Jer and I took a midweek break and headed to Newport for a couple of days. We stayed at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach, which I'd heard of and wanted to visit even before we moved to Oregon. "You'll either love it or hate it," folks said; we loved it, as I knew we would. It's a rickety four-storey structure built in the early 1900s, perched on a bluff, and geared toward book lovers. (The original Sylvia Beach operated the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris during the Hemingway-James Joyce-D.H. Lawrence-golden expat years.) No phones, no TV, no Internet. But there is a library on the top floor, with funky yet comfortable chairs facing the ocean, where I spent about six hours one foggy afternoon.
Each room is named after a writer. We stayed in Emily Dickinson. The in-room reading material included several biographies and volumes of her poetry, plus a couple of creepy portraits. Stell-a is, of course, the Tennessee Williams room. The F. Scott Fitzgerald room is reputedly furnished with several bottles of gin. Two cats have the run of the establishment; the orange guy, whose name I didn't catch, beats on Shelly, the tabby; then she chases him, and so on ad infinitum.
Breakfast is included in the room rate. Dinner, served family-style, is available for a reasonable fee. We ate at the hotel the first night. When the hostess announced that a round of Two Truths and a Lie was a dinnertime tradition at the Sylvia Beach, my stomach turned over; I am so averse to "icebreakers" and get-acquainted games of any kind. But we were seated with half a dozen accomplished and entertaining liars and, fortified with a couple of glasses of wine, actually had a great time trying to figure out which of each person's three autobiographical statements was, in fact, not true. Despite my inability to remember the title of my supposed doctoral thesis, most people thought I was lying about being tattooed. I guess I just don't look the type. My husband is sociopathically adept at keeping a straight face while describing his totally bogus career as a travel writer.
At breakfast the next morning we sat with two of our tablemates from the night before, about whom we knew a great deal, of course, already, plus another couple from Portland. The conversation ranged from spirituality and religion to global warming to family dynamics -- definitely not small talk. One of the side effects of staying at a hotel that caters to readers, the proprietors have obviously figured out, is informed and quick-witted discussion. The restaurant is called Tables of Content, which sounds a bit twee but which turns out to be a brilliantly appropriate name. The next evening's dinner we'd booked at April's, across the street. Our meal was very good, but not nearly as much fun as the night before.
We really enjoyed Nye Beach itself. The coastline is beautiful and the community seems artsy and laid-back. Benches seem to be a local form of self-expression. That, and signs of various kinds. I'll put up a few examples on flickr