W.C. Fields, Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Rin Tin Tin.

Two giant macaws greet the guests by the garden entrance with a screeching HELLO. You pass them again as you leave. I don't think GOODBYE is in their vocabulary. And that's alright because once there you can never quite leave the place.

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